The Italian American stars in US sports: Women 1 of 2
- WTI Magazine #101 Mar 17, 2018
The Italian American sportswomen have left a luminous trail in the American sports, either in the most popular disciplines and in those less practiced or far from the front pages of newspapers and TV programming.
In 1942, Philip Wrigley (owner of the Chicago Cubs) financed an analysis about the project to create a women's baseball championship for fans, since men were involved in the Second World War. It was a happy intuition (the first regular season recorded 180,000 paying viewers, with a peak of 900,000 in the 1948 season). The championship took place from 1943 to 1954, organized by the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.
A 1992 film ("A League of Their Own", directed by Penny Marshall) gave us the atmosphere of those years, in some ways extraordinary.
In the rosters of the various teams there were some girls of Italian origin.
Fern G. Battaglia (1931, Chicago, IL): infielder, played with the Chicago Colleens (1950) and the Battle Creek Belles (1951). She is maong those players represented in a permanent display dedicated to women's baseball in the Baseball Hall of Fame of Cooperstown, NY.
Lucile Colacito (1921, Florence, CO): catcher, played with the Kenoscha Comets from 1943 to 1944, eighth in the league for the most doubles.
Betty Luna (1927, Dallas, TX): pitcher, played in the league from 1944 to 1950 with the Rockford Peaches, the South Bend Blue Sox, the Chicago Colleens, the Fort Wayne Daisies and the Kalamazoo Lassies. Two playoffs (1946, 1949), two no-hitters (1945,1947), ranked 10th for the best earned run average in the All-time list.
Rose "Monty" Montalbano (Staten Island, NY): infielder, she played with the South Bend Blue Sox, the Battle Creek Belles and the Muskegon Belles from 1951 to 1953. Two championship teams (1951-195).
Margaret "Marge" Stefani (1917, Detroit, MI): infielder, was one of the top 60 players in the league, from 1943 to 1948 with the South Bend Blue Sox and the Rockford Peaches, 1944 All-Stars league team.
Betty "Moe" Trezza (1925, Brooklyn, NY): infield and outfield utility, played with 4 different teams from 1946 to 1950, two league titles (1946, 1948) with the Racine Belles.
Margaret "Marge" Villa (1924, Montebello, CA): utility player, she played with the Kenosha Comets from 1946 to 1950, three playoff appearances (1948-1950), set all-time record total bases in a single game (1946).
Elena Delle Donne (1989, Wilmington, DE): forward, after an exceptional university career became a professional athlete in the WNBA. She played from 2013 to 2016 with the Chicago Sky and in 2017 with the Washington Mystics. Gold medal with Team USA at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Career highlights: WNBA Rookie of the Year (2013); WNBA MVP (2015); 4 WNBA All-Star (2013, 2014, 2015, 2017); WNBA scoring champion (2015). Affected by Lyme disease, she dedicates herself to her older disabled sister during the seasonal break.
Jennifer M. Rizzotti (1974, White Plans, NY): guard and head coach, after an excellent university career with Connecticut (regular in 1995 in the national champion team unbeaten for 36 matches) culminating in a cover photo on Sports Illustrated, she is chosen by WNBA. Jennifer played with the New England Blizzard (1996-1998), the Houston Comets (1999-2000) and the Cleveland Rockers (2001-2003); currently he is head coach of George Washington University.
Diana L. Taurasi (1982, Chino, CA): guard, daughter of an Italian and an Argentinean, already known at high school level (in 2000 she was awarded the Naismith Prep Player of the Year), 3 NCAA titles with Connecticut, pro since 2004 with the Phoenix Mercury (WNBA Rookie of the Year). Since 2005 she has also started playing in the European winter championships (with Dinamo Mosca, Spartak Mosca, Fenerbahce, Galatasaray, until 2012) winning a Euroleague title. She has participated in 4 editions of the Olympic Games with Team USA (2004, 2008, 2012, 2016), winning 4 gold medals.
Linda S. Fratianne (1960, Los Angeles, CA): former American skater known for winning 2 world titles (1977, 1979), 4 consecutive US Championships (1977-1980) and a silver medal in the 1980 Winter Olympics. Daughter of a judge of the Court of Los Angeles of Italian origin, she has measured herself and won against the great figure skaters of Eastern Europe.
Donna Caponi - Byrnes (1945, Detroit, MI): professional Golfer, in 1965 entered the LPGA Tour and won the US Women's Open in 1969. She was player of the year in 1981; 10 times, from 1968 to 1981, she entered the Top 10 money list; in the World Golf Hall of Fame since 2001, she is currently a TV commentator.
Christina L. Desiderio (2000, Independence Twp., NJ): artistic gymnast, in the years 2012-2014 begins to win national titles at junior international elite level; in the two-year period 2016-2017 she joins the US national team at senior elite level. She also joined the program of the gymnastics team LSU Lady Tigers of Louisiana State University.
Mary Lou Retton (true surname Rotunda, born in 1968 in Fairmont, WV): at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles she was the first American gymnast to win a gold medal in the history of the Games, as well as 2 silver and 2 bronze medals; all of a sudden she became a popular face in all States. In 1985 she won the America's Cup, and retired in 1986. In 1997, Retton was nominated in the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame.
Alicia Sacramone (1987, Boston, MA): silver medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing; 4 gold, 5 silver and 2 bronze medals at the 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2010 World Championships; 1 gold medal in the 2004 World Cup; 2 gold medals at the 2004 Pacific Championships. In 2015 she was nominated in the US Gymnastics Hall of Fame. Alicia is married to the former NFL quarteback Brady Quinn.
Catherine "Cammi" Granato (1971, Downers Grove, IL): wing-center, she is one of the first ice hockey players to be featured in the International Hockey Hall of Fame (2008), US Hockey Hall of Fame (2009) and the Hockey Hall of Fame (2010). Captain of Team USA, with whom he played from 1990 to 2005, she boasts an amazing list of medals (at least 20, of which 1 gold and 1 silver at the 1998 Nagano Olympics and in 2002 in Salt Lake City) and in the World Championships, Nations Cup and Pacific Championship. Cammi is married formerly NHL star Ray Ferraro, and is a commentator in TV programs dedicated to NHL.
Angela Ruggiero (1980, Los Angeles, CA): defense, a very young member of the US national team, took part in the 1997 World Cup (silver medal) and the 1998 Olympic Games (gold medal). Later she won 2 more gold medals (2005, 2008) and 5 silver medals (from 1999 to 2004) at the World Cup and 1 silver and a bronze medal at the 2002 Olympics Salt Lake City and 2006 Turin. In 2003, Globe and Mail magazine nominated her the best in the world in her role, and The Hockey News named her the best ever. A curiosity: she was the first non goaltender woman to play a regular season match with a professional male team (28 January 2005, with Tulsa Oilers in the CHL).