Remembering Rocky

Rocky, USA: With naming of city post office, the champ gets another title

This is an updated version of a story on Rocky Marciano’s life originally published in a special Enterprise edition on May 7, 1999.

By Glen Farley
ENTERPRISE STAFF WRITER

His fights were more than main events. In Brockton, they were events on Main Street. “When Rocky fought,” Armond Colombo, brother-in-law of late heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano, once said in an interview, “it was like a holiday on Main Street.

“The street was completely blocked off. People would be lined up outside The Enterprise at night and they’d announce round by-round what Rocky had done. When he’d knock out an opponent, as he did, the people would go crazy. Then there’d be what was like a parade, people going to the Ward 2 Club or James Edgar Playground to celebrate. It was such a festive thing.”

The peak of Rocky Marciano’s boxing career in the early 1950s truly were Brockton’s “Happy Days.”

“It was a great period for the city,” said Colombo, former coach of Brockton High School’s football team. “People went nuts over Rocky. His career took over Brockton completely.”

Marciano retired from boxing on April 27, 1956 — exactly 53 years ago on Monday — as the only undefeated heavy-weight champion in boxing history. He was 31.

Now, Rocky rules in Brockton again. The city’s main post office on Commercial Street will be named for him at a special ceremony at 2 p.m. today.

And the World Boxing Council plans to erect a statue of the champ in his hometown next year. It will be located at the Brockton High School football stadium named for him.

For many in Brockton, Rocky’s career in the ring defined the era. He fought his way to the top with a blue-collar work ethic that a working-class city could take pride in.

From his family’s home on Dover Street, Rocky literally carried the city’s colors on his back. He wore a black-and-red robe — Brockton High School’s colors — into the ring at Philadelphia’s Municipal Stadium on the night of Sept. 23, 1952, to defeat “Jersey Joe” Walcott for the world heavyweight title.

Moments after Walcott sank to one knee in Philadelphia, Brockton rose to its feet as one. A parade of cars drove up and down Main Street, horns and music blaring. Throngs of people ran up and down the street; firecrackers popped.

A week later, when the champion returned to Brockton, Marciano was greeted by a crowd of 50,000, a number that exceeded the turnouts for presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman when they’d campaigned in Brockton.

Roosevelt and Truman were merely presidents of the United States. In Brockton, Rocky was king.

“Here’s a guy who met with kings and queens and presidents,” Peter Marciano said in August 1993, as what would have been his brother’s 70th birthday approached. “I have pictures of Rocky with Kennedy, Eisenhower, Nixon. And yet, when people said, ‘Where are you from?’ his chin would come up, his chest would puff up — this isn’t B.S., this is true — and he’d say, ‘I’m from Brockton, Massachusetts.’ He loved the city of Brockton.”

And the city loved him back.

The Great Depression and foreign competition had left Brockton’s venerable shoe industry in despair. As the ‘40s swung into the ‘50s, the city longed to feel good about something. So did Rocco Francis Marchegiano, the first-born son of a struggling shoeworker afraid of absolutely nothing — nothing except spending his life in a shoe factory, Brockton native Everett M. Skehan wrote in his 1977 book, “Rocky Marciano: Biography Of A First Son.”

Rocky first fancied himself a major league baseball player. A catcher’s mitt, not a pair of boxing gloves, would take him from Ward 2.

“I’ll never wind up in a factory,” Rocky vowed to his father, Pierino. “I’m going to be a big leaguer someday.”

He was so convinced of this, he quit Brockton High School over the objections of his mother, Pasqualena, and went to work at a series of jobs — on a coal truck, in a candy store, in a shoe shop, finally on a construction crew — all the while working on his game, baseball.

He was power hitter said to have hit a baseball clear out of Brockton’s James Edgar Playground, onto the street and into a second-story porch on one bounce.

At 23, Rocky jumped in his pal Vinnie Colombo’s car and headed to Fayetteville, N.C., for a tryout in the Chicago Cubs organization. But as the Fayettevillle Cubs soon learned, the same right arm that would knock out Walcott for the heavyweight boxing title was too weak to consistently throw out base runners.

“He couldn’t throw a baseball,” Peter Marciano quipped, “but he sure could throw a punch.”

Rocky’s boxing career began during a World War II stint in the Army after he was drafted in March 1943. Following duty in Wales and along the English Channel, Rocky played baseball and took up boxing at Fort Lewis, Wash.

“I’ve got a good deal going at Fort Lewis,” author Skehan quoted Rocky as telling lifelong friend Allie Colombo. “I do a little boxing for the post, and it gets me out of the crap details. I’m on the baseball team, too.”

Boxing proved to be more than a way to dodge Army grunt work. It paved Rocky’s way out of a dead-end future.

Returning home on furlough, Rocky, with the help of his uncle, Mike Piccento, got on an April 15, 1946, fight card at the Ancient Order of Hibernians Hall near Brockton center. But, as so often happens in boxing, best-laid plans went awry.

The “inexperienced” opponent Rocky was set up against what turned out to be Henry Lester, a three-time Golden Gloves champion. A slugfest ensued and, by the second round, Rocky, who’d loaded up on spaghetti three hours before the fight, found himself doing more receiving than giving.

“What happened next is debatable,” according to Skehan. “Some claim it was intentional, others insist it was an accident.”

Whatever the case, as Lester began to throw a right uppercut he took a knee to the groin, prompting referee Sned McDonald to jump between the fighters, stopping the bout and disqualifying Rocky.

He returned to Fort Lewis, went into extensive training and entered himself in an Amateur Athletic Union tournament in Portland, Ore. He scored two knockouts before succumbing to a dislocated left knuckle and a tough heavyweight from Boston by the name of Joe DeAngelis.

After his discharge from the Army, Rocky returned to Brockton, where he pursued two loves: boxing and a young woman named Barbara Cousins, who would become his wife. Barbara’s father, Lester, a Brockton policeman, got Rocky a job digging ditches for the Brockton Gas Co.

His professional debut came when Allie Colombo helped get Rocky the March 17, 1947 St. Patrick’s Day fight with Lee Epperson in Holyoke. He KO’d Epperson in the third round and earned $50 — $35 after he’d paid a $15 licensing fee.

When the Fayetteville Cubs dashed his dream of a major league baseball career, Rocky came home and returned to amateur boxing.

He registered three straight KOs in January 1948 to emerge as New England’s representative to the Golden Gloves All-East Championship Tournament in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Brockton may have been kind to Rocky. Brooklyn wasn’t.

Rocky dropped a highly controversial decision to Coley Wallace, his third of four losses in an amateur career that saw him finish a run-of-the-mill 8-4.

Still, come the spring of 1948, Rocky’s sights were clearly set on becoming lord of the ring. He was faithfully running in D.W. Field Park and elsewhere around the area.

Allie Colombo was writing manager Al Weill in New York, getting his friend a tryout. Weill was favorably impressed. He enlisted trainer Charlie Goldman to school Rocky in the finer points of boxing.

The Providence Auditorium soon became Rocky’s boxing home away from home.

Many considered Rocky too small at 5-10 and 184 pounds. Others judged him too slow, still others too clumsy. But inside the ring, Rocky was a knockout.

Rocky fought his way up the boxing ladder at a furious pace: 11 fights in 1948, followed by 13 in 1949, six more in 1950 and another seven in ‘51, including a knockout of the legendary Joe Louis with a thunderous right that sent the “Brown Bomber” through the ropes that Oct. 26. Rocky left a lasting impression on Louis.

“Tell me something about my brother,” Peter Marciano asked the former heavyweight champion following Rocky’s death in 1969.

“He was the greatest, Peter,” Louis answered. “He was the greatest.”

Following knockouts of Lee Savold, Gino Buonvino, Bernie Reynolds and Harry “Kid” Matthews in 1952, Rocky got his shot at the top: Walcott.

The crowd in Philadelphia’s Municipal Stadium on the night of Sept. 23, 1952, saw a fighter with the heart of a champion. Bloodied, battered and trailing on every card, Rocky put Walcott down for the count with a thunderous right in the 13th. On that night, he truly was The Rock.

“Punches didn’t seem to bother him,” said Pulitzer- Prize winning newspaper columnist Jimmy Breslin. “It looked like he was made of stone.”

Successful title defenses followed — against Walcott, Roland LaStarza, Ezzard Charles (twice), Don Cockell and Archie Moore. All told, 43 of his 49 fights — almost 90 percent — ended in knockouts.

“This man was one of the greatest champions ever,” Sonny Liston, a heavyweight champion himself, would later say. “He refused to accept defeat. And nobody beat him.”

Rocky ended each fight with his right arm raised, then returned to the city where he was born and raised. Rocky may have become champion of the world, but he was always at home in Brockton.

Then, on April 27, 1956, nine years after his first pro fight, Rocky quit. He went out on top.

“I’m retiring because of my wife and (3-year-old) daughter, Mary Anne,” Rocky told a gathering at New York’s Hotel Shelton. “Actually, I feel good. My mother never did want me to fight. She never saw any of my fights. My decision put her very much at ease.”

One week later, throngs lined Main Street and Legion Parkway and the route to the Brockton Fairgrounds for a welcome-home parade that sent Rocky into retirement.

“I thought I had to fight for those parades,” Rocky quipped.

Rocky and Barbara made their retirement home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. On Aug. 31, 1969, the day before he was to turn 46, Rocky boarded a private plane in Chicago, where he had spent time with promoter Ben Trotta discussing a professional contract for a young amateur.

There was to be a stopover in Des Moines, Iowa, on the way back to Fort Lauderdale.

As the small Cessna carrying the former champ and two others approached Newton (Iowa) Airport, it crashed into a solitary oak tree in the middle of a cornfield, demolishing the plane and killing its three passengers.

At his wake, a long line of mourners formed outside the Hickey Funeral Home on Main Street in Brockton. The mourners attending Rocky’s wake included such boxing luminaries as Willie Pep, Tony Zale and Paul Pender.

But, they also included throngs of Brocktonians.

Rocky was buried near his retirement home in Florida, but his memory lives on in the City of Champions.

“He was born here. He grew up here,” Peter Marciano said. “He was Brockton. He was ours.”

We asked our readers to send submissions of their Rocky Marciano memories and have posted them below.

I am Rocky’s first cousin, and a very close one at that. Rocky and his family lived with my family on 80 Brook St., Brockton, after they were first married.

My most vivid remembrance of Rocky is the kind and caring gentleman that trusted everyone, and would help those in need.

There are many memories that I hold very dear, but I would like to share a few that I’m certain will be remembered by all of those folks that resided in the Ward 2 neighborhood back in the good old days.

When Rocky knocked out Carmen Vingo, although happy to win the fight, he was devastated when he learned of the injuries inflicted on Carmen Vingo.

When Rocky arrived home following the fight, the next morning he took me with him to St. Colman’s Church to pray for Carmen Vingo.

Years later, after winning the world heavyweight championship, Rocky found the time to visit me and my classmates at the Belmont School on Brett Street in Brockton. Stanley Bauman was there for another photo shoot. Oh, how I remember. Rocky placed his chin on my head, and, Wow, did it hurt.

I also remember sitting with my family, which often included Rocky’ s mom, my wonderful aunt, watching the fights on our Admiral TV. These were the fights that we were not able to attend. Of course my Dad and the rest of the men had all traveled to the fights.

We all sat very anxiously awaiting for the knockout. Following the fight, my sister, some of our friends and family and I would take pots and pans to make some noise with and we would parade around Edgar’s Playground in celebration of the win or continued championship.

The last remembrance I’d like to share not only belongs to me but all those children who lived in Ward 2.

Rocky always found the time to play Santa Claus. All of us in attendance at the Ward 2 Club Christmas party had the opportunity to sit on his lap for another photo shoot. All of these photos were taken by Stanley Bauman.

This is just a short version of the champ that Rocky truly was.

I am so happy to see Brockton honor Rocky, because Rocky surely did put Brockton on the map.

— Patti Prosper Sherman, West Bridgewater

I grew up in Campello with my Dad, Mom and sister. My Dad, Bill Sheehan, worked for the state and was employed at the Paul A. Dever School in Taunton. It was Christmas Eve in 1951 and my Dad would go to local supermarkets for donations for a Christmas party that he would have for his “carpenter shop” students at the school on Christmas morning.

He asked “Rocky” if he would come to the school to surprise the kids, so on that Christmas morning my Dad and I went to Rocky’s home on Dover Street in Brockton to pick him up.

After Rocky had his breakfast of “raw eggs,” he came down the stairs and got into the car and off we went to Taunton. I was so excited I could hardly speak.

As we entered the carpenter shop at the Paul A. Dever School, there were about 30 to 40 kids waiting for the party to start. Rocky was introduced to the kids and he proceeded to put on a “shadow boxing exhibit.”

The kids jumped for joy. Rocky then talked with all the kids, shook hands with them and we all enjoyed cake, ice cream and other goodies.

That was the kind of person “Rocky” was, to get up early on a Christmas morning and give his time to a group of disadvantaged children. Rocky was not a champion of the world at that time, he was fighting out of Providence, but he sure was a champion in my eyes.

— Bob Sheehan, Brockton

With excitement, Dad and I sat on the sofa waiting for Rocky’s fight on TV (B&W). ‘Hey, Dad, where’s my candy bar?’ ‘On the kitchen table,’ so off I ran and in a flash I was back. ‘When’s the fight starting, Dad?’ ‘Oh honey, you missed Rocky’s knockout, it’s all over.’ We had a good laugh. I’ll always remember the night I spent with two “Champs.” Rocky and Dad.

— J.M. O’Brien, Hanson

He was my mother’s paperboy when he was 11 years old. For three years. We lived on West Park Street in Brockton, on the third floor of a three-decker. He would bring The Enterprise up the stairs to my mother. On Friday, which was his pay day, my mother would make him sit at the table for a cold drink and cookies. He was like a family member. I had three brothers in his age group. We all went to the same school at the time, James Edgar. We all played at the same place, Edgar’s Playground. He was always a good friend to all of us. I am so happy I have such good memories of Rocky.

— Lorraine Allen, Randolph

I was a young girl (10 to 12 years old) living at 75 Union St., North Easton, when one day a young man passed my home running in boxer shorts. My dad (William J. Knapp), who also witnessed the scene at that time, said to me, “That man is going to be the future boxing champion of the world!” (Otherwise known as Rocky Marciano!) I will never forget that moment (my Dad has since passed). He was right!

— Madelyn Blackwell, North Easton

I first met Rocky at the Brockton YMCA in 1949 or 1950. I played basketball with him and threw the medicine ball to toughen up stomach muscles. I was getting in condition for the police exam and physical. Later on, I attended this Rocky-Archie Moore fight in Yankee Stadium with a few friends from Holbrook. After one of his championship fights, I attended a parade with three or four hundred police officers. My post was ... on Main Street (crowd capital). We were then treated to supper by the Brockton Police Department.

— Francis Mack, Holbrook

My memory of Rocky: When we were young, we used to work out together at the Y. If I wasn’t there when he was, he would tell Alan, the manager, that I said he could use my punching bag. Sure enough, I would come in to find it flattened by his punch! I would yell at him, laughing at the same time.

Later when leaving the gym, I would give him a ride to his girlfriend’s house. She later became his wife. Every time he would take a shower, he would put his clothes back on when he was soaking wet without even drying himself off! The seat in my car would be soaked when he got out!! No one could believe he would do that!! No one does that! Rocky was a great friend. We had a lot of laughs.

— Francis (Bob) Galante (submitted by Kendra Ruscito and family for “Papa”), Brockton

Rocky was the catcher for the St. Patrick’s CYO baseball team. I was the bat boy and remember he was a great catcher and a great hitter. No one tried to steal home or stretch a dash from third. Running into Rocky was truly running into a stone wall.

We joked that Rocky would have to hit the ball to Avon in order to get a home run. His thighs were so solid he had difficulty running fast.

Rocky was our paperboy on Bartlett Street. Whenever he was late, my mother would complain. He was always polite and usually late the next day.

I often saw him training with Allie Colombo. Many times he would run backwards to gain strength.

We all knew Rocky’s last name as Marchegiano. Hard to say ... so some journalist removed the “heg” and Marciano was left.

— Bill Coughlin, Stoughton

My recollection of Rocky Marciano was in the early 1950s.

I was a waitress at the “old” Red Coach Gill in Middleboro before it burnt down. I will always remember how polite and what a gentleman he was.

He was happy to talk to every one and always seemed to want to spend time with the little people, and to give autographs to everyone.

— Millie Iampietro, Wareham

It was the fall of 1950 and I was a senior at Brockton High School playing varsity football, baseball and basketball.

I was being treated for a football injury by Al Norling at the “Y”. Rocky was on the verge of becoming the next heavyweight champion of the world.

Rocky walked into Al’s office one day and Al introduced me to him. The first words Rocky said were, “I have heard of you.” I was overwhelmed. Rocky Marciano saying he had heard of me, a 17-year-old kid.

That, of course, was Rocky, the most humble, modest champion ever and a great guy.

— Chuck Eaton, Vero Beach, Fla.

I recall when I was six, maybe seven years old, my sister Linda hung out with Rocky’s daughter. She would come up from Florida, I believe, to visit her grandmother. Rocky’s mother-in-law lived two houses from us at our Court Street home. This was in or around 1965. One day my sister and Rocky’s daughter came to my house and mentioned to my father that her Dad was visiting and that he was out front of the house wiping down his car. My father said, “Come with me.” We walked up to Rocky. My father and Rocky spoke for a time.Then I recall Rocky shaking my hand and saying to me, “Come on take your best shot.” I punched him in the belly and he bent over acting as if I hurt him. That’s my personal remembrance of legendary boxer Rocky Marciano, the Brockton Blockbuster.

— David Piquette, Middleboro

I’ve been a Brocktonian for 33 years. Football and boxing I love very much. Rocky is the best as far as I’m concerned. He was a great fighter, humble and a very classy guy. When I hear “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor, I always get pumped up and the first thing that comes to my mind is Rocky Marciano.

Thank you very much for your time and Brockton is the City of Champions. Your loyal fan and a Brocktonian.

— Ronald J. Levine, Brockton

Although Rocky Marciano was from a different generation than I, growing up in the city of Brockton is practically an immediate connection to the legendary boxer.

I went to Brockton High School, and the stadium was named after Rocky Marciano. I remember Peter Marciano who was also a student at BHS, and I often thought how he must have felt so much pride, being related to a true Brockton icon.

George’s Cafe restaurant on Belmont Street pays a wonderful tribute to Rocky Marciano. I have enjoyed many a meal there, never tiring of looking at the framed black-and-white photographs which depict Rocky’s amazing career.

I also must mention the late Stanley A. Bauman, the photographer who captured the city life of Brockton. My favorite photograph is the one where Rocky Marciano’s mother is serving him a plate of pasta in her Brockton home. This picture is an absolute classic, you can just feel the pride, love and devotion in both mother and son.

Rocky Marciano is synonymous with Brockton. He will always be remembered and cherished in our city of champions.

— Michelle (Gagnon) Marvel, Brockton

I was born on April 17, 1943, in Brockton. I played Little League baseball at the old Producers Diary Field. Then I went on to play Pony League baseball at all the different ball fields in Brockton. I was playing left field at the time and, when a fly ball came my way, I reached up to grab it (I was a lefty) and my left thumb came in contact with the ball. I shook it off like any other ball player. When I got home it started to throb. My mother took me to an orthopedic surgeon named Dr. Gould; he had made an appointment at the Brockton Hospital to get operated on because it swelled up. I had osteomylitis, an infection of the bone. My parents were visiting me and my father said, “Do you want to meet ROCKY MARCIANO?” Of course I said yes. It was a great thrill to meet one of the greatest boxers in the world. I went home a couple days latter. To this day I have never had any problems with my thumb.

— Dennis R. Voci, North Easton

I first met Rocky back in the late ‘30s when I was playing baseball for O’Donnell’s playground in the city playground league. He was the catcher for the James Edgar team. I tried to score from third base after a fly ball to the outfield. I had to slide into home plate as Rocky took the throw. I was about 13 years old then and must have weighed in at about 130 pounds, while Rocky, who was almost two years older than me, was even then as solid a brick wall. When I ran into him, I actually knocked him down. How many people can say that? Of course, he held onto the ball and I was called out. I can still recall the pain.

My older brother was a sergeant in the army during WW-2 and he and Rocky used to hitch hike back and forth together between their Army camp to Brockton.

I recall after the war was over I often would see Rocky out running. If you were in Brockton, Bridgewater, Abington, Avon, or any other of our surrounding towns, you would often see him out running there. He was usually a soft-speaking and easy-going person who wouldn’t harm a soul. It’s hard to picture someone with a personality like his becoming the heavy weight champion of the world, but he did it.

The thing that impressed me the most about Rocky was, no matter when or where he saw me, he always called me by my first name (Jim). He didn’t really know me all that well, yet he called me by my first name. I understand that he was like that with every body ever met. He didn’t go around acting like he was better than every one else. Yet, he was the best.

— James F. Ingargiola, East Bridgewater

Louise and Nicholas Sylvester were in Rocky’s wedding. Louise was a bridesmaid and Nicky was an usher. Louise Sylvester made all the hats for the bridesmaids for the wedding. She has been talking about the hats for years and finally a picture surfaced with Rocky and Barbara on their wedding day. Louise is in the picture wearing one of the hats she made.

Louise and Nicky are looking for more wedding pictures but none seem to be around. Stanley Bauman did not even have any.

— Nicholas and Louise Sylvester, Brockton

I was discharged from the U.S.Army in 1966. Being from Brockton all my life, I used to frequent the Raynham dog track trying my luck, like the hundreds of other souls, to catch a winner. I remember, on one occasion , sighting the “Champ” trying his luck at grabbing a winner too.

Trying to give the “Champ” all the privacy he well deserved, I just occasionally looked his way as he was going about studying his program sheet . At one point he sat down in the stands and picked up his feet to rest them on an outside railing. That is when I noticed that one of his shoes had a small hole worn in the leather sole and I thought to myself, I knew “Rocky” was fairly frugal, and he probably didn’t even realize the sole was worn , but how ironic: This was the “Champion of the World,” and more apropos, Champion of “The Shoe City,” now officially the “City OF Champions” and we all know Rocky will always be OUR champion, forever. ( 49 – 0 ) !!!!!

— Bob Crone, White Horse Beach

After Rocky’s last fight with Archie Moore, he announced his retirement. Shortly after, the city of Brockton planned a parade. I missed all the excitement in Rocky’s career from 1951 to1953 serving our country. I was determined to photograph this great historical event. On the day of the parade, I pleaded with my boss to leave work so I could accomplish my mission. He finally said yes. I loaded my 8mm Kodak movie camera with a roll of Kodak color film and of I went in my 1949 Chevy. I positioned myself at the corner of Main Street and Legion Parkway. The crowd was huge. First came the motorcycle cops, then the Brockton High School band in their brilliant red uniforms. Next came the limos with a sign attached: Welcome Home, Rocky. Rocky was holding his daughter Mary Ann; also in the limo was his mother, his wife, Mayor Peterson and George Stone. I was able to photograph a great closeup of Rocky waving to the crowd. I had to run up to the top of Legion Parkway and Warren Avenue. Photographers near the limo were trying to get their best black-and-white shot. Two prominent photographers I recognized are Dick Cushmin and Mr. Davidson. The motorcade ended at the Brockton Fairgrounds. I positioned myself close to the platform. Speeches were made ... Rocky was presented with a huge chafing dish. During Rocky’s speech he said, “I never thought I would get a parade like this. This is the biggest, the best, the one I’ve enjoyed the most and, for the first time in my life, I may have a tear in my eye.

— Richard E. Mahoney, Brockton

When the Weymouth Air Base on Route 18 was built, Rocky and I got a job there as laborers at $1 per hour, union wages at that time. That’s when I met Rocky. We were doing pick and shovel work, plus helping the carpenters.

A few years later, my brother Zeke and I built the Bowling Lanes in Bridgewater. Then we built a 700-car drive in theater Newport, R.I.

Eight years later, my brother and I bought land at Westgate and built the Westgate Lanes and that’s when Rocky approached my brother and I about wanting to be our partners in the bowling business. We decided not to have Rocky as a partner, because partners are a lot of headaches. Anyway, we ended up good friends and he would stop in at Westgate Lanes and Westgate Lounge.

Then Rocky took up boxing and then became an undefeated champ. If he was a partner of ours, his like would have been all different from boxing.

— Harry Minassian Sr., Brockton

I remember Rocky very well. I was the fountain supervisor for Dennington Apothecary’s and Rocky used to come in two or three times a week waiting for Barbara. He would always have a chocolate frappe.

We became quite friendly talking about local movies playing and local sports, etc. After I married and moved to Mansfield, I was shopping at the Fernandes Market and met Barbara. They were visiting Joe Fernandes.

Rocky was a very soft-speaking young man and it was fun following his career and I was so proud to say I knew him.

I am 95 years old and still interested in my earlier years in the city.

— Lois Thomas, Mansfield

My encounter with Rocky took place in the 60s in Bridgewater, Mass., at the Independent Nail Company.

Uncle George C. Stone, one of the owners (the brain of the company), knew Rocky from way back. Everyone at Independent Nail who worked there always called him Uncle George and his brother Uncle Jim and Uncle Leo. So, they all knew Rocky. His picture hung in our front foyer of the company.

One day, as I was coming down from the second floor, I saw Uncle George, who came stomping up the stairs with Rocky and a friend. Rocky almost knocked me over. He said, “Oh I’m sorry,” and he kept going up to see Uncle George.

Of course it spread all over the building that Rocky Marciano was here. Uncle George used to go and watch Rocky train at the ring. So Rocky and Uncle George went way back. I still remember it to this day.

— Mary Jigerjian, Middleboro

Memories of Rocky brings to mind my wife’s and my experience.

My wife, Carolyn, delivered our first born on May 12, 1953, at the Jordan Hospital in Plymouth. She talked Dr. Waterman into letting her being discharged a day early to be home to watch the fight the night of discharge.

She was watching the fight on TV with me and my father and mother, with whom we were living. During the fight, my wife fell asleep and missed most of the fight, including the knockout (KO). We jokingly never let her forget she missed the important event (jokingly).

— Richard and Carolyn Kierstead, Plymouth

I certainly do remember my idol, “Rocky” Marciano. When I was only 9 years old, “Rocky” became champion of the world.

During that fight, he was knocked down for a count of only 3. “Rocky” was not a quitter! His motto in life was 1. Never give up, and 2. Never say die!

“Rocky” took a beating during that fight and he was behind in points. “Rocky” was a short man and had short arms, but he could punch! He knocked Jersey Joe Walcott out in the 13th round with a devastating blow. He won the heavyweight title in October, 1952.

I bet $5 on “Rocky” with a friend’s father who was a real estate agent.

“Rocky” was my hero and we both are Italian. He was the Italian people’s hero. God Bless “The Rock.”

— “Rocky” Denapoli, Plymouth

My mom, Nancy, always used to tell me about how her mom, Frances, used to babysit for Rocky Marciano back in the early ‘40s-early ‘50s before he became the “Brockton Blockbuster.” Now this was before my mom was here, but she remembers her mom telling her about him and now I remember her telling me about Rocky Marciano. I always used to ask why he was called the Brockton Blockbuster and she’d always tell me because he was the greatest and because he was undefeated.

— Laura A. Nowell, Brockton

It’s now a long time ago that I was a team captain for the Hilltop Bowling League that bowled at the Crescent Alleys located on the top floor of the building at the corner of Crescent and Main streets.

One night, one of my team members, Rocco Marchiagano, told us that he was starting his fighting training and would have to give up bowling as they used different muscles.

I didn’t understand, but it was obviously the right choice as he became Rocky Marciano, the undefeated heavyweight boxing Champion of the World - from Brockton, the City of Champions.

— Barbara Renn Shinnick, Brockton



Campaign to bring Rocky statue to Brockton


Late Brockton photographer Stanley Bauman poses with a selection of the hundreds of photos of he took of Brockton native and heavyweight world boxing champion Rocky Marciano in this 1999 photo. Bauman took photos of Marciano's fights and his life in Brockton up until Marciano's death in a plane crash in Iowa in 1969. (Craig Murray/The Enterprise)

Rocky Marciano tags Roland LaStarza for a knockout in the 11th round in New York on Sept 24, 1953, in this photo by noted Brockton photographer Stanley A. Bauman, who said this was one of his favorite photos. (Stanley A. Bauman)

World heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano, delivers a right, that was followed by a left, that sent challenger Archie Moore, left, to the canvas for the full count in the ninth round of their 15-round title bout, Sept. 21, 1955 at Yankee Stadium in New York. (The Associated Press)

Rocky Marciano waves after stepping off an airplane. (Stanley A. Bauman)

Rocky Marciano trains at the Brockton YMCA on Jan. 10, 1950. (Stanley A. Bauman)

Rocky Marciano waves to well-wishers during a homecoming on July 16, 1951, after defeating Rex Layne by a knockout in New York on July 12. (Stanley A. Bauman)

Rocky Marciano lands a right on Ezzard Charles on June 17, 1954, in New York. Marciano defeated Charles by a decision after 15 rounds to retain his world heavyweight title. (Stanley A. Bauman)

Rocky Marciano, second from right, gives out food to an Easton youth group.(Stanley A. Bauman)

Rocky Marciano exchanges blows with Harry "Kid" Matthews on July 28, 1952, at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Marciano knocked out Matthews in the second round. (Stanley A. Bauman)

World heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano rests his head and hand at a new conference in New York on April 27, 1956 after announcing his retirement from boxing. Marciano, undefeated in 49 professional bouts, said his wife Barbara influenced his decision to hang up his gloves. He made an estimated $1,700,000 in his boxing career. (The Associated Press)

Rocky Marciano and his wife, Barbara, are served a celebratory pasta dinner by Rocky's mother Pasqualena Marchegiano after one of Marciano's fights in 1951. (Stanley A. Bauman)

Rocky Marciano knocks down Archie Moore on Sept. 21, 1955, in New York to win by a knockout in the ninth round to retain his world heavyweight title. This was Rocky's last fight before he announced his retirement on April 27, 1956. (Stanley A. Bauman)

BOXING RECORD

1947
March 17
Lee Epperson
Holyoke, MA
KO 3
1948
July 12
Harry Bilazarian
Providence
TKO 1
July 19
John Edwards
Providence
KO 1
Aug. 9
Bobby Quinn
Providence
KO 3
Aug. 23
Eddie Ross
Providence
KO 1
Aug. 30
Jimmy Weeks
Providence
TKO 1
Sept. 13
Jerry Jackson
Providence
TKO 1
Sept. 20
Bill Hurdeman
Providence
KO 1
Sept. 30
Gil Cardione
Washington, DC
KO 1
Oct. 4
Bob Jefferson
Providence
TKO 2
Nov. 29
Patrick Connolly
Providence
TKO 1
Dec. 14
Gilley Ferron
Philadelphia
TKO 2
1949
March 21
Johnny Pretzie
Providence
TKO 5
March 28
Artie Donato
Providence
KO 1
April 11
James Walls
Providence
KO 3
May 2
Jimmy Evans
Providence
TKO 3
May 23
Don Mogard
Providence
W 10
July 18
Harry Haft
Providence
KO 3
Aug. 16
Pete Louthis
New Bedford, MA
KO 3
Sept. 26
Tommy DiGiorgio
Providence
KO 4
Oct. 10
Ted Lowry
Providence
W 10
Nov. 7
Joe Dominic
Providence
KO 2
Dec. 2
Pat Richards
New York
TKO 2
Dec. 19
Phil Muscato
Providence
TKO 5
Dec. 30
Carmine Vingo
New York
KO 6
1950
March 24
Roland LaStarza
New York
W 10
June 5
Eldridge Eatman
Providence
TKO 3
July 10
Gino Buonvino
Boston
TKO 10
Sept. 18
Johnny Shkor
Providence
KO 6
Nov. 13
Ted Lowry
Providence
W 10
Dec. 18
Bill Wilson
Providence
KO 1
1951
Jan. 29
Keene Simmons
Providence
TKO 8
March 20
Harold Mitchell
Hartford
TKO 2
March 26
Art Henri
Providence
TKO 9
April 30
Red Applegate
Providence
W 10
July 12
Rex Layne
New York
KO 6
Aug. 27
Freddie Beshore
Boston
TKO 4
Oct. 26
Joe Louis
New York
KO 8
1952
Feb. 13
Lee Savold
Philadelphia
KO 6
April 21
Gino Buonvino
Providence
KO 2
May 12
Bernie Reynolds
Providence
KO 3
July 28
Harry 'Kid' Matthews
New York
KO 2
Sept. 23
Jersey Joe Walcott
Philadelphia
KO 13
(Wins World Heavyweight Title)
1953
May 15
Jersey Joe Walcott
Chicago
KO 1
Sept. 24
Roland LaStarza
New York
TKO 11
1954
June 17
Ezzard Charles
New York
W 15
Sept. 17
Ezzard Charles
New York
KO 9
1955
May 16
Don Cockell
San Francisco
TKO 9
Sept. 21
Archie Moore
New York
KO 9
1956
April 27
Announces Retirement

ROCKY MARCIANO HISTORY

AWAY FROM THE RING

Sept. 1, 1923: Rocco Francis Marchegiano, a 12-pound boy, is born to Piereno and Pasqualena Marchegiano in Brockton.

September 1938: Rocky enters Brockton High School.

1943: Rocky is inducted into the U.S. Army.

Summer 1946: Rocky is honorably discharged from the Army and returns home to Brockton. A talented catcher, he begins playing for the highly regarded Taunton Lumber semi-pro baseball team.

Spring 1947: Rocky and three buddies — Gene Sylvester, Vinnie Colombo and Ray Gormley — drive to North Carolina for a tryout with the Chicago Cubs' Fayettville farmteam. Three weeks later, all four are sent home.

Dec. 31, 1950: Rocky marries Barbara Mae Cousins, daughter of Brockton Patrolman and Mrs. Lester A. Cousins, at St. Colman's Church in Brockton.

Dec. 6, 1952: Rocky's wife Barbara, gives birth to their daughter, Mary Anne, at Brockton Hospital.

Aug. 31, 1969: Rocky is killed in a plane crash near Newton, Iowa, while en route to his Florida home to celebrate his 46th birthday.

HONORS FOR ROCKY

1970: Rocky Marciano Stadium at Brockton High School was dedicated.

May 15, 1999: Marciano movie released.

May 27, 1999: U.S. Postal Service released 33-cent Marciano stamp.

Sept. 2002: "Rocky Marciano: The Rock Of His Times" by Russell Sullivan was released by the University of Illinois Press.

Dec. 30, 2005: The Brockton Historical Society marked Marciano's childhood home on Dover as a historic landmark.

Jan. 27, 2009: The School Committee voted to put a 24-foot bronze statue of Marciano at Brockton High School's Marciano Stadium. The statue is being donated to the city by the World Boxing Council.

April 26, 2009: The Rocky Marciano Post Office Building on Commercial Street dedicated.

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