Thirty-One Days of Italians
Contributing to America - Sports
Thirty-One Days of Italians
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Mario Andretti (1940) Setting records with more than 100 wins, and earning titles of "Greatest American Driver Ever" and "Driver of the Century," Andretti raced on paved ovals, road courses, and dirt tracks throughout his professional career. Influenced by Italian race car legend Alberto Ascari, at 19, Andretti started driving in dirt track and stock car races. In 1964, he joined the United States Auto Club, and a year later he finished third in the Indianapolis 500 and earned Rookie of the Year honors. In 1967, he won the Daytona 500 and two years later, he came in first at the Indy 500. His list of numerous racing accomplishments includes awards as the only person to be named Driver of the Year in three decades (1967, 1978 and 1984); the only driver to win the Daytona 500, Indy 500, and Formula One, and the only driver to win races in five decades, among many others. In 1981, he was elected to the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame.

After his retirement from racing in 1994, Andretti founded a winery. His interest in racing continues with the Mario Andretti Racing School, television and sports interviews, and his son and grandson who have followed Andretti’s lead.

The Official Web Site of Mario Andretti

The National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame

Mario Andretti Synonymous with Racing

Andretti Winery

Mario Andretti: Prominent Istrians


Yogi Berra (1925-2015) Recognized as one of the most popular baseball players in major-league history, Berra is as famous for his quotes, known as "yogi-isms," as he is for his sports career. His early interest in baseball led to playing in the minor league and signing with the New York Yankees. He joined the Navy during World War II, and after returning home, resumed playing with the Yankees in major league as a catcher and "bad-ball hitter." He played with the Yankees for 19 yearsin 14 World Seriesand was named to the All-Star team 15 times. He earned three Most Valuable Player Awards and ten World Championships (on a winning team), and holds numerous World Series records.

Berra managed the Yankees in 1964 and 1984-85, and in 1972 he became manager of the New York Mets. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972 and is a member of Major League Baseball's All-Century Team, and he was inducted into the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in 1979. During his baseball career, Berra became known for his quotes of wisdom laced with humor. It’s said that he has more quotes in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations than any other sports figure. Among his most famous are "It ain't over 'til it's over," "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded," It's deja vu all over again," and "When you come to a fork in the road ... take it."

Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center

The National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame

Baseball Library: Yogi Berra

Yogi Berra Statistics

Yogi Berra Quotes


Joe DiMaggio (1914-1999) Credited with leading the New York Yankees to nine World Championships, DiMaggioknown as "The Yankee Clipper" for his gracefulness on the fieldgained fame for his baseball skills and his demeanor both on the field and off. His career started when he played in the Pacific Coast League and caught the eye of Yankees’ scouts. He started with the Yankees in 1936 and set American League rookie records for runs and triples, making the All-Star Team and playing in the World Series. In 1941, he captured America’s attention with a 56-game hitting streak. He played with the Yankeesand in four more World Seriesuntil 1942 when he joined the army during World War II. He rejoined the Yankees in 1946, and went on to play in four more World Series.

Dimaggio retired in 1952, before baseball was televised, but his name is legendary and he’s been immortalized through songs and in Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, as "the Great DiMaggio." He was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1955, and he was elected to the Major League Baseball's All-Century Team. At the Centennial Celebration of baseball in 1969, DiMaggio was named the "Greatest Living Player." He was the first inductee in the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame, elected in 1978, and a statue depicting DiMaggio swinging a bat stands outside the Museum.

The Official Web Site of Joe DiMaggio

The National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame

Baseball Library: Joe DiMaggio

Joe DiMaggio Statistics

A Tribute to "The Last American Hero"


Vince Lombardi (1913-1970) Throughout a football career that started in his teens, Lombardi played fullback and guard, was a freshman and varsity coach, assistant coach of the New York Giants, and head coach of the Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins. He excelled in each position, bringing numerous victories to each team.

After five years with the Giants, he accepted the head coach position for the Packers, and turned the losing team into National Football League champions within three years. Under Lombardi’s leadership, the Packers earned six division titles, won five NFL championships, and became a benchmark team winning the first two Super Bowl games. In 1970 he was named the NFL’s 1960 Man of the Decade.

Lombardi took a brief retirement, then returned to professional football to coach the Redskins to their first victorious record in 14 years. Lombardi was with the Redskins for only one season. He died in 1970. In 1971, the NFL honored him by changing the name of the Super Bowl trophy to the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Among his many other honors and awards, in 1971, Lombardi was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame; in 1975 into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame; and in 1978, into the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame, with special recognition in the Hall of Fame's Gallery of Champions. In 2000, he was named Coach of the Century by ESPN, and in 2003, a statute of Lombardi was unveiled at Lambeau Field Atrium, the home of the Packers.

Lombardi was also known for his business acumen, his teaching skills, and his words of wisdom, which include "Winning isn't everything, but wanting to win is, " and "In great attempts, it is glorious even to fail."

The Official Web Site of Vince Lombardi

The National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame

Pro Football Hall of Fame

Green Bay Packers - Coaches

The Rotary Lombardi Award


Rocky Marciano (1923-1969) The only Heavyweight World Champion to retire undefeated, Marciano gained the title in 1955 when he knocked out Archie Moore, and still holds the titlewith 43 knock-outs in 49 fightsmore than 50 years after his final fight. Although his short stature appeared to have the odds against him, his iron chin, right punch, and determination made him a winner. He started to box in the army during World War II, and after his discharge in 1946, he began training. His first professional fight was in 1947, which he won with a third-round knockout. By 1949, he won 16 fights, knocking out 9 contenders in the first round. He knocked out returning champ Joe Lewis in 1951, and in 1952, Marciano won the World Heavyweight Championship Belt, defending the title six times (with five knockouts), until 1956 when he retired from boxing.

The Ring magazine named Marciano "Fighter of the Year" in 1952, 1954, and 1955; and he was elected to the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in 1977, receiving special recognition with a statue in the Gallery of Champions. Marciano was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.

Rocky Marciano Official Web Site

Rocky Marciano - The Brockton Blockbuster

The National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame

International Boxing Hall of Fame

Rocky Marciano Retires

Remembering the Rock


Bruno Sammartino (1936) As the only wrestler with two Championship reignsone of them the longest in historyin the World Wide Wrestling Federation (now WWE), Sammartino is considered the "Living Legend" and "The Italian Superman" of heavyweight wrestling. He began weightlifting in his teens, at one point training for the Olympics; and within a few years he was setting records, including power lifting in 1959. Catching the attention of a local wrestling promoter, within a few months, Sammartino began his career with the WWWF. After a short but successful wrestling career in Canada, in 1963, Sammartino returned to WWWF to defeat the reigning heavyweight champion. He held the title until 1971. Two years later, he regained the title as Heavyweight Champion and held it until 1977. Since then he has been involved in many aspects of wrestling, including appearances at Ring of Honor events.

In 1989, Sammartino was elected to the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame; in 2000, into The Ring Chronicle Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame; and in 2002, into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame. In 2013, Sammartino was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame and the International Sports Hall of Fame.

Bruno Sammartino Official Web Site

The National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame

Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame

Interview, Pro Wrestling Radio (2013)

Interview, Pro Wrestling Radio Classics (2005)

Interview, Official Prodigy Chat (1997)


Giorgio Santelli (1897-1985) Son of maestro fencer Italo Santelli, Giorgio immigrated to the United States and became, what many consider, the best fencing coach of the twentieth century. Giorgio was born in Budapest, Hungary, to Italian parents. His father had moved to Hungary, by request, to teach fencing.

Giorgio immigrated to America in the mid-1920s, and initially taught fencing at the New York Athletic Club, then opened Salle Santelli, a premier fencing club, and, in 1934, the United States Fencing Equipment Company (later changed to George Santelli, Inc.), one of the most well known fencing supply companies of the time. From the late 1920s to the early 1950s he was the U.S. National Coach and U.S. Olympic Coach, training and teaching fencing to produce many world champions. 

In 1928, Giorgio directed the fencing scenes for the Broadway production of Peter Pan. He coached and choreographed other fencing scenes on Broadway—including Romeo and Juliet and Hamletuntil the early 1960s. Giorgio was inducted into the USFA Hall of Fame in 1963, and continued to train and provide lessons throughout his life.

Giorgio Santelli

Lessons with the Master


Giorgio Santelli, Fencing Director


US Fencing Hall of Fame


Opening Doors With the Point of a Sword (NY Times Article, 1999)


New York Times Obituary 



Copyright 2007-2016 Janice Therese Mancuso
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without permission except when published with this credit: Excerpt from Thirty-One Days of Italians, 2015 Janice Therese Mancuso.