Family in Cooperstown

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

Marcus Giamatti was a participant in the All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball Game held at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif., on Sunday night. And not only is he an actor, having appeared in numerous movies and television series, but he also shares a surname familiar to fans of the national pastime and the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

07-14-10-Francis_Giamatti.jpgMarcus Giamatti’s father was the seventh baseball commissioner, A. Bartlett Giamatti. A former president of Yale, he became president of the National League in 1986 before ascending to the game’s top position in 1988. After less than a year on the job, he passed away in 1989 at the age of 51. After his untimely death, the Hall of Fame honored his legacy with the naming of the A. Bartlett Giamatti Research Center.

“I can’t believe as big a baseball fan as I am that I’ve never been to the Hall of Fame,” said Marcus Giamatti, best known  as a series regular on television’s Judging Amy (1999-2005), after the softball game. “I’ve always been working in different places and I’ve never gotten up to that part of the country, but my wife is from Corning, which is nearby, and we’re going to try to plan a trip so she can go see her relatives and we’re going to try and go to the Hall of Fame. I hope that happens within the next year or two.”

And the Giamatti Research Center is on the itinerary, too.

“It’s a great honor to him to because he was a great baseball historian and poet himself,” said Giamatti, 48, who grew up in New England. “So it means a tremendous amount to me. It’s really too bad he never knew about it. I really need to get up there to see it. He’d be so flattered and moved by it.”

Wearing the cap of his beloved Boston Red Sox, Giamatti said baseball was a love he shared with his father.

07-14-10-Francis_Research.jpg“He had a huge influence on my love of baseball. That was basically our connective link that we had, our love of baseball and the Red Sox,” Giamatti said. “I used to listen to them every night on the radio with him. I’d do my homework while he was correcting papers at the dining room table.

“He basically taught me the parallel lessons of the quest and the journey and the process of things through baseball. The adjustments you have to make, the game of failure, and sometimes the rewards, just like in life.”

Giamatti, a catcher through high school (“But I couldn’t hit”), is currently writing the afterword for a 2011 re-release of his father’s 1989 book “Take Time for Paradise: Americans and Their Games.”

And according to Giamatti, it looks like the family’s next generation will continue with a fascination for the game.

“I have one daughter, she’s 14 months old, and she watches baseball with me all the time. She calls it ballball.”

Bill Francis is a library associate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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