The Obit For John Bezemes

John Bezemes, Peabody teacher, coach, and athletic director; at 90 March 11, 2011

On Nov. 28, 1942, at Fenway Park, Holy Cross senior John Bezemes ran for three touchdowns, passed for another, and was the star of the Crusaders’ 55-12 upset over previously undefeated Boston College, the top-ranked football team in the nation.

Mr. Bezemes ended Boston College’s hopes for a national championship that day, but he also altered the fortunes of the stunned Boston College players in a positive way. He told the story himself in a 1987 Globe article:

“It was unbelievable what we did to BC. We were surprised that we did it so easily. We controlled the ball 75 percent of the time. But I look at the outcome as an act of God. Their players didn’t bother to show up for a party held at the Cocoanut Grove night club in Boston. It probably saved their lives. A fire broke out there that night and left 492 people dead.’’

Mr. Bezemes, who went on to play professional football with the Philadelphia Eagles, and later returned to Peabody High School as a teacher, coach, and athletic director, died of heart failure Feb. 27 at Lahey Clinic in Peabody. He was 90.

“John was a great individual and a gentleman, soft-spoken, proud, dedicated, and quietly competitive,’’ said former Major League pitcher John Tudor, whom Mr. Bezemes coached at Peabody High. “He gave me the opportunity to play my senior year and made me hungry enough to want to succeed at a higher level.’’

Mr. Bezemes, a Holy Cross Athletic Hall of Fame inductee, was also an inaugural inductee to the Peabody High Hall of Fame. At Peabody High, he starred in football, track, basketball, and baseball.

Tom Alberghini, Mr. Bezemes’ classmate and teammate in high school and college, said his friend “had a calmness about him that impressed all of us. He had all the moves athletically, and he played his greatest game that day at Fenway Park.’’

Alberghini said Mr. Bezemes was so talented a baseball player and track star at Peabody that Bill Seeglitz, who coached both sports, used to pull him out of baseball practice to run the dash.

“You could do that back then,’’ Alberghini said. “John was a great player, but he never boasted about his accomplishments.’’

At Holy Cross, Mr. Bezemes was an All-East selection in 1942 for football and was chosen to play in the Blue-Gray Classic in Montgomery, Ala. He also played on a Crusaders’ baseball team that won 25 of 30 games. He graduated in 1943 with a bachelor’s degree in education.

An Army veteran of World War II who attained the rank of sergeant, Mr. Bezemes, after his professional sports career ended, returned to Peabody High, where he taught world geography, coached varsity football and baseball, and later served as athletic director. The high school’s baseball field is named for him.