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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 for the Verona Arsenal.

More than 35 years later, he wrote about it for Coca-Cola’s online magazine, in a post called A Third Baseman Of Verona. 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. And if you can drop your brand name along the way, that’s better still.

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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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blank vertical space, 24 pixels highOther Posts You Might Enjoy:BlankVertSpace.8pixels

Forgotten Hero: A Tribute To Baseball’s Roger Maris

The Naked Truth About Knights, Avengers, And A Human Bowling Ball

Time Sure Flies When You’re In A Time Machine
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footer for all future blog posts showing picture of blog author Mark Armstrong, along with short bio and contact information

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. RKLikesReeses permalink
    July 27, 2016 2:54 PM

    Wow! So creative, so much fun! LOVE the cards and how they bring the team to life. Have to admit, though, that my favorite image is the “spaghetti and baseballs” with the “no ice” message included. Splendid!! Grand slam here, Mark – a grand slam! Grande sbattere!!!! (⬅ I don’t think that’s a flawless translation but it might work out to something close.) ::applause:: PS – Gosh, that baseball card bubblegum was super. I used to buy the cards just for that gum. 🙂


    • July 28, 2016 1:29 PM

      Grande sbattere!!!! Haw!!– thanks, RK!! I ran that thru Google Translate and got… “Big bang!!!!” Whoa! That’s a grand slam that clears the bases and creates the universe at the same time!! Hey, works for me… : )

      Thanks for all your kind words– as always, sincerely appreciated. Funny thing about the “spaghetti and baseballs” illo: the cover on one of the baseballs is loose, and has peeled up. When I was a kid, you could see the wound yarn inside when that happened. I tried to simulate that look and suggest (by using the same light yellow color) that it was “wound spaghetti” inside. A clear case of an illustrator obsessing over obscure and absurd details!! Sigh… : )

      I used to spend every nickel I had on baseball cards back in the day. Sometimes I’d get confused and save the gum and chew the cards… : P

      Nickels were few and far between, and I was always insanely jealous of a classmate whose dad owned a pharmacy, and whose grandfather owned a convenience store. They both gave him boxes of cards for his birthday. I couldn’t trade for anything because he had all my cards– in duplicate, triplicate, and quadruplicate!! O sweet and happy memories of childhood… : (

      Thanks as ever for your outrageously kind and good-humored support!! : )

      Liked by 1 person

      • RKLikesReeses permalink
        August 2, 2016 9:06 AM

        Can’t stay now, will be back soon. 🙂


        • August 2, 2016 10:47 AM

          That explains why all I see here is a disappearing whiff of smoke– come back soon!!! : )


  2. July 27, 2016 3:23 PM

    Mmm, spaghetti and baseballs. Yum! 😛

    I loved the baseball card illustrations. Really complimented the story well, I thought – very fun to look at too!


    • July 28, 2016 1:53 PM

      Ha-ha! Yes, indeed– spaghetti and baseballs! A little stringy, perhaps, but (ahem!) a well-rounded meal. And if you pull some of the stitching off one of the baseballs, you can use it to floss with after the meal– just another helpful dining tip here at Armstrong’s Ristorante!! : )

      My dear Lily! Always so nice to see you. I know I’m overdue at your blog, and I wish I had a better excuse than “I’ve been drawing spaghetti and baseballs in an attempt to make the world a better, happier place.” There’s just something about that one that lacks credibility… : )

      Thanks for your lovely comment, and for providing a soft warm glow for our dining area– hope you’re having a lovely summer!! : )

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Steven L Campbell permalink
    August 1, 2016 11:02 PM

    Loved the post, Mark. Brought back memories of my 2 years in Gaeta. I still drink my Coke without ice.


    • August 2, 2016 10:59 AM

      Hi, Steven! Always nice to see you. Had never heard of Gaeta. Just googled it– sounds lovely, right on the sea. Were you over there studying art? in the service, perhaps? possibly researching one of your books?? That’s funny about your still drinking Coke without ice. I get a kick out of regional differences like that– like the British preferring their beer at room temperature, or New Englanders getting their maple syrup from trees, instead of buying it in stores… : )

      Hope you’re well, thanks a lot for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Steven L Campbell permalink
        August 19, 2016 3:43 PM

        I was in the Navy when I lived in Gaeta. It was a beautiful place … still is by what I see posted on the Internet. I saw a lot of local art from 1976 to 1978 that sparked my desire to paint. Trips to European museums sealed the deal.


        • August 23, 2016 8:52 AM

          A Navy guy!– no wonder the water in your wildlife paintings looks so realistic… : )

          Thanks for sharing that, Steven. I remember that old naval recruiting slogan: “Join the Navy and see the world!” Quite a poster, too. Sounds like you saw a beautiful part of it, and used it to good advantage.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. August 8, 2016 8:39 AM

    It takes great talent to create something that even ignorant people like me would enjoy so much. So now I feel content and educated and….. tipsy from drinking from the MA cup of joy! Thank you, my friend! 🙂


    • August 8, 2016 8:40 PM

      Gush! Blush! Holy sweet mush!! 😅☺️😍 🚀🔜💥🚑👽👽👽👽

      Tipsy?? Well, I certainly am after reading this heady, intoxicating comment!! Reminds of the last time I was in the Ambrosia Bar & Grille and I told the bartender: “You there! You with the bowtie! Come fill the bowl until it doth run over!! And while you’re at it, give a refill to my friend here with all the paint stains on her toga!!”

      A bowl of the best in front of me, and a goddess sitting next to me– now there’s true contentment! And I didn’t think it could get any better– but then she pulled out a diamond- and ruby- and sapphire-encrusted purse, and said: “Hic! It’s on me, ol’ buddy, ol’ pal!!”

      My dear Marina! I hesitate, nay I tremble, to correct an immortal, but you can’t be ignorant and know all there is to know about art and beauty at the same time. That’s impossible– even for a goddess!!

      Thank you for your wonderful swoon-inducing comment… hic! 😉🍷🍸🍹🍼🍨🍨🍨🍨🍨🍨🔜🚑


  5. August 17, 2016 4:36 AM

    I never thought the Italians were into Baseball!! thanks for your art.

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 18, 2016 7:26 AM

      Yes– that was quite a surprise to me, too! : )

      I’m very glad you enjoyed the post, and I appreciate the kind words– many thanks for stopping by, sir!


  6. RKLikesReeses permalink
    November 16, 2016 8:03 AM

    Hi, Mark! I don’t know if you’ll see it so I’m giving you the link here – I hope that’s OK. You’ve made a big impression on me with your marketing posts! I just thanked you, here:


    • November 18, 2016 1:48 PM

      Whoa! I read this comment and started so violently the meatball fell off my fork, bounced out the window into the driveway, out into the road, and was last seen dodging raccoons and rusty pickup trunks, headed for Vermont– zowie!! One thing’s clear: I’ve gotta stop buying Flubber-brand meatballs… : )

      My dear RK!! I yam truly flattered and flubbered! I’m just back from clicking on your link, and reading about Mark Armstrong’s voice reverberating around in your head– how ghastly!! What? It actually did some good?? And gave you some content marketing ideas?? This makes me very happy, and really cheers me up after losing that meatball… : )

      At the considerable risk (OK, a certainty) of repeating myself: I love your work, keep putting it out there, and I’m always rooting for your success!! : )

      Liked by 1 person

      • RKLikesReeses permalink
        November 18, 2016 2:00 PM

        Many, many thanks, Mark – and I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!! 🦃 🙂


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