Jack Curran lifted the CHSAA city championship trophy for the 17th time Monday afternoon. His Archbishop Molloy Stanners had just won the coveted crown with a 5-2 nod over the Moore Catholic Mavericks of Staten Island. The coach accepted the trophy from CHSAA commissioner Ray Nash as his players watched and cheered.
It took Curran about three seconds of holding the obviously weighty award before calling his kids for some help, and the entire roster obliged, surrounding their veteran coach and lifting the trophy aloft in triumph.
You would think that after 16 previous crowns Curran might find the exercise routine. But he certainly didnt give that impression following his teams win Monday. In fact, I got the impression that somehow this victory was extra special for a coach closing in on retirement.
Not that hes planning on it.
I dont know, Curran joked when asked about coming back next season. I take it day by day. I got no place to go.
Curran is the most successful baseball coach in the history of the CHSAA. Mondays game marked the coachs 26th trip to the title contest and the schools first crown since winning the championship in 1998.
It was way back in 1963 when Curran coached the Stanners to their first title under the schools new name of Archbishop Molloy. The school originally was called St. Anns and the team won titles in 1950 and 1955 under that old moniker. And it is from St. Anns that Molloy gets the name for all of its sports teams; Stanners, as in a St. Ann-er.
Molloy won four straight crowns between 1963 and 1966, before Mount St. Michael ended the streak in 1967. But the school was back to its winning ways in 1969, when it claimed its fifth title. Two more championships followed in 1970 and 1971. Cardinal Spellman rented the title for a year in 1972 before Molloy won it in back-to-back years in 1973 and 1974.
After St. Francis Prep won in 1975, Molloy did the same in 1976 and 1977, ending a run of dominance unprecedented in the leagues history. From 1963 through 1977, Molloy won 11 of the 14 contested championships (there was no championship game in 1968).
Each one is separate, Curran said of all his crowns, while his team celebrated its victory Monday. Every team is different.
If there ever was a baseball title drought during Currans long reign as head coach of the Stanners, it was during the late 1970s and into the early 1980s, when the school went six long years without a championship. Not until the team of 1984 did Molloy re-establish its dominance.
The Stanners always have been a team to contend with, winning titles intermittently throughout the last two decades, including titles in 1987, 1994, 1996 and Currans last crown in 1998.
Coming into this season, Molloy certainly was considered one of the favorites to get to the city title game, but was by no means the team everyone was picking. That honor fell to the Xaverian Clippers, league rivals of the Stanners and a club nearly everyone expected to be hoisting the championship trophy skyward at seasons end.
Led by pitchers Danny Christensen and Chris Garcia, the Clippers mowed through the regular season, losing just once in league play to the Monsignor McClancy Crusaders. Xaverian beat Molloy three times in Brooklyn/Queens Diocesan play, leaving little doubt as to which team deserved a No. 1 seed.
Unbelievably, Xaverian fell apart in the post-season, losing to St. Francis Prep and Moore Catholic in the double-elimination intersectionals.
The other team favored to make it to Shea Stadium, Iona Prep, came into the playoffs undefeated at 25-0, but was done in by Molloy twice, the first, a 12-11 slugfest, and the second, a 3-0 masterful shutout by Stanners starter Matt Fealey, cementing Currans trip back to the championship game.
All year a bevy of players have contributed for Molloy, be it the steady and superb play of shortstop Mike Baxter or the pitching of Fealey and Matt Bunyan in key spots. Outfielder Keith Hahn was also clutch, as was catcher Nick Derba, who will be returning to Molloy for another year, or Mike Shea, John Shipman, Bill Miller, Gil Valle, Rich Romeo and Anthony Vernaci, who were all key cogs to the Stanners success.
This team, Curran said, has something special, something he has a hard time describing, but is certainly there.
I think their personality, their cohesiveness, their togetherness [is what made the team successful], the coach said. I was hoping they would do something good because they deserve it.
But at the core of the team is Curran, a man in his early 70s who continues to hit the ball to his infielders and shows no signs of slowing down.
Ironically, for all his success on the baseball diamond, Curran is more well known for his time spent as Molloys varsity basketball coach, guiding such players as Kenny Anderson and Kenny Smith to the NBA.
Just this year Curran picked up his 800th career win on the court. Add that to his baseball exploits and you have a perfect example of longevity and consistency in action.
Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.
©2002 Community News Group
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