A Special thanks to Joe Lombardi, from The Journal News who kindly offered us the use of his articles to encapsulate our memories of Charlie Murphy.
Remembering Mr. Murph
Through the years, Charlie Murphy¹s home in Yorktown Heights has been a meeting place for hundreds of players to work on their skills and seek input from alumni who also visited there.
Mr. Murph, co-founder of the Yorktown High lacrosse program and a beloved figure in Yorktown Heights, died in August 2005, at the age of 93. He had dedicated much of his adult life as a role model and friend to Cornhuskers players. Here are there words.
Dominic Fin owes much of his success both on and off the lacrosse field to Charlie Murphy.
“I was trying to explain that to some guys at my office today,” said Fin, an all-American at both Yorktown and Syracuse University who, at 33, is now a domestic equities sales trader in White Plains. “This is huge. This was our lives in Yorktown. Any lacrosse player could come over to his house, sit down and talk. That’s just the way he was. He pretty much gave people better lives through lacrosse.”
Not long after the birth of the varsity program in 1966, Yorktown grew into one of the nation’s premier hotbeds for the sport. Murphy has been credited for much of that growth.
Paul Carcaterra, Yorktown¹s all-time leading goal scorer, said he took the bus straight from school to Murphy¹s house when in elementary and middle school.
“I basically lived up there while I was growing up,” said Carcaterra, now an elementary school teacher in the Bedford Central School District. “I would be confident to say he touched more lives from a sports standpoint than any person in Section 1 history, but in addition to that, he also taught life lessons.”
Matthias McCall, an all-America attackman at Yorktown this spring, said: “He’s just someone who was always there who would listen and give you advice.”
“He was one of the best men in any sport there’s been,” said 1990 Yorktown graduate Dominic Fin, a two-time all-America midfielder for the Cornhuskers and three-time first-team all-American at Syracuse University. “He touched so many lives in a positive way. He will be missed by thousands.”
Fox Lane athletic director Tom Caione said his 28-year-old son, Matt, who was an all-America midfielder at Yorktown and Syracuse, “without question spent more time at Mr. Murphy’s house than mine during his middle school years and a good part of his high school years.”
“I doubt very much if there’s one single individual in any single community in the state that has been more responsible for the success of a program than Mr. Murphy has been with the success of lacrosse at Yorktown,” Caione said.
Since 1965, Charlie Murphy¹s home in Yorktown Heights was a gathering place for hundreds of Yorktown lacrosse players to work on their skills or simply to seek the wisdom of the 93-year-old Murphy, who died of pneumonia on Friday.
So yesterday afternoon in the Yorktown High School cafeteria, Jim Turnbull, the first coach in the history of the program, invited whomever wished to speak about Murphy to do just that.
It was that very “open-door policy” Murphy lived by an irony that wasn’t lost on Gerry Walsh, one of the five head coaches in the program’s history all of whom attended the ceremony and funeral services earlier in the day at the new St. Patrick¹s Church.
“It would have been great to have Charlie here, because this is what he was all about,” said Walsh, who is now the coach at Brewster.
Two large cards made of poster boards assembled nearby at Sports Barn and signed by former Yorktown players and others whose lives were touched by Murphy were on display, along with the Charlie Murphy Cup, which is presented to the winner of the annual game between crosstown rivals Yorktown and Lakeland/Panas. Yorktown¹s main athletic field is also named in Murphy’s honor, and yesterday, the flag there hung at half-staff.
Coaches Bill Tierney of Princeton, Joe Alberici of Army and Chris Bates of Drexel all attended the funeral services, along with a large crowd that included former players from teams as far back as 1965, when the program started with a 15-member club team.
And yesterday was just the culmination of a four-day period in which the fondest memories of Murphy were shared by many former players.
“I made the Empire State Games team going into my junior year, but didn¹t make it going into my senior year,” 1993 Yorktown graduate Paul Carcaterra said. “After I got cut, I went right over to Mr. Murph’s house crying. I thought he would be sympathetic. But instead, he just looked right at me and said, “Work harder and get better”.
Carcaterra went on to score 90 goals in his senior year to finish his career at Yorktown as the school’s all-time leading goal scorer. He later became an all-America midfielder at Syracuse University.
Turnbull said that in Murphy¹s final years, the Yorktown lacrosse community showed their appreciation for Murphy¹s many years of generosity.
“He was a lifelong bachelor, so the Yorktown lacrosse community became his family,” Turnbull said. “And it has supported him the last few years where he’s been in failing health. A lot of people have done a lot for him making dinner and making financial contributions to keep him in that house that has been his home for over 50 years.”
Turnbull was the only member of the Yorktown lacrosse community that spoke about Murphy at the funeral. Turnbull delivered an emotional eulogy in which he said that “even though Murphy was never a teacher or coach, he was a friend, advisor and confidant to generations of Yorktown youth.”
Said Dave Marr, a 1992 graduate who is the current coach of the varsity team: “It’s sad people coming through now won’t be able to experience what those of us did growing up.”
Dominic Fin remembers the first time he visited Charlie Murphy’s house in Yorktown Heights like it was yesterday.
It was 1982, and Fin was 10 years old.
“I had a brand-new lacrosse stick and I brought it with me,” Fin said. “One of the first things he said to me was “I notice you’re shooting high, and your left hand is not too hot either.”
With Murphy prodding him to keep improving his game along the way, Fin went on to become a two-time all-America midfielder for Yorktown’s varsity team and a three-time first-team all-American and Division I midfielder of the year at Syracuse.
And he said he couldn¹t have done it without Murphy, who helped found Yorktown¹s lacrosse program in 1965 and whose home was a meeting place for players to work on their skills and seek input from former players who also visited there.
“He was always in the back of your head,” Fin said. “Mr. Murphy, Mr. Murphy. ... Everyone loved this guy. When Yorktown won the state title two years ago, I remember thinking how many great players have gone through this program and how many lives he’s touched. He was 93 and lived a great life.”
As a lifelong bachelor with no offspring, the Yorktown lacrosse community in effect became Murphy¹s unofficial family.
“Our lives would be much different if it wasn¹t for him,” said Yorktown’s current coach, Dave Marr, a 1992 Yorktown graduate who was an all-America attackman for both the Cornhuskers and Johns Hopkins. “My life is based around lacrosse. The job I have now, the college I went to were all based on lacrosse. A lot of people wouldn’t have done what we’ve done if it weren’t for him.”
Neither would Yorktown’s program, which has produced 25 sectional titles the last 26 years and six state championships.
“He is certainly the one continuing force all the way through,” Turnbull said. “He’s always been there. Generation upon generation of kids have gone to his house, and some of them come back with their kids now.”
For many Yorktown players, the tradition of visiting Murphy’s house was handed down from an older brother.
“I was probably in the fifth grade the first time I went,” said 2005 Yorktown graduate Matthias McCall, an all-America attackman who is attending the University of North Carolina. “My oldest brother Mike took me there for the first time. It was just amazing.”
Murphy’s influence also helped brothers Paul and Brian Carcaterra reach the highest level of collegiate lacrosse. Paul, a 1993 Yorktown graduate, was an all-American at Syracuse. Brian, a 1995 Yorktown grad, was an all-American at Johns Hopkins.
“Mr. Murph was a shining light in all of our lives,” Brian Carcaterra said. “He was a tremendous motivator, a wonderful instructor of the game and a man who believed in doing things the right way. He constantly pushed all of his (Yorktown players) to be the very best, and disciplined us when we were at our very worst.”
“He treated us all with the greatest respect and didn¹t care whether you were 9, 19 or 55. He simply felt that if your intentions were right and you were respectful towards him and the people that shared his home, you would be all right in his book.”
“We players would have never been able to accomplish what we did without him.”
"It's impossible to think of Yorktown lacrosse without him," said Andrew McElduff, a 2002 Yorktown graduate who is now starring at the University of North Carolina. "Mr. Murph was not only a great friend to so many of us, he was a mentor."
Close to 300 mourners filled St. Patrick's Church on Monday, many of them former high school and college All-Americans, to pay homage to Murphy, who is universally credited as the driving force behind lifting Yorktown High School lacrosse to a national powerhouse.
In the past 26 years, Yorktown has won 25 Section I championships and six state titles. Many of its graduates earn scholarships to the finest universities with lacrosse programs.
"Charlie was at his happiest when his house was full and the team was winning," said former Husker Denis Lambert, a 1978 graduate, who called the home "the central meeting place in Yorktown."
"For 40 years, Charlie gave and gave, never with the expectation that we give him anything in return," he added.
"He was often profane in his greetings to people," said Turnbull, who had to choke back tears. "He was certainly generous to a fault. But he has been the one constant to the program. There's been five coaches but (only) one Charlie."
A lifelong bachelor, Murphy outlived most of his biological family except for several nieces and nephews.
Players swapped stories and recounted how the Yorktown lacrosse community became Murphy's family.
Lambert said there was a mystical charm about Murphy, making his house "the place to be" before and after games and parties. Everyone wanted to be in his presence.
"We were his family and it was special," he said.
"My brothers and I used to sneak away from our house on Christmas morning and go to Murph's house, that's how much he meant to us," said Todd McElduff, an assistant coach who starred in the mid-1990s. "He was a great man, a great man."
He is viewed as "the patron saint" of lacrosse for not only launching the Yorktown program, said John Martino, a 1970 graduate and former goalie, but for igniting the sport's popularity in the surrounding area.
Within a few years, seven other area high schools also fielded teams.
"I have no doubt that for many of the teams in the region they can trace their roots back to Charlie Murphy," he said.
Many of his disciples went on to coach in other schools and organizations, including Martino's older brother, Tom, the winning goalie in the first ever Yorktown High School lacrosse game, a 1-0 victory over Trinity Pawling.
Tom Martino helped start the first high school lacrosse programs in Dutchess County, where it is equally popular and has now spread to Ulster County.
"This man touched a lot of lives," said Martino, who credited the program and Murphy's influence to his two sons playing lacrosse. "I'm at the point in my life where the things I learned here affected my life and my sons."
Other former Yorktown players agreed the stellar reputation of the school's program enabled many students to earn scholarships and attend universities that would have otherwise been out of reach.
"I think it's certain to say there are nearly 200 kids that went to play in colleges that they would not have been able to otherwise attend," said Chris Watson, a 2001 graduate.
Andrew McElduff said there are countless individuals who owe their success to Murphy.
"There will never be one person more important and instrumental in molding so many kids, and it's unfortunate for those in the future (they) will not be lucky enough to meet and learn from Mr. Murph," McElduff said.