Thanksgiving 1959 Book Cover

Readers tired of preening athletes, spiraling ticket prices and performance-tarnishing drugs will find Thanksgiving 1959 a trip back to a simpler time: Friday Night Lights meets When Pride Still Mattered.

In the autumn of 1959, before a new bridge changed everything, one corner of New York City was like all the small towns where everybody turned out for the Thanksgiving Day football game.

The coaches in that game sprang from the same roots. Sal Somma, tall and reserved, was a onetime dropout who kicked the extra point that kept Vince Lombardi and Fordham's “Seven Blocks of Granite” out of the Rose Bowl. His onetime teammate Andy Barberi, short, squat and spectacularly profane, beat Somma to the only job either one of them wanted, and the game became a test of their contradictory approaches to football, and to life.

Fifty years after New York's first true schoolboy championship, Thanksgiving 1959 follows Somma and his players, the sons of Italian and Irish immigrants, on the road to the championship game and the Thanksgiving rivalry that — like the community around it — would never be the same.


Thanksgiving 1959 Excerpt Photo

Read an Excerpt

“The men sitting in the polished pews at St. Clare's were teachers and firemen and politicians and stock brokers with wives and kids and jobs to …”

Read More

Thanksgiving 1959 Excerpt Photo

Photo Gallery

A sampling of people and places from Thanksgiving 1959

View Photo Gallery

Close
Sal Somma and 1959 captain Marty Ryan (Sal Somma collection)

Sal Somma and 1959 captain Marty Ryan. (Sal Somma Collection)

Next 1 of 20

Sal, far left, and the Somma family in West Virginia (Courtesy of Mary Koffer)

Sal, far left, and the Somma family in West Virginia. (Courtesy of Mary Koffer)

Previous Next 2 of 10

The bridge that would change everything on the quiet side of the bay (Staten Island Advance (1964) All rights reserved)

The bridge that would change everything on the quiet side of the bay. (Staten Island Advance (1964) All rights reserved)

Previous Next 3 of 10

Curtis High School teammates Andy Barberi (45) and Somma (over Barberi's left shoulder) close on the ballcarrier at Ebbets Field in 1931 (Sal Somma collection)

Curtis High School teammates Andy Barberi (45) and Somma (over Barberi's left shoulder) close on the ballcarrier at Ebbets Field in 1931. (Sal Somma Collection)

Previous Next 4 of 10

Charlie O'Connell, George Blomquist, Somma, Barberi at NYU: The men who beat the Seven Blocks (Sal Somma collection)

Charlie O'Connell, George Blomquist, Somma, Barberi at NYU: The men who beat the Seven Blocks. (Sal Somma Collection)

Previous Next 5 of 10

Andy Barberi, who had the only job Sal Somma ever wanted (Sal Somma collection)

Andy Barberi, who had the only job Sal Somma ever wanted. (Sal Somma Collection)

Previous Next 6 of 10

Four aces: Marty Ryan, Dennis Tancredi, Artie Truscelli, Fred Fugazzi (Sal Somma collection)

our aces: Marty Ryan, Dennis Tancredi, Artie Truscelli, Fred Fugazzi. (Sal Somma Collection)

Previous Next 7 of 10

Paul Milza with the Single Wing playbook (Sal Somma collection)

Paul Milza with the Single Wing playbook. (Sal Somma Collection)

Previous Next 8 of 10

Danny Boylan being Danny Boylan in the first official New York City championship game (Sal Somma collection)

Danny Boylan being Danny Boylan in the first official New York City championship game. (Sal Somma Collection)

Previous Next 9 of 10

The last game: Marty Ryan drags defenders in the mud (Sal Somma collection)

The last game: Marty Ryan drags defenders in the mud. (Sal Somma Collection)

Previous 10 of 10