My grandparents passed away a few years back and it was becoming hard to maintain their home. I worked and lived in Rome and couldn’t manage to take care of the old family home and had put the house up for sale. I had no relatives to take care of the house and it seemed like the best thing to do. But that also meant sifting through the house to sort out all the items that had accumulated over time. It was like a bitter sweet feeling because it brought back so many memories, especially when I saw the things that my grandfather cherished and collected over the years.
He used to be an avid baseball fan which is still considered to be a novelty in Italy. He would tell me stories about how he learned how to play baseball. It was back in 1944 and he was a young soldier who was stationed in Nettuno. He made friends with the American soldiers that were stationed there and he picked up the sport very quickly and he learned t love it as much as the Americans did.
Every Sunday they would have mock matches – especially after the war when things were being reconstructed. Even though the American troops left Italy, my grandfather and a few of his cronies would get together to play the sport. The US troops had kindly gifted their baseball equipment to my grandfather and those gifts were used very well.
His friends ended up loving the game too and the game led a consistent life – It didn’t explode all over the country but it definitely made the town Nettuno well known in the baseball world as many players bettered their skills. My grandfather’s two friends Alberto Fasano and Julius Zerella founded Nettuno’s first softball team and my granddad taught the game to younger sport enthusiasts who were looking for a sport other than football.
He had a photo album with faded black and white pictures from back then, lounging and looking absolutely dashing in his military uniform. As it is I feel pride on my heritage, but now even more so. Even though our family home had been sold, I kept all the old pictures and especially my grandfather’s collection of baseball items.
I decided to frame a few pictures and hang them on my wall – there’s something very vintage about it. I saw some baseball bats, carefully preserved in fabric. But my biggest find was a baseball that was signed by Joe DiMaggio. That baseball great had visited Nettuno back in the day and had hit the baseball over to the highway. I’m not sure if this baseball is the same one or not, but it turns out that it is quite the collectible.
It feels like a slice of the past has come back to tell its own story – through the many stories narrated to me by my grandfather and also through the evocative black and white pictures that remain as reminders to the way life was before.