Hill Happenings

Dan Breen, Killilea Club’s brilliant quarterback, received the ball from center Tom Lassiter at McLaughlin Park on the final play of the game, as the Killilea Club defeated the Dorchester Knicks, 8-0. That game, attended by about 250 fans, occurred 50 years ago this week and was the culmination of an undefeated season for Mission Hill’s beloved Park League football team. Aside from winning all six of their games, the Killilea Club did not yield any points. Bernie Fitzgerald, a terrific two-way lineman on the team, still proudly has his famous blue 1966 Killilea Club “un un un” (undefeated, untied, and unscored upon) jacket hanging in his closet.

Killilea’s coach was Butch McGrath, who previously was a fleet running back on the team when it was called the St. Alphonsus Club. The team changed its name to honor the memory of Franny Killilea, a wonderful Mission Hill man, who lost his life in Vietnam in May of 1966. The 1966 roster is a composite of legendary Mission Hill folks, including safety Franny Ward, who was more known for his brilliance on the basketball court. The other safety was Johnny White, among the finest athletes ever from the Hill. Frank Pedersen, Killilea’s defensive captain, was the middle linebacker. Frank wore number 51, as did Dick Butkus, the great Chicago Bears middle linebacker at that time.

Said Boston Park League historian and former writer for the South Boston Tribune, Brian Wallace, “Frank Pedersen was among the best linebackers ever in the Boston Park League.” Frank, reminiscing with me last week, said the toughest game of the year was a 2-0 win against the South Boston Vikings at Roberts Field in Dorchester. Many of the players lived in the Mission Hill projects, as did Jim O’Neill, an offensive guard on the 1966 team. Jim has the distinction of being the only one to play on both the first and last Killilea Club championship teams. Jim also played on the 1979 championship team, coached by George Higgins. I’m proud to say I was the left end on the ‘79 team. George Higgins, incidentally, was a rugged fullback on the great Killilea Club teams in the early 1970s. Other prominent Mission Hill names on the famous “66” team include, Ricky McDermott, Jackie Geary, Paul Gulley, John Harran, Salvatore “Sully” DeGiacamo, Mike Murray, John “Gentle Ben” Kelly, Ed “Skipper” Cotter, Dickey Prendergast, Joe Keiley, Gerry Florentine, Jerry Breen, and Ronnie Keefe. Ronnie, although lean, was a terrific running back.

I am fortunate to have known Franny Killilea. He was a fine athlete who loved sports and competition and he was a great man. He would have been so proud of the Killilea Club teams, especially the 1966 boys.

Mission Hill lost a great man when James J. Gibbons passed away last month at age 93. James, who had lived in Mission Hill for sixty years, served in World War ll with the Marines. Mr. Gibbons was a mechanic for General Electric. He learned his craft at the old Boston Trade School on Parker Street in Roxbury. James loved Mission Hill and he and his wife, the late Eileen Gibbons, were active in numerous Mission Hill endeavors. In 1996, Mayor Tom Menino  recognized their contributions to Mission Hill by dedicating and naming the recreation area at the corner of Sewall Street and Delle Avenue as the Eileen T. and James J. Gibbons Playground.

A tip of the hat goes to my best friend and 1967 Mission High classmate, George Rollins, a West Point graduate, who was promoted to colonel. George, now retired, served in Afghanistan in 2012 as a lieutenant colonel and he was recently approved by the U.S. Senate for his promotion. To commemorate the notable event, a celebration was held last week at Captain Fishbones, a fine restaurant at Marina Bay in Quincy, which was preceded by a boat cruise around Boston Harbor. More than a hundred of George’s friends attended the hoopla, including many of the colonel’s West Point classmates. A special guest among the celebrants was Joe Conlon, Mission High-1960, a retired U.S. Military soldier in Special Forces, who is the recipient of the Silver Star medal. The many Mission Hill folks who were celebrating with the colonel greatly appreciated the open bar.

Happy 80th birthday (Oct. 13) to Mike Herlihy. Mike is a terrific guy and he can be easily spotted, walking in the Brigham Circle area wearing his red Trump hat.

Paul “Mop Man” Fitzgerald will celebrate his 56th birthday on Oct. 20. Paul, a lifelong Mission Hill resident, has been a dedicated worker at the New England Baptist Hospital for 40 years.

The Penguin, the fine bar-restaurant, owned by Dermot Doyne, won the 5th annual Mission Hill Charity Soccer Tournament last month at Smith Street Playground. The Penguin defeated the Puddingstone Tavern, 4-3, in the championship game. The Mission Bar & Grill, The Squealing Pig, and Flann O’Brien’s also participated in the event. Flann O’Brien’s coach Kenny O’Neill did a spirited job mentoring his players, encouraging the lads to use their heads. Occasionally, I stop by Flann’s for a large Coors light draft and Kenny always serves with a smile.

It was good to bump into old friend, David West, at the Busy Bee Restaurant in Brookline last week. David wrote for the “Mission Hill Good News” back in the late 1970s. The Good News had some excellent writers with Randy Wolfson and my writing mentor, Kris Alden, coming to mind.

Condolences to the family of Daniel J. O’Neil, who passed away Sept. 28 after a long illness. Danny was a great guy who grew up at Tobin Court in the Mission Hill projects and he had been living in Readville. He was an iron worker and a member of union Local 7. Danny was lucky in life, having been married to the lovely, Arlene “Candi” (McDonough). Back in the days of the famous Mission Hill tavern, Ed Burke’s, it was enjoyable to be around Danny and his fun escapades. One hot summer Friday evening in 1969, after a few beers at Burke’s, I was going to hitchhike (a common practice in those days) down to the Cape, as I had a rented cottage with friends in Falmouth. It was nice of Danny to offer me a ride to the highway at the Southeast Expressway, to begin my journey. Driving through Roxbury to the Expressway, Danny didn’t stop to drop me off, as he decided to also go to the Cape. It was a terrific weekend on beautiful Cape Cod. Donations in Daniel’s memory can be made to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

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