“There’s somethin’ happening here; what it is, ain’t exactly clear….” These lyrics from the old Buffalo Springfield song sum up this year’s Cleveland Challenge Cup of Bocce where the winds of change continue to blow. Powerhouse teams from traditional bocce strongholds such as Toronto, Rome, NY., and East Haven, Connecticut along with regional teams from Youngstown/Warren/Niles all gathered to compete again this year in Wickliffe. Even teams from as far as Maryland and Mississippi found their way here, as this tournament continues to gain prestige within the bocce world.
The story the last two years was the emergence of a young team from Cleveland’s Little Italy neighborhood (all under 27) that stormed through the tournament undefeated both years. Would they be able to repeat for a 3rd consecutive year and rival the old Rainbow Creek/Toronto teams that actually accomplished that feat twice (1987-1989; 1998-2000)? Well the answer was a resounding NO! The competition was fierce, and if you didn’t bring your “A” game every time out, you weren’t around long. However, another relatively young local team, Adelio’s Contracting, emerged this year and steadily worked their way through the winner’s bracket to position themselves as a solid contender, while many of the traditional powerhouse teams – including last year’s runner-up and 2013 champions, Palazzo 777 along with mighty Rainbow Creek, and East Haven, CT all lost a game and had to fight through the loser’s bracket.
In only their 2nd tournament together, Adelio’s defeated Rainbow Creek in the championship game by a score of 16-11 to capture the 2016 Cleveland Challenge Cup of Bocce. Facing an experienced Rainbow Creek team, Adelio’s came out strong and jumped out to an 8-0 lead with Anthony Melaragno leading the way, hitting point balls away and sticking his ball for point. Rainbow Creek crawled back into the game at 12-6, but Adelio’s came back with 3 points as Rainbow Creek’s hit attempts missed the mark. However the Toronto veterans weren’t done yet, and came right back with 3 points of their own after a rare miss by Melaragno and continued to inch back into the game at 15-11. Adelio’s was finally able to put the game away in Frame 15 with a point shot to the back wall by Sergio DiFranco, grabbing the Challenge Cup trophy by a score of 16-11.
Captain Sergio DiFranco, Richie DiFranco, Mike Ianetta, and Anthony Melaragno, Jr. are all between the ages of 35-40, and several of their fathers (Bruno Ianetta, Tony Melagrano) are local bocce legends – former Challenge Cup winners with the Vandra Brothers teams (1990, 2002, 2010, 2012). Sergio DiFranco’s father – Adelio DiFranco was the 5th man on the team as well as coach and mentor for the younger players, and he is also a well-known bocce player in the area. It looks like the torch is being passed from one generation to the next! But it will be harder and harder to repeat as the level of play of many young local teams – including teams with Wickliffe I&A Members – is rapidly improving.
Congratulations to Wickliffe I&A Members who finished in the Top 16 this year, including: Bryan, Mike, and Pete Vitantonio, Frank Gambatese (Wickliffe I&A #1) who tied for 5th place with Frank DiCillo, Russ Meraglio (Fioritto Funeral Home); Chris Federico (Rompe Le Palle) who tied for 7th place, and Eugene Ciasullo (TC Construction) who tied for 9th place.
The event is partially funded with a grant from the Lake County Visitors Bureau. As part of the grant reward
process, 9 judges review the applications submitted and give scores based on various criteria. The Cleveland Challenge
Cup of Bocce received an overall score of 98.85 (out of 100), tied for the top score out of the 19 organizations that
applied. Some of the comments of the judges were as follows:
•International event, hundreds of overnight stays
•It is a unique cultural experience
•Well documented tourism impact
•A model project for this grant
THE WICKLIFFE ITALIAN-AMERICAN CLUB is a community-based social/fraternal organization established in
1932 for people of Italian ancestry who live in the city of Wickliffe, Ohio ( a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio). The club
actively promotes and recognizes those of Italian descent who have furthered the Italian cultural bond that they they share,
and offers educational programs for the children and grandchildren of it’s members, as well as awarding college
scholarships each year to those who have demonstrated knowledge and pride in their Italian heritage. The Pat O’Brien
Cleveland Challenge Cup of Bocce Tournament is now in its 33nd year and has grown from 16 teams to 96 teams, with
attendance hitting over 12.000 once again in 2015. It is still the largest men’s bocce tournament in the Midwest.
For years now, when people opened up La Gazzetta and turned to the Wickliffe I&A Club section they read the works of Thomas Ruffner. A dedicated Club member, who beautifully orchestrated our monthly articles to be more than just a monthly update, but who cataloged our Club’s long history, highlighting families that laid the foundation to ensure our Club’s success today. The eventual goal was to create a book based on his articles, making the history of our fraternity permanent and easily transferable from generation to generation. A goal which I hope we will continue to work towards and achieve.
Unfortunately, the Honorable Tom Ruffner , former Mayor of the City of Wickliffe, member of the Wickliffe I&A Club, Knights of Columbus, Wickliffe City Club, co- founder of the Wickliffe Hall of Fame, and Villa Beach Communications has passed away. This untimely death comes as a shock to most – many did not know he was even sick, but on Friday, August 5th, Tom succumbed to that horrible disease that is cancer.
Tom fought this terrible disease with courage, he did not complain or let it sideline him on a long term basis. He has been quietly battling, not complaining and refused to let his diagnosis set the tone for the end of his journey. I will not say Tom lost his battle to cancer, because he, like so many others fought on until the very end, while continuing to do what he loved.
Stuart Scott said, “When you die that doesn't mean you lost to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and the manner in which you live.” Though he was not with us near long enough, what he accomplished in the short amount of time he had is truly astounding.
Referencing the beginning of this article, you can see that Tom was active, very active – he had a desire to be a part of something greater than himself. His commitment to civic organizations is not only admirable, but inspiring; wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all strived to leave a positive legacy with the limited amount of time that we have?
In our organization, he was an individual who was an idea driver and motivator. A modest man, Tom preferred to work behind the scenes. He worked with the I&A’s own Scholarship Fund by volunteering his time and talent, which has been an integral part of its continued success.
This organization has seen many great men pass into the next chapter of their lives and we shall see many more; some before their time and others after living a long a fruitful life. Whether our past members held a title of officer or not, it is safe in saying that a common theme with members past and present is, they / we want to leave the organization, community, and surroundings a little better for the next generation. A noble purpose, which in these times is hard to come by.
The burden now falls on us, the next generation of members to pick up the mantle and carry on the legacy of brothers who are no longer with us. Our continued success and growth is their legacy and we will continue to honor the memory of all of our members.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Ruffner family and all those grieving the loss of a loved one, whether it is a recent loss or a loss that occurred years ago. In honor of the memory of Tom and all of our past members, I leave you with this final thought from William Penn.
“A true friend unbosoms freely, advises justly, assists readily, adventures boldly, takes all patiently, defends courageously, and continues a friend unchangeable. Death cannot kill what never dies, nor can spirits ever be divided that love and live in friendship; this is the comfort of friends, that though they may be said to die, yet their friendship and society are in the best sense ever present, because immortal.”