4/26/15 – If you read Echoes in the Wind, the biography of Guy Vitale (East Boston High School, Class of 1936) you already know he was quite an athlete.
Captain and quarterback of the football team, outfielder for the baseball team from his freshman year and selected by the major Boston Metropolitan newspapers as an All-Scholastic Baseball player for two straight years, Guy was on his way to realizing his dream to play professional baseball when WWII broke out, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and Guy, 24 years old, found himself among the first men to be drafted into the Army just three months later, in March 1942.
During the 1950’s I’d played baseball, too, “in high school and college and every summer in between with any team I could latch onto,” was how I always put it.
Fast forward to 1986; my mother’s funeral in Baltimore. Mary Vitale Sacco was Guy’s oldest sister. He’d taken a leave of absence from serving his country as a Field Agent in the Central Intelligence Agency, to attend his sister’s funeral.
I introduced him to some people and finished the introduction with, “Guy was quite a baseball player when he was growing up.” He looked at me and then at the people I’d just introduced him to, and shook his head. “No. I wasn’t very good,” he said in a soft voice. Then, he pointed to me and announced in a louder voice, “There’s the baseball player!”
Modest? Magnanimous? I didn’t understand that comment at the time; not until later. While researching for his biography I discovered that one of his dreams had been to go to college and, while there, play baseball. That was because the existing semi-pro baseball leagues at the time, whose players were being signed by major league clubs, all had college baseball players on their rosters. Those were the players being given try-outs and being signed. Although Guy never made it to college, he played beside these college players in those leagues, saw how good they were, and, although as good or better, idolized them.
He also, mistakenly, believed from reports about me from his sister, that I was a real good college player instead of just, well, just good enough to make the teams but never the star he had been.
Why, years later, did Guy Vitale tell those people he was not a very good player? I did not know the reason until, as I said above, one day, in the huge Boston Public Library, researching for the book, I suddenly understood.