If disillusioned Fairfield Ludlowe fans had to endure another long football day, at least there was a reminder of better times.
Four members of Roger Ludlowe’s undefeated 1961 state champions were introduced at halftime of the traditional Thanksgiving Day game against cross-town rival Fairfield Warde at Taft Field. Warde was a dominant winner, 52-13, before an estimated 2,500 on this crisp, sunny morning.
The four men, now in their mid- to late 60s, gathered near midfield for the brief ceremony. They were joined by Dan Taft, son of their late coach, Emil Taft – for whom the field is named.
Pete Ambrose, who played linebacker and offensive guard on the 1961 champs, and Frank Marcinowski, a defensive end and offensive guard, still reside in Fairfield, so the trip to Taft Field was a no-brainer.
They were joined by the Tallman brothers, Cliff and Jeff, who live nearby in Fairfield County – Cliff in the Rowayton section of Norwalk and Jeff in Weston. Cliff was the Tigers’ star running back in that long-ago season, a senior who earned first-team All-State honors after scoring no fewer than 13 touchdowns. Like most of his teammates, he also did double duty, playing defensive back. Jeff Tallman was a junior that season, logging considerable playing time as a running back and defensive back.
“Charlie Marsland, who played center, planned to come from (Hopkinton) Massachusetts, but he had to back out yesterday,” Cliff Tallman said.
Another member of the squad, Fran Lynch, went on to play nine seasons with the NFL Denver Broncos. He had hoped to attend the game, but was coaching one of his grandsons in youth football in Colorado.
Most of the 16 lettermen on the 1961 team assembled by Emil Taft have done well in life. Ambrose is a practicing attorney in town and beginning his fifth term on Fairfield’s Representative Town Meeting (RTM). Marcinowski is the controller at Stamford Hospital.
Cliff Tallman spent many years in publishing and now operates a media consulting firm, Soskin Tallman, Inc., in Norwalk, while Jeff Tallman is a partner in the family construction business, J. Tallman Builders.
There was a second All-State player on the championship team, Charlie Skubas, an acrobatic pass-catcher who later played varsity football and baseball at Yale. He died in early January of this year.
Dan Taft was just four years old during Ludlowe’s championship season, and so he has no memory of any of the nine victories. “But I remember the (Waskowitz) state championship trophy in our living room, and it was bigger than me,” he said.
Daniel F. Taft, a Fairfield resident who works as electrical engineer with Con Edison, was touched by the ceremony.
“That was a watershed moment for our family 50 years ago,” he said of the Tigers’ undefeated season. “This was my father’s most successful team. And football was his life.”
Taft recalled the long-time link between his dad and Fern Tetreau, another long-time area football coach, who guided Warde to an undefeated (9-0) season in 1959. They had become friends as teammates at Springfield College in the 1940s.
“My father starting coaching in this small town, Brewer, Maine, where he was the head coach for three years. When he went back to Massachusetts to coach, Fern went up (to Brewer) as his replacement,” he explained.
“Then, in the 1950s, Fern – we called him Mr. Tetreau – called my father and told him they were expanding to two schools in Fairfield. So, he came down here and replaced Fern at Ludlowe, and Fern went over to Warde.
“All of these things were swimming in my head,” he said, during the halftime ceremony.
Give credit to Ludlowe's athletic director, Dave Schulz, for organizing the halftime ceremony that celebrated the 50th anniversary of the school's state football title. "We did something similar several years ago to recognize Ludlowe winning the New England (interscholastic) title in 1955," he said.