Joey Nicoletti

To Joe Sambito

Dear Mr. Sambito,

When my father heard your name

called by the always-enjoyable Joe

Garagiola in the All-Star Game,

he sipped his can of Schaefer

beer, and asked me what I knew

about you as a person and player.

I told him that you threw

a filthy slider; you were born

in Brooklyn: a paesano raised

in Long Island. We munched corn

chips: Fritos. My father was amazed

by your skills; our shared heritage made us cheer

for you. My father drank another beer.

To Dom DiMaggio


Dear Mr. DiMaggio,

you were incredibly underrated.

You made your mark in The Show

with your bat, which serrated

pitchers; your speed, and lethal

arm in centerfield. You wore glasses.

You were short. You were called the Little

Professor, which made the masses

go to ballparks and watch you play,

especially in Beantown; in Fenway

Park. You also fought in World War Two:

this convinced my nonni to root for you.

To John Cangelosi

Dear Mr. Cangelosi:

when I was a teenager,

the only thing cooler

than watching you

steal a bag

was meeting you

at Shea Stadium.

When I asked you

how it felt

to be back

in New York,

where you were born,

you said, “Not too

bad, Paesan. Thanks

for asking.”

Then you flashed

a scraggly-toothed smile

and dashed

into left field.

You sprinted

to centerfield

and back

to left field

almost as fast

as the airplanes

coming and going

from LaGuardia

in the fierce Flushing sky,

my second generation

Italian American heart

pounding through

my cannoli gangster chest.

To Sal Bando

Dear Mr. Bando: Captain Sal,

you could give a ball a ride.

You helped the A’s win

three World Series Championships

in a row. You also played

for the Brewers, and you made

my cousin Billy cheer your

name when he saw you play

in person and on TV,

which was a big deal for him,

seeing as how you never wore

New York Yankees pinstripes.

But having a knack

for launching moonshots;

for being big, strong, talented,

diligent, persistent,

loyal and Italian

American goes a long way

with most of my family’s

low, loud, opinionated,

thick-necked men.

To Aurelio López

Dear Mr. López: Señor Smoke, your nickname, your fastball, your leg kick, your open mouth:

your look of concentration on your 1984 card inspired me to go to the schoolyard and throw a

baseball at a chipped brick wall. This felt better than worrying if my grandmother would needle

me relentlessly, like she did to my uncle—she got so angry at him that she said that she never

wanted him to be conceived, much less born. My uncle reacted by hurling a knife into the wall of

her dining room before he stormed out of our house and slammed the scratched white metallic

door off its hinges. Your card kept me calm that afternoon. This continues to be the case.

Whenever someone goads me, I see you in my mind, standing on Tiger Stadium’s hill. I take

deep breaths, all of which are stones skipping across muddy water.

Joey Nicoletti‘s latest book is Fan Mail (Broadstone, 2021). He teaches in the College Writing Program at SUNY Buffalo State.