Considering the GIOAT
From birth to the age of 12 I thought living in a double house on West 128th in Cleveland was nirvana. My grandmother and Aunt Vance lived downstairs and every Sunday we gathered down there with 15-20 relatives for spaghetti and meatballs.
My brother was two years older than I. We both were pretty fast runners. The biggest difference was he dreamt of using that speed getting around end for the Cleveland Browns while I saw myself stealing bases for the Indians.
Rocky Colavito was the star for the Tribe. Even the non-Italians wanted to be him. He had a very unique ritual before every at-bat. He lifted his bat up over his head and brought it down with both hands behind his back. He had tremendous power and could throw the ball from the outfield straight to the catcher, cut-off man be damned.
We couldn't afford to go to many games so we made our stadium visits count. A bunch of us would take the 22 bus downtown to attend on bat day. Even the cheapest seat in old Municipal Stadium merited a free bat. On our way home we all practiced our Rocky-style stretch and of course fantasized about hitting that game-winning homer.
I don't remember the acronym GOAT (greatest of all time) being around when I was young. If it had been I'm sure there would have been little debate. Rocky was our favorite but everyone knew Babe Ruth was the greatest. Jim Brown was the GOAT in football. There were no Cavaliers and the only NBA we saw was one game on Sunday afternoon. It was usually a Celtics game so in my mind Bill Russell was THE MAN.
Being a younger brother is a role I take seriously. First and foremost it involves giving my brother periodic grief. So in order to open up a discussion, err argument, I brought up the GOAT topic with a twist. "Hey bro, who is the GIOAT – greatest Italian of all time?" I inquired. My brother has a degree in electrical engineering. He is smart but deliberate. Years before I had dubbed him Mr. Science. After much thought he answered "Galileo." I was stunned.
"Are you kidding me?" I snorted. "Someone would have eventually come up with that whole planets revolve around the sun thing!"
"OK, Mr. Wizard," he replied with some annoyance, "who is your pick?"
"Joltin' Joe DiMaggio!" He patrolled center field for the Yankees like a gazelle and could mash right up there with Ted Williams. His 56-game hitting streak is an amazing record that may never be equaled. It has stood for 79 years.
Adding to his resume was his marriage to Marilyn Monroe, the most incredible movie star of her era and arguably any era. Before we began littering landfills with empty K-cups, one of the greatest inventions in the '70s was the Mr. Coffee. Every house had one and they chose Joe D. for their spokesperson. His impeccably dressed visage was a TV constant.
My brother lives in the Bay Area of California. Many Genoese fishermen settled in 'Frisco and one of them had a son named Joe. So on one of my visits I had my bro take me to the church where Joe married Marilyn. We also lifted a few cocktails at Lefty O'Doul's on Union Square where Joe spent many an evening with his close friends.
People wrote songs about Joe. Could you imagine Paul Simon singing "Where have you gone, Galileo"? Hmmm ... no.
in my retirement I'm a nanny to my niece's two boys, ages 17 months and 4.