by Andrew Garda
Sports in Montclair has a storied history, and the various surfaces are no exception.
However, while the exploits on the field have often been well covered each week in the newspaper, how the various fields got their names isn’t as well known by the populace of Montclair.
In honor of the 150th anniversary of the town, here is a look at some of the main sports fields in Montclair and where their names come from.
Home to the Mounties football, girls lacrosse and track and field teams, Woodman Field is the oldest of Montclair High School’s athletic fields.
Formerly known as Essex Field, and located on Essex Avenue, it was dedicated as Woodman Field on Oct. 31, 1942, honoring Clarence L. Woodman, a former athletic director, football and track coach for the high school. He also served as president of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association.
Woodman was with MHS for more than 20 years. After his death, the Board of Education voted unanimously on March 26, 1942, to name the field in his honor. At the time, he had coached more state championship track teams than all other New Jersey coaches combined.
The field has been upgraded several times, most recently in 2005, when field turf was installed.
Clary Anderson Arena
The home to both Montclair High School and Montclair Kimberley Academy hockey teams, Clary Anderson Arena was originally a community built arena which opened in the early 1970s on Chestnut Street opposite the Woodman/Fortunato field complex.
It was later named after Clarence Oscar Anderson, better known as Clary, who, along with Butch Fortunato, formed a potent football coaching duo at Montclair High School. Save for a break during World War II when Anderson served in the Navy, the two coached the Mounties to a 209–23–6 record before Anderson left in 1969 to coach the Montclair State College football team.
Over the course of seven seasons at MSC, Anderson’s teams had a record of 46-20-3 with five straight conference titles from 1969 to 1973. He was also a very successful baseball coach at Montclair State and was eventually inducted into the MSU Hall of Fame.
Anderson was also a member of the undefeated Colgate University team in 1932, where he was named All-American in both 1932 and 1933.
Installed and dedicated in 2005, Fortunato Field, located just south of Woodman Field on the corner of Essex Avenue and Chestnut Street, is home to both Mounties soccer teams, boys lacrosse and softball.
Its namesake, Angelo “Butch” Fortunato, remains one of the greatest coaches in Montclair High School history, but was a tremendous athlete as well. Fortunato was named to the All-State Football team for two years and then to the All-Metropolitan team as a senior quarterback in 1935. He was then offered a scholarship to Fordham University, where he led the Rams to some of their best years.
Fortunato was on the coaching staff of Montclair football in some form from 1940 to 1983, and served as the high school’s athletic director after that. He got his first taste as Mountie head coach while Anderson was serving in the Navy, and Fortunato led the team to its first undefeated season and another with just one loss.
Fortunato took solo control of the football team in 1969 and by the time he retired from coaching, had a 115-56-7 record, and led the team to its first state title. He also had success as a basketball coach during three seasons in the 1950s, including an undefeated season in 1953-54.
Fortunato Field is currently scheduled to have new field turf installed this coming offseason.
Anderson Park was home to the Montclair High School boys lacrosse team prior to its current home field at Fortunato. To this day, the Bellevue Avenue and North Mountain Avenue park remains a practice and game field for many recreational and youth leagues, including lacrosse, soccer and, most recently, ultimate Frisbee. It is also the site of the annual Montclair lacrosse alumni game and Homer Robinson Day celebration.
Originally, the space was dubbed Montclair Park and run by the town, but it was handed over to the Essex County Parks Commission in 1901, with the design completed in 1903. Then in 1909, the town requested the name be changed to Anderson Park to honor C.W. Anderson, the original donor of the land.
Along with being a prominent Montclairite, Anderson boasted that he had traveled further on the Erie Railroad than any other resident of Montclair, claiming to have gone 289,000 miles over the span of 30 years while spending, according to a New York Times article in 1912, a whopping $3,000.
Van Brunt Field
According to former Montclair Kimberely Academy athletic director and current science teacher George Hrab, MKA’s football field was named after Ed Van Brunt, a Montclair Academy teacher, administrator, and coach from 1934 to 1970. Van Brunt is also a charter member of MKA’s Athletic Hall of Fame, having been inducted posthumously in 1996.
Originally named and dedicated when Van Brunt retired in the fall of 1969, it was used for football and soccer by Montclair Academy in the fall, with baseball taking over in the spring. In 1978, lacrosse was added as a varsity sport, while baseball was moved to the Middle School on Valley Road. Features like new bleachers and field turf were added in the 1990s and it has been used for football, soccer, field hockey and lacrosse.
Known as “Red” or “Van,” Van Brunt coached football, basketball, baseball and field events in track. He had been a four-letter athlete at East Orange High School, and he went on to play professional baseball with the Boston Braves. Career highlights included an 11-inning complete game shutout in which he hit a game-winning home run, as well as striking out Yankee legends Babe Ruth, Bob Meusel and Lou Gehrig in an exhibition game. In 1955, Van Brunt’s baseball team had won 20 straight games, and his basketball team won 32 in row.
He is an honorary alumnus of Montclair Academy, and had two yearbooks dedicated to him, in 1947 and in 1970.
The land upon which the Immaculate Conception High School football field sits was first acquired by the school in 1940 after it had applied to the Montclair Board of Education for permission to use the MHS “athletic plant,” what was then called Essex Field.
According to a 1940 Montclair Times article, the board rejected the request, claiming that the field was already considered too small for the public school alone, much less for sharing the space.
With no other open fields available in the town that suited the school’s needs, the administration decided to purchase a “three-acre tract of land…located at the corner of Orange Road and Draper Terrace.” In January 1941, the school bought additional land which contained the structure which now hosts the Lions’ field house.
The field was officially dedicated on Sunday, May 6, 1941, by ICHS director the Rev. Eugene Gallagher. Gallagher followed up the field dedication by throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before a baseball game between Immaculate and Seton Hall Prep.