Metro Mallers | Collar City Chiefs | Capitaland Chiefs | Capitaland Thunder
Albany Metro Mallers

Looking back

It all started in 1972. A group of guys (John DeRouch, Dave Fleck, Jerry Confer (included), with a passion for football, just starting talking about how great it would be to have a team in Albany, an impromptu meeting – a casual conversation about football. John DeRouch took the conversation to his boss, Willard T. Anderson, of Anderson Realty, an avid sports fan. A week later the group met and announced that Mr. Anderson would support the team. Willard Anderson funded and sponsored the Metro Mallers in their first two seasons of operation. A radio contest was held in the capital district to name the team. At that time construction was ongoing at the South Mall (now called the Empire State Plaza). The people of the capital district chose the name: Metro Mallers: Metro — the “Metropolitan City of Albany, Mallers — the name given to construction workers working on the South Mall project. Thanks to Willard Anderson for sharing his compassion for football – the Metro Mallers football team was created. The first team victory for the Metro Mallers was in Poughkeepsie — a 37 yd. field goal by Dave Fleck! The first coach was Dick Senecal. Milt Flood was an Assistant Coach, a great help in getting the team started.

The Metro Mallers joined the Seaboard Football League in 1973, which had teams in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. Home games were played at Mont Pleasant High, located in Schenectady, New York. The Seaboard League teams brought in players from outside their areas. League teams were able to attract numerous players who were approached by the NFL. Over the years many players had tryouts in both the NFL and CFL. Some (Don Aleksiewicz, (nicknamed AtoZ) and Gary Weinlein) made it as far as pre-season, hoping to make the NFL eventually. More than ten of the Metro Mallers had been in NFL camps, potential future NFL players. Dick Riendeau was coach during this time. Art Nicklas, current photographer for the team, played running back in 1972 and as a young adult was influenced by then players Bob Baron & Callie Constant, RPI graduates. They encouraged Art to pursue a college education and he did so graduating from RIT with an Electrical Engineering Degree. He fondly remembers the camaraderie amongst the players and their support of each other. He continues to carry this positive interaction forward as he interacts as Team Photographer. Art is also the photographer for the United Football League.

At the end of the l973 Willard (Bill) Anderson bequeathed the name Metro Mallers to Dave Fleck. The Metro Mallers moved to Albany 1974. That year Dave Fleck, Ralph Drake, Larry Hooker,& Tom Donnelly became partners and were partners up until 1976. Dave was Head Coach throughout the 1974, 1975 & 1976 season. In 1977 Ralph Drake continued as Owner (owner 1975-80), as well as player. Strong supporters during this time were Mayor E. Corning, Don LeDuke, Bob Barry, Larry Becker, and Phil Robbins. David Fleck had moved on, taking over the Uncle Sam Football Club in Troy, leaving the Head Coach position to John Verra. During this time, the team made an informal arrangement with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League to develop players for the Alouettes who had been released by that team.

In the 1975 season the team joined the Empire Football League, a league with teams primarily located in Upstate New York. Division Champions in 1975 and 1976, winning the EFL Championship in 1979. At end of l980 season, the Albany Metro Mallers were then operated by a group (Larry Hooker, Fred Curley, Toni Kaczkowski, & Harry Sanford, Sr.) of passionate football lovers. Jim Baker became President/Head Coach. He operated the team as “the new” Albany Metro Mallers for several years.

In 1981, the team moved into the Eastern Football League, which had teams in Massachusetts and in New York State. The Albany Metro Mallers won the EFL Championship 12-9 on an electrifying play: a 73-yard flea-flicker touchdown pass thrown by wide-receiver Mike DeCarlo that was deflected by a defender into the hands of wide-receiver Davey Williams, who held on to it and then ran the remaining 50 yards into the end zone!! That same year Al Darling was among the All-Time Semipro Record Holder for the longest field goal (54 yards). Mike Palmer was the Eastern Leagues MVP in 1981 and went on to sign with the Miami Dolphins in 1982. Unfortunately, that was the first strike season (1982) in the NFL, voiding his contract.

The team continued to operate in the Eastern Football League. In 1986 they won the Eastern Football League Championship, defeating the Marlboro Shamrocks 23-14. That year Joe Burke held the all-time semi-pro record for total points in a season. In 1986 the American Football Association (AFA) awarded Jim Baker the AFA Executive of the Year and Joe Burke the MVP Player of the Year nationally, as the best semipro football player in the country. A ceremony was held in Albany. Jeff Lipscomb (Sac-man) was among the all-time semi-pro holders for defensive touchdowns that season. In 1987 the Albany Metro Mallers ended the regular season as an undefeated team. Joe Burke was signed by the Dallas Cowboys, playing during the pre-season, scoring against the Oakland Raiders, then released the week before the final cut, signing on to play on the NFL replacement team, along with 2 other members of the Albany Metro Mallers (Dana Melvin, Robbin Williams). Only running back, Joe Burke, saw actual playing time. Burke returned to the Albany Metro Mallers in time to play in the American Football Association national playoffs in November 1987. For several years, during the 1980’s, the players volunteered during the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon, held each year in Albany. Robbin Williams, a wide-receiver, displayed his strength by doing a number of one-arm push-ups at many of the telethons. The Albany Metro Mallers returned to the Empire Football League in l987, finishing second in the league that season. In l989 the Albany Metro Mallers won the Empire League Championship and finished second in 1990.

The function of moving to the next level (professional) changed in the 90’s. Scouts no longer looked at semi-pro players for professional football. The NFL has their own development league. Arena football is now considered a place to play ball with the hope of being viewed by a professional team.

At end of the 1990 season, the team finished the season with a 9-1 record. Jim Baker sold the team to Tom Manny, Tony Piscitella (who came to the team as a player in 1985 and continued playing, even as an owner up until 1992) & Mike Fredette. The team ended the 1991 season with an 8-2 record. In 1991 the Albany Metro Mallers were in the national playoffs, losing to the Brooklyn Mariners 12-6. In 1992 the team name was changed to the Collar City Chiefs, then another name change in 1l994 to Capitaland Chiefs, then in 1995 to 2003 the team was called the Capitaland Thunder. An awesome team in 1996 and 1997, taking the team to the 1997 EFL Championship game, losing to the Binghamton Jets. Joe Barbagallo, who played on an opposing team for several years, joined the Mallers. He coached the team from 2002 until 2006. A player/owner and great supporter of the team for several years, Paul Vasko, passed away suddenly in 2003.

Albany Metro Mallers were back in 2004! With enthusiasm and moral support from their father, Joe Barbagallo took over as was General Manager and his sister, Sharon Barbagallo was Assistant General Manager. Again, taking the team to the EFL Championship, only to be defeated by the Glens Falls Greenjackets. The team was then sold to Frank Rogers in 2004 and Frank continued as owner until the end of the 2009 season. During his reign as owner the Albany Metro Mallers had a record of 86 wins, 13 loses.

The Albany Metro Mallers finished second in the 2004 EFL season and won the Empire League Championship in 2005 and 2006. In 2006, they also won the United States Football Alliance (USFA) Eastern Championship. That season Jim Malone was General Manager. The Assistant General Manager was Sharon Barbagallo. The following season Sharon became the General Manager, part of the team until 2010.

In 2007, the team again changed leagues, moving into the North American Football League. They were the NAFL Empire Division Champions this first year. In 2008, the Albany Metro Mallers were named as the USFA and Minor League Football News (MLFN) National Champions. Quarterback Scott Lawson, who had been with the Albany Metro Mallers since 1990, broke the all-time semipro football record for the most touchdown passes in a career when he threw his 379th touchdown pass on October 4, 2008 against the Troy Fighting Irish. He continued to play, and as of the end of the 2009 season, he had increased his record to 415 touchdown passes. Again in 2009 the Albany Metro Mallers were NAFL Empire Division Champions.

In the 2010 season, Salvatore S. Iavarone, took over as Owner of the Albany Metro Mallers, continuing to play games at Bleeker Stadium. In 2011, the Albany Metro Mallers returned to the Empire Football League and captured the EFL Championship with a 26-14 victory against the Syracuse Shock. Sal, playing the game since 1980, shares his passion for the game with his three boys and continues to suit-up and play the game.

Through the years many Metro Mallers players were outstanding, such as: Bill Ellenbogen, Don Aleksiewicz, Gary Weinlein, Dave Boisture, Joe Burke, Robbin Williams. John Chaney, and Vinny Cirrincione). The team has long been successful regionally and nationally, having regularly been in the national semipro playoffs, and having won the national semipro title in 2008 and 8-time League Champions (1979, 1981, 1986, 1989, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2011).
The passion for the game continues on…..