Sep 16, 2021 215

BY: Charles Sacchetti

The fall has always been my favorite time of the year. I find the crisp air, the array of colors and bright skies of autumn to be both invigorating and lovely. However, since 2013, I have a new reason for looking forward to this time of year. That is because October of 2013 was the first year that my friend Bill Winarski and I attended the annual “Al Pisa Memorial Bocce Tournament” that takes place at the Pisa residence in the Bunker Hill section of Dunmore, PA.

We continue to enjoy attending annually at the same time of year. I explained, in an earlier story, that a chance phone call I made in 2012, led me to enjoy a wonderful friendship with the group of men who were Al’s closest friends and family, especially his son Carlo and Carlo’s son Alfredo. Carlo faithfully continues this tradition of love and friendship Al started many years ago.

It was Al’s vision to host this annual get-together at his home, whereby he would do almost all of the cooking and preparation. Of course, the guests rarely come empty handed, usually bringing Italian specialties like, roasted peppers, eggplant marinated in olive oil and spices, pepperoni, sharp provolone, wine and crusty Italian bread. All of these however, are “Pre-Meal” snacks. The real dinner comes after the bocce tournament is over. Here is where Carlo shines as he provides various pasta dishes, meatballs, hot and sweet sausage, chicken, salad and whatever else he feels will fit the occasion. Dessert is the specialty of one of the guests, Dave “The Mailman” Evanko, who is a master baker and provides the most creative and delicious pastries you can imagine.

And then there is the Bocce tournament! It’s important to note that when I use the term tournament, it is used in the loosest form of the word. There isn’t a lot of structure, no officials or judges, sometimes a half hour may pass between games as the teams of two decide to fuel up on Chianti or Merlot. Rules are loosely followed probably because no one really knows what they are. When a guy makes a good shot everybody yells. When a guy makes a bad shot, everybody gives him the business. It’s all about fun and camaraderie.

The first year that we attended, we were dubbed, “The Jersey Boys.” Bill and I never played bocce in our lives but we won the tournament, primarily because we made a couple of lucky shots, bouncing the wooden ball off of the railroad tie borders of the court. No skill was necessary. In 2014, the following October, we chose to make a grand entrance carrying jugs of wine and reminding all of our buddies that we were the defending champs. We lost miserably barely winning only one game out of the six we played. Our cockiness soon faded. We had similar performances in 2015 and 2016 as we and every other pair fell victim to a bona fide bocce star.

In 2015, one of the guys brought his teenage son, Kenny, to the game. As partners, they whizzed through all opponents. Pop was good but Kenny was amazing. Almost every shot he took came within inches of the “pallina”, the small ball that is the target at which you shoot. The closer your larger ball is, the more points you score. Kenny was untouchable that day. Kenny and his dad whipped everyone again in 2016. He was such a nice kid that I found myself routing for him. Not the least bit arrogant, Kenny just annihilated all opponents.

But fate would pay a visit to the Pisa bocce court in 2017.

Bill and I actually played well and defeated three teams. Kenny and his dad were still alive and as luck would have it, we would face them in the final game of 21 points. I was rolling against Kenny and Bill was to take on his dad. With the score tied at 18 each, the game came down to Kenny’s final throw. If he put his shot inside of mine, they would win their third championship in succession. If not, the bragging rights would again be owned by the Jersey Boys. As 25 guys looked on, Kenny looked intently at the court. He saw a path to victory if he could roll the ball between three others. I had seen Kenny easily make this shot many times and I thought that he’d certainly do it again. As Kenny took a step and swung his right arm back to release the ball, he was stung by a bee right on his hand. The pain of the sting forced him to release the ball prematurely and it traveled only a few feet.

Game over. The Jersey Boys were back!

After shaking hands (gently) with Kenny and his dad, Bill and I retired to the tent and had a few pieces of provolone and pepperoni. It was there that we started the rumor that we had brought the bee with us from Jersey to be released at the most crucial time.

I think most of the guys believed we were kidding. It’s never too early to start playing head games on your opponents at the Al Pisa Memorial Bocce Tournament.


Charles Sacchetti is the author of two books, It’s All Good: Times and Events I’d Never Want to Change and Knowing He’s There: True Stories of God’s Subtle Yet Unmistakable Touch. Both are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online outlets. Contact him at Worthwhilewords21@gmail.com

You may be interested