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Hoop History Here

The Daily Times and Chronicle, Tuesday, December 28, 1982

Burlington Past and Present, by John E. Fogelberg (Article # 184)


Most people agree that the three great American sports are baseball, football and basketball. Baseball is supposed to have been created by Abner Doubleday in 1839 at Cooperstown, NY but may have been derived from the old English game of Cricket or from a children’s game with the unlikely name of “one old cat.” Football can be traced directly to the English game of Rugby and the first so-called “scrimmages” were begun at Yale in 1840 but the game of kicking a ball around probably can be traced back to the Greeks of 2500 years ago.

Basketball, however, is the one sport whose exact origin is definitely known, for it began  here in Springfield in 1891. James Naismith was an instructor at the YMCA Training College in Springfield, Massachusetts when he invented the game to keep his boys engaged between football and baseball seasons. Nine players on each team tried to put a soccer ball through peach baskets hung on the gym walls. That YMCA school is now Springfield College.

When Burlington’s first high school opened its doors in September, 1939, athletics comprised football, baseball, boys’ basketball, girls’ basketball. The girls’ basketball team fared poorly that first year, winning but one game all season. The boys’ team, however, proved to be the sleeper in the league and went on to play in the Punchard Tournament where they defeated Tewksbury in the first round and Essex Agricultural School in the second round, only to succumb to Central Catholic of Lawrence In the finals. Not bad for a team from a small school – (total enrollment grades in grades seven through 12 was 212) and playing together for the first time.

The school published a little mimeographed paper named The Keyhole at that time, which printed pupils’ short stories and poems and gossip much like the award-winning Collab of Burlington High does now. Its March issue was dedicated to the basketball team. The Keyhole reported, “The first basketball team of the Burlington High School opened its season by defeating a fast team from Sanborn Seminary, 24-22, since then, the boys have won seven more games and lost only five. Captain Maurice O’Connor has led his boys in scoring with 107 points, while Arthur Thorstensen was runner-up with 95.”

There were 9 players on that first boys team: Warren Davis, George Lloyd, George Martikke, John O’Brien, Maurice O’Connor, Kenneth Priestly, Arthur Thorstensen, Paul Verville and Jack Waldroup. Graduating and thus lost to the team captained by Thorstensen the following year were O’Connor, Waldroup, Priestly, Verville and O’Brien. But then most of those boys were soon in the service as this country entered World War II. The coach was Harold Norton, a graduate of Bates College and previously a principal of Bennington High School.

The gymnasium of that first high school (now the recreation building on Center Street), was a little less than regulation size and was considered a fast court. Some of the most spirited games in Burlington’s basketball history took place there. During the 50s the teams had a tremendous following, crowding the bleachers which covered the south wall and filling the stage opposite. Since the baskets were practically on the walls, padding had to be hug there for a player rushing the basket to hit that wall full speed shook his very eye teeth. The last group to have that gym as its home base was the 1961 team. The next year sports events were held in what is now the Marshall Simonds Middle School.

That 1961 boys’ team, too, was a surprise to everyone, finishing third in the Lowell Suburban League with a record of 10 Wins and 7 losses. It made the Bay State tournament where it beat St. Mary’s in the first round and St. Joseph’s in the second only to lose to Mansfield in the finals. The coach that year was Dick Garibotto, who no longer coaches but still teaches at Burlington High. The team that year included co-captains Charles “Chuck” Newton and Leroy Winchester, and Ken Addison, Ed Bruno, Al Cronin, Bob Given, Paul Gurney, Lon Howell, Paul Luti, John Malatesta, John McIntosh, R. Orlondella, John Puleo and D. Pollicelli. Since half of this team was lost due to graduation, Garibotto’s next year in a full-sized gym became a building year.

The gymnasium in Burlington’s third, last and present high school opened for basketball after the football season in 1973. It is a huge gym with plenty of room and plenty of bleacher space. And Burlington now plays in the Middlesex League with such powerhouses on the basketball court as Winchester, Woburn, Melrose and Watertown. Last year the Burlington boys team was the biggest surprise in that Middlesex League. With a new coach, Tom Imbriglio, and picked by the Middlesex League coaches to finish no better than fifth, their second place finish was a considerable accomplishment. The team won 10 of their last 12 games, including 7 in a row, and finished the season with a record of 15 wins and 6 losses – two of those losses were in overtime, one to St. John’s Prep and the other to Woburn; a third loss came at the end of the season in an away game in Everett.

The 1981-81 (?) team included tri-captains Chris Worob, Mark Spaulding and Robert Paganetti and Dave Williamson, Peter Lash, Jeff Worob, Kyle Shields, Sean Lang, Sean O’Brien, Tom Curran, Rick Welch, Tony Marlin and Peter Smith with managers Brian Hyde, Mike Shannon and John Robinson. Chris Worob and Mark Spaulding were outstanding all season and were placed on the Middlesex All-Star 1st team. Worob also made the Globe’s 2nd team All-Scholastic. Worob made 33 points in the first game against Winchester and 30 points against Lexington. Spaulding racked up 32 points against Belmont. Both boys are playing basketball in college this year, Worob at St. Joseph’s College in No. Windham, Maine, and Spaulding here at Bentley.

The 1982-83 Basketball Guide at St. Joseph’s says of Worob, “A fine outside shooter with definite three-point range . . . He will be looked upon to provide the downtown fire power lacking in the Monks attack in recent years.”

And Mike Shannon is managing again, this time at the University of Lowell. Seven of the players and all three managers were seniors last year. Paganetti, who was last year’s Valedictorian, is now at the University of Lowell as well, as is Tom Curran. Williamson, who was last year’s lead in the musical Godspell, is at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst; Lash is studying at Fitchburg State College; Hyde, too, is enrolled at UMass and Robinson is at Wentworth.

Welch decided he did not want to go to school and enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard. Five of those boys were on the Honor Roll at Burlington High last year: Worob, Paganetti, Spaulding, Curran and Shannon, and can be expected to do as well academically on the college level. Over the years many a fine team has been expected to win and did; others not expected to do well, also won. This is a tribute to but three such teams and the fine young men who played on them.