Turbo Bocce’s Creation (Part 3)

In anticipation of the tournament we have coming up Saturday October 17th, at the site of Turbo Bocce’s first ever championship, I want to chronicle the early days of Turbo Bocce, and the people who invented it.

This part will detail the nitty-gritty of creating Turbo Bocce. I’m going to title it:


Fun fact, Turbo Bocce was not always called Turbo Bocce. It was originally called the Bocce Organization Of Beer Swillers – or B.O.O.B.S.

A second fun fact, we were not always mature adult people.

The decision to create a bocce league was agreed upon as detailed in part 2. Now it was time to execute.

The bulk of this execution was done by three people – Phil Martino, myself, and a new character I have yet to introduce.

Jim “Hammer” McCarthy – Hammer got his nickname at Phil Martino’s brother’s graduation party. We played bocce that day, and he hammered a ball out, also his name is Jim and there were commercials out at the time for a lawyer named Jim “The Hammer” Shappiro who I believe lost his license shortly after that. Hammer is a smart guy, and he bought a book, learned code and created the website you are reading today, just because he thought it would be cool. None of the rest of us could have done that.

Jim's pic from the very first day of Turbo Bocce in 2005.

Jim’s pic from the very first day of Turbo Bocce in 2005.

Jim also helped Phil and I put the league together. There were a couple of things we had in mind.

We wanted to choose teams by pulling names out of a hat. The idea was to fill the league with good guys so that no matter who you got you’d be happy.

We wanted it to be a fun elaborate league with stats and stuff.

We wanted to play the playoffs in an all day tournament back at Darien Lake where it all started.

Then I got online to research the official rules of bocce, and I received a gift. The gift was, there are no official rules of bocce. There is no bocce governing body. There is no official ball size or weight. The World Series of bocce in Rome is the World Series because they call themselves that and there is nobody to stop them from doing so.

This opened the door for innovation and creativity.

I learned that bocce is played in almost every country . . . its just not always called bocce. In Englad (where they play soccer, tennis, and golf on grass) they play on grass and call it lawn bowling. In France they play in a dirt pit and call it Pétanque. In Italy (surrounded by water) they play on crushed shells in a court.

“Bocce” is played all over the world, but the game is altered to fit the landscape of the country that is playing.

I knew it was time to invent a version of bocce that was tailor made for Syracuse.

It had to be played on grass, because everybody has a lawn, and there are not many courts or dirt pits around.

I knew that when we played bocce at family gatherings everybody would stand everywhere, some closer to and some farther from the pallino, and it didn’t feel like an official sport that way. so I added a mat that everybody needs to stand on to throw.

We knew we weren’t going to have referees, and we knew we liked to argue with each other so I set out to make the game as self regulating as possible. Measuring takes forever when you measure every shot (especially on long balls) so we added a “turbo round.” This feature is, of course, why we chose to call the league Turbo Bocce when we outgrew the name B.O.O.B.S.

I wrote up a rule book, Hammer made the website, and the league was ready to go. All we needed was people.

Phil, Hammer, George, and I asked friends to join, and mostly got back incredulous looks. I had just moved back to Syracuse from living out of town for the past seven years, so Phil, George, and Hammer did the heavy lifting as far as getting people to join the league.

Anson Zeppetello on the first day of Turbo Bocce in 2005.

Anson Zeppetello on the first day of Turbo Bocce in 2005.

Eventually we settled on the nice round number of 16 people (8 teams). You probably recognize our main group (which are still active today) of Anson Zeppetello, Sandy Colabufo, Jim Whipple, Hammer McCarthy, George Christou, Phil Martino, and myself, but there are a few people you probably don’t know.

Sandy Colabufo on the first day of Turbo Bocce in 2005.

Sandy Colabufo on the first day of Turbo Bocce in 2005.

Sean Conway – We used to call him Mitch Hedburg because he looked a lot like the dead comedian. He actually rented studio time and recorded a theme song for the league that he wrote and performed. It was good. It was FULL of swears. A couple of years later he left the league to become a priest. When ESPN radio did a thing on our league they sampled the beginning of his song to introduce our bocce league, so I called him to let him know that his song ended up on the radio. The conversation went something like this. “You know that bocce theme song you wrote about eight years back? Well ESPN radio wants to use part of it on the air . . . I hope that song does not cause you to end up in hell.”

Sean Conway on the first day of Turbo Bocce 2005.

Sean Conway on the first day of Turbo Bocce 2005.

Johnny Fritz – He was a friend of George’s brother. One day he just showed up, and never left. For about a six month stretch he was around every day. This was the time we were recruiting for the league so he joined. Three weeks into the league he stopped showing up and none of us ever saw him again – after six months of seeing him every day. I still think of him sometimes and hope he’s not dead.

Johnny Fritz on the first day of Turbo Bocce 2005.

Johnny Fritz on the first day of Turbo Bocce 2005.

Mike “Sid” Szitar – I’m not sure why everybody called him Sid, but I think it had something to do with Sid Vicious. He played bocce like a professional wrestler might play bocce. It was always an in-your-face battle to the death. He used to throw the pallio overhand as far as he could (farther than anyone could throw a bocce ball) and just make the game a far throwing contest. He did this even though he wasn’t very good at winning a far throwing contest. He is the reason we have a rule that you can’t throw the pallino more than 50 feet.

Sid on the first day of Turbo Bocce 2005.

Sid on the first day of Turbo Bocce 2005.

Phil, Hammer, and myself put wrote all these names and more on little pieces of paper, put them in a hat and chose teams at random.

Here is an article predicting the outcome of our very first season.

Hammer and Phil both wanted to use the team name Beer United (it was the name of a fantasy soccer team they ran) so they had a one on one game for the rights to the name at midnight with me holding a flashlight at the pallino. Hammer won, and the account of it is here.

Stay tuned for the fourth and final chapter detailing the creation of Turbo Bocce, coming up soon, which I will title Strathmore.