Jack Concannon, South Boston judge started as star ballplayer
Jack Concannon might have been the only judge in Boston history whose legal career could be traced to being hit by a pitch in a minor league baseball game.
Playing for a Boston Braves farm team, Judge Concannon “took out the catcher sliding into home,’’ said his son Mark of Ridgewood, N.J.
“The next time he was up to bat, the pitcher threw the ball and broke his arm,’’ his son said. “When he came home to heal, my grandfather said he had to get an education. My understanding is that he was admitted to Boston University law school the day he went in to talk to them.’’
Judge Concannon, a former first justice at South Boston District Court and previously the longtime clerk of courts for Norfolk County, died of pneumonia Saturday in Cape Cod Hospital. He was 82, lived in Harwich Port, and formerly lived in Braintree and Milton.
“He was just a terrific man to work for,’’ said Patrick J. Hurley, first justice at Hingham District Court and formerly an assistant to Judge Concannon in the Norfolk clerk of courts office. “He was decent, committed, and just enjoyed the work of the court. I think he was able to handle a lot of difficult problems with grace and dignity.’’
Even when he was long past prime playing days and serving as clerk of courts, however, Judge Concannon retained the skills of a polished infielder who helped lead his team at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester to the national collegiate baseball championship in 1952.
“He was a terrific athlete,’’ Hurley said, adding with a laugh: “I remember going to play softball one time with his friends. I took one look at the skill level and decided I was a spectator.’’
Appointed to the bench in 1982 by Governor Edward J. King, Judge Concannon first served as a judge in Boston Juvenile Court. Several months later, King nominated him to become an associate justice in South Boston District Court.
“He was an excellent judge,’’ said John E. Fenton Jr., distinguished professor of law and former dean of Suffolk University Law School and a former chief justice for administration and management of the Trial Court of Massachusetts.
“He was very well-respected by all of his peers,’’ Fenton said. “He had an excellent, appropriate temperament, and lawyers who appeared before him always got a fair hearing.’’
Judge Concannon also could be a stern judge, said his son Patrick of Scituate, and repeat offenders knew to beware.
“He would say to people, ‘Next time I see you, bring your toothbrush,’ ’’ Patrick said. “In other words, If you come back before me, you’re going to spend some time in jail.’’
Born in Boston, John P. Concannon was the oldest of four children and grew up in the Neponset section of Dorchester.
His father also had played minor league baseball, but left to work for New England Telephone, where he could make more money as a supervisor. He had baseball hopes for his only son, however.
“My father and his sisters would tell stories about how my grandfather would rally kids in Dorchester to shag balls he was pitching to my father,’’ Mark said. “He grew up playing ball. It was a big focus and a love of my grandfather, and he really believed strongly that baseball gave him a lot of opportunities.’’
Judge Concannon graduated in 1947 from Boston College High School and spent a year in Tilton, N.H., at the Tilton School, a private college preparatory school.
At Holy Cross, he played shortstop for the team’s longtime coach Jack Barry, a former shortstop for the
“He was the captain, not cocaptain,’’ said Ron Perry, special assistant to the president of Holy Cross and the college’s former athletic director. “Jack Barry had a lot of confidence in him.’’
Perry was a sophomore on the 1952 team that won the national collegiate title when Judge Concannon was a senior.
“Jack was a quiet leader who led by example, a real good hitter,’’ Perry said.
At shortstop, where Judge Concannon once fielded 85 consecutive opportunities without an error, “you really didn’t notice all the things he did because he was so automatic,’’ Perry said. “He had a way about him that you just respected, and I think that carried on later in life when he got into the court system and became a judge. He was just a great, great person.’’
Judge Concannon entered the Boston Braves farm team system right after Holy Cross won the title. He played for four seasons, going to law school simultaneously, and graduated from Boston University School of Law in 1955, his last season of minor league ball.
Judge Concannon was inducted into athletic halls of fame at BC High in 1990 and Holy Cross in 2003.
He spent two years in the Army as part of the contract review agency and was a lawyer in Boston before entering politics.
In 1964, he was elected to the Milton School Committee, and a few months later challenged Norfolk Clerk of Courts Willis Neal, a longtime incumbent. Judge Concannon won by about 2,400 votes, becoming the first Democrat to hold the office.
“Baseball opened doors for my dad,’’ Patrick said. “Amateur athletics were covered more back then. At BC High, his team won the city title. He went on to Holy Cross and his team won the college championship. These got some pretty good ink. The reality is that at least on the local level, he was known as a ballplayer, and that helped catapult him, careerwise.’’
Through friends, Judge Concannon met Janice Monahan on Cape Cod.
“Their first date was pretty appropriate,’’ their son Mark said. “It was to a Red Sox game.’’
The couple married in 1969, and Patrick said that by choosing to take his future wife to a baseball game, Judge Concannon “was showing her his world. He was a genuine person, and I think that resonated with her.’’
A funeral Mass was said in West Harwich yesterday for Judge Concannon, who, in addition to his wife and two sons, leaves another son, John of South Boston; two sisters, Patricia of Harwich and Claire O’Connor of Mashpee; and four grand- children.
“Baseball was a big part of him, but in the end, he was a real earnest, caring public servant,’’ Patrick said.
“He was a straight shooter,’’ Hurley said. “What you saw was what you got. There was no agenda and no games. He was dedicated to his work and to the law.’’
Bryan Marquard can be reached at email@example.com.