Can I Play High School Football With No Experience Book Review – Between Two Bridges by Victor Colaio

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Book Review – Between Two Bridges by Victor Colaio

It was sometime in the mid-1980s. I was having dinner at Forlini’s restaurant on Baxter 93rd Street in midtown Manhattan with my good friend Rudy Riska, who was the athletic director of the Downtown Athletic Club and was known as the King of the Heisman Trophy. I grew up across the street from Forlini, in a tenement house at 134 White Street, corner of Baxter Street in the Sixth Ward, across from the city jail called the Tomb. Rudy grew up on Madison Street, in the Fourth Ward, just 10 minutes away.

Fourth and sixth ward people were friendly enemies, especially in sports. My first memory of the Fourth Ward was in 1958, when I went to play Little League baseball at Coleman Oval, under the Manhattan Bridge. By then the neighborhood had been turned upside down and tens of thousands of people had been driven from their homes by the brutal law of Eminent Domain. This was done to build Al Smith’s low-income projects and middle-income cooperatives in Chatham Green. The same thing happened in the Sixth Ward, albeit on a smaller basis, paving the way for Chatham Towers middle-income co-ops.

Over dinner at Forlini, Rudy told me about the Fourth Ward of the 1940s and early 1950s. He mentioned streets that no longer existed; such as Roosevelt and Oak Streets and parts of Williams Street. And he mentioned a Catholic church that I had never heard of, St. Joachim’s Church, which was on Roosevelt Street. Afterwards, Rudy talked about the guys he grew up with.

– Do you remember Victor Starr? Rudy asked me.

No, I haven’t, but after reading the wonderful book “Between Two Bridges” by Victor Colaio (Victor Starr), although I’ve never met the man, I know Victor Starr well (we even went to the same high school – Cardinal Hayes in the Bronx ).

Both Viktor and Rudy are about 10-12 years older than me. The Lower East Side they grew up on was a little different than the Lower East Side I grew up on. Sure, we played stickball, stopball, softball, hardball, basketball, and soccer like they did, but we had real balls that we bought from them. a sporting goods store on Nassau Street whose name eludes me (Spiegels?). Back in Victor’s day, they bought pink Spaldins and the occasional Clincher softball like we do, but their footballs were made of newspaper and duct tape. Talk about gross. (I’m assuming they used real basketballs, because if the ball wasn’t perfectly round, how could they throw it properly?)

Also, in Rudy and Victor’s time, television was a new invention; Mainly there were only bars to show sports events like baseball and boxing. But I don’t remember that he didn’t have a TV in his house, and I don’t remember that any of my friends didn’t have a TV in their house. But that was in the mid-to-late 1950s; not until the mid-to-late 1940s, when Rudy and Victor grew up.

In “Between Two Moneys,” Victor recounts a wonderful afternoon spent at the Venetian Theater, owned by a wonderful woman named Mazie, who would let children go to the theater for free if they had no money. Mazi also gave money to the owls in the Bowery so they could buy something to eat or possibly something to drink. I don’t remember the Venice Theater, but I do remember the Maze, but from the Chatham Theater in Chatham Square, under Third Avenue El, when I was about 9 or 10 years old. However, the Chatham Theater remained there for many years.

In “Between Two Bridges,” Victor regales the reader with stories about kids playing ball in “The Lots,” a dirty strip of land under the Manhattan Bridge. I don’t remember The Loots but I do remember Coleman Oval which was built on the former Loots site. This is where the Two Bridges League Baseball Association played their games. In fact, in 1960, my Little League Transfiguration team beat the St. James Little Victor team for the Two Bridge Championship.

And then there were the nicknames that almost everyone had.

Victor was Victor Star. My nickname in sixth grade was Muni; people still call me Muni. Victor recalls childhood friends like Pete Lash, who was built like a safe and wasn’t afraid to throw his weight around. After I moved to the Fourth Ward’s Knickerbocker Village in 1964, I met Pete Lash, who was certainly an impressive physical specimen; only in his mid-70s did his brick-like body have a bit of a beer belly. Although Pete was originally a friendly and jovial guy, woe betide those who got on the wrong side of Pete Lash.

Victor mentions other nicknames such as Richie Igor, Nonnie, Pauly Knock Knock, Junior, Bunny and Butch, all men I knew in later years. But I don’t remember Goo-Goo, Grandpa Hippo, Hammerhead, Paulie Batman, George Egg, Bopo or Bimbo. But I wish I did.

Growing up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the 1930s through the 1960s was a unique experience; an experience that no longer exists for young New Yorkers. In the Lower East Side, we grew up with people of all denominations and religions. Two minor league baseball teams had Transfiguration Church teams – almost exclusively Italian and Chinese. St. James was mostly Irish with a few Italians. St. Joseph was mostly Italian and a few Irish. The team was the Temple Mariners of Puerto Rico. The Educational Alliance and the LMRC were Jewish. And the Sea and the Land, sponsored by the neighboring people, were African Americans. And among the teams were Polish children, Spaniards from Spain and children from Czechoslovakia.

We didn’t have time or energy to be racist or prejudiced. We all grew up together and we all respected each other. It was the only way to survive.

One thing Victor mentions in his book is very true. If you grew up on the Lower East Side, you grew balls; you should It was necessary to fight almost every day, and if not; you were beaten almost every day. Bullies always chose weaker children, or those who did not stand up to them. But if you resisted, even if you took a beating or two, the bullies went to pray more easily.

It was just the law of the jungle.

On the Lower East Side, concepts of all nations arose. But it also includes doctors (Joe Fiorito), lawyers (Matthew J. Marie of the Fourth Ward is a famous criminal lawyer), politicians (Al Smith of James Street became governor of New York and lost the presidential election in 1928), several judges to came into being. (Judge Piccariello), professional singers (Johnny Maestro, Luther Vandross) and professional athletes. Rudy Riska was a professional athlete for the Lower East Side (he played for the Triple A Yankees); his brother Steve was another (Cincinnati Reds farm system). There was also a guy named Vinny Head (I never knew his real name) from the Sixth Ward (NY Giants Farm System) and Charlie Velotta also from the Sixth Ward (Dodgers Farm System). Charlie lived on the same floor with me at 134 White Street.

My next door neighbor at 134 White Street was Mikey Black; real name Michael Corriero (we shared a fireplace and Mikey often knocked on my door because he forgot his apartment key and had to use my bedroom window to get into the fireplace). After hanging out with juvenile gangs as a teenager, Mikey became a lawyer, then a judge in the New York Juvenile Court System. He is currently the executive director and founder of the Juvenile Justice Center in New York.

So there.

There is no better way to describe growing up on the Lower East Coast in the mid-twentieth century than in Between Two Bridges by Victor Colaio. I recommend this book to all New Yorkers – regardless of age. And if you come from other parts of the country, you should also enjoy this wonderful book. If people who aren’t from New York can flock to watch a show as ridiculous as Mob Wives, they should read a book that is true to life, not a stereotype of the worst possible people in the New York area.

One more thing – if you don’t buy Between Two Bridges, I might have to send Pete Lash to see you.

And that can never be a very good thing.

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