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Italian-American baseball ambassadors

Posted: January 5th, 2018 | Columnists, Featured, Little Italy News | 2 Comments

By Tom Cesarini

“Italians were once second-class citizens in the United States and invisible in baseball before players like Tony Lazzeri and Joe DiMaggio rose to prominence. Not having an appreciation of your heritage is like an olive tree without roots. Baseball is a part of mine.” Roberto Angotti

In his new, award-winning documentary, “The Italian American Baseball Family,” filmmaker and baseball historian Roberto Angotti addresses the great American pastime by highlighting the Italian-American influence on the game.

(l to r) Peter McEvilley (director of photography); Professor Lawrence Baldassaro (author of “Beyond DiMaggio: Italian Americans in Baseball”); Basil Russo (president, Italian Sons and Daughters of America); and Roberto Angotti (Russo Brothers Italian American Film Forum Award winner)

“‘The Italian American Baseball Family’ brings home the message that baseball allowed Italian-Americans to assimilate into popular culture,” Angotti said, elaborating on the film. “The documentary honors the Italian-American baseball ambassadors that have etched their names into U.S. sports history, paying tribute to their invaluable contributions and their unique imprint on the game.”

Later this month, Convivio will be screening the film as part of a series of baseball and heritage programming leading up to Italian American Heritage Night on May 31, presented by the San Diego Padres, Petco Park, and Convivio.

Christopher Paluso’s works adorn the walls of the San Diego Hall of Champions Sports Museum’s Brietbard Hall of Fame, now housed in the Western Metal Building at Petco Park; the San Diego Air and Space Museum Hall of Fame; and the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in Chicago

The May 31 event will highlight the Italian-American impact on baseball, by honoring its pioneer players as well as celebrating Italian-American heritage as an important part of our cultural landscape. Angotti, along with renowned illustrator and local Italian-American Christopher Paluso, will form part of the Convivio event committee, contributing their unique skills, knowledge, and passion to plan the series of programming, culminating in Heritage Night.

Angotti recently won top honors for his film at the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) 42nd anniversary gala in Washington, D.C., receiving the inaugural Russo Brothers Italian American Film Forum Award.

In 2013, Angotti curated an exhibit on Italian-American baseball players, “Artists’ Tribute to Italian Americans in Baseball,” held at the Convivio Center in San Diego’s Little Italy. Many Italian-American players were featured through illustrations, uniforms and other memorabilia, and Paluso had many pieces on display.

“It was a privilege to be a part of this exhibit, highlighting the talent of these athletes that bring pride to our heritage,” Paluso said.

Among the many sports figures Paluso has illustrated over the years, Joe DiMaggio was a project that Paluso said was rather special.

“I spoke to him about the composition of the painting,” he said.

Paluso also presented Tommy Lasorda with a painting in the dugout for the 1978 All-Star Game. Lasorda expressed to Paluso how happy he was to receive it from a fellow Italian-American.

We will have more information on all our special programming leading up to Italian American Heritage Night online at conviviosociety.org.

Stay connected with Little Italy’s Convivo Society through Facebook and Twitter @conviviosociety.

— Tom Cesarini is the executive director of Convivio. Reach him at tom@conviviosociety.org.

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