A crisp, nocturnal wind blows through the stadium. The crowd seethes with anticipation, for here is the long-awaited showdown between high school rivals, Peabody and Everett, a football game with Super Bowl ramifications and a unique announcer.
“Four Everett captains take the field for the coin toss,” the Everett announcer Jack McGrath explains, “DiFlorio, Denning (D-E-N-N-I-N-G), Naumann (N-A-U-M-A-N-N) and Nazarro.
McGrath clarifies the number change of quarterback Anthony ‘The Nucleus’ Nazarro in the Peabody program. Nazarro recently assumed the retired high school jersey number of his father who died of cancer three years ago.
The Everett High cheerleaders dance to the band’s version of “Hey”! “They are coached by Maureen DiBiaso, ‘The Effervescent Eagle’ of Estes Street,” McGrath’s proud voice proclaims.
The game resumes while Jack’s words permeate the silence of his shy, play-by-play announcer Bob Caramanica. Mr. McGrath utilizes a narrative teeming with alliterations and local histories.
“Yes, Omar ‘The Emperor’ Easy of Edith Street led by fullback ‘Bull’ Borgonzi completes another first down.”
The recent death of John “Jack” McGrath, the Prince of Pierce Avenue, brings to an end the charmed life and existence of the ultimate Everett sports booster, and local personality for whom Everett was a great and wonderful place.
Jack, as nearly everyone called him, was the quintessential Everett gentleman, an absolute gem of a man, who came of age in this city at a time when it was a far different place than it is today.
He was warm. He was gracious. He was smart. He had been a great athlete himself at Boston College.
He was, inarguably, the most popular and beloved Woburn court official living or dead. He spent his work life there as a probation officer.
He was a legend in Everett.
As the announcer for Everett High School Football program he gained widespread notoriety throughout the city and in the wider athletic community in Massachusetts.
For many many years he broadcast all kinds of athletic events in this city both large and small.
As the voice of the Crimson Tide, he was all about enabling Everett kids while at the same time serving the community he loved.
In 1901, the Everett Republican Committee nominated Arthur E. Jordan for one of the three seats on the Common Council in Ward Five. At the time, the GOP nomination ensured election and Mr. Jordan was indeed elected. At its core, that doesn’t sound like much of a story and judging from newspaper accounts, it wasn’t. Except for a brief mention in both the Boston Globe and the Boston Post, the story did not generate much interest. The lack of publicity that the story generated led to a decades-long inaccuracy in Everett History. For years, it was widely believed that Robert Smith of Woodville Street was the first African-American elected to the Everett City Council in 1929. It turns out that it was Arthur E. Jordan in 1901.
There is a saying that “If you worry about who gets the credit, nothing will ever get done”. Rev. Dr. Albert R. Sampson has taken that motto almost to an extreme. While those “who were there” certainly recognize his role in the struggle for civil rights, history continues to slight his influence.
Al Sampson grew up across the street from Baldwin Avenue Park. When his mother was “violated” by a doctor in Melrose, his family fell apart and he was sent to live with his mother’s brother Paul and his wife Mildred at 13 Baldwin Avenue.
The Baldwin Avenue Park area was a close-knit area filled with memories that still resonate with the people who grew up there. Eighty-year old Stanley Ruggiero (Valley Street) still remembers the day that his father Frank bought a two-wheeled bike for him from the Pearsons (Baldwin Avenue) and no one can forget Frank’s not-so-secret Sunday morning bar in the cellar of their brick three- family house. Folks who grew up in that area still refer to the streets divided by Main Street as Upper and Lower Baldwin, Winslow and Clark Streets.
Lee G. Johnson grew up in what would eventually become a single-parent household in the Cherry Street projects. With very little to call their own, Lee’s mother Geraldine would remind him and his brother George to be grateful for what they had and to use it to the best of their ability.
Lee took his mother’s advice to heart. While she worked at various jobs to support the family including at the state Commission on Indian Affairs, Lee and his brother would play sports and all the other games that the project kids enjoyed. At Everett High School, Lee was a good student but truly excelled on the basketball court. Lee was named All-Scholastic, All-State and All-New England for his exploits on the court but he knew that his future was not in the NBA but elsewhere. He attended a junior college before attending UMass.