Summer Classic – Sandy Couldn’t Stop It

By Keith “Bugsy” Goldberg

What has made the Summer Classic special is that it brings the community together, with St. Francis at its center. This has been possible because of the many wonderful pastors and associates who have served the parish and supported the Summer Classic including Msgr. Vincent Keane, Fr. James Dunne, Msgr. Martin Geraghty, Fr. Patrick West, Fr. Lou DiGaetano, Msgr. John Brown and our current pastor Fr. Bill Sweeney and his associate Fr. Jim Cunningham. And of course, Msgr. John Bracken, who served his first term in the parish prior to the Summer Classic, but established the culture that led to it, and who has returned to serve the parish again in “retirement.”

Msgr. Keane was the pastor when the Summer Classic began, and his support was critical. No one can forget how Msgr. Geraghty shepherded us through 9/11, beginning with Mass that night and the many funerals and memorial Masses and events that followed. That was shortly followed by the crash of Flight 587. Because of this, some may forget how involved and supportive of the Summer Classic he was. Superstorm Sandy was the next major event in Rockaway, and it became Msgr. Brown’s time to lead us through another difficult period. It quickly became apparent that the SFDS gym and schoolyard were perfectly suited to serve as a relief center in the aftermath of Sandy. Msgr. Brown embraced the opportunity to serve the parish and the greater Rockaway community. In a way, coming to the relief tent each day almost felt like coming to the Summer Classic. By late spring 2013, when the relief center in the schoolyard began to wind down, it became clear that the damage to the schoolyard from the storm itself, and the stress placed on it as a relief center, meant that it was no longer functional for the Summer Classic. Full reconstruction was needed.

Msgr. Brown wanted the schoolyard work to get started before he was to leave St. Francis and tasked Keith “Bugsy” Goldberg with handling the job. Bugsy met with and solicited bids from five paving companies and three fencing companies. Carlo Lizza was selected for the paving and Westbury Fence for the fencing work. E. Fitzgerald Electric was already on site for the major electrical work required in the church and the school, so the schoolyard work was added to their plate as well. Terence Mullin selected the new adjustable Gared basketball systems which were purchased from a dealer in Pennsylvania. The job was a major undertaking and if it was a NYC Parks job, it would probably have taken 18 months to two years from soliciting bids to completion. It was late spring, and we were determined to play that summer.

Work began by removing all the fencing which included electrical wiring that ran along the fences to the light poles and the Green Monster which also met its demise. Excavation of the existing asphalt was next. With the fencing down, Bob Tyne suggested that we paint the cinder block wall that our neighbors had constructed along the perimeters they shared with the schoolyard. Once the new fencing was installed, the opportunity to do so would be lost. The Tyne crew selected a nice neutral gray and quickly got the job done.

The electrical work was next, and John Resker of E. Fitzgerald was invaluable in directing the work and coordinating with the other companies on site. Thirteen light poles replaced the previous five and all the electric was run underground. Lizza did a great job with the paving despite a little mishap near the end. The yard was perfectly pitched and previous puddling issues after rain were virtually eliminated. Two different meshes were selected for the fencing with a smaller mesh along the lengths adjoining the cinder block wall to reduce garbage from getting through and accumulating. The fence was also raised higher to eliminate balls going over the fence and into neighboring yards. Westbury also handled the installation of the eight baskets. Finally, Big Apple Striping put down the lines for the four courts. The coordination and cooperation between all the contractors was amazing, though Bugsy sometimes had to twist a few arms or sweet talk when issues did arise. Although Bugsy’s very ambitious schedule did not quite happen, the job was completed in August. The work was only possible due to major donations received from The Friends of Sean Lugano Foundation, Resette Restaurant, and the Rockefeller Foundation. And 1 Apparel made a significant donation of uniforms. Just as critical was the work done by Brian Cosgrove of the diocesan Parish Service Corporation in filing the insurance claims. Bugsy and Brian had a tough battle, but in the end successfully pleaded the case which resulted in an excellent settlement.

When the work began, there was hope that games could begin in mid or late July but when it became apparent that it would take a little longer, arrangements were made to start by moving the games to the courts at Riis Park. This involved bringing generators to operate the scoreboards and many brooms to sweep the shells that were regularly dropped on the courts by seagulls. Rita Mullally of the National Park Service was crucial in helping to secure the court time. It was a nice substitute, but it was not home. On August 6, 2013, we returned and played the first games in the reconstructed Fr. Grogan Memorial Schoolyard. A dedication ceremony was held on September 20 with Msgr. Brown returning to join Fr. Doyle in thanking the major donors. The season ran a little later than usual, but it was amazing it was played at all. We had not let Sandy beat us!

Getting back to the beginning of the decade, with his FEDEX stint over and his oldest son James now playing in the Summer Classic, Bugsy now resumed a front-line role, initially assisting Kevin Raphael, before leading again. Frank Dima continued as the staff member before giving way to Brian Bagley. The growth of the Rockaway Beach Volleyball League during the first half of the decade led to an adjustment in scheduling with Wednesdays used only when necessary due to weather postponements. The size of the league stabilized with an average of 85 to 90 teams per year. New Division Directors during this time included Tom Morgan, Jeff Mercer, Dan Edwards, Jay Boyle, Kelli Donohue, Ronald Whelan, Phil Hughes, Elaine Scotto, John Blum, Ray Marten, Pete Tuffey, John Moran, Terence Mullin, Randy Neiswenter, and Bryanne Flaherty. Jimmy Quinn took over assigning officials for the Mens Open and Boys High School divisions, while Jean Sporrer and John Nies assigned the female divisions and Kenny Whelan continued to assign the rest of the boys’ games.

In Mens Open, the previous decade ended with Mookie’s Demons winning three in a row led by the trio of Ryan Whelan, John Wassenbergh and Frank Wassenbergh. Other standouts those years were Jason Cipolla, Brian McDonagh, and Paul Peterson. The third decade became the era of Rock Park All-Stars who won four titles in that span with a core of Tubridy/Courtney/Featherston brothers and cousins. Standouts for this period included Keith Tilly, Brian Kelly, Cody and Shane Gauvard, Ryan McCormick, Dee Tubridy, and Joe Courtney.

The generational aspect of the Summer Classic is another thing that makes it special. Many of our current players are the children of those who played themselves growing up. Nearly all the current directors played in the league. The Ostranders became the first three generation family when Brian played his first game in the Boys Grammar Junior division in 2007 and still plays now in the Mens Open division. Others including the Mullens have since joined them. Will the Ostranders be the first to get to 4G’s?

Tickets for the 40th Anniversary celebration at The Rockaway Hotel on July 20 are on sale in the schoolyard. We are looking forward to a great night.

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