The First 50 Years

As the Greenwich Old Timers Athletic Association observes it golden anniversary in 2010, it is not simply a celebration of athletes and athletic accomplishment, but a celebration of 50 years of community service, scholarship awards and financial support to a variety of programs for local boys and girls. 

Founded in 1960 and spearheaded by two Cos Cob brothers, Joe and Jim Branca, the Old Timers have raised and contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars toward 75 college scholarships and funds to support numerous athletic programs for Greenwich youth.

The Greenwich Old Timers Athletic Association was the brainchild of Joe Branca, who, it was gleaned from his surviving friends, was a near fanatic about sports, especially golf. His love of athletics drove him to attend numerous sports dinners in neighboring Stamford and Port Chester and elsewhere in surrounding Westchester and Fairfield County communities. It was his attendance at those dinners that convinced him to start a similar sports organization in Greenwich, one which could raise sufficient funds to support youth athletic programs and establish college scholarships for young Greenwich men and women. Enlisting his brother Jim to handle the administrative and treasury duties, the Greenwich Old Timers Athletic Association was born.

During those formative years, the Old Timers were able to enlist some of the foremost former athletes and town officials affiliated with sports to join its ranks and help grow the association to where it is recognized today as the single largest contributor to youth athletics in the area. From that early beginning, the Old Timers association has grown to more than 1,000 members and supporters.

The early officers and members of the Old Timers’ board of directors included key local government officials, teachers, school principals, businessmen, political leaders from both parties and members of the press who lent their expertise and dedication to forming the organization and furthering its objectives. 

The Old Timers’ mission has held true since the original constitution and by-laws were approved on March 22, 1961. While additions and corrections have been made from time to time, the current version was approved on September 12, 2006. The mission remains the same:

  • To encourage youth activities and sports
  • To unite and continue the good fellowship which originated in the field of sports and athletic activities
  • To further sports and good sportsmanship
  • To honor worthy old-time athletes and others associated with sports

The first officers of the Old Timers were: Joseph Branca, president; Nicholas Bologna, first vice president; Francis Higgins, second vice president; James Branca, treasurer; Hank Katten, secretary, and Nicholas Verderosa, sergeant-at-arms.

In addition to the officers, the charter members of the Board of Directors included: First Selectman Griffith E. Harris, Anthony P. Mazza, John Connolly, Edward Halligan, Dr. William Bria, Joseph Chimblo, Police Chief David W. Robbins, Milton Breslaw and Charles A. Pirro Jr.

Fifty years later, the baton has been passed to a new generation of equally dedicated officers and directors, including Garry Higgins and Griffith E. Harris Jr, the sons of two of the charter board members. As the board has grown from the original 15 members to 24, there has always been an institutional continuity of purpose, principles and mission. Charter members continued to sit on the board into the 1980s and 1990s, while sons have joined or followed fathers, and bothers, uncles, nephews and cousins have ensured a family feel to the organization while maintaining that original diverse mixture of government and political leaders, media, athletes and coaches, and businessmen.

Other influential community leaders who played important roles as committeemen in those early days included Peter DeStefano and Raymond L. Dunn, who headed up their political parties in town, Paddy Maruke, Harrison Waterbury, Elwood Wiendieck, Ted Yudain, John Scalzi, Bill Cary, Fred Hoyns, Joseph DeLuca, James Ginise and Joseph D. Baruno.

Two prominent Greenwich residents in the early 1960s, Sam Pryor, one of the early officials of Pan American Airways, and George M. Weiss, former general manager of the New York Yankees and New York Mets, played instrumental roles in furthering the prestige of the Old Timers organization. Their national influence provided the force behind recruiting top sports celebrities to participate as honorees at the early sports dinners, including boxing greats Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney and baseball figures like Ford Frick, Mel Allen, Yogi Berra and Gil Hodges.

Early meetings of the organization were held at the Greenwich Town Courtroom before moving to the St. Lawrence Club in Cos Cob and, in recent years, to Red Men Hall on East Elm Street.  Since the organization was founded, the primary fund-raiser has been the annual dinner in November at which local and national sports figures are honored. Laddin’s Terrace, a long-standing popular nightclub located on Route 1 (Post Road) on the Stamford-Greenwich Line, served as the venue for these dinners until 2005, when they were relocated just up the road to the Hyatt Regency in Old Greenwich. Heading into the gala 50th anniversary edition of the dinner, 207 local and 136 national sports figures have been honored. The dinners have also featured a fascinating array of toastmasters, including Tom Meany, Jack Lescoulie, Harry Hirshfield, Lowell Thomas, Mel Allen, Sal Marciano, Lindsey Nelson, Bob Murphy, Ralph Kiner, Tony Rocco, Vince Promuto and, for the last 20 years and counting, Mark Yusko.

The inaugural class of honorees in 1961 featured J.B. Conlon, Tony Manero and George Smith locally and boxers Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney along with George M. Weiss nationally. That dinner marked the first time that Dempsey and Tunney had been seated at the same head table since their memorable heavyweight championship fights. Two years later, the Old Timers brought together NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, Major League Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick and NBA President J. Walter Kennedy as its National Honorees, another “first” with the heads of the three major professional sports on the same rostrum at once.

Since the first dinner in 1961, these functions have annually drawn upwards of 600 local and national sports figures, members, friends and supporters of the organization. The publication of the program book for which advertising space is sold provides a major portion of the funds that are raised each year. The covers of the early program books were drawn by Ted Yudain, former editor of the Greenwich Time, and in later years by the nationally known cartoonist and Greenwich resident Tony DiPreta. The program book has grown from 32 pages of paid advertising, a president’s message and biographies of the national and local honorees in the organization’s first years to over 125 pages in 2009.

As a second source of fund-raising in addition to the annual dinner, the Old Timers in 1997 introduced an annual golf tournament named in honor of the organization’s founders, Joe and Jim Branca. The Branca Brothers Charity Golf Tournament annually draws a full complement of paying golfers, 128 individuals or 32 foursomes, and generates funds from entry fees, hole sponsorships and the sale of prize tickets. Between the annual dinner and the golf tournament, the Old Timers raised nearly $70,000 in 2009 alone, all of which was directed back into the community to bolster its mission of supporting youth sports programs and its annual scholarship awards.

A new award was added to the Old Times’ annual activities for 2010, the Coach’s Lifetime Achievement Award. This award, which will be presented annually in March, was added to recognize work of those who have dedicated so much time and effort to coaching, which is so vital to the youth in the community. The award carries with it a $1,000 award that will be provided to the program or organization of the award recipient’s choice. The initial Coach’s Lifetime Achievement Award has been awarded to John Kavanagh.

The centerpiece of the Branca Brothers’ vision and what the Old Timers association provides for the community each year is the college scholarship program, which began in 1966. The first four-year scholarship amounted to $500 and was awarded to one recipient. In later years, two high school graduates were awarded scholarships and in 2009, a third award was approved. Additionally, the four-year awards have been increased by $500 increments to $2,000 annually for each recipient. An additional $1,000 one-year scholarship in the memory of Willard E. Hoyt was added in 1998.

The organization’s first scholarship recipient was Greenwich High School graduate Garland Allen, who attended Kent State and later returned to GHS as its athletic director. Another recipient was Brian Kelley, who went to Boston College and now sits on the Old Timers’ Board of Directors.

Through its first 49 years, the Greenwich Old Timers Athletic Association has contributed to countless Greenwich sports organizations, individuals and programs. The following are just some of the major events and organizations supported by the Old Timers: Team scholarships, team uniforms and equipment, purchase of a Greenwich High School football scoreboard, the annual Greenwich Memorial Day races, all sports programs held at the Greenwich Boys and Girls Club, Greenwich youth football and baseball programs, Greenwich YMCA camper-ships, Greenwich basketball leagues, all Greenwich High School sports events and teams, and Midget, Babe Ruth, Junior and Senior baseball teams and leagues.

Also, the Greenwich Special Olympics, U.S. Sailing competition, GHS student loan funds, Gateway Youth Football League, Greenwich YMCA sports programs, Greenwich Family Campaign for Youth, Cal Ripken Baseball and Greenwich Cannons Baseball.

Additionally, Connecticut Flames girls basketball, Hamilton Avenue School basketball court, Lady Redbird softball, Greenwich Basketball Association, Greenwich Flag Football League, GHS Rugby, Greenwich Water Polo and Kids in Crisis.

Since its birth through Joe Branca’s vision, the Greenwich Old Timers Athletic Association has established a tradition of volunteering and giving back to the community, but it has not been accomplished without the time, effort and dedication of the many individuals who have served on its board of directors and the generosity of time and funds that has come from its supporters throughout the community who believe in its mission to support and serve the youth of Greenwich. It is with a deep sense of gratitude that the Old Timers salute the individuals and organizations that have contributed to its sustained growth through its first 50 years, and an acknowledgement that the generosity of a special community will carry it into and through the next 50 years.


GREENWICH OLD TIMERS ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION PRESIDENTS

1961: Joseph Branca
1962: Joseph Branca
1963: Francis Higgins
1964: Milton J. Breslaw
1965: Anthony P. Mazza
1966: Nicholas Bologna
1967: Joseph Chimblo
1968: David W. Robbins
1969: Dr. William Bria
1970: Charles A. Pirro
1971: Griffith E. Harris
1972: Dr. Herbert VonGal
1973: Michael L. Morano
1974: Francis X. McGinty
1975: Michael Sandlock
1976: Cameron Hopper
1977: Dean Monahan
1978: Frederick J. Whelan Jr.
1979: Allan “Scotty” Connal
1980: Elwood “Wishy” Washburn
1981: Joseph Branca
1982: David C. Robbins
1983: John Kolok
1984: Dominic F. Butera
1985: Michael Trager
1986: John B. Margenot
1987: Jeffrey D. Harris
1988: Anthony C. Rocco
1989: Dominick F. Butera

1990: Robert A. Elmo
1991: Vincent Promuto

1992: Dr. Francis X. Walsh
1993: Dr. Phillip McWhorter
1994: Frank J. Branca
1995: Charles Ponger III
1996: Louis Caravella
1997: John Zuccerella
1998: Nino Sechi
1999: Nino Sechi
2000: David Theis
2001: David Theis
2002: Dr. Jeffrey A. Ranta
2003: Dr. Jeffrey A. Ranta
2004: Louis Caravella
2005: Griffith E. Harris Jr.
2006: Griffith E. Harris Jr.
2007: Erford E. Porter II
2008: Erford E. Porter II
2009: John Carlucci
2010: John Carlucci
2011: Peter Cantanzaro
2012: Peter Cantanzaro
2013 – Robert Sisca
2014 – Robert Sisca
2015 – Hon. David W. Hopper
2016 – Hon. David W Hopper
2017 – John P. Rogan

Greenwich Honor Roll

1961
James Conlon
Tony Manero
George Smith
1962
Frank Millar
Judy Burns
Ed Halligan
Dutch King
Nick Bologna
Bill Burke
1964
Peter Castiglione
Jake Dower
Joe Sanger
1965
Nick Manero
Otto Albinus
Ed Smalley
1966 
John Galvin
Frank Santoro
Dr. Earle Schofield
1967
Bill Tierney Jr. 
Al Covino
Elwood C. Washburn
Samuel F. Pryor
1968
Bernie O'Brien
Andrew Hurta
Charlie DeLuca
Milton Chimblo
1969 
Tony Bologna
Alan Helffrich
John Kolok
Lloyd Heberling
1970 
Al Domiziano
Bill Cary
Fritz J asensky
Dr. Jim Halloran
1971 
Sal Algeria
Sal Sava
Frank Trefny
Leonard Clark
1972 
Frank McGrath
Bob Perry
BuckyAltomaro
Hoey Sudell
1973
George Dean
Mike Moretti
Charlie Jensen
R. Jackson Smith
1974
Ton Cosgrove
Babe Gioffre
Connie McCarty
Willie O'Connor
1975
Gil Shanks
Meetch Mihalec
Nelson Anderson
Bill Crichton
1976 
Peter Knudsen
Harold Hansen
Ben Tocco
1977
Charlie Pirro
Thomas Lowthert
Paul Hinlicky
Lloyd Anthony
Herb Chalmers
1978
Bill DeLuca
James Grout
Fred Haas
Sam Passero
Carl Nemetz
1979 
Art Altomaro
Herb Ehret
Paul Raymond
Toto Loprinzo
Frank Carrivan
1980
Arthur Blume
Arthur Bucci
Hilbert Heberling
Tony Marrocco
Walter Walden
Willard Williams
Ralph Sherman

1981
Bill Bergeron
Mike Castiglione
Frank Castronovo
Carl O'Grady
1982
John Koerner
Paul Kolok
Mike Masna
Joe Pucci
1983
John Bird
Paul Keegan
Tommy Pantas
Frank Todero
1984
Anthony Altomaro
Ralph Castronova
Sam Murray
Irving Smith
1985
Ted Brosko
Bruce Fuller
Dick Gianesello
Tony Laudonia
Bill Reynolds
Elliot Schofield
1986
Jack Fox
Larry Kristoff
Ernie Manetti
Larry Pugliese
Lit Siciliano
1987
Rocco Benvenuto
James A. Cunningham
Joe Cunningham
Lou Richiski
Tony Russo
1988 
Augie Caravella
Peter Carlson
Toto DeLuca
Bill Ingraham
Lou Orlando
Bert Margenot
1989
Timothy Abbazia
Johnny Brown
Frank Keegan
John B. Lowe Jr. 
Ed Tammany
Dr. Harold Trepp
1990
Ed Bachmann
Tom Deneen
Waide Howley
John Ridberg
1991 
Peter Gasparino
John Kavanagh
Ed Rayner
Tom Steen
1992 
John Grunow
Joseph Lanzarone
Charles Pettengill Jr.
Walter Rothenheber
1993 
Gene Cullen
Joseph M. Dowling
Peter Gasparino
Rocco Murano
George Allen Smith Jr. 
1994 
George Armbruster
Albert Borchetta
Daniel Catanzaro
Peter Dluz
1995 
Carl Brewer
Charles Chiappetta
Jerry Porricelli
Romeo Urso
1996 
George Barradas
Joe Biase
John Kovach
Stanley Sandlock
1997 
Robert S. Curtis Charles Prete
Gus Prete
Dick Summers
1998 
Hugh Crawford
Larry Evaristo
Jim McArdle Jr.
George O'Brien Jr.

1999
John Budkins
Billy Farrell
Jerry Coats
Mike Ornato
Tony DiPreta
2000 
Prescott Bush Jr. 
Lou Caravella
Jerry Dumas
Msgr. William Genuario
Jim Murphy
2001 
Vic Benvenuto
William Gasparrini
William McGrath
Dario Orlando
Nino Sechi
2002 
Robert Grosso
Donald R. Guerrieri
Paul Palmer
Nicholas J. Pita
2003
Ray Chickanis
Andy Anderson
Dr. Albert Repicci
Dr. Peter Arturi
Tom Fujitani
Charlie Hotetz
2004 
Joe Benvenuto
Everett Fisher
Mike Harris
Peter Imbres
Harry E. Peden, Jr. 
2005 
Ed Baird
Bob Smurlo Sr. 
Frank Sudell
Bill Tomaselli
Joe Vancho
2006
Tony Lovallo
David Peabody
Jesse Sammis III
James Stephens
2007 
Rich Albonizio
Michael Dunne
Terry Lowe
Louise Munro
2008 
Joe Bove
Jim Ferraro
George Fox
Dan Petrizzi
2009
Dick Leonard
Bill Mongovan
Erf Porter II
Joe Ricciardi
2010
Greg Blake
Nick Edwards
Ted Malanowski
Rod Saggese
2011 
Dave D' Andrea
John Rogan
Angela Tammaro
Charlie Weiss
2012 
Joe Cabrera
Brian Foster
Dick Pace
Dick Steele
2013
Mike Brown
Rick Margenot
Don Mohr
Ed Sinnott
2014
Peter Carino
William Clifford
Garry Higgins
Brian Kennedy
2015 
Sue Baker
Larry Chiappetta
Ralph Mayo
Tim Ostrye
2016
Gerry Costello
Will Dunster

Bob Mata
Ed McGuinn

 

National Honor Roll

1997 
Jim Burt
1998 
Brent Jones
Bennett Salvatore
1999 
Ken Singleton
John Riggins
2000 
Bill Daughtry
Pat LaFontaine
2001
Chris "Mad Dog" Russo
Brian Cashman
2002 
Steve Young
Billy Sample
2003 
Ahmad Rashad
George Bodenheimer
2004
Bill Bergesch
Gerry Cooney
Thomas"Hollywood"Henderson
2005
Bob Lurtsema
Chris Berman
2006
David Cone
George Martin
2007
Donna de Varona
Cedric Jones
2008
Mike Haynes
Tommy John
Joe Pepitone
2009
Sean Landeta
Bert Sugar
2010
Bobby Richardson
Dr. Russell Warren
2011
Jim Bouton
Sue Merz
Mike Richter
2012
Ron Darling
Ron Greschner
2013
Bart Oates
Mookie Wilson
2014
Bucky Dent
Jeff Feagles
2015
Sparky Lyle
Wesley Walker
2016
Barry Lyons
Beasley Reece

1961
Jack Dempsey
Gene Tunney
George M. Weiss
1962
Eddie Arcaro
Duke Kahanamaku
Lank Leonard
1963
Ford Frick
J. Walter Kennedy Peter Rozelle
1964
Mel Allen
Vaughn "Bing" Devine
Murray "Muzz" Patrick
1965
Vic Ghezzi
Andy Robustelli
Col. Roscoe Turner
1966
Yogi Berra
Pat Summerall
Willie Turnesa
1967
Gil Hodges
Don Maynard
Gene Sarazen
1968
Tucker Frederickson
M. Donald Grant
Doug Ford
1969
Mike Sandlock
Bill Shea
Jimmy Turnesa
1970
Jack Dolph
Bowie Kuhn
Dave Marr
Bill Skiff
1971
Arthur Daly
Carl Lindemann Jr.
Tom Seaver
1972
Bill Jennings
Sal Maglie
Jon Matlack
1973
Emile Francis
Lindsey Nelson
Dick Siderowf
1974
Lee MacPhail
Bob Murphy
Richie Powers
1975 
Dave DeBusschere
Gabe Paul
Al Schacht
1976
Ralph Branca
Ralph Kiner
Bill Talbert
1977 
John Brodie
Curt Gowdy
Skip Lockwood
1978 
Len Dawson
Bobby Murcer
Joe Torre

1979 
Mike Adamle
Frank Gifford
Jim Simpson
1980 
Ken Harrelson
Gordie Howe
Tim Ryan
1981 
Mike Eruzione
Fran Healy
Bobby Valentine
1982 
Buddy Amendola
Zeke Bella
Otto Graham
Chico Vejar
1983 
John Dockery
Joe Klecko
Tony Veteri
1984 
Terry Hanratty
Tim McCarver
Chet Simmons
1985 
Nick Buoniconti
Jim Frey
Sam Rutigliano
Dick Stockton
1986 
Pete Castiglione
Bob Costas
Lee Mazzilli
Vince Promuto
1987
Allie Sherman
Tim Teufel
Steve Thurlow
1988
George Foster
Dave Maloney
Bill Mazer
1989
Clyde King
Paul Maguire
1990
Tony Attanasio
Terry O'Neil
1991 
Tommy Lasorda
Michael Roarty
1992 
Denis Potvin
Eugene Orza
Rick Cerone
1993 
Ed Charles
Dave Jennings
Craig Swan
Charlie Steiner
1994 
Sam Huff
Fay Vincent
1995 
Keith Hernandez
Brian Kelley
Randy Rasmussen
1996 
Rod Gilbert
Freeman McNeil