Remembering ‘Bear’ Burke

Remembering ‘Bear’ Burke

 When the Chelsea Youth Baseball League, more widely known as the Pony League, was at its height of popularity from the late 1960s through the 1980s, when large crowds made their way to Merritt and Voke Parks for nightly games, James “Bear” Burke was one of the true coaching legends.

James Burke

James Burke

Mr. Burke, a Chelsea baseball coaching force and former employee of the Chelsea DPW, died on Jan. 24, 2018. He was 75.

The managers in the Pony League were giants in the eyes of their players. Pony League was huge in those days and you had to tryout and be selected in a player draft.

You begin with manager Larry Notkin, whose eye for talent was second to none and whose Red Sox, Cubs, and Royals teams were always a title contender. Al Palladino was the knowledgeable and nervous manager of the Twins (and then the Yankees), perpetually dispensing words of baseball wisdom to his players.

Paul Casino, clerk to the Chelsea City Council, was so popular and respected as the manager of the Angels. He was elected easily to the Chelsea School Committee and Board of Aldermen and served this city well. Casino coached some of the league’s all-time greats including Bobby Spinney, Paul Spracklin, and Eric Shuman.

Richie Pezzuto was the highly energetic manager of the Astros, taking Dennis “Hawk” Murray as the No. 1 pick in one of the drafts and building a powerhouse.

George Triant managed the Orioles, who with a lineup of Mike Lush, Jerry Dion, Bobby Ham, Larry Skara, Wayne Morris, Paul Halas, and other big-time players, became the only team in league history to go undefeated.

Steve Socha took over the Red Sox and had all-time Little League All-Star southpaw Paul Wheeler, a terrific hockey and baseball player, on his roster.

And then there was Jimmy “Bear” Burke, the beloved manager of the Pirates who exuded his enthusiasm for the game of baseball every time he stepped on the field. The “Bear,” as he was affectionately known, knew his baseball well. His in-game exchanges with the other managers, especially Notkin, were of a competitive nature. All the managers were friendly rivals trying hard and devoting countless hours of practice time to their teams with the hope of claiming the coveted playoff championship.

Al Palladino remembers tangling with “Bear” as an opposing coach and then having him as his assistant coach. He has fond memories of his longtime friend.

“I feel so bad that Bear has passed away,” said Palladino. “He was such a good guy. He had a kind heart. I coached against him when he had the Pirates and he came back and coached with me when I had Paul Nowicki on my team.”

Palladino recalled a humorous interaction that the Bear had with another local sports legend, the late Arnold Goodman, during a league meeting. “They were on opposites of an issue but the Bear stood up and said, ‘I make a motion because Arnie Goodman says so,’ “and everyone in the room just broke out in laughter because Jimmy and Arnie had finally agreed to agree on the matter.”

Bucky Cole, one of the Pony League’s greatest ballplayers, was a member of Bear’s Pirates team in the mid-1960s. Cole joined the Pirates after a sensational career in the Chelsea Little League where he was that era’s Mike Lush.

“I was a proud member of his Pirates team and we played Larry Notkin’s Red Sox team in the finals and we lost to them,” recalled Cole. “The Bear put his heart and soul in to coaching. He really loved coaching. He and Larry were good friends but they were always rivals to the final game. It was like the Yankees and the Red Sox going at it. He was a great guy.”

Cole said he also worked with James “Bear” Burke in the Chelsea Park Department.

“What’s interesting is that my son, Tommy, also had the Bear as a coach when he was 16 years old,” said Cole. “That’s how long he coached.”

And that’s how long the Bear was a positive influence on Chelsea youths – for a lifetime.

The city of Chelsea has lost another widely revered personality in its sports history.

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Obituaries 10-09-2014

Obituaries 10-09-2014

James ‘Jimmy’ Palladino

Essex County Sheriff’s Department Retiree

James J. “Jimmy” Palladino passed away at the Oceanside Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Hampton, NH, where he had been receiving supportive care. He was 65 years old.

Born in Chelsea, the son of John and Robina (McKinley) Palladino, he attended Chelsea schools and was a graduate of Chelsea High School. He enlisted in the US Army, served during the Vietnam Era and was honorably discharged in 1970.

After returning home to Chelsea, he furthered his education attending Essex Community College receiving his Associates Degree in Criminal Justice. Jimmy worked for 15 years as the head bartender at the Continental Restaurant in Saugus. He also worked as a Drug and Alcohol Abuse Counselor for C.A.B. in Salem and most recently for the Essex County Sheriff’s Department, retiring in 2007. Jimmy enjoyed golf, fishing and walking the beach.

He was the loving son of Robina (McKinley) Palladino of Chelsea and the late John Palladino; dear brother of Jack Palladino and his wife, Michele of El Mirage, AZ, Joel Palladino and his wife, Paulette of Danversand JayPalladino and his wife, Kathy of Kensington, NH. He is also survived by many nieces and nephews.

Relatives and friends are most kindly invited to attend a memorial gathering in the Cardinal Cushing Pavilion (inside St. Michael the Archangel Chapel), Chelsea Soldiers Home, 91 Crest Ave. on Saturday, October 11 beginning at 9 a.m. to be followed by a Funeral Mass inside the Chapel at 10 a.m.Funeral Arrangements entrusted to the care and direction of the Anthony Memorial-Frank A. Welsh and Sons Funeral Home.Tosend expressions of sympathy, please visit


Paul Nachtwey


Attorney Paul D . Nachtwey of Chelsea, formerly of Boston, died unexpectedly on September 29.

Paul was a member of Westford Sportsman Club,

Boston Big Game Fishing Assocation and the Sports Car Club of America.

He was the loving son of the late James and Anna (Stockton)Nachtwey; dear brother of James A Nachtwey and John Nachtwey and his wife, Lada Moyseev.

A memorial service in celebration of Paul’s life will be held late this month and announced by this web site and funeral home:


Jean Tomasik

Square Cab Retiree

Jean (Rich) Tomasik, born in Boston and a long time resident of Chelsea, passed away on September 30 at the Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home where she had been receiving supportive care. She was 80 years old.

For over 10 years, until her retirement in 2001, she worked for Square Cab as an operator and office coordinator.

She was the devoted wife of the late Stanley Tomasik; beloved mother of Elizabeth Estabrook of Farmington, NH, Dianna Stephenson and her husband, Frank, Debra Mitchell and her husband, Danny and Mary MacDonald and her husband, Hugh, all of Chelsea, Stanley Tomasik and his wife, Nancy and stepson Richard Tomasik and his wife, Theresa, all of Port Charlotte, FL. She was the cherished grandmother of 14 and great grandmother of 18 and is also lovingly survived by many nieces and nephews.

Funeral arrangements were by the Smith Funeral Home, Chelsea. Committal Services were private. Expressions of sympathy in Jean’s name may be made to Massachusetts Alzheimer’s Association, 480 Pleasant St., Watertown, MA 02472. To send a message of condolence to Jean’s family, please


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