Notable Athletes with Roots to the Legendary Taylor Street
Notable Athletes with Roots to the Legendary Taylor Street
Excerpted from the Taylor Street Archives website. www.taylorstreetachives.com
Luke Capuano, one of the many successful fistfighters produced by Taylor Street
It is altogether fitting and proper to begin our list of notable athletes with Nick Fosco, who, as a 147-pound welterweight, won the first National Golden Gloves Tournament sponsored by the Chicago Tribune in 1928. Nick Fosco’s picture currently adorns a wall in the Hull House Museum (and the HHM website) as one of the many residents of the Little Italy portion of the Near West Side immigrant community who participated in the Jane Addams Hull House experiment. Richard Guerrero, born two years later, in 1930, was the most heralded Golden Gloves Champion of all time. He captured the 1948, 1949 and 1951 Golden Gloves Titles. Richie’s phenomenal amateur career included a 332-2 won/lost record, in which he defeated every one of his opponents. Of special note was his defeat of middle weight Floyd Patterson who later went on to win the heavy weight championship of the world. Jackie Corvino, son of a blacksmith from Morgan Street, was one of many successful amateur boxers from Taylor Street. Jackie won the 118 lb. Golden Gloves championship in 1949.
Fast forward another three decades, during Mohammed Ali’s reign, and another Taylor Street bred athlete, Luke Capuano, etched his name in the boxing chronicles as a cruiser heavyweight. Luke was involved in a hotly contested split decision loss to Mike Rossman which propelled Rossman on to a title fight for the cruiser weight championship of the world. Luke’s youthful career as an athlete growing up in Taylor Street’s Little Italy is documented in two stories he submitted to the Taylor Street Archives (TSA). My Gemma, a classic of sorts, memorializes those neighborhood coaches who had an influence on who and what we became. The “Our Athletes” page of the TSA welcomes the names and stories of notable neighborhood boxers such as John “Chickie” LaPlaca, Tony Spano and Primo LaCasa.
Despite the numerous fist fighters who won more than their share of laurels, the most popular sport in our neighborhood was softball. At the top of the Windy City Softball icons who achieved fame during the pre-WWII era are Charlie Serpe (outfielder) and Anthony “Noboy” Tenerelli (short center fielder). Bobby Garippo (3rd baseman) was the most notable of the Windy City icons. Bobby had a stellar career as an MVP who played on five Windy City Softball World Championship teams during the decades of the 70s and 80s. His achievements won him a place in the Windy City Softball Hall of Fame in 1987. Other great softball players that came out of the neighborhood could be found at the likes of Cinder Stadium, which was dominated by the eleven (11) Orrico brothers, and Dante schoolyard, which was dominated by the Parise brothers. Included among those players were Nick Parise, Cy Abatta, Leewa Yucilla, and Richie “Schemer” Mangarisi. (Aside: Anthony Tenerelli acquired his nick name “Noboy” when, as a youngster, he was asked by a horse player to pick the jockey who he thought would be riding the winning horse. He picked “Noboy,” which means there was no jockey yet assigned to that horse.)
Basketball has the longest list of neighborhood athletes. Harry Garippo, whose talents ranged from shooting pool and handicapping horse races to basketball and baseball, heads the list as a leading scorer for Medill High School during the 1920s. Nick Caruso captained St. Ignatius High School to a share of the inter league city championship in 1951. On the subject of city championships, Vince Romano, named to the all-star team in the city-wide Settlement House Basketball Tournament, coached the 1960-61 Wells High School basketball team to the Chicago Public Schools Championship…the largest school boy conference in America. Also Taylor Street bred were the twin icons of the “fabulous” Billy Russo and the “incomparable” Johnny Incardone of St. Phillips High School fame. Johnny was the perennial high scorer in the St. Sabina annual basketball tournament consisting of college and “almost made it” professional basketball players. Nick Caruso and Vince Romano, both of whom coached Bobby Garippo as a grammar school basketball player, concurred that Bobby, Harry Garippos’s son, was the best basketball player and athlete to ever come out of Taylor Street. “There was no one like Bobby Garippo. An 8th grader popping jump shots that rivaled those of Kobey Bryant’s 3 pointer, long before the 3 point rule came into effect. It wasn’t until Michael Jordan came along that I saw the equivalent of a young Bobby Garippo’s driving lay-ups.” Nick Panico, perennial high scorer, is one of many others who could be included in this list.
Equally notable are Dugy Belmont, Joe Lasacco, Allen Bettina, Anthony “Hindu” DeIcova, and Larry Marnell: all of whom were Sun-Time Youth Basketball Tournament victors and frequently invited to play during the half-time at the Chicago Stadium.
Another significant sport, although not as popular as boxing, basketball and softball, was handball. Taylor Street had a number of national-caliber handball players, including the likes of Jim DeVito and Anthony “Noboy” Tenerelli. A long list of other neighborhood athletes that were similarly competitive in handball included Tony Raso who became a highly proficient racquetball player in his later years.
While most kids went to Cregier, McKinley or Harrison high schools, Crane Tech High School seemed to have more than its share of Taylor Street bred athletes winning city championships. Raymond Romano, in his first and only year on Crane’s swimming team took home the silver medal in the city-wide diving competition; Chick Fazio won his share of track honors while at Crane; the Carcerano brothers (Sal and Joe), whose grandparents were part of that Taylor Street phenomenon, along with Carmen Balsamo, were starting members on Crane’s basketball and baseball teams, both of which won Chicago City championships.
Hull House, Sheridan Park and the CYO were where we developed our indoor athletic skills. While boxing and wrestling were popular indoor sports at Hull House, Sheridan Park seemed to produce the boxers. Hull House did produce an AAU wrestling champion, Jimmie Parille, who competed during the late 1940s-early 50s.
Bobby Salerno, Chickie LaPlaca, Me, Anthony Carso, Mouse Salerno, John La Monica, Unknown, Jimmy Parelli, Bu-Hack, John Sencion, Buzzy, Unknown
Of special significance are those Taylor Street athletes who have won “national” championships. Some were Taylor Street bred, while others had ancestries that went back to Taylor Street and the distant shores of southern Italy. Leading this list of National Champions are Nick Fosco and Richard Guerrero, National Golden Gloves Champions, and Bobby Garippo, Windy City Softball Hall of Famer. (As an aside: in addition to his basketball and softball skills, Bobby Garippo, in his later years, was noted for the numerous golf championships he won representing the Ridgemoor Country Club.) Jim DiVito, while serving as director of Sheridan Park, won the senior national racquetball championship. Marc and Rick Romano, grandsons of Harry Garippo, were members of Triton’s National Junior College Wrestling Championship team during the 1970s. Angelina Romano, the 8-year-old great granddaughter of Harry Garippo, granddaughter of Vincent Romano, and daughter of Rick Romano was crowned the 2012 National Karate Champion. Her older sister, Christina, won the State of Illinois Karate Championship.
I exercise my literary license to include the following from one of the Taylor Street Archives stories. One club, the Morgan Fads S.A.C., produced two international champion gin rummy players plus a third that came within a whisker from making it three out of three for the Morgan Fads. Imagine, in the whole world, one little known inconspicuous club harbored, arguably, the best gin rummy players on the planet. Jerry “Bugsy” Piscatello won the first Las Vegas International championship. Almost back-to-back, Eddie “Steady Eddy” Giampa also won the international championship. And Joe “Hammer” Delessandro barely missed winning a third championship. All three were from Taylor Street. All three were from just one of the numerous clubs that saturated our neighborhood. All three were first generation Italian Americans.
It seems that we, as the prologue to the Taylor Street Archives attests, did “excel in virtually everything the larger society had ordained for us…from digging sewers to enterprises in which only the most talented and courageous could excel.” The Club.
We invite the readers to send us the names, stories and pictures of any notable athletes we have not, as yet, been included in the Taylor Street Archives website.