When some of Joe Stoico’s former players decided to throw a surprise party in his honor in May of 2016, dozens packed into Milford’s Hoboken Club to honor the man they called “coach.”
Stoico’s love for his players and for the game of baseball were top-of-mind for some of those former players as they shared their memories of “coach,” who passed away Nov. 30 at the age of 85.
“Other than being a great baseball coach and our mentor, he was our Ted Williams, he was our idol,” said Alan Alves, who played for Stoico. “He would always go out of his way to keep relationships with his players and, if he found out a guy was sick, he would get a group of guys together to pay that person a visit. He was always there for everyone.”
“For me, he was my teacher, he was my coach, he was my colleague, and he ended up being my best friend,” added Dave Crescenzi. “My kids called him ‘Uncle Joe.’ He came in as a coach and then he came into our family.”
Crescenzi said Stoico would visit every Sunday to sit down and talk baseball. Eventually, Crescenzi’s grandchildren took to calling him ‘Uncle Joe’ as well.
Stoico played baseball and football at Boston University. He played professional in the Kansas City A’s organization before before being drafted in the Army in 1956. Stoico returned to Milford, where he brought an energy and a passion to coaching that left an indelible mark on his players, including Steve Manguso, who would go on to his own Hall of Fame coaching career.
“Coaching is not something you just wade into, you jump in with both feet and I always felt that he did that,” Manguso said. “We respected him because he was a great athlete too. Whether it was Charlie Stand or me, whenever he walked in and would watch us coach, we wanted him to think that we were working at it and trying to get the job done the right way. That was important to him and I wanted him to feel that way about me, I know Charlie did too.”
In addition to his tenure as a coach, Stoico worked at Milford High School in the special ed department for 37 years. Former player Tony Chinappi said when one of Stoico’s students could not afford a class ring, “coach” bought one for him.
“Joe was unique, he had a certain way about him that wasn’t so much verbal,” Chinappi said. “I remember some of the team huddles and I can honestly say I didn’t always understand what he was saying, but I could see the fire in his eye, so I knew what the message was.”
Chinappi helped arrange a meeting with Stoico and new MHS baseball coach Alex Dion a few weeks before he died so the young coach could learn about the Milford baseball tradition. Dion said the team will wear Stoico’s initials on their jerseys or caps this spring.
“I enjoyed coaching, I did the best I could,” Stoico told the Crier in an interview last year. “I just loved coaching, teaching, and helping these kids along the way.”
This article appears in the Dec. 15 Holiday Edition of the Town Crier.