It was the summer of 1967 and John Moreau was strolling down Lansdowne Street behind the left-field wall at Fenway Park. A baseball lover, John was listening to the Red Sox game on his transistor radio. Carl Yastrzemski was at bat. Accompanied by his buddies George Curran and Joe Gannon, John said, “Yaz is going to hit one out.” Yastrzemski hit the next pitch over the screen in left-center. John, following the flight of the ball, retrieved the souvenir as it bounced toward the Pennant Grill Tavern.
Two and half years later, John was drafted into the U.S. Army, and after basic training, he was sent to Vietnam. On Jan. 29, 1970, after only 17 days in that awful war, John was fatally wounded in Binh, South Vietnam.
I loved John Moreau! Johnny and I were high school classmates, graduating from Mission High in 1967. We played on the school’s baseball and basketball teams. Traveling to the away basketball games, John and I would sit in the back of the bus and flirt with the cheerleaders. Although quiet, John was an enjoyable companion and he had a heart of gold.
John’s father coached in the Mission Hill Little League in the ’50s and ’60s when the games were played at Smith Street Playground. I fondly recall my Red Sox team playing John, who was a powerful hitter for the Indians.
Two years after playing in the Little League, John followed in his dad’s footsteps and coached in the Mission Hill Little League at the age of 14. John relished mentoring the Little Leaguers and the kids admired Coach Moreau.
Rick Key played in the Mission Hill Little League in 1966 and John was his coach. I was chatting with Rick at the Busy Bee Restaurant in Brookline last week, and Rick used superlatives in describing Coach Moreau. Key said, “I was fortunate to have had John as a coach. He was terrific person.” Key, now 58 and a manager and driver of MOB Transportation in Boston never forgot John. Last year while visiting the Moving Wall in Holliston, Key paid tribute to his former Little League coach. As a remembrance, Key placed a baseball at John’s memorial site. John would have appreciated that baseball more than the one he ensnared off the bat of Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
John’s life, cut short in the jungles of South Vietnam, was exemplary. John would have celebrated his 64th birthday on Aug. 31. He will not be forgotten.
Two-dozen past and present Mission Hill basketball greats gathered at courtside at the Mission Hill Extension projects last month for photo-taking and friendship renewals. The event was organized by former Mission Hill resident Brian Culkin. Brian is producing a documentary about growing up in the Mission Hill projects, and basketball was an important aspect of life.
As a calculating, bounce-pass guard for Mission High School in the ’60s, I didn’t exaggerate my resume, and I opted out of the group photo. I did, however, enjoy conversing with the legendary project players, including Billy Raynor and Wayne Turner. Raymor is currently the athletic director and basketball coach at Mass Bay Community College in Framingham. Turner, who, like Raynor, grew up on Annunciation Road, played at Kentucky University and later in the NBA, playing for the Celtics in 1999. Turner was recently hired as an assistant basketball coach at Louisville University.
The basketball luminaries aided the Mission Hill economy as their mini-reunion continued into the evening with beers and cuisine at the Mission Bar and Grill.
Welcome back to Mission Hill, Jimmy and Charles Marmanidis, who recently opened New England Brake Center at 22 Terrace St. The brothers previously owned the Sunoco Station at Huntington Avenue and St. Alphonsus Street (now part of Wentworth.) The Marmanidises are masters of all aspects of automobile repair. Their mother, Sofia Marmanidis, is the proprietor of Sofia’s Cleaners at 824 Huntington Ave.
I was glad to catch up with Boston Police Officer John Ridge, who worked for many years in Mission Hill. John and I had lunch at the Erie Pub (great steak tips) in Dorchester. Officer Ridge is currently working in the sexual assault unit out of A-1 in Boston. Another fine Boston police officer is longtime Mission Hill resident Rich Caulfield, better known in the Mission Hill Post as “Officer Friendly.” Rich works at the police headquarters. God bless our men in blue!
Due to a scheduling conflict, the Mission Hill Open has been rescheduled for Sept. 28 at noon at the Norwood Country Club. For more information, call Brendan at The Crossing, 617-487-4851, or email Kevin Lowre at [email protected].