Monday, September 10, 2012

Angel Cruz

South Bronx, NYC-49 Park
141 between Willis & Alexander 
August 2012                                                   
                                            

                              WHERE IS ANGEL "MONCHITO" CRUZ?

On a late summer day, a playground full of friends, former foes and family assembled at 49 Park
to celebrate the life and memory of a South Bronx Legend.  Many of the people in this park
haven't seen one another since the 1970's, where this very location was one of the historic sites
of the City Wide Basketball Tournament, the evolution of what is known today as Hip-Hop, and
the athletic development of one the neighborhood's most formidable talents...Angel Cruz aka
Monchito.  Angel Cruz. Monch. Play maker. Scorer. Showman. Ball-Handler. Fast. Deceptive
Hops [Let's just call it hang time]...with Exceptional Balance and Body Control...in the air. Great
Defender. And, as they say... [Thanks Gabby] "He had the Heart of a Lion!"


       ANGEL CRUZ aka ANGELO CRUZ...IN ACTION!
                                                                   



     THE FELLAS-PATTERSON, MOTT HAVEN, MITCHELL, MILLBROOK, HARLEM


Angel was Fast!...He grew up strong willed, and learned to play ball on the competitive outdoor
courts of Patterson Projects, Bronx, NY.  At a very young age he displayed a command of
the game...He and a handful of ballas from the block quickly became the elite players for our age-
group [12 & under] This crew included The Doward brothers, Clifford Williams, James Francis,
Gary Green [and anyone else on the block with that last name], Nappy Napolitano, Ron Felder,
Kevin Miller, Hank Edwards, Mike Howard, Nate Whyte, Walter Campbell, George "Pretty Boy"
Torres, Carmello Rosa, Phillip Kidd and eventually some guy from "Down-South" named Cedric
Dew.  A few years later Greg "Oil" Bailey, David "Fat Boy" Jones, Tom "The Show" Singleton,
and Mike "Silk" Edwards would emerge on the scene.

They were off the block, and traveling to a far, far away, distant land...over the bridge...to some
place called Harlem.  They returned with jerseys, trophies and a confidence, a swagger, we had
never witnessed before.  Even among the cream of the crop...Monch was a stand-out. He kept
improving.  Every time I saw him, or played against him, he had new tricks in his arsenal.  For
years other young ballas on the block tried to catch-up to him...We Never Did...Like I said,
"Angel was Fast!"   [Many may not know that Angel was on the track team at Clark JHS].

In the 1970's..the mere mention of his name playing somewhere could pack a gym or fill a
playground with friends, family and fans of the game...Citywide, Boys of Yesteryear, Whitney M.
Young, PS 18, Mitchell Gym, Patterson Square Garden, PSAL, The National Hispanic League,
Clark Park, St Mary's Gym and Park, etc, etc... Some of the coaches he played for as a child
and teen...Mr. Ollie Edinboro, Mr. Cooper, Mr. Bill Hill, and Mr. Nate "Tiny" Archibald.
His game? Undeniable.  His reputation? By the time he was 15, he was already known around
NYC.  His legend? Internationally known.  His current whereabouts? Unknown.  Angel Cruz has
been a missing person since 1998. We pray for his family.  We pray for Angel Cruz.  We pray for
answers to the unanswered question...Where is Angel Cruz?

             BANNER AT ANGEL CRUZ DAY 2012













                                                                  NOEMI CRUZ INTERVIEW: NYDLBALL
















Today's game was a fun one, old-timers mixed with some of their grown children on the
court with them.  It was a little rowdy out there...A little rough.  On the court and on the
sidelines.  Just the way we like it...Just like old times.  The fans.  The hecklers.  The wise-
cracks!  The comedy.  Brutal commentary and critiques on the mic, by way of Sidney
"Sinbad" Willis...No one within site was safe from commentary.  It didn't matter if you
were on or off the court...In or out of the game.  That's the way it was and that's the way
it is.  Everyone was there.The family. The ladies.  Former ball-players and street-ballas
[of all types] from another era...lined the sidelines...the football players, the ex-hustlers,
the guys who were book smart, the pool players, the skeelzy kings, the stickball players,
the guys who were nice with their hands, the musicians.  We even have a movie star from
our block!  Luis A. Ramos, star of television and big screen, trying to keep a low profile
in the park...My man Luis...We're proud of you...The only blue shirt in the white team's
photo...Holding a bullhorn...Standing next to a ref...Great way to hide.

Everyone was there...ex-girlfriends, ex-crushes, future crushes, future wives...the reformed,
the religious, and the redeemed were there...shouting and screaming with every loud bounce
of the ball. Both sides giving the single, lone, courageous ref the MFing business...It was just
like old times...with a little bit of gray hair added in there...with a couple of big stomachs and
some worn out ace bandages...Don't be fooled...Don't get it twisted...Corky, Beaver, Richie,
Spanish Doc, Tom, and KJ can still get it on. Phillip Kidd was the Honorary Grand Mashall,
for the day, but let's get him some shorts and a jock-strap for next year.

Back in the days you played with, and for your block. Your hood...Your project!! You
represented your block. Now on your block, you represented your building...[sometimes
even your floor] Now seriously, what building in Patterson had more serious ballplayers
than 281 E. 143 St?  Artie Green, Allen Jones, Big Gus Palmer, Andre Green, Kevin Miller,
Big Bob Jones, Gerald Green, Tito Matos, Derek Robinson, Chris Green...and...Angel Cruz!  

With that said, you always represented your family, and you may go an entire
lifetime of knowing someone from another block, project, or hood and never
be their team-mate!  Never.  And that's the way it was and that's the way it is. 

A few things have changed over the years...The "Blue Team" had the "Dynamic Duo" of
Gary and Richie from Mitchell Projects playing alongside Beaver and Victor from the
Patterson.  Hmm...that's perculiar.  Corky Ortiz and the family from El Barrio were playing
alongside "Softball Ken" from Mott Haven...that's different. The "White Team" had my man
Sherwood Showboat starting with Nisy English and her son [Who Has Game] alongside
Big Gil from Spanish Harlem, and Kelvin "KJ" Jones from the Valley...Seems like he only
three people missing from this celebration was Bimbo, Spanky, and Allen Jones!   And get
this!...They had Drew Doward, and Tom Singleton, coming off the bench as assitant coaches,
or team managers, or cheerleaders or something!  Talking about they're gonna start training
to play in next year's game!  Sounds like an annual event to me.

Well...it looks like we've all grown up...we've matured.  Looks like a community united. 
Looks like for one day...Didn't matter what building, or block you came from.
Monch brought us all together.
Everyone in this park was touched by Angel's presence as a classmate, 
a neighbor or by his larger than life hoop legend...
Everyone in this park wish him and his family well...and still, even in his current absence...
Monch can still pack a playground with friends, former foes, and family.
Peace and Blessings...Lahh Woods

Any information about the whereabouts, or personal memories, of Angel Cruz please
contact Noemi Cruz @ Friends of Angel Monchito Cruz @ Facebook.com

2 comments:

  1. Props. Monchito, a legend.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Rosalind Cresten-WillisJuly 25, 2013 at 4:50 AM

    Wow.... it's been years, but if I remember correctly Monchito was playing ball in PR.... they love him there... he was a hero there....and that was the last I heard anything about him.....

    ReplyDelete