Baseballissimo Paperback – Mar 22 2005
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Writer and musician Dave Bidini has uncovered a story that will make you feel good about being a sports fan again. Bidini, guitarist for the Rheostatics and author of Tropic of Hockey, spends a season in picturesque Nettuno, Italy, with the local Serie B baseball team, the Peones, and reveals a spirit and attitude about sport long forgotten in North America. These Italian Bad News Bears have nicknames like Golden One, Skunk Bravo, and the Emperor, but the most interesting character is their manager, Pietro Monaco. An Italian baseball legend, Pietro has been infected by the game like a virus. His passion for the sport makes him a demanding taskmaster as he attempts to motivate a group of unpaid players who have little to gain--win or lose. He is the type of inspirational (and imperfect) figure one used to read about in old sports novels, and his story is the essence of Bidini's book.
At moments Bidini acts as travel guide, as he explores his temporary seaside home. At other times, Baseballissimo reads like a memoir of Bidini's own journey. Having spent his youth casting off his Italian roots, Bidini finds himself an outsider in his mother country, but as he rediscovers his love of baseball he also reconnects with his cultural heritage. Reviewing this book requires the kinds of cliches that would be banal in other circumstances but are unavoidable here. Heartwarming, inspirational, and touching, Baseballissimo delivers exactly what you'd expect from a book about young men playing a sport for no reward other than the love of the game. Readers will cheer the Peones because one never has to wonder what motivates them, or their Canadian friend. --Moe Berg --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Author and musician Dave Bidini is the only person to have been nominated for a Gemini, Genie and Juno as well CBC's Canada Reads. A founding member of Rheostatics, he has written 10 books, including On a Cold Road, Tropic of Hockey, Around the World in 57 1/2 Gigs, and Home and Away. He has made two Gemini Award-nominated documentaries and his play, the Five Hole Stories, was staged by One Yellow Rabbit Performance Company, touring the country in 2008. His third book, Baseballissimo, is being developed for the screen by Jay Baruchel, and, in 2010, he won his third National Magazine Award, for "Travels in Narnia." He writes a weekly column for the Saturday Post and, in 2011, he published his latest book, Writing Gordon Lightfoot.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
Bidini captures the essence of this in fantastic detail with the wit that has me eagerly reaching for another one of his books. An awesome work on an awesome game that shares experiences internationally.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Baseballissimo is by Dave Bidini, a Canadian author. A surprisingly high percentage of the offbeat and intriguing books that I come across are by Canadian authors. I don't know how it works exactly, or what the income tax rate must be in Canada to subsidize such a program, but apparently the government actually pays authors to write books. They paid Bidini to take his family (wife, toddler, and infant) to Nettuno, Italy for six months so he could follow the local baseball team, the Peones for a season, and write a book about it. He says his choice was between baseball in Italy or wrestling in Newfoundland. Doesn't sound like a tough choice to me.
Bidini sits in the dugout and sometimes warms up with the Peones, an amateur team in one of the several Italian leagues. He gets to know the players and gives them all nicknames. He finds out how baseball came to be so popular in Italy (American GIs introduced it during World War II). He and his family become temporary residents of the small town of Nettuno near Anzio and about an hour's drive south of Rome. Bidini gets in touch with his roots - his grandparents were immigrants to Canada from Italy. He reminisces about how baseball has always been a part of his life. And he follows the Peones from pre-season training to the exciting season finish against Palermo.
Sometimes you get the feeling that Bidini cares more about the game than the Peones do. They're a good team, but it's just amateur baseball, and they all have day jobs and girlfriends and lives. Bidini's pushing forty and the manager, although still fit and athletic, is in his sixties. The players, mostly in their twenties and in a country where soccer is king, are sometimes late for practice, or are more interested in the fantastic pre-game snacks they've brought. Since this is Italy, there are no hot dogs and sunflower seeds. It's homemade pizza, smooth espresso, and sugary pastries. Sure, the players want to win, and they go all out when they play. But to them it's just a game. Little do they know.
Dave Bidini’s book Baseballissimo, however, says it all: A portmanteau of the Italian word for “lovely” and the game Bidini loves, baseball. Baseballissimo. One word says it all.
You can read the summary and find out that Dave Bidini travels to Nettuno, a city in Italy with a deep-rooted love for baseball that dates back to World War II, and even further back than that. He spends the summer getting to know the players on the Peones (yes, that is really their name), the history of the sport in Europe, and the land of his grandparents. I want to say something more about this book than just what is on the back cover.
To call Dave Bidini a Canadian Mark Twain is an insult to both Bidini and Twain (and probably Canada.) Sure, there are many similarities: both authors wrote wonderful prose about their observations while traveling around the world, but Twain could never have written about baseball with this much love [nor could he have traveled to distant lands in search of hockey (“Hockey Nomad” by Bidini is a must see) nor could Clemens write “Legal Age Life at Variety Store” (Whale Music by the Rheostatics is a must listen.)] Both authors are also institutions in their respected countries. Both authors (and I hate them for this and love them even more) write in a style that is complicated, deep, and nuanced with humor and wisdom simultaneously, while at the same time makes writing in this complicated, beautiful style seem easy. It’s not easy. Twain was a genius and Bidini is so multi-talented that he is in a different category. Twain can’t play rhythm guitar or sing about “Ladies of Montreal” and Bidini could not fall in love with the Mississippi River the way Twain did. The Welland Canal maybe, but not the mighty Miss.
I digress. This book stands on its own merit. Bidini has a unique gift where he can write prose that seems to fall on the page woven with the imagery and poetry that only a gifted songwriter could craft. There is a rhythm to his sentence structure and word choice that is second nature for a great musician. And the internationalist angle is clear where a Canadian is writing about the American pastime in Italy. Baseball is a greater melting pot than the nation that birthed it.
Structurally, the chapters alternate between Bidini in Italy, to Bidini as a boy and young man watching his team the Toronto Blue Jays, as well as historical chapters on some baseball heroes from World War II. This book sweats baseball at every corner and every swing of the page. Dave Bidini hooks you in this book with every player, every anecdote, and every play-by-play of any game he recalls from his memories or transcribes from his notes.
If you love baseball or Italy or the Blue Jays or the Rheostatics (they make small appearances every once in awhile) or feel good, underdog stories about baseball, do yourself a favor and buy this book. All hail Bidini.