I haven’t posted any missives about my long-time coach Michael D’Asaro (Senior) for a bit now, and I’ve been holding onto this little tid-bit for some time. So, it’s about time, no?
This film, a small part of a longer reel, was shot by Max Garret at the 1959 NCAA championships held at the Naval Academy. Garret coached at the University of Illinois for 28 years. His collection of fencing films fell to Andy Shaw at the Museum of American Fencing. Andy, in turn, entrusted them to me to get digital transfers made. And so, voila! Fencing film from 1959 – the year I was born!
NYU, coached by Hugo Castello, was a powerhouse at the NCAA’s for many years. Here’s a look at the 1959 squad:
I can’t name everyone in this photo, but Hugo Castello is in the front row, far left, and Michael is right next to him.
However, it was not the year for the Violets as the Naval Academy cleaned house at this competition, taking 1st in all 3 weapons. Turnabout being fair play, as is sometimes said, NYU pulled off the same trick the following year, with Michael taking 1st in sabre. (Keep in mind, the NCAA didn’t hold a women’s championships until 1982. The women have had their own governing body for fencing championships since 1929, the NIWFA – which still holds a separate annual championship.) Michael finished 2nd to Alfonso Morales, who would go on to win the US Nationals twice and was a member of four US Olympic teams. Here’s how they finished in the sabre event:
Mike and Al were also teammates many times, including the 1959 Pan Am games, the 1960 Olympic sabre team (they finished 4th) and both were members of the US Army’s Pentathlon squad that trained in Fort Sam Houston, Texas. (For any New Yorkers, that’s “Hugh-stun” and not “How-stun”. Ok… long story. Not pertinent.)
Here they are during their time in the US Army, as PFC D’Asaro and Lieutenant Morales:
Al in the middle and Michael on the right are caught sabre-clowning with the wife of Ft. Sam’s Lieutenant Colonel of Dentistry. And before you ask, No, I did not make that up.
So, let’s take a look at an old film clip, courtesy of Max Garret via Andy Shaw. I’ve cut it down to just the clips of Michael, as he’s really the only fencer I’ve been able to positively ID. Although to be fair, he made it easy. It would seem to me that Michael knew there was a camera rolling; he’s the only fencer to get his mask off so that his face can be seen on film. Clever guy.