A love affair on 77th Street in Brooklyn
It started as a sports get-together some 12 years ago. Today, it has morphed into a community love affair.
Tom Ferrante remembers — and remembers it like it was yesterday.
“We grew up in a very tightly-knit group,” he told the Brooklyn Eagle the other day. “It was a group of friends and families.”
It was a group that congregated on 77th Street between 15th and 16th avenues.
“We were close, very close,” he said. “Anthony Vollaro was part of the group.
“The man they called ‘T’ passed when he was 18,” Ferrante said, “and he had two older brothers and one younger.”
And T’s oldest brother Mike got the gang together in 2012 for a small stickball tournament.
Well, maybe it wasn’t so small — there was also a block party that had 77th Street closed.
“It’s a big day-long party,” Ferrante said, “and we do it to honor T.”
The 77th Street Tournament is the T. Vollaro Memorial. And it’s just for the neighborhood guys and ones on the block.
The rules are quite interesting:
- Self-hitting (without a pitcher)
- Running the bases
- Five-on-five teams
Ferrante says they had six teams, with five players on each, for this year’s T Memorial.
“Eight years ago,” Ferrante said, “we made a cup with the winners’ names on it.”
Yeah, they’re serious on 77th Street.”
The schedule is quite easy, and honestly, no one really has to be in game shape.
“We eat all day long,” Ferrante said, “and there’s music, beer and, of course stickball.”
The festivities get underway at 9 a.m., and play officially starts an hour later.
The traffic — is it a problem on 77th Street?
“Well,” Ferrante admitted, “one of the guys has a Children at Play sign, which says, please turn.”
And the cars do, so 77th Street is all theirs for the day.
The 77th Street gang of yesteryear are a little older; perhaps a little heavier with a little less hair.
Their Zip codes have changed, too.
Most of the guys come from New Jersey and Staten Island. Few still call Brooklyn and Bensonhurst home.
The common bond, besides having known T, is that they’re all grads of New Utrecht High School.
The T Memorial was the brainchild of Mike Vollaro and brother Jeff; but one can’t forget Dom Angilletta when you mention the T.
Angilletta brings something very special to the yearly event — his mom.
“Dom’s mom gives us the eats,” Ferrante said. “Rice balls, eggplant parm, zeppoles and pasta.”
In fact, they set up the food in front of his childhood house, where mom Vera still lives.
“She loves seeing the boys,” Ferrante says.
Joe Curreri is one of the boys — in fact, the oldest at 69 — and Ferrante says he’s as spry as a teenager. “He comes from Marlboro, N.J., where he stays in shape by playing stickball in the schoolyard with buddies on the weekend.”
As an event, the T Memorial has grown leaps and bounds over the past 12 years. But the meaning of the event has also been quite special.
“We honor all those who have passed with their initials on the back of our special T-shirts,” Ferrante said. “Kevin, Dennis and Frank, guys we grew up, are remembered on the backs of the shirts.”
That is truly special.
Andy Furman is a Fox Sports Radio national talk show host. Previously, he was a scholastic sports columnist for the Brooklyn Eagle. He may be reached at: [email protected] Twitter: @AndyFurmanFSR
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