On Italian Night, a ‘Soprano’ plays bocce

On Italian
The Brooklyn Papers / Rebecca Cetta

It was Italian Heritage Night at Keyspan Park on Aug. 25, and on hand to help celebrate the event was Joe Gannascoli, the actor who plays Vito Spatafore on “The Sopranos.” Gannascoli is a Bensonhurst guy, having grown up near McDonald Avenue and attended Lafayette High School.

He was at Keyspan Park to play bocce against Cyclones manager Tony Tijerina.

“I was a Yankee fans growing up. My father was always a Yankee fan because his guy was Tony Lazzeri, an Italian-American, and then later he loved Joe DiMaggio. I had some uncles who were Brooklyn Dodger fans,” said the gregarious actor.

But just because he’s a Yankee fan doesn’t mean he won’t root for his home borough’s team.

“I’ve seen the Cyclones play a lot,” he said. “This is my first game this year, but I’ve been out here a bunch of times in previous years. I like to come and watch the game, but there are so many people I run into from school and from around the neighborhoods that I have a great time seeing them all while I‘m watching the Cyclones play.”

As for the bocce game, Gannascoli lost — but with good reason. Or at least an excuse.

“I have a torn rotator cuff, and I’ll have an operation on it next Tuesday, so it threw me off a little,” said Gannascoli, who also threw out one of the ceremonial first pitches despite the aching arm.

“I did the best I could in the bocce game,” noted Gannascoli. “The manager [Tony Tijerina] is very athletic, so he was very good, and he was paired with the guy who brought the bocce balls, who was also tough, so they made a good team.

“I was paired with Steve Cohen, whose background doesn’t include much bocce,” said the playful Gannascoli, casting a teasing look at the Cyclones GM. “So we lost.”

Speaking of…

“Res Ipsa Loquitor” is a Latin expression that is frequently used in the law. The term means, “The thing speaks for itself,” and, according to the “Lectric Law Library,” the words are, “applied to situations when it’s assumed that a person’s injury was caused by the negligent actions of another party because the accident was the sort that wouldn’t occur unless someone was negligent.”

On Monday night, Aug. 23, Scott Kazmir, the hard-throwing lefty on the 2002 Brooklyn Cyclones, recently traded by the Mets to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, threw five shutout innings against the Seattle Mariners to earn the victory in his first major league game.

Res ipsa loquitor.

Six degrees…

On Aug. 25 Rick Patterson, an outfield and base running instructor for the Mets farm system, temporarily took over the coaching duties at first base.

And when he did so, the former Met farm hand created yet another link to Brooklyn’s baseball past.

Patterson was a protege of Eddie Stanky, a famed baseball player and manager who spent three-and-a-half seasons with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Branch Rickey once said, “Stanky can’t hit, he can’t field, he can’t run, and he can’t throw. All he can do is beat you.”

Stanky did just that — being on pennant winners as a second baseman with the Dodgers, Giants and Braves.

Patterson was both a player and a coach when the former Dodger managed in college at South Alabama.

“He was like a second father to me,” said Patterson of the deceased Stanky.

“He taught us so much. We learned to read the other team’s pitcher, and we could tell what was coming from little telltale signs.

“Eddie was tough to play for because he was so intense. But we learned so much,” added Patterson.

Stanky himself was a protege of Leo Durocher, manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants, among other teams.

“When Eddie was retiring from college coaching, Leo [Durocher] was in our dugout for the Eddie’s final game and Leo had figured out all our signs by the first inning,” said Patterson.

So the next time you spot Patterson teaching the young Cyclones at Keyspan Park, remember that he learned a lot of his baseball from Eddie Stanky, who learned a great deal of his expertise from Leo Durocher.

The roots go back to Ebbets Field.

Ejected development

Earlier this season, manager Tony Tijerina was ejected for arguing an umpire’s call and, later in the same game, acting manager Donovan Mitchell was also thrown out for disputing an arbiter’s decision.

That left pitching coach Hector Berrios in charge, but what if he had been ejected?

Stranger things have happened. Mike Lopriore, the trainer at the Mets’ Binghamton farm team, took the reins this year after a series of ejections, and he’s now 1-0 as a manager.

This, of course, begs the question: is Cyclones trainer Ruben Barrera up to the task of managing? Maybe.

“I don’t know the signs,” said Barrera.

Well, how would he signal for steals, takes, and hit-and-runs? Simply put, he wouldn’t.

“I would let the players play,” stated Barrera. “No signs.”

Trainers don’t wear the team uniform, so what would Barrera wear if he was forced to manage?

“I would wear my shorts, as usual,” said Barrera confidently. “And, I would be holding my [trainer’s] scissors.

The thought of Barrera in the third base coaching box, in his civilian outfit with his shorts, and his scissors in hand is somewhat surreal, but Barrera seems ready to accept the possible challenge. Pitching changes? No problem.

“I won’t think about that until it happens,” said the potential dugout maven.

What about his coaching philosophy?

“None,” answered Barrera, who seems ready to employ a rather Zen-like approach to any prospective managing. “I don’t like to think too far ahead. I’ll just react to what happens,.”

“Ruben’s been around baseball for a long time,” said Cyclones manager Tony Tijerina with a laugh. “Trainers are always second guessing us anyway.”

“It would be interesting to see what Ruben could do as the manager.”

August 28, 2004 issue