PLAINVILLE — Defenders were barred from running across the center line, players could only dribble once and competed as the Blue Angels instead of the Devils, but Plainville’s first female basketball team was determined to show they couldn’t be told what not to do.
“It was something they thought the girls shouldn’t be playing at the time. They thought it was too rough for girls,” said Gladdis Pascus, who was inducted into Plainville’s Sports Hall of Fame alongside eight other Angels on Oct. 6.
“We were too ‘delicate’ to play the way they play today, supposedly,” said fellow Angel Ann O’Brian Bridgeman, adding that the UConn women’s basketball team has “come so far.”
The Blue Angels were one of a handful of women’s teams for their short run in the mid 1940s. They played a few games against Farmington, Bristol and the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, but they largely split into teams of six and played themselves.
“It was wonderful...we had a real camaraderie,” said Wanda Martin.
“Because of what you did, it made it easier for me,” said Erin Soli, a 2001 Plainville high graduate who was also inducted for her wrestling achievements. “It’s still not 100 percent there today, but we’ve made some progress.”
The Angels’ group induction was one of nine additions to the hall, including the 1958 state champion track team.
Ron Pavano tearfully held up one of the wooden batons they used 60 years ago when he set records in the 60, 100 and 220 yard dashes.
The team got plenty of practice together. Many of them would start on the football team in the fall, switch to basketball in the winter and continue onto the track team in the spring. Steve Vargo said it was a close group with plenty of competition and friendship.
“I think sports is a builder,” he said. “It was a great experience for me.”
“Half the town of Plainville is here...it’s like a reunion,” said Roger Roy, a track team member. Growing up he said none of them expected to ever be recognized for their achievements, they were too focused on winning the next game. The opportunity to look back on his childhood has made him appreciate growing up in Plainville.
Other inductees included local baseball legends John Andros, Scott Redman, Nicholas Macellaro and John Buckler. Track runner and football captain Lawrence Amara was recognized for setting a 34-year record of 278 carries in a season and being one of the fastest sprinters of his era. Like many of the inductees Saturday, James Graney mastered many sports and became captain of the football, basketball and track team in his senior year.
The yearly distinguished service award went to Ken Gnazzo for his support of many of the town’s youth athletic programs through Gnazzo Food Center’s involvement in little league or personal encouragement of players and their families.