Chuck tales (send us yours)

Blog entries are supposed to be brief. With your help, I'd like to make this one, on legendary Newman coach Chuck Rosenberry, one of the longest entries on the Web.

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Living legend Chuck Rosenberry offers advice to Newman freshman Margaret Smith. One can only hope the Comets have a few more years of his tutelage. I'm guessing, even after he eventually moves to the Chicago area, they wouldn't have to beg very hard to convince him to come "home" and clerk his namesake meet.

If I had to guess, I'd say Chuck Rosenberry hasn't read a lot of his news – sports or otherwise – on a tablet, or even a laptop. But, ironically, the digital component of what we do here is going to allow me to share a couple more of the many stories I couldn't shoehorn into the daily section.

I spent about an hour at Westwood Sports Complex on Wednesday and came away with enough material to pen a lightweight biography. Think Clif Notes. After all, the reality is, it would take months of tracking down all the people whose lives have been significantly touched by the living legend of a coach.

So I'm putting the Internet to work, and asking you to send me your favorite Chuck Rosenberry story. Email it to cheimerman@saukvalley.com, and I'll add it to the following list of vignettes that I gleaned Wednesday night.

• Newman AD Mike Papoccia calls Rosenberry the funniest guy he's ever met. He reflected on the night after the Comets won their first state title under his direction, back in 1990. The Papoccias had a get-together at their home, and the celebrants sang Beatles tunes "until 5 a.m. He and his wife, Belle, didn't even know the words, but they were faking it, and we just had a blast," Papoccia remembers.

• Rest assured: Rosenberry has been as miserable as the rest of us these past few weeks. He likes to golf 3 days a week, and one of his greatest passions is gardening.

• Rosenberry's protege, Andy Accardi, said something profound when he tipped me off to Chuck's story last week. "I never had him as a coach. Yet, when he walks in the room, I sit up a little straighter."

• Once upon a time, some 30 years ago, that now-cracked and weathered track near Newman High School was state of the art. "Everyone wanted to run on it," Rosenberry said.

When it was named after him almost 15 years ago, home meets were still held on it. Papoccia's tone turned from jubilant to somewhat sorrowful when I brought up what it would take to restore it. He'd hoped Larry Ybarra's venture to build a sports complex would have come to fruition, and perhaps the new, state of the art track could be named after Rosenberry.

"That would've been state-of-the-art. A mondo track," Papoccia said. "That's why I wanted that more than our football field. I wanted that track for our kids, and for the community."

But the old track is still used by the junior-high teams for practice, and Papoccia marvels at its condition, seeing as how it hasn't been patched since the Comets stopped hosting home meets more than 5 years ago.

Accardi spent years patching up spots – to the tune of about $500 a year. He says the 5-year-old estimate to patch the whole thing is $30,000. To bring it up to the modern standard, with eight lanes, he said it could cost $500,000.

Obviously, a school like Newman can't afford that. Heck, Pat Warkins marveled at Rosenberry's relentless dedication, considering the meager salary teachers receive.

The intimidating, yet affable, hilarious and eternally insightful coach might move to Chicago soon, to be near his daughters. But like Rosenberry Track, he's never truly going away. His stories and legend is eternal. I personally feel honored that I got to share a few with you.

Your stories

From Mark Papoccia, Class of 1984: The most important life lesson he ingrained with me, that still are attributes I try to live by are three simple words: Mental – Toughness – Pride.  For those former Newman track team members, they will remember the letters “MTP” inscribed on our track uniforms.  I still can remember his speech on why these three words are personal characteristics we needed to attain not only to be good athletes but also solid  citizens.  Mr. Rosenberry, thank you for your years of dedication to Newman, it’s students and we all hope you understand you played a major role in the school’s overall success.  Please also know that I did listen in Earth Science and still remember what an Oxbow Lake is.  

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