Representing the town; Andy Meade was a true team player

By John Goralski

Sports Writer

Rifling through an old picture album, Andy Meade brushes past the headlines to point out his teammates in the photos. He brags about them one by one, and the list reads like a Who’s Who of Southington sports.

Of course, he fails to point out that it’s his name that’s scrawled across the the top of the page. He looks puzzled when asked about any all-conference or all-state nominations. Meade was never one to search out the spotlight. Headlines just seemed to find him. Whether he was serving on the town council or on his high school football team, Meade was a natural born leader that was just as happy being a role player as being the star.

“Andy played all three sports—football, basketball, and baseball—and he was good at every one of them,” said former Southington High School coach Joe Orsene. “He was a good athlete and a really nice fellow to begin with. He was a really nice fellow to coach. They really don’t come any better than Andy.”

The town looked much different when Meade was growing up in the 1940s, and sports was a way of life for the young athlete. Southington was a small town, filled with open spaces and small neighborhoods. There were no youth leagues, but Meade battled his neighbors in pick-up games or played basketball and a make-shift baseball game in the YMCA gym.

It wasn’t until Meade was 10 years old that the town finally opened its doors to Little League baseball, and Meade outlasted dozens of hopefuls to earn a spot on one of the Southington four teams.

“At that time, Little League was the only thing going,” he said. “We didn’t have midget football. We didn’t have farm leagues, and we didn’t have anything else. Of course, I played sandlot ball and everything, but it was Little League where I started to come into my own.”

The young Meade quickly rose to the top, hitting .571 in his second year. Over three Little League seasons, Meade averaged over .500 at the plate to earn himself a mention among sports writers as one of the best young players in the state. But Meade was already beginning to show signs of his versatility. In eighth grade, he joined a CYO basketball team at St. Thomas and helped them to the state semifinals. Then came the high school.

Suddenly, Meade had a chance to test his skills against the top athletes in a number of different sports. In all three seasons, Meade threw himself into competition. In all three seasons, he fought his way to the varsity roster. He earned nine varsity letters over three years at the high school, and spent most of his career in the starting lineup.

He earned himself a role as quarterback for the football team. He was a guard for the basketball team, and a pitcher and left fielder in the spring. As a junior, Meade was a crucial part of Southington’s Class B championship in football. That spring, he helped lead the baseball team to the championship game where they lost to Woodrow Wilson in the final game.

“It was a dream for me to get up there and play,” he said. “There was a lot of pride and a lot of fight for the reputation of Southington no matter what sport you played. We were quite well known, and we probably had the best coaches in the state with Jay Fontana, Walt Lozoski, and Joe Orsene. Those coaches were great, and they didn’t pull any punches. They were out to win ball games.”

Meade’s football team in 1954 is considered by many to be the best in Southington’s history. As quarterback in the single-wing offense, Meade was a blocker and runner. The Blue Knights knocked off a pair of Class A schools on their way to a perfect 8-0 record and a Class B title.

“For me, it was more about being a team player than being out there for myself,” he said. “The greatest thing was being a part of that team and going undefeated. Even in our senior season, we did pretty well even though we lost a lot of players. It was a team effort. We were all friends, and everybody played their hardest.”

Meade managed to convert seven extra point plays as a junior in 1954. He didn’t score a single offensive touchdown, but his blocking and leadership helped set up a passing game that was ahead of its time and a running game that dominated Southington’s competition.

“He was an outstanding blocker and an excellent defensive guy,” said Ray Thorpe, the top scorer on the team. “He was a leader. He was level-headed, and he had the respect of everybody. He was the commensurate player, and he could play any position in the backfield. He was the general, and he was a mature guy at a young age.”

As good as Meade was on the offensive side of the ball, it was his defense that helped secure his spot in the center of the lineup. He led the team with three interceptions, including a 60-yard touchdown return during a 60-12 victory over Plainville.

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