Memories of Mount Vernon, Memorial Field, Football 3-15-06

Memories of Mount Vernon, Memorial Field, Football and other Successes!

March 15, 2006

Richard J. Garfunkel


The 2004 version of the MVHS Knights football team that is currently 7-2 is one of their best in recent history. Mount Vernon did have great football teams, in the pre-AB Davis and Edison Tech days of the 1920's. Their great coach was “Dad” White and when I was in high school, Class of 1963, he was still talked about by the old-timers Ed Williams, Lorenzo Thomas, and Al Cain. 


One of the great stars to come out of MVHS in the 1920's was Frank Carideo, who later became Knute Rockne's last All-America at quarterback (In 1930 Notre Dame went 10-0-0, had a winning streak of 19 and claimed their 3rd consecutive national championship with an ecumenical lineup that included star running backs Martin Brill and Marchmont  “Marchy” Schwartz.) Frank Carideo came back to Davis and was invited to speak to us by our gym teacher and my baseball coach Bill Sywetz.


In 1963 MVHS existed only on paper accept for their sport's teams. Because of the school merger we were suddenly able to compete with our old natural rivals New Rochelle, and White Plains. In wrestling, we were 13-1 and we slaughtered them both on our way to the first of five straight Section I titles. In basketball we had an excellent team that beat New Rochelle twice and split with White Plains in spite of their great high-scoring, high school All-American Mal Graham, who later went on to star at NYU, and play for the Celtics. But our real glory came on football gridiron where we were 6-1. Led by Ray Johnson, Jim Finch, Noel McFarland, Tony Taddey, Bob Spana, and others. We only lost to Port Chester, because of our team being decimated by the flu. That great team, led by our rookie coach Gene Ridenour, with his assistants, the late Joe LaRocca and the late great Henry Littlefield, beat both archrivals New Rochelle and White Plains for the first time since 1948. The exuberant overflowing crowd rushed onto the Huguenot’s field and tore down the wooden goal posts. The next day, the principal, Dr. Howard Spalding, asked that the “hooligans” who pilfered the goalposts return them to the New Rochelle field immediately. Of course, little did Dr. Spalding know, that the goal posts were reduced to bare kindling! In fact I had a 10″ piece of that hallowed wood for a number of years, with the date written on it red! It disappeared without a trace when my parents moved from Mount Vernon some years later. That team was quite good, and I am sure that over the next forty years or so, we probably only had one, or two seasons, where we were able to beat both White Plains and New Rochelle. Of course this year's team (2004) has a chance to avenge, in the Section I finals, their earlier 48-6 loss to the Huguenots. Until they do that, the 1963 edition must be still considered the best since the 1920's (MVHS was handily beaten by the Purple Wave in the Sections.)


Memorial Field was always an exciting place for me. I was able to play my first baseball games under the lights during the summers and also get eaten alive by the mosquitoes. This was long before some genius had invented “Off.” It was here I hit two homeruns, in the Pony Grad semi-finals off Patsy Argentina, who during the school year pitched for our cross-town rival Edison Tech. Memorial Field also played host to the legendary Eddie Feigner and his remarkable “King and His Court” team. This remarkable 4-man softball team always took on the best our locals could muster. Invariably, “The King” would strike out batters from 2nd base while being blindfolded. The “King and His Court” were beyond remarkable.


I also got see the old Mount Vernon Eagles play semi-pro football with my great friend Randy Forrest as one of their stars. Randy with his life-long friend, the late great Johnny Counts had made mincemeat out of AB Davis in the middle 1950’s when they both starred for New Rochelle, and their legendary Coach Lou Amunson. Later on Randy became an assistant wrestling coach to the fabulous aforementioned Henry Littlefield, and when Hank retired and moved on to Amherst in September of 1967, Randy became MVHS’s head wrestling coach and led the now named “Knights” to even more greatness. (Today, in 2006, I play tennis under the bubble covering the courts at Memorial Field and as I walk down the stairs I look wistfully out to that old field and remember years gone by.)



2 thoughts on “Memories of Mount Vernon, Memorial Field, Football 3-15-06

  1. Was looking for a reference to “Dad” White – have his autograph on a program from a testimonial given to Frank Carideo on Jan. 7, 1931 at the Astor Hotel in New York City. White spoke at the event along with Rockne, Grantland Rice, Jim Thrope, and New York Mayor Jimmy Walker. I transcribed the article from the Mount Vernon New York Daily Argus January 7, 1931


    Mayor and Coach Among Chief Speakers at Affair Held at the Astor—
    700 Attend in Honor of Mount Vernon Football Hero

    Mount Vernon New York Daily Argus January 7, 1931

    Just as Frank Carideo has deported himself in winning national fame on the football field, “without swank and without parade,” so did Mount Vernon pay tribute to its native son last night when about 700 of his Mount Vernon and metropolitan friends and admirers gathered at the dinner in his honor at the Hotel Astor.

    In the opening; words of Ralph A. Carretta, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the dinner, it was ”Mount Vernon’s greatest day.” It was naturally so, with the nation’s greatest football player as the honor guest, and with an array of speakers such as Mayor James J. Walker, Coach Knute Rockne, and Grantland Rice on hand to sing his praises.

    And today, Frank Carideo is on his way back to Notre Dame, unspoiled by the reception accorded him by his home town, but keenly appreciative of the esteem which his friends here have for him. The dinner was by far one of the most successful events of its kind ever held by Mount Vernon, and all who attended were impressed with the warmth and sincerity of the reception accorded to the famous football star.

    At Speakers’ Table.

    Shortly after the crowd had seated themselves at the tables, Carideo was escorted to the speakers’ table, amidst prolonged applause. Those who sat with him on the dais included Dr. James Cavanaugh, president emeritus of Notre Dame; John Law of Yonkers, former captain of the 1929 Notre Dame team; Captain Eugene J. Orsenigo, member of the Mount Vernon Board of Education; LeRoy N. Mills, kicking coach at the local High School, and who taught Carideo the rudiments of kicking; William A. Walsh, ex- Mayor of Yonkers, and also a former captain of the “Irish” eleven; Father Cherubino Viola, pastor of the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, who pronounced the Invocation; Ed Thorpe of Columbia; well known official in the world of sports; Grantland Rice, dean of the New York sports writers; Knute Rockne, Acting City Judge William S. Coffey, toastmaster; Mayor James Walker, Ralph A. Carreta, Mayor James Berg, Sheriff Louis N. Ellrodt, Superintendent of Schools William H. Holmes, City Judge Bernstein, W. O. McGeehan, New York sports writer; and Ray W. Aylesworth.

    Get Big Welcome

    Coach Rockne, accompanied by Grantland Rice, arrived soon after the dinner had been started, and h e was given a hearty welcome. {Carideo left the speakers’ table and escorted him to the dale. Mayor Walker, escorted to the dinner by Lester D. Stickles, arrived a little later, and h e was also given a tremendous ovation.

    The dinner was opened by Chairman Carretta, who welcomed the gathering in celebration of what he termed “Mount Vernon’s greatest day,” and who spoke In appreciation of the work done by all the committees in making the Carideo reception and dinner such a memorable affair. Mayor Berg, as the opening speaker called upon by Toastmaster Coffey, referred to Rockne as the “noonday sun of footballdom,” and to Carideo a s “its most shining star.” The greatest word of praise for Carideo as a football star was given him by Grantland Rice, who declared that the Mount Vernon boy was not only the greatest quarterback he had ever seen in action, but the greatest football player. Both Rockne and Carideo, he said were great because of their character and ability.

    Picked Himself.

    “No one picked Frank Carideo for All-America quarterback,” said Mr. Rice; “he picked himself. Any man who can get the great tribute that Carideo Is receiving tonight from his people must come from a great town. It has to be a great town for a fellow like Carideo to come from there.”

    Following this talk, telegrams were read.- They were received from “Sweeney” O’Reilly, former teammate of Carideo at the Mount Vernon High School, and later a hockey etar at Pennsylvania University; also from Arthur Pierce, a fellow student of the guest of honor, and from the Wolves’ Club of Newcastle, Pa., from Carmine Carideo and George Mascari, and other friends.”

    Knute Reckne spoke of Carldeo’s first arrival at Notre Dame as a shy, modest boy, and told of how his talents were first discovered. « , “The last two years of football at Notre Dame.” said Rockne, “has Justified our confidence in him, and if there Is any one man who Is m o r e responsible than any other for the success of these two years. It was Frank Carideo.”

    The Present Discussion

    Coach Rockne then touched lightly upon the controversy between athletic coaches and educators on the question of overemphasis of sports. , “I have been listening for some time.” he said, “to pseudo-literate Intelligentsia and educators, and it is my opinion that the losers have been waiting a little longer than usual. I defy these people to show me any other form of activity where a boy hat the same opportunity to show what’s In him. as he has in sports.” Mr. Rockne said he was Impressed with the vivid imagination with which Carideo called his plays on the football field, and with the stern leadership with which he managed the team.

    In introducing t h e next speaker. Toastmaster Coffey also stressed the fact that there was nothing like clean, pure athletics for character building and strength building. Ed. Thorpe, noted referee and umpire, spoke of football in general and of the character of players from the East, point out that the number of players from this section is increasing steadily.

    After he had concluded, Coach “Dad” White, formerly of the High School, was escorted to the dais and very briefly complimented Carideo on his success.

    Mayor Walker Next

    Then came James J. Walker, who arose to tremendous applause. Throughout his address, the Mayor impressed his audience with his sincerity. He praised those who* arranged the dinner and he “lauded its purpose. He also jokingly referred to Westchester politics which he deemed were a bit too Republican for all purposes. He drew an Immediate laugh by referring to himself as “A visiting fireman.” It was his opinion that the dinner was a real Mount Vernon party. “You could have filled Madison Square Garden had you wanted to,” he said, “but you preferred to have this a s a Mount Vernon home party and that Is as it should be.” It was his conviction that had Mount Vernon sought cooperation from other municipalities in making it a really elaborate affair, there would have been no difficulty, in getting a record crowd, but he believed that the size of the affair was altogether adequate for the purpose. It pleased him greatly.

    Equal Share For All

    He praised Rockne and Notre Dame, and said that undoubtedly the football team was successful because there were no bars and every man was given an equal chance to share in the honors of the team. As to Carideo he called him the Idol of the children of New York —”Children who would like to be Frank Carideos but who have no places to play. We have no sand lots here for the kids.” There was a sympathetic ring to the Mayor’s voice as he described conditions about the tenement houses. And again there was humor as he recalled the days when he and Judge Coffey served together In Albany and roomed together. He admitted that he had never recovered from the news that Mr. Coffey had become a Judge, although being a Judge is not so hot these days.

    He was lavish in his praise of the work of Carideo at Notre Dame, but he even more strongly lauded the character of the Mount Vernonlte and hla fine modesty. His upstanding qualities were pointed to as examples for others to follow. . . Tremendous applause greeted the Mayor as he concluded.

    Dr. William H. Holmes and. Eugene Orsenigo of the Board of Education spoke briefly a s the concluding speakers of the night. The dinner was brought to a close with the presentation by Mr. Mills of a check for $750, but this will be Increased to more than $1,000.

    In response Carideo spoke briefly but feelingly of his appreciation or the honor bestowed on him, and he then and there turned over the money to his father and mother. “I want to thank my mother and father here publicly for all that they have done for me. and I hope that when I’m out later I will make them as happy as they are now.”

    • I would like to know the names of the parents of Frank Carideo. My daughter’s Great Grandfather Antonio Carideo, who is now passed, has spoken to me about his cousin being a famous football player. I was interested in the history for my daughter I would like to share the ancestry regarding Frank Carideo. We still live in Mount Vernon, N.Y. If anyone has the information I would greatly appreciate it. I am wanting to know how Antonio Carideo was related, which relatives and so forth.

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