Written by Joe Rizza Friday, 06 November 2009 00:00
You can take the journalist out of Mineola, but you can’t take Mineola out of the journalist.
Former Newsday political reporter is retired and now runs his family’s farm in North Carolina, but he recently spent some time in Mineola, where he used to live, to work on a book about Long Island sports history.
The book, An Ode to LI Sports, was written by Irving Long, whose newspaper career includes a seven-year stint at the old Long Island Press from 1970 to 1977 and a 24-year stint at Newsday from 1977 to 2001, as a tribute to the Long Island athletes who have played high school and college sports over the years. The book, self-published by Long and available at some local stores, is 205 pages of memories and contains 42 photos, including photos of the 1912 Freeport High School football team, the 1925 Hempstead High School basketball team and the 1941 Mineola boy’s basketball team, featuring a young “Mr. Mineola” John Davanzo.
The book details events such as a 1991 boxing match at the Mineola Irish-American Center between Seamus McDonough and Peter King, who would later become a United States congressman. “McDonough was trying his best not to hit [King] with a real punch or hurt him,” writes Long. “King did, in fact, go plodding through the third and last round. I am sure that I have not heard any talk about King wanting to resume his boxing career.”
Long said he initially planned to focus exclusively on the Mineola Mustangs “mainly because I lived in Mineola for years and worked for even more years in the Mineola pressroom of the state Supreme Court Building I started expanding into college football when I learned that the Hofstra team of 1941 included five guys who have been playing for the Mineola Mustangs a year or so earlier. Then I realized I had to include Mineola’s big rivals, two of whom were Hempstead and Glen Cove,” wrote Long, who also lived in Roslyn.
The book mentions the 1941 Mineola boys basketball team that started the season with a bright outlook. But, the cold bug ran amuck around Mineola High School in January and February of 1941, keeping several players out of action for one or two weeks.
On the subject of football, there was once a time when Mineola and Chaminade had quite a rivalry. In a game in the mid to late 1930s, Mineola defeated Chaminade 7-0. “If anyone had been prone to forget this great Mineola victory, they would have been reminded of it every time they passed a sidewalk near Chaminade, a sidewalk where some Mineola students or fans had painted the words ‘Mineola 7, Chaminade 0.’ The paint remained on the sidewalk for a long time and Chaminade refused to play Mineola for several years after the painting incident,” wrote Long.
In 1940, the Mineola Maroons (later called the Mustangs) defeated a strong Glen Cove team 32-7. Co-captain Henry Nary scored on a 35-yard touchdown run and in the quarter, John Davanzo, the quarterback for Mineola, threw a 30-yard touchdown pass. Davanzo would later throw another touchdown pass to Nary. Mineola would wind up losing to Nassau County champion Lawrence by a touchdown.
Long’s book also tells of a memorable, if not successful, Mineola Little League team. James Galante, husband of former mayor Ann Galante and father of North Hempstead Democratic leader Joe Galante, coached a team of 11 and 12-year-olds in 1977 who lost every one of their games, all 17. Galante, who had retired from the New York City Police Department, still took the kids out for ice cream after they lost their 17th game.
Long’s book may trigger some old memories of growing up with sports on Long Island. It is available at Nick’s Coffee Shop and Diner (next to the Mineola train station), Bookmarx, located at 28 Lincoln Avenue in Roslyn Heights, the Williston Town House Diner, located at 112 Hillside Avenue in Williston Park, and Vincenti’s Barber Shop, located at 225 Willis Avenue in Mineola. You can also call Irving Long at (910) 206-0312.