| The 1956 Class "B" Champs
|By Kevin Devlin
The 1956 Tech Tourney Class "B" Champs
- First row: Mike Sheeran, Jim Sweeney, Jim
Bryant, Dennis "Buddy" Roache (deceased),
"Skip" Farrell, and Joe Robicheau. Second
Row: Coach Joe Callahan (deceased), Bill Barry,
Ray Flynn, Dave Dalrymple (deceased), Joe
Mason, Jack Kingston, "Chickie" Hill, Jim
"Satch" Crowe, and team manager Robert
Southie High makes hoop history as first Boston District School to capture Tech Tourney
Fifty years ago, South Boston High School’s unheralded varsity basketball team took on the Goliaths of the hoop world, at the old Boston Garden in the Eastern Mass “Tech” Tourney, and went home champions.
Southie, undefeated in league play with a 12-0 record, wasn’t supposed to do much in the coveted Tech Tourney, but I guess that’s why they play the games. In the opening round, the local team eked out a one-point victory against Belmont 56-55. Next, Southie was pitted against the highly-touted Methuen squad (25-0) that was considered by many at the time as the best team in Massachusetts in 25 years. Coach Joe Callahan’s team prevailed 51-47. Then, with approximately 12,000 screaming fans in the seats, Southie defeated Matignon in the championship tilt, 57-56. In the championship finale, Ray Flynn netted 16 points, Jim Bryant scored 14 points and Dennis “Buddy” Roache (now deceased) contributed 12 points.
Joe Mason, a retired Boston School Department teacher and coach, was a member of that historic team.
“We were a young, inexperienced team with only one starter from the year before,” said Mason. “But as a team, for some reason we just jelled. Jim Bryant was the best player on the team that year, and we also had Ray Flynn who was only a sophomore. All the games were close, and we won the three games by a total of six points. All the games were at the Garden and that was a thrill for all of us.
“We were losing by ten points against Methuen at the start of the fourth quarter,” Mason further stated. “In those days, ten points was a huge lead. They were much bigger than we were. Franny Duggan who used to sit on the bench and help out the coach, told us to start playing basketball, run and play defense. We put on a full court press and won the game.”
South Boston’s Athlete of the Century, former Mayor and Ambassador to the Vatican, Ray Flynn, fondly remembers this championship team.
“Beating Matignon was incredible,” said Flynn. “They had a great team. Jack Concannon went on and became an all-pro quarterback for the Chicago Bears and Art Graham was an all-pro player for the Patriots. But, we beat them and we were the champs. We started out as teammates and we ended up as lifelong friends.”
Representative Brian Wallace who knows a little about the game of basketball remembers those days as if they were yesterday.
“Growing up and playing basketball in the 60’s at the Club, the 1956 Class B Champs had already taken on a legendary status,” said Wallace. “Everyone knew their names. The Garden games which they won, especially the championship game, was also the stuff of legends. From Ray Flynn’s shooting, to Jimbo Bryant’s rebounding, to Buddy Roache’s mastery, to Billy Barry’s heroic shot, to Joe Callahan’s coaching skills.
“Everyone who played or watched basketball in that era had their favorite story about the 56 champs, mine was about Joe Callahan,” added Wallace. “Everyone knew how excited he got during games, especially this one and there was none bigger than the 56 championship game in Boston Garden. Joe got so excited after Southie’s thrilling win that he couldn’t wait to get home and tell his wife. When he arrived in Dorchester, his wife was shocked. Coach Callahan was so excited that he left his sons, Kevin and Phillip, at the Garden. Red-faced, he returned to the Garden, and got his sons where he told them to wait for him after the game. And, as they say, the rest is history.”
Fifty years have passed since that historic night when a bunch of city kids tasted the fruits of victory. It certainly was a long time ago and a distant memory to many, but not for those who watched and not for those who participated. For them, it merely seems like yesterday, a fresh, vivid memory, a thrilling experience when they jumping up and down, screaming and clapping, ecstatically shouting that they were the champions.
And, it was a magical, legendary moment, a championship, the 1956 championship, that they’ll never forget.