I have good news and bad news from yesterday's boccie tournament at the St. Anthony Festival in Little Italy. First the bad news: My partner and I blew a 6-1 lead (we only needed 7 points to win) in the second round and got the hook. Basically, we choked. But here's the good news: We beat Luigi Boeri, the self-proclaimed Numero Uno Boccie Man of Little Italy. We knocked Boeri off in the first round, and for one brief shining moment victory smelled as strong as a double espresso.
If you remember Luigi Boeri -- he was all over this column last Wednesday -- you understand why this little win was so very nice. "Luigi Boeri is a superstar, in a class alone!" Luigi Boeri proclaimed. "I don't need a partner to win the whole thing. I am at a level where any partner can only harm me."
But Luigi Boeri stooped for a partner. He chose Tony Sansone, rated third in Little Italy. What chance did I have against such men?
From a field of more than 20 candidates who were solicited through this column, I chose as my partner a Rosedale guy named Ermanno D'Amico, who was recommended by his son-in-law, Frank Filmore. "You'll love my father-in-law," Filmore said. "He's from Italy, he throws a mean boccie and don't tell him I told you this, but he cheats."
Thus tempted, I went with D'Amico, who I found to be a quiet, serious, focused (and totally honest) over-50 boccie player, the best kind. He wore a tank top with the Italian tricolor. He threw some beautiful boccie, too. We upset Luigi Boeri and Tony Sansone.
The defeat shattered Luigi Boeri. He shook my hand and walked off into the crowd. I call that poetic justice.
By 2 o'clock, a nice crowd had developed in the sun-baked Little Italy boccie arena. Men and women, young and old and in the middle, sat on the benches under two shade trees. The St. Anthony Festival was a happening this year. I spotted numerous young urban professionals, all of them stylishly dressed and sporting fashionable dark glasses, moving up and down Stiles ++ Street, sampling the food and wine. I spoke to several people from the deep Baltimore burbs, too. Many of them had come to see what this boccie was all about. I had to explain that it's not a new game, nor is it a recently popular game. In fact, it's a simple, old game, and it's always been popular among European immigrants and their descendants.
Boccie is played with eight balls -- four red, four green -- about the size of duckpin balls and a smaller target ball called the
pallino. Players from each side try to throw balls near the target or knock away their opponents' balls. It is played in sunken, wood-sided courts; the ones in Little Italy are about 80 feet long. No one in the old neighborhood plays boccie on grass. "If you play boccie on grass, you no play boccie," says Joe Scalia, president of the Little Italy Boccie Rollers Association.
Scalia and Dom DeFelice were the winners yesterday. They beat me and D'Amico in the second round, then went on to take the grand prize. They'll be defending champs at the next tournament, in August, at the St. Gabriel Festival. I'm going to practice all summer. I'm sure we've not heard the end of Luigi Boeri.
A declasse act
"See you in the ratings" was how Tim Watts, one of Baltimore's best radio personalities, signed off on a letter to the New York company that bounced him out of V-103, his roost for most of the last 17 years. The new owner of The V is Granum Communications Inc. and, according to Watts, one of the first things the company did was drop him as midmorning deejay -- in shabby fashion, too. "My contract was going to expire, but I didn't pressure anyone," Watts says. "It was a new company, so I decided to give them some space." Finally, in the last week of May, Watts asked about his new contract. "I was told in the most nonchalant way that they were not going to renew it, and to hand over my keys," Watts says. "I went to V-103 when I was 25, stayed until 1985, and took time off and went to California. I thought I was going to be a stand-up comic. I came back in '86 and they hired me again, first doing the afternoons, then midmornings." In his farewell letter to Granum, Watts writes: "I wish I could have ended my stay at the station on a better note. I wanted to leave the same way I spent my years there, with a little class." Watts, 42, bounced right back. In fact, he didn't miss a payday. Cathy Hughes, the owner of the Radio One group of stations, hired him to host the morning show on WWIN-FM (95.9). He's on from 5 til 9. Good for Tim. See you on the radio.
Cold hands, warm hearts
Notes from small-town Maryland:
At a recent meeting, Carroll County Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown thanked Union Bridge Mayor Perry L. Jones for organizing an outstanding Memorial Day observance. Union Bridge has few leisure activities to offer its nearly 1,000 residents. The only restaurant is a carryout. Shopping is limited to the new grocery store and the Gun Celler. So, a Memorial Day parade naturally draws a large crowd. "I will say you have more children per capita in your town than any other," said Brown. Replied Jones: "It's cold in Union Bridge, people have to keep warm somehow."
Warm all over?
Observed the other night about 9:30 at Homewood Field: A guy doing a few laps on the track wearing nothing but shoes and an athletic supporter. Last seen running up University Parkway toward Roland Avenue. Not a pretty picture.