The Zuni Athletic Association sponsored semi-pro sports teams during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. In 1951 the Zuni A.A. provided a $150 athletic scholarship to the College of South Jersey, which became the Camden campus of Rutgers University.
The picture below is of the Zuni A.A. Indians semi-pro football team, circa late 1940's. In those years the club house was at 700-702 South 4th Street, on South 4th between Avon Street and West Street, above Celani Brothers grocery warehouse and next to the Italian Bocce Club. Zuni utilized the second and third floors, the second containing a workout gym. Through the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s home fields were at Broadway and Everett and at Camden High School's fields.
Retired New Jersey State Supreme Court Justice Richard Hyland, born and raised in Camden, recalls watching the team in the 1950s:
Before the NFL and TV took over Sunday afternoons we watched from high school bleachers the Zuni A.A. Indians play semi-pro football against teams like the Hammonton Bears. I never could spot a Native-American on the team which was manned mostly by high school stars from South Camden with names ending in a vowel.
As the judge noted, the Zuni club had a distinct Italian-American flavor to it. The club's origins were in the neighborhood around Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Roman Catholic Church, at South 4th and Division Streets, where many of the teams players and coaches lived. As the team's fortunes improved, Zuni went out and recruited top players from outside of Camden, including Palmyra star (and future mayor) John Sacca, and Audubon tackle Joe Malan. Many others played for Zuni over the years including Wally Hussong, Bob DePersia, Kayo Ladik, and Dominic "Doc" Dogianero.
Semi-pro sports were very big in Camden, especially in the years prior to America's entry into World War II. At its peak, the top teams, Zuni being on of them, could draw a couple of thousand people per game. Many towns throughout the Philadelphia, South Jersey, North Jersey and shore areas had their own teams and played against Zuni A.A. Prior to Pearl Harbor, the Zuni club was considered to be one of the top semi-pro football clubs on the East Coast, playing in the Eastern Professional Football Conference. Zuni A.A. won the conference championship in 1941 and in 1942.
teams regularly played against traveling professional teams. In
baseball, Lou Schaub's
Camden Club played against National League clubs visiting Philadelphia
and against Negro League teams. In football, Zuni played the
Philadelphia Eagles in an exhibition game in the late 1930's.
A.A. Football Team - Late 1940s
#19 Joe Elliott - #46 Basil DiCerbo - #24 Raz Marcozzi
- #5 Bob Marini - #13 Flip Giordano - # Jim Leach
#17- Joe Abbott - #27- Tony Liccketto - #1 Ray Marini - #7 Joe Borregine - ? Pete Angelastro
Coach Gabby Odorisio (sitting on bench)
Ozzie Scappa, Assistant Coach - Rocco "Rox" Gimello, Business Manager - Frank DeRenzo also in photo.
RETURN TO CAMDEN'S INTERESTING PEOPLE PAGE
RETURN TO DVRBS.COM HOME PAGE