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February 17, 2012     Post-Gazette
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February 17, 2012

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POST-GAZETTE, FEBRUARY 17, 2012 Page13 00abb00Jnonno by John Chfistoforo A Nostalgic Remembrance Last week, I left off with my friends and I coming close to the end of our vaca- tions. We had returned to Cassino, where Franny was born and still had family. As a matter of fact, her parents and younger sister had ar- rived at the farm from America while we were vis- iting cities in the north of Italy. There was really no room for Sal and me at the family farm, so we checked into a local, hotel. The owner had been involved in a few things in Chicago, I don't know what, but he was de- ported back to Italy by our government. He decided to go on the straight and nar- row and opened a small ho- tel. When Sal and I checked in, he treated us like royalty, sitting at the pool with us reminiscing about his years in America. I noticed that there were some locals around the pool each time we decided to sun ourselves and inquired as to why. It seems that the hotel was one of the few places in Cassino that had a swim- ming pool, and for a daily fee, locals could spend a morning or afternoon living like a tourist. On one of the after- noons, there were a few of the locals lounging around the pool when a young man in his 20s came looking for the owner. He had a black eye and a bloody nose. Fear- ing that the young man may have fallen, which means the hotel was responsible, the owner treated him with kid gloves. What actually happened was that this in- dividual spotted a rather well endowed young lady in a skimpy Bikini bathing suit and decided to make ad- vances in her direction. Her significant other had other ideas and punched the guy out. He ran in fear of his life. After addressing the situa- tion, hearing both sides, the owner came back to where we were sitting and told us that the altercation was over a female. His final comment was, "That kid didn't even defend himself after he was hit by the jealous boyfriend. His Roman ancestors must be turning over in their graves. I guess warriors are a thing of the past in Italy." That afternoon, Sal and I headed back to Franny's uncle's farm for dinner. We arrived before, Emilio, the head of the family, returned from the fields. We sat wait- ing for him, and soon we heard the drone of his trac- tor. As he approached, we saw him sitting high on the seat wearing an American cowboy hat, puffing on a long skinny cigar. He loved every- thing dealing with the American west. dust as he got close, Cesare, the larg- est pig on the farm, started wagging his tail and jump- ing up and down. He was be- ing fatted up for the follow- ing Christmas dinner, and then some. In actuality, he was Emilio's pet, this three hundred pound pig. Fast for- warding for a minute...they did have a pork dinner that next Christmas, but it wasn't Cesare. He remained the family pet until he died of old age. Toward the end of the week, Sal told me that he would head back to Rome with me, but was going to stay with relatives for a few days before returning to Bos- ton, and would I mind head- ing home alone. I, of course had no problem with his de- cision, but I didn't want to return on Alitalia. I didn't like the way I was treated by the flight attendants on the way over, and I didn't like the service they provided. I decided to call Pan Am. I had flown via Pan Am to many parts of the world with them, had an account with them and asked if I could transfer my return ticket to one of theirs and return on one of their flights from Rome to Boston. They checked their files while I was on hold, came back and told me that they could accommodate me on the day l wanted to re- turn, and would make the transfer without charge. The agent gave me all of the in- formation, adding in that it would not be a nonstop flight. The plane would leave Rome, stop in Milan for three hours and then head across the Atlantic to Boston. I yelled, "Perfect." There were two reasons for my answer. We didn't get to Milan in our travels and there were two places I wanted to visit there, the cathedral and the opera house, La Scala. There is a chapel next to the cathedral called the Refractory. On a wall inside is Da Vinci's Last Supper. Throughout my young life, I had always wanted to see two of Da Vinci's paintings more than any others, the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper. I had seen the Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris and knew that, with the short period of time I would have, I would need permission from some- one in the Vatican in case the Refractory was closed to the public when I arrived in Milan. Someone from Rome would have to call and let them know I was coming. A day or two later, Sal and I checked out of the hotel, said goodbye to Franny's family (after a long outdoor lunch) and headed for Rome. I still had a couple of days before my flight and checked into the Excelsior Hotel across the street from the American Embassy on Via Veneto. After dropping Sal off at his cousin's place, I went to the embassy and was let in. I spoke to an attache who called someone at the Vatican and explained my desire to see the Last Sup- per. I gave the attache my time of arrival in Milan and he relayed it to the person he spoke to at St. Peters. He told me he would call me at the hotel by the next morn- ing with the information. I was on my own and de- cided not to wander too far from the hotel. I chose a sidewalk trattoria on Via Veneto for dinner, and sat eating, drinking, and watch- ing the tourists wander by for over two hours. It was fasci- nating. Just as I was about to leave and head back, I spotted the attache from the American Embassy that had made the call for me. He sat with me for another hour talking about Italian and American politics and his life with the American For- eign Service. He hadn't been back to the U.S. in a while, and I brought him up to date on things according to my perspective. He also told me that I had received permis- sion to head to the cathedral when in Milan. He told me to call his the next morning and he would give me the phone number of a care- taker at the church in Milan who would be awaiting my call. I bought him a drink as a thank you gesture, and later each headed in a dif- ferent direction. The next morning, I called the attache and he gave me the information I needed, the caretaker's name and phone number in Milan. I called Sal, who along with h:is cousin followed me to the car rental agency to return the FIAT that we had toured Italy with. They brought me back to the hotel and we hung around together for the remainder of the day, with dinner on me that afternoon as Sal's cousin offered to drive me to the airport on the next day. On that next day, I checked out of the Excelsior and we headed for the Leonardo da Vinci airport of Rome located in Fiumicino, a few miles outside Rome. I said goodbye to Sal and his cousin and boarded the Pan Am flight to Boston with a stopover in Milan. An hour or two later, we landed in Milan. I had three hours be- fore the plane was to leave for Boston, and headed to the airport taxi stand and hailed a cab. When we arrived in the center of Milan, we headed for La Scala, the most famous opera house in the world. I entered their business office as the the- ater was closed for the sum- mer. I received permission to go in and take pictures. This was for Babbononno, as he had played there as a young musician and hadn't seen Italy since 1896. To be continued ... GOD BLESS AMERICA by Sal Giarratani Ron Santo Must Have Been the Rodney Dangerfield of Baseball Back when I was growing up in the '60s, I loved base- ball and knew everything about almost every player in both leagues. I had favorite guys like Ernie Banks, Willie Mays, Willie McCovery Mickey Mantle to name just a few of them. One guy I always liked was the third baseman for the Chicago Cubs who guarded the left side of the infield with Ernie Banks next to him at short- stop. Santo always played in his shadow too. Santo never made it in the front door of the Hall of Fame as he de- served to have been. Sadly, he entered the back door when the veterans commit- tee let him into Coopers- town. I always called Santo "Mr. Cubs 2" since Ernie Banks was the one and only "Mr. Cub." Over 15 seasons, Santo hit 342 homers, was one of the best defensive third basemen in the majors and was a nine time All- Star. He passed away last year. Years ago, the Chicago Cubs retired his number because in Chicago he was considered a Hall of Famer since the day he retired. Denial into the Hall of Fame for so many years was a great miscarriage of justice for one of baseball's all time greats. Nationals Sign Jackson to One Year Deal Edwin Jackson and the Washington Nationals agreed to a one-year deal that gives the Nats another starting pitcher. Jackson was 12-9 with a 3.79 ERA last season when he split the season between the Chicago White Sox and St. Louis Cardinals. The deal is believed to be in the $9-12 million range. Not a bad range, huh? Bad News from Dallas According to a report in the Dallas Morning News, Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton relapsed recently when he allegedly drank al- cohol at a bar. Hamilton, 30, was suspended for more than three years for drug and alcohol use while within the Tampa Bay organization. Prayers go out to him and his family. Let's hope he gets himself back together again. Hamilton is a great player and I will be rooting for his recovery. Astros Sign Former World Series MVP The Houston Astros have agreed to a minor league contract for 1997 World Se- ries MVP Livan Hernandez. The pitcher is 36 years and last year with the Washing- ton Nationals, he started 29 games going 8-13 with a 4.47 ERA. He has pitched at least 200 innings in I0 of his 15 seasons. In 2010, he went 10-12 with a 3.66 ERA. In 1997, he led the Florida Marlins to the World Series championship. Lifetime he is 174-176 for eight major league teams. Padilla on Runway Waiting for Clearance Right-hander Vicente Padilla has some legal mat- ters to deal with which might keep him out of the United States longer than he or the Red Sox wish. Accord- ing to a Nicaraguan newspa- per, an arrest warrant was issued and then revoked for a child support hearing in court. He's facing an order not to leave the country un- til he resolves the matter. Reportedly, he owes $4,200 in back child support. The Boston Red Sox are hopeful that the matter can get re- solved quickly to get him to spring training. Wouldn't one think with all the mil- lions baseball players get, how does $4,200 not get paid for child support? It looks like time for Padilla just to get paid up with his ex. Oh, by the way, Padilla; he's ap- parently got 10 kids, enough to create an All-Padilla line- up, eh? WHY ISN'T MORRIS IN HALL OF FAME? Did you know that the only starting pitcher voted into Cooperstown since Nolan Ryan back in 1999 was Bert Blyleven in 2011 on his 14 th try? Detroit's ace Jack Mor- ris has been on the ballot since 2000 and is still wait- ing entry into the Hall. Like Blyleven, he may have to wait for a vote by the veter- ans committee to get inside. Morris who ranks in the top (Continued on [;age 15)