Milford High School graduates shared stories about a favorite teacher, Arthur Ceccarelli, on Facebook this past weekend. Ceccarelli, a history teacher who died last Wednesday at age 82, was a favorite, they said, not just because of his teaching skills, but because as a former Major League baseball player, he immediately grabbed their respect and attention.
A left-handed pitcher, Ceccarelli was originally signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers as an amateur free agent in 1948. Though he compiled a record of 9-18 for his career, Ceccarelli never played a game for the famed franchise in Brooklyn.
According to Baseball-reference.com, Ceccarelli missed two seasons in 1951-52 serving in the United States military. He eventually made his Major League debut on May 3, 1955 pitching for the Kansas City Athletics.
Over the next five years, Ceccarelli pitched for the Kansas City Athletics, Baltimore Orioles and the Chicago Cubs. His final appearance in the majors came on May 17, 1960 with the Chicago Cubs.
He was the only player to make the Major Leagues in the greater New Haven area at that time, and therefore he became a bit of a local celebrity.
“I worked with Art in the history department my first three years,” Cummings said. “He was a gracious man. He was very helpful to me as a rookie teacher. He enjoyed teaching and his students. He would tell baseball stories when asked, but he was usually pretty quiet.”
Now and then Ceccarelli would pull out the baseball card that bore his name, photograph and statistics as a ballplayer, but it wasn’t a regular occurrence, one former student recalled. He didn’t brag about his baseball career, but he didn’t have to. He commanded respect because he gave respect.
Susan Schulte didn’t have Ceccarelli as a teacher, but she said she used to talk to him in the hallway. “He was really funny,” Schulte said. “I’m surprised I remember this, but he had two tie clasps, eyeballs. One was blue and the other one was brown.”
She said Ceccarelli was the kind of teacher who would be in the hallway between classes, talking to students, even if he didn’t have them in class.
Facebook entries recalled Ceccarelli’s time as a history teacher and a driver’s education teacher in the 1980s.
“He used to be a professional baseball player in his younger days and I remember during class he used to make us laugh by being able to pick up something with his feet and being able to jump up and toss it in the garbage, with his feet, like it was a basketball hoop,” said Rose BC. “Great teacher, fair, kind and had a good heart. One of a kind. He’ll be greatly missed.”
Renee Mercaldo Allen remembers having Ceccarelli as her driver’s ed teacher.
“He was always so relaxed sitting next to all the nervous new student drivers,” Allen said. “On one occasion, one of the students in our driving group wasn’t turning sharp enough to avoid jersey barriers on a curve. Mr. Ceccarelli grabbed the wheel so fast. He may have looked relaxed but he was paying attention. He was one of my favorite teachers as well.”
“Great teacher in the classroom,” said Cynthia DeRosa Schulte.
“Sad loss,” said Jim Higginbottom. “Mr. Cecc was my freshman history teacher and driver’s ed instructor. No doubt a long front-runner for best teacher and ally to his students. I’ll always remember his great humor, stories, and humbly discussing his professional baseball career.”
In addition to his wife, Katherine Bonessi Ceccarelli, Ceccarelli is survived by son Richard Ceccarelli, sisters Lorraine Proto, Beverly Ferrie, daughter-in-law Anna Ceccarelli, grandchildren Dante, Vincent, Elizabeth and Brianna Ceccarelli, and a great-grandson Caleb, and other family members. He was predeceased by children Sherri and Gregg, sister Emily Giamo, brothers Daniel and Robert, and a niece, Carolyn Limosani.
A memorial mass and celebration of his life will take place Saturday, July 21, at 10 a.m. at Holy Infant Church on Racebrook Road in Orange. There will be no hours for visitation and burial will be private.
Assistant Editor Ralph Petitti contributed to this article.