Southern Methodist University (SMU) Department of World Languages and Literatures in collaboration with the SMU International Film Festival and the SMU Italian Club are proud to present the Russo Brothers National Italian American Foundation Film Forum Award-winning documentary, Italian American Baseball Family, on Monday, February 21, 2022 at 7:00 pm at McCord Auditorium (3rd floor of Dallas Hall). Filmmaker and director Roberto Angotti will on hand to introduce the film prior to the screening. Admission is free to SMU students and members of the general public. Due to Covid-19 and social distancing requirements, seating may be limited. Masks are strongly encouraged and requested for all attendees.
Italian American Baseball Family tells the story of the Italian Americans’ role in baseball and in the culture of American sports. The movie documents an ethnic group’s rise from adversity and celebrates its triumphs in breaking into a game that was originally dominated by English, Irish and German immigrants. While some immigrants chose to change their names to mask their Italian identity, most felt the need to preserve and hold on to familiar things such as language, customs, and beliefs as a way of tolerating the discriminatory practices and injustices they encountered in America.
Children of immigrants felt stuck in the middle between protective parents who did not want the foreign ways of America to affect the close-knit Italian family, and their own desire to blend into the culture in which they were born. These children lived dual identities, conflicted by the rich Italian traditions of their parents inside their homes and the outside world which existed in the streets and in the schools, where they were taught to become American.
The solution to the stigma of being labeled as outsiders was to discover a way to become less different by assimilating into American culture. As a staple of mainstream American life, baseball presented Italians a viable point of entry as players and fans. By instilling the values of fair play, opportunity and democracy, baseball taught the children of immigrants how to become American.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame has recognized many Italian Americans including Tony Lazzeri, Joe DiMaggio, Roy Campanella, Yogi Berra, Ernie Lombardi, Phil Rizzuto, Tommy Lasorda, Ron Santo, Joe Torre, Tony La Russa, John Smoltz, Craig Biggio, and Mike Piazza. In fact, many Italian Americans like Hall of Famer and current Team Italy manager Mike Piazza and Italian American Baseball Foundation co-founder Frank Catalanotto have embraced their ancestral heritage in Italy by playing and coaching for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic. Italian American Baseball Family also explores how Italian Americans have circled back to Italy to help grow the game abroad. Italian American Baseball Family features interviews with Team Italy players Nick Punto, Francisco Cervelli, Brandon Nimmo, Chris Colabello, and Gavin Cecchini. For more information on the free film screening on February 21, 2022 and the SMU International Film Festival, click HERE. To become a member of the Italian American Baseball Foundation, click HERE.