|1965 Bridgewater / Raritan High School Basketball 50 Year Reunion|
and State Championship Banner Unveiling Ceremony
|L-R Top Row:#24 Dan Conti , #42 John Jewczyn, #32 Mike Janczewski,
#20 Mike Grosso, #40 John Deus, #4 Andy Martin, Coach Joe Fisher|
Bottom row: #14 Glenn Meyer, #10 Ken Skowronek, #22 Rich Doyle, #34 Bucky Bendetti, #12 Steve Fulop, #30 Ken Sabol
Dan Conti could not make the reunion. Steve Fulop passed away in 2009
|Click to see larger view of team photos|
|On the June 4th weekend the Bridgewater / Raritan High School class of 1965 had their 50 year class reunion.
This was not just any reunion, but one for a class that produced the first State Champion in school history.
Back in 1965 the boys’ basketball team captured the hearts and minds of the local population in their run to the title. The town’s intense following of this team was a product of it time. Back in 1965 there were not the multitude of entertainment choices that we have today, so the few choices available were widely followed. And the towns of Raritan and Bridgewater still had that small town feeling. Everyone knew each other and often discussed local events.
|The “starting five” of the basketball team became local celebrities.
At Center there was big Mike Grosso who was the leading scorer on the team.
Forwards were Mike Janczewski (the only non-senior who started) and Andy Martin. Guards were Rich Doyle and Steve Fulop.
Other players on the team were Dan Conti, Bucky Bendetti, John Jewczyn, John Deus, Ken Skowronek, Ken Sabol and Glenn Meyer. Coach was Joe Fisher.
Their Championship Game, which was held in Atlantic City, has been called one of the biggest events in town history.
The days leading up to the final game were filled with intense excitement. Talk was all about the streets and taverns – could our boys win it all?
That intensity even boiled over to ugliness as the Grosso household received numerous prank calls from the opponents fans threatening Mike Grosso -
warning him not to go to the game.
An estimated four thousand local fans traveled to the final game in Atlantic City. One fan said it was like everyone left town that day to go to the game. A local sportswriter, Nap Torpey, said that on the afternoon of the game the Atlantic City Boardwalk looked like Somerset Street in Raritan as so many local people could be found. The team did not disappoint as they took the title in front of a total crowd of 8000.
|It was a packed house for the |
Championship game in Atlantic City
|The 2015 reunion weekend had several festive events. Saturday was the traditional banquet, Friday afternoon was golf, and Friday evening,
at the old gym at the high school, was the long awaited unveiling of a Championship Banner. As the players arrived the handshakes and hugs showed that this was one special team.
Some had not seen each other in 50 years.
The banner had special significance as previously the high school’s policy was to not allow any banners or trophies to be displayed from before 1991 - the year the two high schools (East and West) merged together. The lack of recognition for the State Championship teams before 1991 has been a sore point for those that won State Championships and their classmates. But the High School says it should be able to make an exception to its old policy and hang the banner for this special team. (At the time of this writing the school has accepted the banner, but the banner is still not hung up.)
|Mike Grosso and Glenn Meyer hold up the banner |
that the team presented to the high school.
The banner should be hung up in the near future.
| That night present were 10 of the original 12 basketball players along with Coach Joe Fisher.
When the players lined up for a photo they were positioned in the same location as they
were for their team yearbook photo that was taken a half century before.
The cheerleaders – six in attendance - also posed for a photo.
Andy Martin spoke to the dozens of classmates who attended saying that the team could not have won the championship without the tremendous support of the student body and fans who traveled to the playoff games. He then introduced the players and coach – each took a well-deserved bow.
|After the ceremony the team and many classmates went to Stapleton’s restaurant for a few drinks.
This author felt privileged to be invited - thus was he was able to hear the old stories. I heard more than once about the way Mike Grosso, at 6 foot 8 inches,
still had the agility to play all over the court like a smaller player. And many spoke about that “fade away jumper” that Andy Martin had perfected.
And that Rich Doyle, boy could he hit from the outside – and what an intense player he was.
As for what the most memorable play of the season was – it was in the championship game. With a couple of minutes left B/R was leading by 4 - their opponent had a fast break that looked like an easy basket that would have brought them to within two points, but Mike Grosso sprinted down the court - seemingly coming out of nowhere - and blocked the shot. That was the turning point as B/R took control of the game from there.
|The two big men meet for the first time in 50 years.|
|One common theme the players reiterated was how grateful they were to the fans. During the playoffs they had some tough games that for some strange
reason turned out to be home games for their opponent. They played against Trenton in Trenton, and the semifinal game against Camden was in Camden.
An intimidating crowd was there for Camden, but the Bridgewater/Raritan team had thousands who made the trip to cheer their boys on.
The reunion weekend was a big success. The basketball players even had their own private lunch with Coach Joe Fisher on Saturday afternoon. Mike Janczewski summed up the reunion weekend best saying that even after all these years their accomplishment still seemed special. He went on to say that it was wonderful to see his teammates and that they had become great people.
|Coach Fisher, his wife and son
along with Rich Doyle who came all the way from Russia.
|The starting five today:
Mike Grosso – he was All-State that year. He would go on to play college ball at Louisville. He played one year of pro ball in the ABA before a knee injury ended his career. Today he lives in Louisville.
Andy Martin – Second Team All-County - After High School he would serve in Vietnam. There he was awarded the Silver Star for bravery. He was a gym teacher for decades and is now retired. To read about Andy’s heroics in Vietnam visit www.raritan-online.com/andy-martin.htm.
Mike Janczewski – Second Team All-County - He would become an Emergency Room Doctor. He is still active today in Colorado.
Rich Doyle – First Team All–County. (For decades his whereabouts had been unknown, but he was found for this event.) Today he teaches English in Russia.
Steve Fulop – He was a salesman at Efinger’s Sporting Goods. He provided local teams with uniforms and equipment. Steve passed away in 2009.
Coach Joe Fisher – Today, retired from teaching and coaching, lives in Piscataway.
Andy Martin (2nd team All-County), Mike Janczewski (2nd Team All-County), Mike Grosso (All-State), Rich Doyle (1st Team All-County)
|The Cheerleaders Today|
|Three years ago this website did an article about this team. Click to see that article|