The Doc, the Giants and a breath of fresh air

Doc & Dad

Dr. John McGovern, right, and Bruno Benziger celebrate their 50th birthday in 1975.

Last week, the White Plains community bid a fond farewell as we celebrated the life of Dr. John V. McGovern. The Doc was truly a Renaissance man and a charter member of “The Greatest Generation,” the group of Americans that grew up during the Great Depression and fought in World War II.

Dr. McGovern specialized in allergies and immunology, enjoyed singing show tunes and was a licensed pilot who appreciated the fine arts and the opera. Oh yeah, and he also fathered 13 children.

He was a role model for me, like my father, and Bruno Benziger, our Boy Scout troop leader, my uncles Tom and Jimmy, and so many of the men of the previous generation who taught us life lessons and showed us the way, Growing up in White Plains in the 50s and 60s was simply amazing. Those were the days.

I remember the Doc as a healer. When I was a third grader he began treating me for asthma. Weekly shots became bi-monthly, but when I went away to college, the treatments ended.

Dr. McGovern set me on the road to recovery. Along with Dr. John Parrinello, another allergist who treated me in middle age, I eventually grew out of my asthma. .

As a sixth grader back in 1962, I was having particular difficulty breathing. Anyone who has ever suffered with asthma, knows that wheezing feeling, where every breath is painful.

One gray November Sunday, the asthma was squeezing the air out of my lungs. My mother and father wanted to call Dr. McGovern, but I knew he was at the Giants game at Yankee Stadium. In those days, doctors could be paged at sporting events. And they made house calls.

I begged my parents not to call, and they waited until the game ended. The Doc arrived at the house shortly after. He took out his stethoscope, listened to my lungs, and said “this boy has pneumonia. He needs to go to the hospital.”

Shortly after I was admitted to St. Agnes Hospital in White Plains, where I stayed for six days. I recovered, and to this day, nearly 55 years later, knock on wood, I’ve never been hospitalized again.

Oh, by the way, the Giants beat the St. Louis Cardinals 31-28 on that November Sunday in 1962.  That one was for you Doc. Thanks for curing me.

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Hometown Heroes: The Best of White Plains

Former Washington Redskin and Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver Art Monk is the best athlete ever to come out of White Plains.

I was born and raised in White Plains, New York, 27 miles north of midtown Manhattan, the county seat of Westchester, famous for a Revolutionary War skirmish against the British in 1776. The oldest of four, I lived within walking distance of 11 first cousins, my grandparents and dozens of friends. It was a great place to grow up.

Of all the athletes to come out of White Plains, Art Monk was undoubtedly the best. Monk, the wide receiver who played most of his career with the Washington Redskins, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last year,

A product of White Plains High School and Syracuse University, Monk was drafted in the first round of the 1980 NFL draft by the Redskins. During his 14 years in Washington, the Redskins won three Super Bowls. Monk’s 940 career receptions ranks eight on the all-time NFL list.

Monk’s best season was 1984, when had led the league with 106 receptions, at that time an NFL record. The three-time Pro Bowler finished his career with 68 touchdowns and 12,271 yards receiving.

Here is the SportsLifer list:

The Top 10 Best Athletes from White Plains

 1. Art Monk — In addition to the above, he is also a distant relative of jazz pioneer Thelonious Monk

2. Larry James — A double medalist at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, James won a gold medal running the third leg on the US 4x400m relay team. That team set a world record of 2:56.16 seconds that lasted until 1992. James, left, handing off to Lee Evans, also won a silver medal in the 400m at the Mexico City games. As a collegian at Villanova University, James won the NCAA 440-yard title in 1970, and three indoor crowns at that distance in 1968, 1969 and 1970.

3. Dick Nolan — Joined the New York Giants as a defensive back in 1954 after a collegiate career at Maryland. A member of the 1956 Giants team that won the NFL championship, he had 28 interceptions in a nine-year career, including six in his rookie season. Later went on to coach the 49ers and Saints.

4. Jim Turnesa — One of seven famous golfing brothers, Jim was the only one to win a major championship, the 1952 PGA Championship, beating Chick Harbert 1-up in the match-play final. He was also a member of the 1953 Ryder Cup team.

5. Bob Hyland — Born and raised in White Plains and a graduate of Archbishop Stepinac High School, Hyland was an All-America offensive lineman at Boston College. He was drafted in the first round (ninth overall) by the Packers in 1967, and was a member of Green Bay’s second Super Bowl champion in his rookie season. Hyland played for four teams during his 11-year NFL career. His popular White Plains establishment, The Sports Page, was one of America’s first sports bars.

6. Sal Yvars — A catcher with the New York Giants and later the St. Louis Cardinals, he played eight years in the majors from 1947 to 1954. A .244 career hitter, Yvars best year was 1951 when he hit .317 for the Giants, who win the National League pennant on Bobby Thomson’s miracle home run.

7. Mal Graham — A first-round draft pick of the Celtics in 1967, this NYU product played two seasons and won two titles with Boston. Graham, pictured top row, right, with the 1968-69 Celtics, averaged 4.7 points per game. He is currently a judge with the Massachusetts Court of Appeals.

8. Jay Saldi — Tight end, he played his college ball at South Carolina before going to the Dallas Cowboys in 1976. Saldi played for seven seasons with Dallas, and was a member of the Cowboys team that won Super Bowl XII. His best year was 1980, when he had 25 receptions for 311 yards. He wound up his nine-year career with the Chicago Bears.

9. Marty Conlon –  A Stepinac graduate who later played at Providence College, Conlon played with seven different teams in a nine-year NBA career.The 6-10 center averaged 6.5 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.

10. Willie Turnesa — Another of the famous Turnesa brothers and a graduate of Holy Cross College, Willie won U.S. Amateur titles in 1938 and 1948 and the British Amateur in 1947.

White Plains Reserves

Eric Ogbogu – Graduated from Maryland in 1998 and played seven seasons with the Jets, Bengals and Cowboys as a defensive end.

Art Schult — A reserve outfielder with the 1953 Yankee squad that won a fifth straight World Series. Schult hit .264 lifetime in a career that spanned five years and four different teams.

Channing Frye — Born in White Plains, his family later moved to Arizona, Frye was a top draft pick of the New York Knicks in 2005 and averaged a career best 12.5 points a game as a rookie. The forward-center now plays for the Portland Trail Blazers.

Grover “Deacon” Jones — Not to be confused with the NFL Hall of Fame defensive end, Jones joined the Chicago White Sox in 1962. The first baseman played three years and posted a .286 lifetime batting average.