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Bocce Ball is Alive and Well in Holliston

by Paul Saulnier
July 12, 2018

The sport of Bocce Ball is alive and well in Holliston.

According to the United States Bocce Federation:

"Throwing balls toward a target is the oldest game known to mankind. As early as 5000 B.C. the Egyptians played a form of Bocce with polished rocks. Graphic representations of figures tossing a ball or polished stone have been recorded as early as 5200 B.C. While Bocce today looks quite different from its early predecessors, the unbroken thread of Bocce’s lineage is the consistently common objective of trying to come as close to a fixed target as possible.

From this early objective, the basic rules of Bocce were born. From Egypt, the game made its way to Greece around 800 B.C. The Romans learned the game from the Greeks, and then introduced it throughout the empire. The Roman influence in bocce is preserved in the game’s name; bocce derives from the Vulgate Latin bottia, meaning boss.

The early Romans were among the first to play a game resembling what we know as Bocce today. In early times they used coconuts brought back from Africa and later used hard olive wood to carve out Bocce balls. Beginning with Emperor Augustus, Bocce became the sport of statesman and rulers. From the early Greek physician Hippocrates to the great Italian Renaissance man Galileo, the early participants of Bocce have noted that the game’s athleticism and spirit of competition rejuvenates the body.

In 1576, the Republic of Venice publicly condemned the sport, punishing those who played with fines and imprisonment. And perhaps most grave was the condemnation by the Catholic Church which deterred the laity and officially prohibited clergyman from playing the game by proclaiming Bocce a means of gambling.

 Bocce frequently lost and gained popularity throughout the ages. It was Giuseppe Garibaldi, who, while unifying and nationalizing Italy, popularized the sport as it is known today. In 1896, during a resurgence of popularity, the first Bocce Olympiad was held in Athens, Greece. Bocce has been a part of international sports ever since.

Thanks to many Italian immigrants at the turn of the century, Bocce has come to flourish in the United States. During its beginnings in the U.S., there were as many versions of the game as there were towns the immigrants had left. The popularity of Bocce in America has been on the rise since then and there are more than 25,000,000 Bocce enthusiasts throughout the United States today."

Next to Soccer and Golf, Bocce is the third most participated sport in the world and is considered the oldest know sport in world history.

Al Scaramella hosted the game that I attended. This day there were enough players to field two teams of four, one throwing red balls, the other green. Teams are determined as each player pulls a red or green ball out of a sack. Green always goes first.

The game starts with a member of the green team tossing out the Pallino, the small orange ball being thrown by Joe, above, who then rolls his green ball as close as he can to the Pallino. Red then tries to get closer to the Pallino than the green ball and each member of the red team rolls until a red ball ends up closest to the Pallino or all four reds are no closer than the green. Green gets to go again if a red ball ends up closer to the Pallino.

Above, the next ball to be thrown would be green since the red ball ended up closest to the Pallino. Capiche?

As in most sports, form is everything. Above Tony Alexander displays his form developed over years of playing bocce, starting "when I was only this high" said Tony with his hand waist high.

Host Al Scaramella was just as effective using the same form as Tony. Both showed the results of years playing bocce.

Strategy plays a big part in the game. Sometimes it's better to hit the ball of an opposing team than try to get close to the Pallino. The boards can also be used to position a ball behind the Pallino.

Above, Kevin tosses early in a game as Dennis, Tony, Aaron and Walter wait their turn. Tony and Al usually were anchors for their teams as it becomes important not to hit a ball of your same color and loose a point.

Sometimes a measurement has to be taken to determine which ball is closest. In the case above, one red ball is clearly closest but if the second red ball is closer to the Pallino than the green ball, then the red team gets two points instead of just one. Capiche?

Between games. Al Zambonis the court. Al built the court about four years ago and has been honing his skills ever since. Most remember when Bertuccis opened in 1984 or 85 with a Bocce court in the middle of the dining room. The court didn't last long for whatever reason.

First team to reach 11 and is ahead by at least two points wins. This day the green team won every game even though there were different players each time.

There is at least one other Bocce court in Holliston. Teams and tournaments could lead to a shot at the Summer Olympics. Perchè no?


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Comments (3)

I think this is fantastic. I played when I was a kid. Would love to be able to join a league in town.

- Lisa Zais | 7/25/18 8:32 AM

Interesting article, thanks. Would be great to see a bocce court installed at Blair Square near the rail trail!

- Utah Nickel | 7/13/18 9:42 AM

"The court didn't last long for whatever reason." I think I should take some of the blame for the demise of the bocce court at Bertucci's. When it opened, my son was about 5. Bertucci's was a great place to take the kids (still is) and my son loved the bocce court, especially throwing the balls. His form wasn't as good as the pros, and occasionally, one of his throws went "out of bounds". I suspect there were other parents who failed at juggling waiting in line and making sure the balls stayed on the bocce court. Anyway, what goes around, comes around, and the offender is now 36, and expecting his first child in a few weeks.

- Peter Simpson | 7/12/18 7:16 AM



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