The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)
Memories of a great Hamden family
The recent Hamden mayoral primary brought up previous Hamden mayors with past accomplishments in conversation. But let me, a former Hamden mayor, bring up Hamden's first mayor, John DeNicola Sr., with my favorite story. The year was 1959, DeNicola had won his election as Hamden’s first mayor. Among his first tasks was to join my parents Dom and Josephine Carusone, St. Stephen's pastor Father Albert Taylor, and other Hamden fans at Naugatuck’s Recreation Field to watch the local baseball team favorite Hamden Townies play the very talented Naugatuck team whose high school team had set a record of winning 54 games in a row. Also playing for Naugatuck was Coach Ray Legenza, a very talented player. I was captain of the Hamden Townies team and the Connecticut league’s leading hitter.
The first time up I hit a three-run homer giving Hamden an early lead. The second time up I took a fastball in my ribs separating two of them and knocking me to the ground. My supporters surrounded me on the ground staring at the pitcher and pretty much saying that he had thrown at me on purpose. Now rushing in from second base where he was playing came Ray Legenza, who started physically bumping my supporters to get them away from any confrontation with his pitcher. Mayor Denicola Sr. came, challenged Legenza and began physically bumping him. Here was the Hamden mayor himself, a noted baseball player, knocking Legenza back every time he came close to any Hamden fans. His action calmed everyone down and the game proceeded. We lost 10-6. I ended up at St. Raphael’s getting X-rays and taped. Years later Legenza was a patient at a local rest home where I went to visit him. His conversation that day began with “Johnny, we didn't throw at you that day and how long did that guy last as mayor?”
John DeNicola Sr. will always be one of my favorite mayors; two of his children Barbara and John Jr. also became mayors. His other son Rich became a noted college pitcher just like he was. This was a great Hamden family. John Carusone