Thanksgiving 1959by Jay Price
In the autumn of 1959, before television and big money changed the sports landscape, and before a new bridge changed everything else in the old neighborhood, one last corner of New York City was like all those small towns across the country where everybody turned out for the Memorial Day Parade and the Thanksgiving Day high school football game, even though the
In the autumn of 1959, before television and big money changed the sports landscape, and before a new bridge changed everything else in the old neighborhood, one last corner of New York City was like all those small towns across the country where everybody turned out for the Memorial Day Parade and the Thanksgiving Day high school football game, even though the same team won every year.
The coaches in that game sprang from the same roots, went to the same school, and played for the same mentors.
Fifty years after New York City's first official schoolboy championship, Thanksgiving 1959 follows Somma and his players - most of them the sons of Italian or Irish immigrants, from homes where upward mobility meant getting a job as a cop or fireman - on their road to the city championship game and the Thanksgiving Day rivalry that...like the community around it...would never be the same.
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Jay Price's book "Thanksgiving 1959'' turns back the clock to a long-gone era, when athletes played for the love of the game. I couldn't put down this fascinating story about the people involved in New York City high school football in what then was a much different Staten Island than it is today. Mr. Price is a great storyteller, but he demonstrates David Halberstam-like reporting skills in this sterling effort! From interviews with people like Wellington Mara on the early days of the NFL (when the New York Giants made the short trip to Staten Island to play games!) to the forward by Bobby Thomson of "Shot Heard Round the World'' fame, this is a tremendously creative book. Those who love the essence of sports will love this book.
If you have been reading the decades of Jay Price's sharp sports reporting and moving sports columns you will not be surprised by what you find in this fine work. If you haven't read Price before, you are in for a great ride. This is history told at the grass roots level, of a place and time when high school football meant so much more then it does today. When an entire corner of NYC was caught in the ebb and flow of its only two high school football teams and the two men who coached them. Both friends and rivals, the two were intricately connected as high school and college teammates, sharing the same mentor and playing leading roles in one of college footballs greatest upsets of the 20th-century - NYU's stunner, denying Fordam and its "Seven Blocks of Granite," including Vince Lombardi, a Rose Ball appearence. For the young athletes who would sacrafice so much to play for them and to beat the other's team, their high school football experiences became the hammer and anvil that shaped the rest of their lives. Price reveals it all here, through moving firsthand accounts and indepth research, bringing the entire era before the eyes of today's readers. My life is baseball, through and through. But, Price has given me a good dose of that other great pasttime. The one I had almost forgotten. No spiking the ball or end zone dances here. And, definately no smiling if you lost. Peter Mancuso, member, Society for American Baseball Research
Forget Friday Night Lights, the kids in this book weren't looking for flashy nicknames, scholarships, or SportsCenter highlights; instead simply played for the love of the game in a time when that still meant something. The author captures not only a special season, and the personalities that were teaching and learning life lessons, but paints this picture against the backdrop of cultural and geogrpahic transition. A great read for anyone, not just sports fans.
Since I was a "native Staten Islander" (before the Bridge) I remember most of what Jay Price was referring too. Evem though I did not attend public high school, SI was a small town and everyone knew about the football teams and the Thanksgiving Day rivalry. It was a wonderful time to live on SI. I just wish that it could have remained the special place it was instead of a surburb of Brooklyn!!!
A must for anyone who knows Staten Island, or sports lovers from anywhere else. An easy read that will keep you reading.