Soccer: Father Espeso

A Tale From a Ĺ Century Ago

By Joseph R. Stanaitis

One day, one summer, a long long time ago, the priest, clad in the cassock stood at the edge of the field next to the punishment tree. He was small in stature, wiry in built. Maybe 5í5" at most. He had dark curly hair and wore rimless eyeglasses. He was young for a priest or so it looked like that to us. The priest, clad in the cassock stood at the edge of the playing field. After watching us run up and down the field, kicking and blocking and generally exhibiting more enthusiasm than skill, he walked over to the prefect on the field and asked in a gentle Spanish accent if he could join the boys playing soccer.

He was a visiting priest. Each year, we would have a visiting priest to cover for our priests who would go on vacation to the property the Sisters had on the shore of the Hudson in Saugerties NY. He would minister to the Sisters, hear our confessions, eat well, enjoy the countryside and go back to his prior location, himself well rested.

We players were a multi-sized group. Even the shortest of us was taller than this Father Espeso, if I recall his name correctly. During the course of one of these furiously played soccer matches, many boys were hurt, from scratches and scrapes to broken bones. This was explained to the little Father. The prefect told him that if he went on the field and was hurt, the Sisters would inflect un-repairable damage to the bodies of those who hurt the priest.

He looked out on the field and watched us running amok and then told the prefect he would take full responsibility for whatever happened to him and proceeded to pull the cassock off over his head and in a moment, he stood there, in a pair of denim jeans and a t-shirt and started to trot out to us. In the very short time before he got to us, the prefect came out and warned us not to block him, not to impede his action and above all, not to harm him in anyway.

He approached our group cautiously and a few of us pointed to the other team, the one who won the honor of his participation by losing a coin toss. The captain of that team tossed him the ball and that was the last time most of us saw or had a chance to touch the ball. You must have seen one of those bull fight movies where the picadors tease the bull and each time he passes them, they stick him in the large muscles of his shoulders and weaken him and then the toreador runs the bull through many passes, the crowds screaming in anticipation of the kill.

Father Espeso took that ball and danced it up to the goal line immediately and scored. He did this again and again. There was no one who could stop him. It was not like we were throwing the game. We just could not stop him. After literally running roughshod over a group of boys a third his age, he had barely worked up a sweat. After he had scored his forth and final goal, he raised his hands and thanked us all for allowing him to join us.

We found out much later that before he entered the seminary in Spain, he had considered going pro on the Spanish national team. Oleí

By Joseph R. Stanaitis

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Soccer: Luigi Crispino

By Joseph R. Stanaitis

Soccer was a big game and enjoyed even by me. The way we played it consisted of a lot of running, head butting and body slams. These were things I liked because even though I could not run that ball, I was enable to guard the kickers.

We had one guy, an Italian immigrant named Luigi Crispino. Now, he was a soccer player, coming from a country where the sport may have had more adherents sometimes than sex. He was good. Once he took command of the ball, no one could stop him. He could maneuver that orb up and down the field as if he were the only one playing and from a point of pure skill. He was the only one out there. He loved that game.

We played rugby, American rugby and regular American football and he excelled at each but on the soccer field he was an Italian version of Pele from Brazil; who you might remember came along many years later and, prior to his retirement, was considered the worldís greatest soccer player.

There was one especially competitive game where the best players from all the kids got on the field. To watch people play who love a game and play just for the rush is an awe-inspiring sight. Somebody, I forgot who, threw a low body block at Luigi and he went down and didnít move for a moment.

The prefects started to run out on the field and all of a sudden, there was a bellow as from a tortured bull and Luigi tried to stand up and he fell right down. They brought him to Nyack hospital for x-rays and found that his ankle was busted. They gave him painkillers, set the busted ankle and put it in a heavy plaster cast and sent him back to the house with orders to rest.

By the time he arrived back, it was after dinner and a bunch of guys were starting to put together a team to start another soccer match. As soon as Luigi got out of the car, he started to run across the field to join in, cast and all. The prefects were able to restrain him and persuade him to get some rest.

But, the very next day, when the teams started up after school emptied out, Luigi was out there running like a wounded antelope up and down that field and woe betide anyone who came within reach of his kicking foot, solidly encased in plaster of Paris, for the remainder of the soccer season.

By Joseph R. Stanaitis

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End of The Innocent Years

By Joseph R. Stanaitis

Before I stumbled literally into puberty, I had a clear, pure soprano voice or so Sister Collette, the music teacher, told me one day after she had a bunch of us warbling a song in her class.

She had us singing a round such as "row, row, row your boat." And she heard this voice coming from the back of the room, and the voice was me. She told me to stay in class after the rest of the guys left.

The room was empty except for Sister Collette and me. "You do know Master Robert that each year we try to find an exceptional voice among the boys to sing a few solos at the Easter mass. I think that with the proper training and practice, it could be you this year. I have to know right away since we will have only three months to get you ready. What do you say?"

I was totally surprised by her request. Three months practice meant three months without having to play team games, no chores after school, heck, sometimes even no chores after breakfast and before school.

"Gee, Sister, do ya really think I could do it, I mean really sing all by myself."

"Of course, Master Robert. If you really want to, you can do any thing you set your mind to. So, whatís it going to be, yes or no?"

"Yes, Sister, letís do it. What do I have to do and when do I start?"

There were some unique traditions to be followed each spring. One was policing the play fields. Since our main disciplinarian was a USMC lieutenant colonel (ret), what we did as a group was decided by him.

So for this spring, I missed having to pick up anything in the field that didnít grow. I missed digging up the silt in the stream. I missed, for this year anyway, being part of the team that empties the coal trains into the coalhouse, which was also the area where the older boys were allowed to smoke.

Every day, like clockwork, I turned up in Sr. Collettes classroom after breakfast and after school, where several others and I would practice our scales and learn to sing in Latin. Each session usually ended with snacks, something like kool aid, sugar corn pops and maybe stale cookies. It was a nice time.

It was about two weeks before the Easter mass and we were practicing one of the Easter hymns with its tonal ups and downs which had been easy for me up to then. As I reached for one of the high notes, I made a sound like a frog. The music stopped. Sr looked at me and asked if I were okay. I replied in the affirmative. We started again, from the top and I got past my previous vocal faux pas.

Sister looked at me and smiled and then I did it again. This time I let out a sound similar to a cat being kicked. Sister looked at me and I looked back, puberty had reared its ugly head and I was out of the music business.

By Joseph R. Stanaitis

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From: Joseph R. Stanaitis
Sent: Wednesday, September 07, 2005 7:23 PM


Two Stories

By Joseph R. Stanaitis

It was one of those historically ice cold winters. Trees were exploding as the sap froze and expanded. The ice on the pond grew thicker day-by-day which was great for the ice skaters but created a problem we would not see till the spring thaw. One day, we saw the ice starting to melt on the trees, the bushes and the roofs. The next day, we could hear the cracking of the ice in the pond as the waters rushed down Clausland Mountain and over the top of the ice in the pond. Miasma, I love the word miasma. As the ice melted and areas of water appeared, also a miasma appeared. The stench was unbelievable as hundreds and then thousands of dead carp and turtles floated to the surface. We looked at the piles of dead fish in amazement while holding our noses or breathing through wet towels or clenched t-shirts. From heaven knows where, carrion birds of every size and color jumped upon the piles and threatened anyone approaching them.

I never saw so many dead fish in my life. Some of the guys ran over to the still frozen ice and measured its thickness and found slabs as thick as 12 inches. These poor little creatures had died of suffocation.

The guys from the menís house brought the old dump truck down to the pond and we grabbed the shovels. There was a whole bunch of us, 30 or 40 guys and we shoveled and hauled and piled and filled that truck with several loads of dead fish over the next few days which were dutifully hauled to the edge of the football field and dumped after which another bunch of guys would cover the pile with lime and then shovel dirt of them. The stench was unbelievable. But, over a period of time, we cleaned up the entire area. For the next few winters, we would all watch that pond and when we saw that the ice got too thick, we would go down there with pick axes and regular axes and chop holes in the ice. For the remainder of my time, we never had another fishkill.

We used to go camping as a group. A group usually consisted of 30 kids or so plus the prefect. The place where we camped was the hill in the back of the property where we went sleigh riding in the winter.

We once had a prefect named castellano. He watched over the little side kids. He was kind of chunky. I think he was an okay guy, not too brutal. He enlisted in the army in the beginning of the Korean war and was sent down to Georgia for basic training. He was about 19 or 20 years old when he died of heat stroke while exercising on one of those hot southern afternoons. The other prefects named this campsite as Camp Castellano. I guess they thought it was an honor for him. We would haul pots, pans, plates and silverware up the hill plus the food which consisted of franks and beans and bacon and eggs, the easy stuff to cook. We went up there in the late afternoon, played our games and were called in for dinner, which were the aforementioned franks, rolls and beans. We finished up late and sat around the big campfire singing x amount of bottles of beer on the wall until we stopped. A few guys volunteered to clean the pots and because it was a long haul to the kitchen to get hot water, they used the cold water from the stream to wash everything. We wrapped our blankets snuggly around ourselves and went off to sleep in the crisp evening air. The aroma of bacon awakened us and home fries cooking open an open fire along side large trays of scrambled eggs and large pots of hot chocolate cooked in the same pots as the franks. We ate as much as we wanted and many of us took seconds and thirds. We spent the rest of the morning running through the woods playing hide and go seek or cowboys and Indians. The weather was glorious and we ended our overnight in the woods with a big barbeque prior to heading back to the usual routine. It seems that washing pots and pans with cold water and then cooking other stuff was not the smartest thing to do. We wound up with an epidemic of dysentery. We were all about the same size and weight and age and we were all hit at once with a case of the runs. We all took off down the hill to the main building for the bathrooms that had been called hods since time immemorial. There were 10 cubicles off of the playroom area. This were filled immediately. Then there was bathrooms situated al over the building on the other floors. Gangs of kids headed for those. Some charged the infirmary. For several days, we had a lot of guys running fevers and getting dehydrated. We were given as much water, soda, and other liquids as we could hold down. The Sisters in the infirmary were giving out multiple and massive doses of a bismuth and paregoric compound which had a twofold effect on all those who received it. It stopped the runs immediately and put the imbiber to sleep for quite a few hours. It was not a fun experience. Recuperation took a long time and many kids suffered from intermittent case of runs all summer long and because of this, the prefects carried bottles of the bismuth and paregoric compound with them on the various summer excursions we took. This wonderful elixir worked like a concrete plug for quite a few days.

By Joseph R. Stanaitis

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Gaspar Cipolla: We're from Sparkill  
David T. Feliciano: Training for 2003 NYC Marathon The Bully
Peter Feliciano: St Agnes 1st Day, we ran
Carlos Feliciano: The Great Escape
Benjamin Feliciano: St. Agnes    The Big Bully Sister Joe Beakie    Work
Joseph R. Stanaitis: Soccer: Father Espeso Soccer: Luigi Crispino End of Innocent Years
Joseph R. Stanaitis: A Visit From Yankee Legend. Do You Remember???
Joseph R. Stanaitis: Lunch at Automat Many Chose Vincent We Raided Woolworth
Bernard S. Neville: Recalling Coach Jim Tale of A Football Game
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Gerald F. Merna: The Quietest, Strongest Marine Hero I Knew.
Gerald F. Merna: Donald Frances Antonacci: House Kid, Patriot, Hero (1937 - 1990)
Gerald F. Merna: Extreme Marine Leadership at Parris Island
Gerald F. Merna: A Long Way From Guadalcanal
Aurthor Unknown: A Christmas to Remember...

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