On Dec. 28, I had a column in this space titled, In the column I related two witty remarks that two Easton people made at different times and in different places.
I thought for today's column I would relate another anecdote that involved Cornelius “Connie” Spillane, who was featured in the piece referenced above.
The story was told to me by Connie’s nephew, Leo Kent, an Easton native and long-time resident. Leo was a 1935 graduate of OA, and a talented basketball player in high school.
To recap, Connie Spillane was a legendary figure in amateur athletics in the area. Connie, a 1927 Oliver Ames High School grad, is in the OA High School Athletic Hall of Fame. Connie was also known for his eloquence and his sense of humor.
And a little more background.
Cornelius Spillane was the brother of Clement “Clem” Spillane, who graduated from OA in 1928, and would become one of the most successful high school coaches in Massachusetts history, mostly built on his record coaching football, basketball, and baseball at Wareham High School.
Clem Spillane is in the OAHS Athletic Hall of Fame, and also the Massachusetts Football Coaches Hall of Fame, Massachusetts Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame, and the Massachusetts Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame.
My dad started coaching at OA in the fall of 1953 – and his first head coaching assignment was with the OA boys’ basketball team. Joining him soon as assistant coach was Willy Nixon.
OA had tremendous success in hoops, almost immediately, but one team that OA had trouble with, and which took the measure of OA early on, was Wareham High School, coached by Clem Spillane. Wareham beat OA a few times early on, but OA would manage to beat Wareham at least a couple times after that.
Back in those days, a major basketball tournament in these parts was the South Shore Tournament, which included teams from this area, and west of here, and all the way to the Cape. There were two divisions: A and B. OA played in A.
In the mid 1950s, OA met Wareham in the finals of the South Shore Tournament (and I am fairly confident the game was played at Bridgewater State College).
Well, OA starts out the game on a big roll, and goes up 18-0.
At this point, as lore has it, Connie Spillane rises in the stands and yells out, “LET ’EM LOOSE, CLEM, THE BETS ARE ALL IN!”
And wouldn’t you know it, that night Wareham would come back and end up winning a close game – and the championship.
And yet another quip that Connie Spillane authored which also involved local basketball, and which Willy Nixon shared with me.
You see, there was a regional amateur basketball tournament many years ago that held some of its games at the YMCA on Main Street in Brockton.
At one of the games of the tournament, Willy Nixon was sitting in the stands next to Connie Spillane; the two knew each other well. And on the court competing was a team from Wrentham, and the uniforms the team wore had the town’s name on them.
During the game, at some point, Connie Spillane turned to Nixon, and he pointed to one of the Wrentham players, and he said, “You know, they don’t own those uniforms – they Wrentham.”