Tag Archives: George “Nookie” Powers

Friday Flashback #348

One of our town’s worst tragedies happened 77 years ago this month.

As Woody Klein noted in his book on the history of Westport, on May 2, 1946 a tire on a truck filled with vulcanizing cement blew on Post Road West, near Sylvan Road.

It swerved into a tree, and immediately exploded. A huge fire quickly erupted.

First on the scene was ambulance driver Arthur Audley, and his daughter Edna. They helped the trucker and others.

But the driver died the next morning at the hospital. Also killed were Fire Chief Frank Dennert, former fire chief Francis Dunnigan,  and firefighters John H. Gallagher. Dominick Zeoli died later.

Eight others were injured.

A plaque honoring the firefighters, 50 years after the tragedy.

Westporters responded quickly — including more than 2 dozen blood donors, who headed to Norwalk Hospital.

The Westporter-Herald printed an extra edition the next morning (so readers did not have to wait for the afternoon paper), and solicited contributions to the Firemen’s Fund. A benefit baseball game raised more money.

Four firefighters people seriously injured in the explosion — Zeoli, George and Jimmy Powers, and 13-year-old John Saviano — were still in the hospital on June 23 when they received a surprise visit (and autographed baseballs) from Babe Ruth. He was a frequent golfer at Birchwood Country Club, and Saviano was often his caddy.

Babe Ruth autographs a baseball for George “Nookie” Powers. His soon-to-be wife Virginia “Jinx” Closson looks on.

That moment was overshadowed by the tragedy, of course. The fire was seared into the memories of all who were in Westport that May day.

The 4 firefighters’ names are part of the state’s Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Windsor Locks.

The Connecticut Fallen Firefighters Memorial.

And more than a decade after that accident — when the Post Road was the main route for trucks traveling to and from New York — the Connecticut Turnpike opened.

The danger moved from local roads, to an interstate highway.

(Friday Flashback is a weekly feature on “06880.” Please click here to support your hyper-local blog. Thank you!)

Babe Ruth’s $10,000 Longshore Scorecard

It’s an urban — well, suburban, legend — that happens to be true: Babe Ruth really did play golf at Longshore.

As George Albano — the elephant-memoried Norwalk Hour sports columnist —noted in June, the Bambino spent a week in the summer of 1946 at the River Lane home of Dr. Vito Caselnova, a longtime friend. The doctor was chairman of the golf committee at Longshore, at that time a private club.

Ruth played on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon with Caselnova, Ruth’s physician Dr. George Irwin, Norwalk police commissioner Thomas Murphy, and club pro George Buck. The Sultan of Swat shot a 79, highlighted by a 35-foot eagle putt on the 12th hole.

Babe Ruth at Longshore. (Photo courtesy of Norwalk Hour)

Babe Ruth at Longshore. (Photo courtesy of Norwalk Hour)

The next day, Hour sports editor Williard Williams wrote that Ruth “did not dub a shot. His drive was good, his approach shots excellent, and his putting almost perfect.

“In between his golf, he shook hands with scores of persons introduced to him on the course and took care of autographs for the youngsters who swarmed all over him. The Babe was as gracious as ever and seemed to enjoy it all.”

Ruth played several more times at Longshore that week. His partners included US Senator Brien McMahon.

Babe Ruth autographs a baseball for George "Nookie" Powers. A nurse looks on.

Babe Ruth autographs a baseball for George “Nookie” Powers. Powers’ fiancee looks on.

Ruth also visited Norwalk Hospital, where he visited Westport firefighters injured in a horrific Post Road truck blaze. He signed baseballs for — among others —  brothers Nookie and Chick Powers. Both had been legendary athletes at Staples.

Just 2 years later, Ruth was dead from cancer. It started in his throat, and moved to his brain.

Caselnova’s son, Vito Jr., told Albano:

When he stayed with us he used to complain about headaches. He would come downstairs in the morning, go right to the refrigerator, and pull out a can of beer. Not to drink it, but to rub the cold can over his head. He said it made him feel better.

He said he was going to come back next year, but he never made it. He said he was going to bring another player with him, a guy named Joe DiMaggio.

Those Ruthian stories popped up yesterday. Alert “06880” reader Seth Schachter spotted the scorecard from that June 26, 1946 round on eBay.

Babe Ruth scorecard

The auction ends Wednesday (December 11).

If you’re interested, the price is $9,999.99.

In Longshore terms, that’s over $555 a hole.