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What Does Italian Baseball Have To Do With Content Marketing?

July 27, 2016

Question for you: if you were a young American guy honeymooning in Italy, and someone asked you to stay and play for an Italian baseball team, what would you say?

One of my favorite writers, Charles McNair, said yes back in 1979. He wound up playing third base for the Verona Arsenal.

More than 35 years later, he wrote about it for Coca-Cola Journey. And thanks to yours truly, he wound up with his very own baseball trading card.blank vertical space, 32 pixels high
plate of spaghetti with baseballs instead of meatballs on red and white checkered tablecloth bottle of Coke passport Due McNain Verona Arsenal baseball trading card

blank vertical space, 32 pixels highI learn a lot when I’m asked to illustrate content marketing posts. I knew baseball was played in Central and South America, and in Japan– but Italy? I had no idea.

I wasn’t surprised to learn that Italians drink Coca-Cola, but I was surprised to learn they drink it without ice.blank vertical space, 32 pixels high
plate of spaghetti with baseballs instead of meatballs on red and white checkered tablecloth bottle of Coke passport

blank vertical space, 32 pixels highNaturally you’re asking yourself: if his name is Charles McNair, why does his baseball card say Due McNain?

Mr. McNair explains:BlankVertSpace.8pixels

I got my name in the newspaper, to the hilarity of my teammates, who read the story and convulsed over a mistranslation. Instead of Charles McNair, the reporter had somehow used my jersey number – 2, or due – and then misspelled my last name: Due McNain. 

I became, then, Due McNain. When my teammates said it, they slapped one another with gloves and laughed until tears rolled down their cheeks.BlankVertSpace.8pixels

Is Mr. McNair as handsome today as he looks in his card? Yup– see for yourself.blank vertical space, 32 pixels high
Due McNain Verona Arsenal Italian baseball team trading card photo of Southern writer Charles McNair

blank vertical space, 32 pixels highEditor Jay Moye was originally looking for just a header image. After reading about Mr. McNair’s teammates, I asked Jay if he’d be open to including some trading cards. I was delighted when he gave me the green light.

I didn’t have any photos of the players, just descriptions– in some cases, just a sentence or two. The cards needed to be horizontal. After scratching my head for awhile, I hit on the idea of including a front and back for each card in a single image. I came up with a design that used the colors in the Italian flag.BlankVertSpace.8pixels

All I knew about Robbie the center field was that he had “wild blonde curls (that) escaped the edges of his baseball hat comically, like clown hair.” I made up the rest.blank vertical space, 32 pixels high
Verona Arsenal Italian baseball team trading card Robbie center field curly blond hair ladies man bio likes dislikes

blank vertical space, 32 pixels highI laughed reading about Gianni, the shortstop:BlankVertSpace.8pixels

(He) lived a dream life – a rich family, fashion magazine good looks, a stunning girlfriend. He’d swoop by some nights in a little Italian coupe and take us for bouncing, hysterical rides around mountain hairpins, Verona twinkling below like a fairy-tale world.

Once every game, shortstop Gianni took a grounder off his shin and collapsed in agony … real or Italian agony, hard to tell. (Remember – these people invented opera.) When Gianni went down, Luciana, his gorgeous goddess girlfriend, floated down from the stands in diaphanous white and swept across the diamond, sunlight streaming through her sheer silks, to collapse over her poor hurt warrior. She cradled Gianni’s wounded head. She cooed and stroked Gianni’s cheek. Once, she even wept for his hurts.blank vertical space, 32 pixels high
Verona Arsenal Italian baseball team trading card Gianni shortstop crybaby girlfriend Luciana bio likes dislikes

blank vertical space, 32 pixels highAll I knew about Paco was that he had red hair and played second base. I’m afraid I padded his bio by giving him a rather messy (and wholly fictitious) habit.blank vertical space, 32 pixels high
Verona Arsenal Italian baseball team trading card Paco second base chews tobacco spits a lot bio likes dislikes

blank vertical space, 32 pixels highFrederico? He was “the mild, bespectacled 18-year-old right-fielder (who) spoke excellent English, rode a Vespa, and, sadly, followed the Fascist party.”blank vertical space, 32 pixels high
Verona Arsenal Italian baseball team trading card Frederico right fielder rides Vespa socialist politics bio likes dislikes

blank vertical space, 32 pixels highAlain, our catcher, ran a ristorante in the hills – the baseball team rode up after games, and we feasted on homemade risotto made with mushrooms harvested that morning.blank vertical space, 32 pixels high

Verona Arsenal Italian baseball team trading card Alain catcher ristorante owner bio likes dislikes

blank vertical space, 32 pixels highAnd how about that wild and crazy Poalo? He played left field and “cursed most profanely in Italian, every breath.”blank vertical space, 32 pixels high
Verona Arsenal Italian baseball team trading card Poalo left fielder bad temper swears a lot bio likes dislikes

blank vertical space, 32 pixels highGood content can take many forms. One of these is a funny story. Even better: a funny story with a surprise ending. And if you can casually drop your brand name along the way, that’s better still.

Mr. McNair’s A Third Baseman Of Verona does it all. You can read it here.

About that ending. I’ll set the stage for you:BlankVertSpace.8pixels

The Arsenal is out for revenge. They score 13 runs in the first inning. But their rivals chip away. Suddenly it’s the last inning. The Arsenal is clinging to a 13-12 lead. The bad guys load the bases. Three balls, no strikes, tying run on third…

Yogi Berra once famously said: “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

I think he’d be surprised how this one ends. So will you.

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Is brand-related storytelling part of your content marketing strategy?

Any Shakespeare scholars out there? A Third Baseman Of Verona references which of Bill’s plays?

Did you collect baseball cards when you were a kid? Do you remember when they came with bubble gum??

Hope you’ll leave a comment.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

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