HISTORY OF LANCASTER BOCCE LEAGUE
In 1978, Antonio Palumbo and Jim Lombardo were trying to convince the City of Lancaster to erect a statue of Christopher Columbus as a lasting legacy to the Italian Community. The time was not right and city fathers were not receptive to the idea. However, one city leader, Mayor Richard Scott, suggested that something else be done to acknowledge the contributions of the Italian American community. At a meeting between Mayor Scott and Jim Lombardo, the Mayor proposed the creation of Bocce Courts for the city and furthered suggested they be named in honor of Mr. Palumbo. This project would also serve as further encouragement to Mr. Palumbo to continue his efforts for a statue of the great mariner, Christopher Columbus. (The statue was finally erected in 1992).
At the mayor’s request to work with the city parks department, Jim Lombardo sought and received specifications for bocce courts and after meeting with Mr. Morris Ressel, city parks director, work was begun on two temporary courts at Buchanan Park. These courts were put into play in 1978 and the Lancaster Bocce League was born. The temporary courts were constructed with grass surface playing areas surrounded by a border of railroad ties to create a rectangular court 60 feet long by 10 feet wide. These courts served the league until 1986, when the city parks department built more permanent courts with clay and sand surfaces. Initially the league consisted of seven teams of four players each and up to four alternates. As the years progressed, the league grew to nine teams.
In 1979, the courts were officially named the “Antonio Palumbo Bocce Courts” in recognition of the civic and cultural contributions of Mr. Palumbo. Indeed, Mr. Palumbo actively played the game as a member of Team Reggio until he was 94 years old. Today the name plaque honoring Palumbo still exists and is located at the head of the courts in Buchanan Park. The plaque, which mentions the courts and Mr. Palumbo’s name, also provides the initial slate of officers for the Lancaster Bocce League, which, interestingly enough were first selected by a flip of the coin. Elections have occurred ever since. The original officers were: Robert Baldori, James J. Lombardo, James V. Lombardo and Patrick Caterbone.
In 2002 and 2003, the courts were upgraded and are still being used on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings by the thirteen teams comprising the Lancaster Bocce League.
As a testament to the popularity of the sport, in 2005 two new courts were constructed at Amos Herr Park in East Hempfield Township, Landisville, and in 2009 Manheim Township constructed four courts at the Overlook Recreational Campus which will also be used by the bocce league. In both instances, the league assisted with technical specifications and the Lancaster Italian Cultural Society assisted financially.
The Bocce League teams reflect the diverse culture of the Italian and American communities in Lancaster. A true family sport, teams consist of men and women ranging from age 16 to 94. Some team names over the years included the following:
|• Gasperina Raiders
• Risorgimento Champigne
• Napolitan Four
• Rolling Rigatoni
| • City Hall Roses
• Non-Italian Stallions
• Buchanan Avenue Hi Bocce
• Bocce Babes
| • Marchigiani
• Knights of Columbus
• Rolling Stones
It is a tribute not only to the game of bocce, but to the cultural influence of the Italian community and the favorable reception of the Lancaster community, that the Lancaster Bocce League has existed and thrived for over 30 years with no sign of stopping!