John Mooney Tribute Page
Return to TedSilary.com Home Page
Mooney, one of the finer men you could ever hope to meet, retired in June 2004
after 50 years in the Catholic school system. He was Bonner's athletic director and the CL
baseball chairman. He earlier gained fame as the baseball coach for 39 years at
St. James, in Chester, which closed in June 1993.
Below are several stories about John. Hope you enjoy them.
Below the stories we'll post comments from friends/admirers about John. Send them to email@example.com. Thanks!
In the photo at left, John is serving as the ballboy for a Bonner home football game. He always did that.
'HE IS ST. JAMES'
ILL-FATED SCHOOL HONORS LONGTIME COACH MOONEY
May 20, 1993
by Ted Silary, Daily News Sports Writer
John Mooney wanted to stay strong for another month.
He wanted to mask his emotions and say all the right things until June
18, when St . James High, in Chester, will cease to exist.
He succeeded until yesterday, when he cried.
In a morning ceremony that honored faculty members, art teacher John
Lenge presented Mooney with a framed pencil drawing of the building. In
the upper left corner - keeping watch, if you will - is the faint hint
of St . James 's mascot, a bulldog.
All school personnel are to receive copies of the drawing. The first
could have gone only to Mooney, who has served St . James for 39 of its
53 years, in almost every possible capacity, and has coached the varsity
baseball team for the same length of time.
"Getting that drawing caught me by surprise. That was so nice," Mooney
said at midday, while sitting in a conference room. All around the room
were various football and basketball uniforms, piled atop tables. "Up
until today, I haven't cried. But . . . "
"Most of the time," said Jim Graham, a junior, "kids will be talking or
maybe joking around (during assemblies). When Mr. Mooney got up,
everything was quiet. We all know what he means to this place. He is St
. James .
"He only talked for a minute. He was choked up. There were pauses. He
couldn't find much to say."
When the archdiocese announced last December that St . James would
close, everyone who knows him - to know him is to automatically like and
respect him - felt deep sorrow for John Mooney.
Mooney, 59, graduated from St . James in 1950 and began teaching
English there in September 1954, after graduating from La Salle. His
current jobs aside from baseball coach include vice principal, business
manager, athletic director and maintenance director. Also, he spends one
period a day teaching English and another supervising the lunchroom.
There's more. Mooney publishes the alumni newsletter and the
principal's newsletter and often can be found atop the gymnasium roof,
sweeping away rainwater in a mostly futile attempt to prevent leaks.
When someone asked him, "What job haven't you held at this place,
except for principal?" Mooney smiled.
"I was that, too," he said. "For about six months one time when the
principal was on sabbatical. I guess the only job I never really had was
The center section of St . James 's E-shaped building was once the
school and church for St. Robert parish. Mooney's parents were married
there in 1932. He was baptized there in '34 and attended first and
second grade there before St. Robert opened a new school a block away.
Next year, Mooney expects to teach at Monsignor Bonner. Whether he'll
be involved with baseball is undetermined.
"I talked with (Bonner coach) Bob Vent the other day," Mooney said. "I
told him if he wants somebody to throw batting practice or hit infield -
and not worry about getting stabbed in the back - I'd be glad to help
him. We'll see. One thing I don't want to do is make people feel
The final baseball game for St . James , where enrollment has dwindled
to 420 from a high of 1,845 in the early 1960s, is scheduled for today, 1
p.m., at 9th and Ward streets in Chester, against Cardinal O'Hara. The
rain date is tommorow at 1. Mooney's career record is 487-327, including
6-13 this season. He won Catholic League championships in 1961, '62,
'63, '65, '71 and '72, and city championships in '62 and '71.
"That period from '61 to '65, those guys made me," he said.
Ray Gionta, a 1971 St . James graduate and the school's last football
coach, speaks reverently of Mooney.
"The man is very intelligent," Gionta said. "He's as comfortable in
academic areas as he is in athletics. There aren't too many men whose
job John Mooney couldn't do. He could be the president of a major
corporation. Instead, he has dedicated his life to Catholic education,
and specifically to St . James .
"Through this whole thing - the threat, the announcement that we're
closing, coming to the end - he's been very strong, a real bulldog. As
much admiration as I had for him before, it's been doubled."
Said Mooney: "I'm fully cognizant of what's going on. I'm not in
denial. I accepted a long time ago that (Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua)
was not going to change his mind. I just decided to keep myself busy. It
does hurt, though."
Marie Mooney, his wife of almost 37 years, said John has been showing
strength under orders. Hers.
"It's difficult for him to keep up the pretense that everything is
normal," she said. "But I threatened to kill him if he showed signs of
weakness. I told him, 'If you fall apart, I'll take a bat to your head.' "
"Now you know why he's never home," she said with a laugh.
John's original plan was to teach and coach for 50 years. Now, he says
he'll work through 1999, then reassess.
"Ah, tell him to keep working forever," Marie joked. "He wasn't around
all those years. Why would I want him around when he's old and
The Mooneys have four children - Patricia Ann, 35, Anita, 33, Ellen,
30, and Kevin, 27. All you need to know about John's ethics is that he
told Kevin, who'd once been the batboy, not to try out for St . James 's
"Yeah, how about that," Marie said. "Some guys only coach so they can
coach their son. John cut his."
As the end draws closer, John Mooney finds it harder to remain a rock.
Yesterday's cracking episode could be followed by another after the
game against O'Hara.
"I cry easily," Mooney said. "If nobody's there as I come off the
field, I'll be all right. I'd like to see my old players come back (for
the finale), but at the same time, it would make me feel sad."
On June 5, 2 p.m., at Glen Mills, Mooney will be an assistant coach in
the Joseph J. Barrett (Delaware County) all-star game. The program, he
said, will have a list of every player he has coached at St . James .
"It's one way," he said, softly, "to thank them all."
WIN PROVIDES LASTING MEMORIES FOR ST. JAMES
May 22, 1993
by Ted Silary, Daily News Sports Writer
John Mooney remained a giving person to the very end of St . James
High's Catholic League baseball existence.
Not that anyone should have been surprised.
After shortstop Kevin Martin flipped to second baseman Frank Spaide for
the forceout that ended the Bulldogs' 5-1 win over Cardinal O'Hara in
their final home game ever yesterday, his players presented the ball to
Mooney, who defines the term "class act" and has coached St . James for
39 seasons, in turn gave the ball to winning pitcher Mike Najmola, a
"I wouldn't say that I didn't want it," Mooney said. "But I thought it
would mean more to him."
Next, Mooney was approached by Mike Kinee, a 1973 graduate. He asked
his former coach to autograph two items, a color picture of the
Bulldogs' 1971 city championship team and the ball with which he'd
earned his first varsity win.
"He had the ball on one of those stands, with the plastic casing around
it," Mooney said. "You could tell it still meant a lot to him. Mike
Najmola hadn't left yet, so I called him down to meet Mike Kinee. I'm
sure this ball is something that Mike Najmola is going to cherish, too.
Our art teacher's going to put the details on it."
St . James , which will close next month, pulled off the Catholic South
win with help from two unlikely sources.
With two out and the bases loaded in the sixth, Mooney replaced Najmola
with Jon Bystrek and O'Hara's Drew Baylor hit a smash down the leftfield
line. Dave Mancini, who has struggled at bat all season, made a diving
catch to preserve a 2-0 lead.
In the bottom half, Dan Raftovich pinch-hit for Mancini, stroked a
two-run triple and scored on Najmola's single.
Najmola took the mound in the seventh, but again yielded to Bystrek
after walking the first two batters.
"They hit a line drive right back to Jon," Mooney said. "We got a
doubleplay. If he had turned to second first, it would have been a
Dan McMullen delivered an RBI single, then Matt Galati grounded into
the forceout. The loss prevented O'Hara (5-9) from tying St. Joseph's
Prep (6-8) for fourth place.
"I felt bad for (O'Hara coach) Bill Dugan," Mooney said. "But I felt
happy for us."
Mooney's career record is 488-327, including 7-13 this season and 3-11
in division play. The Bulldogs will finish by visiting intra-city rival
Chester on Monday.
HIP DUDE A HIT IN CLEARWATER
DREAM WEEK FUN OUTWEIGHS PAIN FOR EX-COACH MOONEY
Feb 16, 1994
by Ted Silary
John Mooney needs a new left hip, but no one could question whether his
heart and guts are in good working order.
Mooney, who coached varsity baseball at St . James High for 39 seasons
before the school closed last June, participated in a Phillies Dream
Week session in Clearwater, Fla., from Jan. 31 to Feb. 6.
Actually, participated is too weak a verb.
Despite excruciating pain in his hip, Mooney in four days pitched 34 of
37 possible innings for the Beavers, an 11-man team guided by Darold
Knowles, Bill Dancy and Maje McDonnell. He pitched 14 of those innings
in one day - five in the morning, nine that afternoon.
"There was some pain," said Mooney, who will turn 60 on March 5. "Every
throw I was landing on that leg. I just blocked it out."
Mooney now teaches at Monsignor Bonner. His trip to Dream Week was
funded by St . James' former teachers, coaches and players.
"If they sent me there because they wanted me to enjoy it, I sure did,"
Mooney said. "Darold Knowles, I didn't meet a finer person the whole
week. Bill Dancy and Maje McDonnell were great, too.
"At first, I thought they (ex-Phillies) might try to big-time it. That
they'd still want everybody to know that they'd played in the big
leagues and try to make us look bad. They didn't do that, and they
didn't roll over for us, either. They made it fun to be there."
Once, when Mooney limped off the mound, he felt someone's arm around
"The guy said, 'We're not here to hurt ourselves. We're here to have
fun,' " Mooney said. "It was Johnny Callison. That was a thrill. On the
first day, when we tried out for our positions, I started pitching and
Dickie Noles told me, 'Not so hard, big guy.'
"The first time that I pitched in the morning and afternoon, Tony
Taylor was kidding me. I told him, 'Yeah, me and Don Newcombe.' "
On the last day of camp, the Dream Weekers battled the former Phillies.
In two at-bats, both against George Culver, Mooney grounded out softly,
then lined a single to center.
"There's not a drug in the world," he said, "that could have made me
feel that good. It was a nice, solid hit. In school I've been telling
the students, 'I smoked that sucker.' "
COMMENTS ABOUT JOHN . . .
Hey Ted. To describe John Mooney is to describe the model that every
man should be. Mr Mooney is hard-working, dedicated, generous, kind, and a role model for
everyone. Over the past 10 years, Mr. Mooney has done nothing short of what can be called
remarkable. Mr. Mooney does everything at Monsignor Bonner. He serves as the athletic
director, assistant principal for student affairs, and does various tasks in and around
the school that he shouldn't even have to do. The school will never be the same without
him and he will always be remembered. Mr. Mooney's passion in the classroom, in athletics,
and in life in general will never be matched. He taught his students with the greatest
enthusiasm and wanted to reach every single one of them in some way. I had Mr. Mooney
for English freshman year and although i did not give my all in that class and still
regret it to this day, i realize the importance of the things that Mr. Mooney was teaching
us, not just about English but about life as well. His passion sports especially baseball
will always be well-known. He is the greatest coach in the history of the Philadelphia
Catholic League and his legend will live forever. The man is St. James Catholic High
School. I would just like to personally thank Mr. Mooney for everything he has done for me
during my 3 years at Bonner and for the 10 years of amazing service that he provided for
everyone at Bonner.
-- John Chandler '05
We tend to over use the word "gentleman" when
describing someone. I like to find another word to describe John Mooney. I had the
pleasure of working with John at St. James under Ray Gionta. The man is a tireless
worker. I can remember John lining the football field at Chester High after a snow storm
for our Thanksgiving Game. He painted the lines blue and white for St. James, black and
orange for Chester. I thought that was awesome. John knew what to say to someone in
victory and defeat. He always made you feel like you were important. John stories were a
joy to listen to. He spoke from the heart when talking about his beloved St. James. John
made all us coaches feel like we were "Bulldogs". I am proud and honored to have
his acquaintance. Enjoy your retirement, John.
-- Steve Smith, Head Football Coach, Ss. John Neumann/Maria Goretti
When I started coaching at Cardinal O'Hara in I heard about St. James
and Mr. Mooney. I was young and thought who the heck this guy was. I had been an assistant
under Phil Fidalgo in 1974 and the first time we played St. James I became acquainted. He
went about his coaching duties with no flair no hollering or screaming just controlled all
the time. His team was well prepared and did all the little things that day. They won. I
became the varsity coach the next season and over the next 25 years I had the privilege of
being associated with John Mooney. He was always a gentleman. I remember in 75 we were
fortunate enough to beat St. James in the semi finals and went on to win in the Catholic
League Final. I was a young coach and believe me I still had a lot to learn but as we were
jumping around with joy after the win I heard somebody yelling my name from behind the
dugout. I looked up and saw a man in a Phillies cap summoning for me. At first I did not
know who he was but as I got closer it was John Mooney. He extended his hand and offered
me congratulations. Here was a man that had won championship after championship calling a
wet behind the ears young coach and offering congratulations. Says a lot about a man who I
got to know much better over the years. I know he made me better when I coached against
him. Not so much the x and o stuff but watching how he worked with the players. I remember
when we would exchange lineups before games. Mine would be scribbled on a piece of
paper and John's would be neatly typed on a card. After I left coaching I would see John
at games and I would go over and we would talk about "the good old days." I
really enjoy that. I thank John for being an influence on me as I was beginning my
coaching journey. I remember John working at a summer camp with a few of us. I took my son
who was about 11 at the time. he asked who was that older coach. I said that is MR. Mooney
and listen to everything he says. On the way home he said to me "he knows a lot about
baseball." I said He knows a lot about things that are a lot more important than
baseball. Thanks for all you have done. God Bless You.
-- Bill Dugan
Cardinal O'Hara High School
Many thanks for the John Mooney tribute.
I don't know John, but I have shaken hands with him and seen him in
action at Bonner humbly dry-mopping the floor at Bonner basketball
I have heard so many good things about him over the years.
He reminds me very much of my former grade school football coach and
mentor and good friend, John Dougherty.
-- Bill McGarvey, Jr.
Ahhhhhhhh Mr. Mooney...Where do I begin? Four years of bliss at
with the man, and plenty of good stories to tell...I first met Mr.
Mooney my freshman year at Bonner when he was my english teacher. Even
after 2 years of college I can still give Mr. Mooney the privilege of
knowing that he is still the hardest teacher I've ever had. The man gave
about 115 homeworks every quarter, which is like 460 homeworks over the
course of a year. Most people in the class struggled, and didn't do
well...I wound up getting low 90's, high 80's every quarter. When I went
to see Mr. Mooney at the end of the quarter and gave me some adive that
I have never forgotten. He told me that I was a pleasure to have in
class, and that I was a hard worker. He said that smarts arent
nesseccarily important, but hardworkers are the one's who succeed in
life. To me that meant the world, and you would probably agree if you
had to take his class. Thats something I've never forgot, and never
will...Okay, I gave him his compliment, now on to the good stuff...That
same freshman year in the spring I was trying out for the freshman
baseball team and Mr. Mooney was the coach. He broke my heart. After
letting me hang around with another guy for a few extra days he cut me
and kept the other guy...Four the next 3 years I don't think a day went
by that I didn't remind him of how he crushed all of my dreams (Just to
bust his chops). For the next 3 years I would hang around for the
freshman tryouts and for the next three years he would tell me I was
born one year too early, 2 years too early, etc... Apparently the talent
pool was real bad those years...There was never a time you didnt go to
his door and hear that awful typewriter sound. He had a computer set up,
but it had about 5 inches of dust covering it. He had no use for a
computer he would tell me. CLASSIC OLD SCHOOL STUFF RIGHT THERE...I
gotta agree with the kid that said Mr. Mooney was the man at assembly's
who you messed with. He wasn't a loud person, but when he got pissed, he
could be VERY loud...The infamous chair story from the Bonner playoffs
at LaSalle. I will go on record that I was set up that day. Mr. Mooney
brings this hundred year chair to a game and let's a 280 lb kid sit in
it. What did he think would happen? He was good about it though, at that
point I think me and Jim Manley had broke him down enough that all he
could do was laugh. Mr. Mooney could also be my nemesis (He would be
proud I used that word, ha). He was the man who had to control me at the
sporting events, which I know was not easy for him, or me. At basketball
games I knew we were in trouble when I saw Mr. mooney heading in my
direction, and I had to try and pacify the crowd. After one game he gave
me the Philadelphia Catholic League fans rules or something that he
wanted me to read. Clearly he was trying to tell me we were not a
gentleman's crowd. Anytime we played O'Hara or Prep in a game in any
sport Mr. Mooney was in with the crowd, and he was all business during
those games, not tolerating anything from anyone. He was very good with
the crowds though, and was great to me, working with me during games,
and not against me. Going into my senior year a few of us would go to
Bonner to play wiffle ball of basketball in the gym during the day, and
when Mr. Mooney would leave he would tell me to lock up and he never
demanded we get out. He is a great guy. They are just a few of the
sotries, there are many more, maybe too many...But honestly I would like
to say that Mr. Mooney was, and still is a role model to me. He is a man
who was dedicated to the kids in the school, which is evident by his
cutting the grass on the fields with a push mower, which is crazy by the
way. And also by making sure the fields were always lined. There was
rarely anything he would not do for me, and I can say now that there is
nothing I wouldnt do for him. He is truly a great man, and he has proved
that for the last 50 years. Thanks for the memories Mr. Mooney, you will
-- Mike Kozak
(Ted's note: Mike, a/k/a Fat Koz, was a legend on this site, and
throughout the league, during his time at Bonner. His ability to stir school
spirit was unmatched. We thank him big-time for this contribution.)
I was privileged to have Mr. Mooney
as a teacher at St. James, and later as a friend.
Both St. James & Bonner were blessed to have him.
-- Jim Hegarty
I need to share this John Mooney story. I went to Saint James from 1976 to
1980. At the time I loved Baseball and my first year there I made the junior
Varsity team. The following year Mr. Mooney was not happy with the way
things went with the junior varsity team and got rid of it and you had to
make varsity. Unfortunately I did not make the cut for Varsity my sophmore
and junior year. My senior year I did not bother to even go out disappointed
in the last two years and not wanting to get cut three years in a row.
After graduating, the following year I coached a little league baseball team
in Folsom, Pa. After the season they had their banquet and I remember that
they could not find anyone to be the guest speaker. I decided to call Mr.
Mooney and I remember him saying "When is it and I'll be there." He came
and spoke to our kids at the old Pete's Embassy Room in Folsom. To this day
twenty plus years later I'll never forget that. I am sure he must have many
other things to do on a Sunday afternoon.
And it wasn't like I was a star player or even a former player of his. I
asked him and I remembered his saying without hesitation that he would be
I have always wanted to thank him personally for that but I have not seen
him since I graduated. To this day out of all the things I have learned from
teachers, co-workers, bosses etc. that has left a lasting impression on me.
-- Michael Zoltowski
The following was written by Bryan Kerns for Bonner's student newspaper . . .
TRY not to become a man of success but rather to become a man of
value, said Albert Einstein. I beg to differ, Mr. Einstein. For there is a man who
has become a man of success and a man of value and he walks the halls of Bonner. His name
is John B. Mooney. Many of you are influenced by him each and every day, whether you know
him personally or not. You will feel the impact when he departs. There are thousands, if
not tens of thousands, who he has touched. He was the first man in Pennsylvania to collect
400 wins as a high school varsity baseball coach. He coached his teams to six Catholic
League championships, two city championships, and eleven Southern division championships.
The coaching award for high school baseball in Delaware County is named in his honor,
something usually reserved for the deceased. He is a member of the Pennsylvania and
Delaware County Sports Halls of Fame. He graduated high school at 16 and began teaching at
his alma mater three years later, at age 19 hows that for success, Einstein,
not to mention the fact that all of this was done while maintaining a sense of morality
and values that we should all envy. His name appears in 32 Daily Times articles since 1998, and who knows how
many before that. He has devoted 71.4% of his years on this planet to teaching, coaching,
or administrating in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. He was honored by Justin Cardinal
Rigali as a golden jubilarian one of only two in the Archdiocese this year. He has
fathered four children and is the grandfather of eleven. He was dubbed Mr. St.
James by local newspaper columnist Ed Gebhart. If this isnt success, than what
is? He drove a school bus, ran the maintenance department, was a business manager, and
still managed to teach English at St. James when I say teach, I mean he
did it in a way that would make the entire English faculty of Yale cry. If a school asked
a teacher to drive a school bus today, the school would get slapped with a union
grievance. Not this man. Daily News columnist
and local high school sports aficionado Ted Silary said that Mr. Mooney is one of
the all-time great people. He served at St. James High School for 39 of its 53
years, the only job he didnt hold there was guidance counselor (Yes, he was the
principal for six months). In the sweltering heat of May, I saw him mowing the baseball
field in a shirt and tie. Hows that for dedication? In a feature for the Daily News done before St. James closed, Silary wrote this:
All you need to know about John's ethics is that he told Kevin (his son), who'd once been the batboy, not to try out for St. James's team. "Yeah, how about that," Mrs. Marie Mooney said. "Some guys only coach so they can coach their son. John cut his."
So, Einstein, how does that measure up to your definition of ethics, morals, and values? I dare you to try and find something he hasnt done with enthusiasm but Ill save you the trouble: it has never happened.
As we mark the end of the era of John Mooney, I ask you to do one thing. Show sympathy for the class of 2008 and beyond. They will not experience the influence of Mr. Mooney; they will not get to see him in ninety degree heat mowing the lawn in a shirt and tie. They wont see him shoveling snow after a blizzard. They wont see him at the trolley stop making a path for the passengers to get off. They wont hear his baritone voice come over the loudspeaker to summon the athletes who have been delinquent in paying their fees or returning their equipment. They wont see him in the hallways and have the pleasure to say hi Mr. Mooney. They wont hear the distinctive noise of the typewriter as he prepares the calendar of events for the next week at 5:30 PM on a Friday, long after the building has been deserted. They wont see him leave the communion service with the students before lunch. They wont see him making sure that buses and vans and fields are ready for games. They will never fully enjoy the infinite wisdom of this towering mountain of a man. I never have or will have had Mr. Mooney in the classroom, but I can say, without a doubt, he has had a profound impact on my life.
So, as he prepares to depart Bonner and walk the road of retirement, if you see him in the hallways, just say thank you. If you encounter him in an assembly shake his hand. If you have the joy of a conversation with him listen intently to every word he speaks, because most of the time, hes going to say something youll never forget. I leave you with a closing thought: if we all try to become a little more like John Mooney, then the world is in pretty good shape.
Thank you, Mr. Mooney, for what you have done.
Mr. John Mooney: A Catholic Christian Exemplar.
I am just another face in the proud crowd, an alumnus of St. James
Catholic High School for Boys, Class of 1971. I am a
successful community college and middle school special education teacher. I owe a great deal of that to Mr. Mooney for being him.
Mr. Mooneys exemplar Christian witness impacts my Life in the Spirit, and my faith in our Lord Jesus.
The schools sports rosters, the all-academic Scott-High Q teams, and intramurals are void of my name. I am not a star second baseman, a famous football player, or popular personality. Saint Paul says it does not matter.
I have two Masters degrees, one from Widener, taught Computer Science at Atlantic Community College for twelve years, and am a seasoned veteran special education teacher for sixteen years in Ventnor, NJ. The educational paradigms of Mr. Mooney are still influencing me. These accomplishments do not matter.
What matters is this: I owe, we all owe Mr. Mooney. He never asks for repayment. How can I repay him for being who he is? There are numerous articles and testimonies about that area under discussion. After all, he can not remember every one of us, can he? I repay Mr. Mooney with every good and bad day I have in the classroom, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, being able to return the next day.
What really matters, to me? Mr. Mooneys sincere, honest; devotion to his Catholic Christian Faith is always foremost in my mind. He influences me without words. He is, as St. James writes (James 1:19-27), a doer of the Word. I want to let him know this: my decision to enter the deaconate formation in the Diocese of Camden is a result of exemplar Catholic Christian men like him. I have a little more than two and a half years to go until I am a candidate for ordination. I am praying and will continue to pray for Mr. Mooney. Every time I think of him, I understand what the Life in the Spirit is all about, that is the Catholic Christian witness. I always see the Lord Jesus in him. Mr. Mooney, I say, well done, good and faithful servant. May the blessings of the Lord Jesus be always upon you for ever!
--- Frank Cerullo, St. James Class of 1971