Remembrance: Cersosimo the voice of generations of Peabody sports

·6 min read

Jan. 21—It was the eve of Peabody High's 1990 Thanksgiving football showdown with Saugus, where a win would deliver a Division 1 Super Bowl berth. The game needed something to get the crowd going and add some energy to this potentially historic matchup.

Enter Lou Cersosimo.

As the legend goes, Cersosimo hatched a plan to trailer a titanic bull statue — nearly 20 feet fall — from a downtown butchery to the high school stadium. The fans went bananas, the Tanners prevailed, and then went on to win their first Super Bowl championship the following weekend.

"That was the ONLY time that bull appeared at a game," recalled Bob Danish, who coached football and lacrosse in Peabody for decades. "Lou was the driving force."

A driving force for Peabody High's athletic program for much of his life, Cersosimo passed away just before Christmas at age 92. Best known to Tanner fans as the voice of football program, he was the play-by-play announcer for Peabody's city cable TV station for more than 30 years.

"I was a huge fan of Lou's," Mayor Ted Bettencourt said. "He was a incredible guy and a huge part of our city. He'll be missed."

To think of the small cathode ray tube monitors Cersosimo started with in 1980 to the high definition computer screens of today is incredible. He could never have conceived of having his calls carried live on YouTube when he started out but his constant presence from bell bottoms to Starter jackets to modern Under Armour unites generations.

For more than a handful of families, Cersosimo's trademark call of "busting tackles" was the soundtrack of games played by both father and son.

In 2018, the Press Box at Veterans Memorial Stadium was named in his honor; that's a credit not only to his work promoting Peabody athletics but also to his valiant service in the United States Marine Corps during the Korean War, because by rule anything named at the high school has to be for a military veteran.

Upon Cersosimo's passing, the lights were left on at the press box overnight as a tribute and flags in the city were flown at half-mast.

Never missed a player's name

From the time then-Mayor Peter Torigian launched Peabody TV in 1980 up until this past Thanksgiving, Cersosimo missed scant few Tanner football games. He relished in calling out the action, making the players feel as if they were on a Monday Night Football broadcast with his professionalism and poise.

"Lou was fastidious that no player would ever be criticized. We'd only compliment the good in each one," said Mike Smerczynski, one of Cersosimo's many broadcast partners over the years. "He wanted to know everything about every kid ... we'd do research with parents and make sure every player was mentioned on every broadcast, whether it was for the game or good grades or community service."

Though he interviewed and called the action of many future Hall of Famers and champions over the years, Cersosimo had the utmost respect for every player that suited up. If a game turned out to be one-sided in the late stages, he made sure the subs and young players got their moment in the sun on the broadcast.

"Every game, he'd ask if me if there were any updates to the roster, just in case," Danish said. "He didn't ever want to miss a player's name."

Though best known for football, there weren't many sports Cersosimo didn't broadcast for Peabody at one time or another. He did many boys and girls basketball games, with some memorable examples being Mayor Bettencourt's team upsetting Salem on the road in the early 1990s, and the glory days of the Tanner girls basketball program throughout the 1980s and 90s.

"I adored Lou," said Jane Heil, Peabody High's retired Hall of Fame girls basketball coach who is among the state's all-time leaders in wins with 528.

"He went above and beyond to make sure our games were covered and he'd bring me a tape or DVD of the game, usually the next day. He truly loved supporting the teams, and behind the microphone he was always positive.

"He was a very special person and treated us like we were special, too."

Whether it was in the fall, winter or a baseball game in the spring, Cersosimo had many broadcast partners. Usually it was a rotating cast of former coaches or player's fathers. One of his long-time colleagues was Peabody TV facilities coordinator Don Murphy, usually working as a cameraman.

"We'd go to every football game no matter where it was held," Murphy recalled. "He had a great mind for the game, knew every player and coach. No matter how bad the weather was, he would always go on the field for a pregame interview."

A complete citizen

Occasionally, Cersosimo would reach beyond his beloved Tanners. During the 2010 season when St. John's Prep football player Jared Coppola was injured and rehabbing down in Atlanta, Cersosimo and Smerczynski found a way to beam the final Eagles home game down to his room at the Shepard Center so he could watch his other two triplet brothers play live.

"It took a multimedia truck, probably 15 volunteers wiring all across campus to connect for live video and audio. Lou and PAT sprung into action," Smerczynski said. "His mom was on the cell phone, and as the team was coming down the hill I remember she yelled 'He can see his brother!' There wasn't a dry eye in the house."

Far from just a play-by-play man, Cersosimo took part in the weekly "Press Box" show on Peabody TV highlighting local athletes for years.

Best described as a complete citizen, he served on Peabody's City Council for 26 years and later hosted "Inside Peabody" on the channel, interviewing local luminaries and covering all the city's happenings. He also attended Peabody High's Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremonies and interviewed every new inductee with sharp and unique questions.

A father of three and grandfather of six, Cersosimo loved playing poker in this spare time and usually made the final table when he found a Texas Hold 'Em tournament. Even into his 90's, his passion and energy never waned.

"He always helped he carry the video equipment ... he wouldn't let me say no," Murphy said. "In life, everyone knew Lou and everyone respected him."

"So many Peabody athletes and coaches will forever be indebted to Lou for his commitment, dedication love and support," Heil added.

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