Honoring the House that Dim Built at Salesianum

Dim Montero (Photo from desports.org)

Dim Montero (Photo from desports.org)

It’s officially known as Baynard Stadium, and in 2007, the name of legendary sports writer Al Cartwright was given to the field. But anybody who knows anything about Delaware sports knows what it really is – the House that Dim Built.


He was, quite simply, the greatest high school football coach in Delaware history, our Vince Lombardi and Knute Rockne all rolled into one humble, yet dynamic figure. Salesianum School was entering a new era in 1957 when it moved from its cramped quarters at Ninth and West streets to its present location at 18th and Broom streets. It was a giant leap forward for the Sals in many ways– and the late Dominic “Dim’’ Montero was the right man at the right time to take the football program to places it had never been before and will never be again. In 10 short years, he built a dynasty, and if anyone ever carves a Mount Rushmore for high school football coaches in Delaware, Dim Montero’s face would be the first one chiseled out.

Salesianum will honor Montero later this month to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his final Sallies team. A banquet will be held in his honor on Thursday, Sept. 24, and Montero and his players will be honored at halftime of the Sals’ game against Smyrna on Friday, Sept. 25 (for more information on both events, go to salesianum.org).

Montero first took the field as Sallies coach in 1956 after stints at Washington College and Kings College. He replaced another Hall-of-Fame coach, the late, great Fr. Buzzy O’Neill, and the greatest era of Salesianum football began. In 10 years, Montero’s teams went 70-10-3 and had four undefeated seasons, including winning streaks of 29 and 26 games, and Montero was named national Catholic coach of the year in 1964. He left Sallies after the 1965 season to become an assistant coach at the University of Maryland, where he recruited an unknown kid from McKean High by the name of Randy White.

I met Dim Montero several times, although I certainly didn’t know him. But my father, the late Charles Noonan (’34), was good friends with Dim and it was a proud moment for our family when both of them were posthumously inducted into the Salesianum School Hall of Fame in 2004. But whenever I was around Mr. Montero, I was always struck by how quiet and unassuming he was despite the hard-hitting way his team played on the field.

And watching his team play was a big part of my childhood in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when it seemed like half the team was named Dunkleberger. My brothers and I went to most all the home games with our father and we would listen to the immortal Bill Pheiffer broadcast their games on WDEL radio when the Sals were on the road. In a long career as a beat writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles, I covered hundreds of NFL games – including five Super Bowls – in every famous stadium in the country, but, to me, football will always mean Friday nights at Baynard Stadium, with the band playing “When the Sals Go Marching In’’ as the team runs through the goal posts before yet another victory over North Catholic or St. John’s of Washington or our biggest rival at the time, Baltimore Poly.

There was an electric atmosphere at Baynard Stadium in those days as fans packed the place to watch the Sals, and they almost never lost. But even that wasn’t Dim Montero’s real legacy. Even though his list of accomplishments is impressive and even unprecedented, it doesn’t show the statistic that really says what Dim Montero was all about– the number of boys that he helped turn into men.

Montero died in 1980 at the age of 62, and his fuzzy-cheeked boys of autumn are now gray-haired (at least the ones who still have hair) men in their 60s and 70s, most of them grandparents and retired. And their Golden Years are enhanced because they can look back on their careers at Salesianum and know they were part of a special era and were led by a special man.

 

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18 Comments

  • This my Uncle! Thank you for honoring him. We love reading article about him and how he impacted so many! My family really appreciates it..Thank you again!

  • My Dad. Earl Smith…
    A fellow football coach, loved sharing Mr. Montero stories with us…he was a legend for sure…and a dear and respected friend of my Dad’s. Wonderful tribute to him…and well deserved!

  • He was my uncle too. Love hearing all about Uncle Dim. I remember how proud my Grandmother was of him and all her children. I remember her face lighting up when he came to visit her at our home where she lived with our family. Time flys. I remember Mr Smith too. He was the Principal at my high school. Wow, I can’t be that old! Am so blessed to have been born into the family God gave me. They are good people.

  • Dim was also my Uncle. He passed away when I was in my early teens. I knew him but not as well as I wish I had. As years went by I grew to know Uncle Dim very well. My father Francis “Bulldog” Montero would sit me down and tell me story’s about his brother. Anytime I would introduce myself to someone and they heard the last name they would ask me if I was Dim’s boy. I would tell them he was my Uncle and they would say you must be Bulldog’s son. These individuals would always tell me That Uncle Dim was the kindest most caring person they had ever met but when he walked onto the football field he was a no nonsense tough individual and if you didn’t give 100% in practice Uncle Dim would be the scariest person you ever met but off the field he would give you the shirt off of his back. Nobody ever had a bad word to say about him. My favorite story was told to me by a man named Lou who played High School ball at Salesianum. Lou told me that during practice one day they were working on running plays to get the ball in the end zone from inside the ten yard line. Apparently it wasn’t going well. He told me that Uncle Dim took the ball and told the entire team to line up four deep and he would show them how to do it. Lou said my Uncle came at them, ran over them and turned around in the end zone and said “that’s how it’s done!” Lou then told me after he was able to get up he felt like he wanted to walk off the field and join the band. He then laughed and told me he was kidding and that Uncle Dim played a huge part in his life teaching him how to be a man. I heard that same statement from many people. Even from Randy White. I am proud to be able to say that Dim Montero was my Uncle. I wish I could be half the man that he was.

  • Hi Kevin. I wanted to thank you for the beautiful tribute that you wrote for my dad. You certainly have a gift for capturing the essence of your subject. I was so moved by your writing, especially knowing that your own father, the late Charles Noonan, was a tremendous athlete at Salesianum playing both football and basketball and a man who had made a profound sacrifice for our country.

    Like you, I have many good memories of those years when Dim coached at Salesianum between the mid 1950’s-1960s. My mom would gather my brother, sister and me during those years that Salesianum had a home game at Baynard Stadium and off we went rushing toward the bright lights of the stadium. As a young child,I remember my mother urging us not to let go of each other’s hands as we were hurrying into the stadium along with everyone else. Soon we were seated in the stands, clutching our programs and taking in all of the excitement of the lights, people talking in excited tones, the band playing and then of course, the emergence of those extremely talented, hard working, remarkable young football players. I still remember some of their names, like Ted Kempski, Tommy Hall, Harry Manelski, Don Burawski, John Scholato, Harry Alexander, Jim and Joe Frebery,Jack Holloway, Paul Dunkleberger, Dan Mulvena, Corky Marge, Al Hollis, Earle Roles, the Bartholomew Brothers, Franny Coleman, Jimmy Roles, Tom Silicato and many others. They were amazing to watch!!! We cheered them all on and I knew, even then, that something remarkable was happening on that field.

    Beyond all of Dim’s awards and accomplishments, what made my dad special, I feel, was his capacity for kindness and genuine caring toward others. He was always extending a hand to help someone and he was always there for me throughout my life. He taught me much about love, caring, compassion and what is important in life. And he taught all that by example as his parents, the late Catherine and Samuel Montero had taught him.

  • Hi Kevin,
    Well you hit it right on the button, Dim was a Great coach and a Great human being. Never said anything bad in front of me or my family…he came to my house a couple of times when my kid brother Denny was playing for him. Quiet but always had a nice smile on his face, (except when he was coacing an active game)..I have a lot of photos of Sallies players over the years, thought you might like seeing some and show some to the guys at the dedication. Normally I would send them thru email, so I’ll give you a URL and you can click it on and pick up the photos…I have one or two more of Dim but so far I can’t find them but I will…click this on: https://www.facebook.com/175817509117054/photos/pb.175817509117054.-2207520000.1441669576./1020660291299434/?type=3&theater
    Good Luck with the Dedication…saw many a game at Baynard…a few Baltimore Poly games…
    Take care…Bob LaFazia…Wilmington High, class of 1951
    PS, if you don’t mide, send me a email

  • Good article Kevin. Dim and my father were best friends from childhood and lived down the street from us in Mc Daniel Crest. Very quiet and unassuming, solid guy !

  • Hey Kevin. I vividly remember going to the restaurant in Fairfax Shopping Center with your brother Mark, and your Dad and Dim were having lunch there — my father owned the hardware store a couple doors down, then-called Noonan Brothers and now Fairfax Hardware, and he and Dim also used to have lunch there together frequently.

    Mark and I sat with them in a booth for an hour and Dim told us story after story about my old man who, like Dim, was a great athlete at Sallies. It was a great time, one of many I had with Mark, and needless to say I still miss him very much.

    Thanks for reading ….

  • Dim Montero was a quiet, soft spoken “giant” of an individual who taught me how to achieve success in life by being a tough, no nonsense high school football coach who had a very gentle side. He disciplined on the field without screaming and yelling. You knew when “Coach Montero” was not happy with your or someone else’s performance. He was known to throw a clipboard or two. I played football for Coach Montero as a sophomore and played for Coach Wayne Allen my junior and senior years. Coach Montero dropped me from varsity to junior varsity in a way that was difficult to take at the time. It was probably one of the most profound lessons of life that I had to endure as a young man. The flip side was that it made me more determined than ever to achieve the success that I wanted on the football field. From working my way back to varsity to ultimately achieving all state status as a senior player I attribute to Coach Montero. However, the real gift that he gave me, and many other young men, was how to endure life’s failures in order to attain and enjoy life’s success. I feel very lucky to have crossed paths with Coach Montero in my life.

  • FATHER O’NEIll was my coach for 3 years and I learned alot from him but when Dim became coach I felt much better on the field. DIm always helped everyone and he made you feel like you were helpng the team. J.K.

  • Buster was probably the very best and toughest lineman at Sallies in the 1950’s. Should have been All State. Manelski would have been sacked 12 times a game with the one and only “Buster”. Number 66, I think.

    Way to go Buster and George Kelly

  • I must acknowledge that Dim taught Buster how to rush the passer. Buster was a killer in the Malvern Prep game at the Stadium. Buster also took apart the entire Howard High line every Thanksgiving. My gosh, he was tough and nimble on his feet.

    Buster, send me an email at wmcmahon1@suddenlink.net would love to hear from you.