Nashua sports flashback

I’ve always been a sports fan, from the time when the Patriots were an AFL football team, then often being the laughing stock of the NFL, to following the Celtics during the Bill Russell era and their ten straight NBA Championships, to sitting alongside my Dad, with his quart of Narragansett in hand, to watch the then woeful Boston Red Sox, broadcast by the immortal Curt Gowdy.

Growing up in the Gate City, I can remember when the local sports scene was very vibrant and often a topic of daily conversation. High school sports were huge during the days of legendary Nashua High School coaches Charles “Buzz” Harvey and Anthony “Tony” Marandos. Mr. Marandos served not only as defensive line coach for the football Panthers, but also as head basketball coach. Both had a passion for winning and it was obvious when glancing along the sidelines during any of their games. Mr. Harvey was Nashua’s version of Bill Belichick. Much like Belichick, he was known as a tough coach and quite demanding, but he produced disciplined, winning teams. Many high school games then brought big crowds to Holman Stadium, back in the day when schoolboy football dominated. The Nashua eleven would play nationally ranked powerhouse teams from much bigger schools throughout New England, including Brockton, Everett, Lowell and Lawrence. Before the need for today’s multiple city high schools, the rivalries were more inter-state than inter-city. The annual Thanksgiving Day games were played against Gardner, MA. If I couldn’t make it to the game, I’d listen to the legendary Ed Lecius call the play by play on WSMN, from the “eye in the sky.”

I can still remember the day Nashua High quarterback Greg Landry was drafted #1 by the NFL’s Detroit Lions from the University of Massachusetts. It was front page and special feature news in the Telegraph, creating tremendous excitement throughout the city.

The Nashua Dodgers were a bit before my time, but they too were a huge entity in this city’s sports history, not only for their exciting play, but for their part in breaking the color barrier in professional baseball. That accomplishment was recognized locally by the renaming of a street adjacent to Holman Stadium to Roy Campanella Way and with the colorful mural spanning the side of the Maynard and Lesieur building facing Elm Street. The mural features Nashua Dodger greats Roy Campanella, who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969 and Don Newcombe, his Dodger battery mate. The Nashua Dodgers are widely recognized as the country’s first racially integrated professional baseball team, just before Brooklyn Dodgers GM Branch Rickey signed Jackie Robinson to a Major League contract, breaking the color barrier there. For anyone interested in more on the Nashua Dodgers, a book titled Dem Little Bums by Steve Daly is a worthwhile read.

Does anyone remember the Nashua Colts? In the mid ’60’s, before the Patriots were a nearly annual Super Bowl participant, Nashua had a pro (or, then called semi-pro) football team who played their home games at Holman Stadium. They were members of the New England Pro Football League and later the New England Pro Football Conference. I can remember being a huge fan of this team and even following them with my sister and brother-in-law to Boston where they played the South Boston Chippewas, then a very tough rival. With the likes of such stars as Don Sarette, Wilson Cardoza and Gus Giardi, the Colts uniforms resembled those of the then Baltimore Colts, save for black and white versus blue and white. A championship game at Holman once resulted in the need for additional grandstands to be added to accommodate the large crowd. Besides the Chippewas, other cool names in the league included the Shamrocks (Meriden, CT), Sea Hawks (Portland, ME) and the Brockton, (MA) Pros.

Call me old-fashioned, but am I the only one who misses the days when Nashua had such a selection of sports offerings? The teams were competitive, fun to watch and provided something to do for all ages on a Friday night or weekend.

Don Canney is a freelance writer and professional voice artist. He was born and raised in downtown Nashua with great interest in Nashua history circa 1950-1970. He now resides in Litchfield.