He was my Dad. Only I never called him by that name . I have a cousin , my age , who was an only child, named after his father, and
was known as Juny . He called his father, my father's brother, Dad . Sometimes I envied his doing this because it was a reminder that
my uncle's family was more " Americanized " than we were. After all, the fathers in the comics and the movies and the neighborhood
were all known as Dad.
I called him Pa. I had to wait until I was a grownup to have this privilege. As a kid, he was known as Papa.
smile from his lips and his eyes telegraphed his message of love and at the same time assured us that everything was OK and going
to be OK.
Along with the smile there were two prominent features to his countenance that could not be missed. His only hair was gray
and distributed sparsely along the sides. I never remember seeing him with hair on top..sort of like the thirties actor Guy Kibee.
Pa also had what he and his side of the family called a Roman nose. I came to know the meaning of the description when I studied Latin
in high school. All the photos of Roman sculptures had noses similar to Pa's . I accepted the comparison as a matter of pride...after
all I was the only kid in the class who might have Julius Caesar or Marcus Aurelius as ancestors.
Baseball and classical music were
a large part of our relationship. On weekends , when Pa nestled into his chair next to the Zenith Console , the station would either
be tuned to Fred Hoey and the Red Sox or The Longines Symphony Hour.
As much as he liked the Sox , he couldn't help repeating his admiration
of Joe DiMaggio. The Yankees weren't disliked then , mostly because there was no chance that the Red Sox could compete with them.
Our rivals were the Philadelphia Athletics and the Washington Senators..the teams who were fighting to stay out of the cellar in the
standings. Many a day , we had conversations that lasted a full nine innings. Somehow, talk about schoolwork worked it's way into
a discussion about the relative abilities of the players.
When I was a pre-schooler and in the early grades , we lived in a house with
a barn. An RCA Victrola was located in the corner of the loft. It was probably placed there because the family now owned a radio that
was electrified and didn't require winding with a handle to operate. Next to the Victrola,boxes containing records lined the wall.
All the records had red labels and were recorded on one side. After winding the Victrola , we could place a record on the turntable
which spun at 78 RPM. The sound , which was a far cry from a Bose system of today , emanated from the cabinet and impressed me with
it's mysterious source.
Enrico Caruso's voice , belting out Vesti la Giubba , could be heard by anyone entering the barn. If a visitor
climbed the loft, he would probably see Gus sitting on on old chair , smoking a pipe , and greeting him with his signature smile.
was more interested in cowboys like Tom Mix than Caruso. Pa didn't have to put up with me during his listening hour. When I became
a little older, possibly the third grade ,and we lived in a house without a barn, my classical music education began when we listened
to The Longines Symphonette on the radio. As imagined, the cast of characters included good Italians like Arturo Toscanini , Enrico
Caruso and the soprano Galli-Curci . We enjoyed many Sunday afternoons together with Opera, especially when the weather wasn't good.
baseball relationship didn't only involve the radio. Pa brought me to many games. I cannot say, like many of my contemporaries , that
I had a memorable experience of seeing Fenway Park with my father. He did take me to the local games. The level of play was somewhat
below professional but exciting nevertheless. There was the occasional "out of the park " home run .
The"park ",was more like a field
and the boundaries were nearby residences. The cost of attendence was a contribution placed into a hat that the team manager passed
among the townspeople.
" Mikey, watch this guy swing! "
" Mikey, time for a steal or a bunt !"
It was always in the eyes :
His smile .
displeasure when it was warranted.
His feeling of pride by a kid's achievement .
Especially ,his grief. I can remember how he turned
his head to block the view of his face when he was about to show tears. I can remember when he didn't have time to turn his head ,
and his eyes overlowed with tears at my sister's and brother's funerals.
It was always believed that Gus's first name was Constantino.
A document shows there is no "n" before the "s". In fact the name for the city, Constantinople in Italian is Costantinopoli. This
may explain how he became to be known as Gus. If, his brothers and friends, shortened his name to COS, and if you say it out loud,
you can see how the Irish kids and others might think you were calling him Gus.Â
A full translation of his first name: COSTANTINO .."Constant,
stable, firm, enduring"
His middle name :BUONOFEDE ..." man of good faith "
That was Gus , my Pa.