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