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.