July 18, 2012
Baseball in the Old Country
On Aug. 4, 1962, the New York Yankees already had a 5 ½ game lead over the Minnesota Twins, and the Bronx Bombers would go on to win the AL pennant handily. In the National League, meanwhile, the Los Angeles Dodgers were enjoying a five-game lead over the rival San Francisco Giants, and no one could have imagined how the rest of the season would play out. We know now, of course, that the Giants and Dodgers would finish the season with identical 101-61 records, and San Francisco would defeat Los Angeles in a three-game playoff and go on to lose to the Yankees in a long and hard-fought championship series.
On Aug. 4, 1962, in Fairfield, Connecticut, about 45 miles northeast of the Bronx, my parents were married. In a couple of weeks they will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. To mark the occasion, they rented a house in Tuscany and invited their family and friends to join them. As I type this, I’m looking over an olive grove, surrounded by the people I love most in the world. The only thing that could possibly make this better would be some baseball.
Luckily, Italy has a professional baseball league. The IBL was founded in 1948, and currently has eight teams, two of which are located within a couple of hours of our temporary home base outside of Pisa. Italian baseball luminary Renè Saggiadi informed us that Bologna was a better team than Grosseto, the other nearby option, so Tracy, my wife and fellow fervent baseball fan, and I hopped in the car and punched in the coordinates for Stadio Gianni Falchi.
We were pretty excited about the whole adventure and managed to get to the stadium more than two hours before game time. In fact, the visiting team had just arrived, and the stadium hadn’t yet opened. There was an ancient gentleman sitting outside the ticket office, however. He spoke no English and we spoke very little Italian, but we managed to convey to him that we were here for the game. We purchased two tickets for a total of €20, even though the tickets were listed at €12 each. Maybe it was ladies’ night, or maybe there’s a discount for redheads with megawatt smiles.
Batting practice in Italy looks a lot like it does anywhere else, except some guys are wearing soccer sandals, and others have extremely questionable left-handed swings.