A comment on a high school football photo caught my eye last week. It wasn’t the football action that caught my eye, but the fact that the photo was taken at Maznicki Field in West Warwick.
This activated the memory, so I started digging. The stadium is named after Frank “Monck” Maznicki, the legendary soccer player and coach who has been a lifelong resident of West Warwick. When he died, his obituary began, “Frank Monk Maznicki, 93, of Coaches Court [West Warwick]reached the end zone on Saturday 14th December 2013.”
Much is known about Maznicki’s career as a local high school sports star, All-American college football, NFL player and finally as longtime West Warwick High School coach.
Few people know that his professional football career was interrupted for three years during World War II while he was training and serving as a Navy pilot. Monk’s military service earns only the shortest mention in the numerous resumes found online, and even obituary He only gives her a brief acknowledgment.
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Frank Maznicki was born in West Warwick on July 19, 1920. His parents Stanislaw and Eleanor Maznicki were born in Poland.
He went to West Warwick High School and worked on the football team but sat on the bench until the last game of the 1935 season. West Warwick had a 1-6 record in the final against the Classical. Backup Maznicki finally saw his first act and made the most of it, scoring TD and kicking the extra point for a 7-7 draw.
According to his daughter Cheryl Maznicki Drozdze, he earned the nickname “The Monk” from his teammates because he was so calm. A Providence magazine sports reporter referred to him as “the meandering monk of the Pawtuxet Valley” in 1937, and the nickname stayed with him for the rest of his life.
The next two years, led by Maznicki, the team went 19-0-1. He graduated in 1938 and leveraged his athletic prowess on a scholarship to Boston College, where he played soccer and baseball.
He played half-back and was an excellent player for the Eagles, playing in the 1939 team that arrived at Cotton Bowl, losing 6-3 to Clemson. The following year (1940), he helped propel British Columbia to its only national championship. Boston College crowned the season with a 19-13 victory over Tennessee at the Sugar Bowl.
Despite his small size (5-10, 174 pounds), Monk led the Eagles in scoring junior and senior seasons; His career mark of 6.61 yards per carry remains the best in British Columbia history. He was named an All-American in 1941. He has since been described by national critics as “the best BC team player ever.” Maznicki “put the small town of West Warwick in the national news spotlight,” according to the Providence Journal. He was selected by the Chicago Bears in the 1942 NFL Draft.
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The NFL career stopped due to military service
Maznicki left home in early August of 1942 to join the Bears camp in Chicago. Shortly thereafter, he and three other NFL players signed up to be the Marine Flying Cadet.
They weren’t called up right away, however, and Maznicki has established himself as one of the best young players in the NFL. He earned All-Pro honors playing half-backs and doing the positional arrangement for the Bears. Monk led the league with 6.3 yards gained per attempt, setting an NFL record.
The undefeated Bears made it to the NFL Championship game, but were shocked, 14-6, by the Washington Redskins who were three underdogs.
Maznicki was called up for service in the spring of 1943. He was offered a commission to join the Navy as a physical training instructor, but he refused to pursue flight training.
He was assigned to the Naval Preparatory School at the University of Iowa. According to the November 2017 issue of Iowa Alumni magazine, the Navy has leased part of the campus as a training school for 1,900 flight students.
The residence halls of the Quadrangle and Hillcrest became naval barracks, and soon aviation students filled much of the Field House and several acres of West Campus playgrounds. Over the next three years, more than 21,000 men underwent pre-flight training in Iowa City—once referred to as “Annapolis in the Midwest”—before heading to basic flight training, naval bases, ships, and command halls overseas.
For three months, cadets received instruction in military and academic tactics and athletics. Subjects such as basic aeronautics and communications prepared them for actual flight training.
The Navy thought the “cruelty of college football” was a perfect preparation for World War II. Professional athletes and coaches were appointed as coaches. The ban on professionalism was lifted due to the war, and many played on the football teams of their schools.
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Iowa Navy before the voyage Seahawks
This was the atmosphere in which Maznicki found himself when the 1943 football season began. Match after match, Maznicki excelled in running and kicking as his team beat opponent after opponent – and they found themselves second in the country with just one game, against the mighty Notre Dame. And the highest rated.
Unfortunately, Maznicki sustained a knee injury in the match just before the showdown. He was unable to play in the end, and the Seahawks lost a heartbroken, 14-13.
My friend Ted Williams
Maznicki successfully completed his training at Iowa Pre-flight, and his next stop was Bronson Field, part of the Navy’s flight training complex at Pensacola. At Bronson, he started serious flying and one of his flight instructors was a Marine Lieutenant named Ted Williams.
Cheryl’s daughter still has Monk’s pilot record, which includes multiple entries that reflect double flights with a Red Sox slugger.
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On August 3, 1944, an Associated Press news story showed a photo of Maznicki in the cockpit, with Williams standing on a stand giving him advice. In the accompanying story, Williams was quoted as saying, “I gave him his first jump on his last squadron. He’s a bloated pilot too.”
Maznicki earned his own flying wings and commission as an ensign in September 1944.
Maznicki and Williams also played on the same Navy baseball team. Ted even admitted that Maznicki had him on the Bronson Field team. They became friends for life; Frank’s daughter Cheryl remembers many of the family’s trips to Fenway Park as guests of Williams after the war. She also has a baseball engraved on her brother Mike (now deceased) which reads: “To Mike and Cheryl your father is a great friend. Your friend, Ted Williams.”
In early 1945, the Maznicki Fighter Squadron was transferred to Hawaii in preparation for the final push against Japan. The war ended before he could be deployed to the combat zone, and Maznicki ended his career in naval aviation at Quonset Point. His last assignment was as a maintenance test pilot, checking flights on F6F Hellcats and Corsairs. He was released from active duty in April 1946.
In all, Monk missed three professional seasons while training and serving as a Navy pilot.
A few years later, Bears coach George Halas was unable to attend a dinner honoring Mazniki, but the legendary “Papa Bear” wrote a letter for the event. He stated in part, “If his career had not been interrupted by his serving hurdle, I am sure he would have had additional productive seasons that would have put him out there with some of the all-time offensive leaders on the Bears.”
As it were, Maznicki returned to the Bears for the 1946 season. This time the Bears won the NFL Championship, 24-14 over the Giants. Maznicki kicked a field goal and three extra points at the Polo Grounds.
A year later, the Bears sold him to the Boston Yanks, where he ended his NFL career. In 1948, a teaching and coaching position opened at West Warwick High School, and he decided it was time to move out of the NFL. He was only 28 years old.
Maznicki never looked back. He quickly turned West Warwick into a local football dynasty, amassing 52 consecutive games from October 1948 to 1955. He won 17 football titles in Rhode Island, and his high school sports field was renamed in his honor on Thanksgiving Day in 1983.
A few days later, in its final game, West Warwick racked up one of the school’s greatest ever victories with a 30-13 victory over the much-loved Hendriken in the Division I Super Bowl. He finished his coaching career with a record of 256-79-15.
Making this record all the more impressive, West Warwick was hitting well above his weight. RI Interscholastic League records show West Warwick ranked 32nd out of 49 schools participating in boys’ sports, based on school enrollment. She was by far the youngest school to compete in the state championship division.
“In the world of Rhode Island esports for the past 70 years, no one has had the right to be called a legend like Monk Mazniki,” wrote John Gillooly of the magazine in December 2013, shortly after Mazniecki’s death at the age of 93.
“Even in 2013, 75 years after being a superstar in high school, 60 years after playing in the NFL and 30 years after coaching his last high school game, his name is still relevant to Rhode Island teenagers growing up in their second decade. of the new millennium.
I’m sure there are a number of other Rhode Island sports venues named after veterans or war heroes. If you know one that might be worth a story, please email me at Veteranscolumn@providenceJournal.com.
Saturday 24th September, 8am: Dive into Fort Wetherill in Jamestown. Everything is free. If you are certified scuba diving and would like to participate, call (401) 739-0167 or email Paul.Santilli@va.gov / Christopher.Morse@va.gov
(If you are not certified to dive, Providence Veterinary Center It can also help you become eligible.)
Every Wednesday, 4:30-5:30 p.m.: Yoga set provided by Providence Veterinary Center, 2038 Warwick Ave., Warwick 02889. Test your flexibility with Shri Yoga instructors. Everything is free. Eligibility for a veterinary center is required.
Learn to play the acoustic guitar: this is Providence Veterinary Center The program is offered through a partnership with Guitars for Veterans. All participants are required to complete 10 sessions, at the end of which they will receive a free acoustic guitar.
The program is very popular and there is a waiting list, so anyone interested should sign up sooner rather than later.
Eligibility for a veterinary center is required. Call (401) 739-0167 or email Paul.Santilli@va.gov
To report the result of a past activity, or to add a future event to our calendar, please email details (including contact name and phone number/email address) to Veteranscolumn@providencejournal.com