For the love of Bocce — A Bristol pastime continues to thrive

By Manuel C. "Manny" Correira
Posted 9/7/19

A game which began centuries ago is still considered very popular with many people living in our fair community.

Here is Bristol and surrounding areas you’ll find independent leagues in …

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For the love of Bocce — A Bristol pastime continues to thrive

Posted

A game which began centuries ago is still considered very popular with many people living in our fair community.

Here is Bristol and surrounding areas you’ll find independent leagues in operation during the summer months. Two of the most popular leagues that have been in existence for a number of years now are located in the Mt. Hope Avenue and Hopeworth Avenue sections of town.

Bocce is played with eight large balls and one smaller target or object ball, called a pallina. There are four balls per team and they are made of a different color or pattern to distinguish the balls of one team from those of the other team.

Basically, the game is played with two teams, with each team having one, two, or four players. For four-player teams, each player throws one ball underhanded. For two-player teams, each player throws two balls. For one-player teams, each player throws four balls. When there are multiple players on a team, a playing rotation is determined at the start of a game and is maintained throughout the entire game.

In talking with members of two of the local leagues, bocce has become a great after-dinner pastime.

“Most people believe that the game of bocce originated in Italy,” said veteran Mt. Hope Bocce League player Joseph Caromile. “The truth is that the game originated in Greece in the 1400s and that the game was only played by royalty,” he explained. “Over the course of a few decades, the game filtered into Italy and became a national sport, enjoyed by all.”

He continued, “As I remember, somewhere around 1985, a group of guys, namely, Carmine Carraturo, Al Godin, Norman Carlson, Jimmy Velleca, Dick Coccio, and others, met every Monday night and played bocce in a court which belonged to Fran DeRiso on Mulberry Road. This went on for a few years, and in 1992, Dick Coccio and one of his sons built a court in his backyard on Milford Street, and there we played every Thursday night. We played Monday nights at Fran DeRiso’s and Dick Coccio’s on Thursdays.”

The Mt. Hope Bocce League operates the first Monday in June through the last Monday in September. An informal banquet is held at the end of the season.

“The league has seen many players come and go over the last 27 years ,” said Mr. Caromile, most notably Tony Balzano, Roger Belmore, Vasco Castro, Manny Januario, Anthony Marabello, Angelo Palumbo, Ed Proto, Dom Raiola, James Salzano, Arnie Silva, and James Velleca.

Presently, there are 14 healthy players enjoying the game of bocce in the Mt. Hope League. They include Lyle Booth, Anthony Caromile, Joe Caromile, David Coccio, Joe Coccio, John Coccio, Matt Coccio, Richard “Dick” Coccio, Jeff Oberg, Dave Simoes, Richard “Dickie” Sousa, Joe Travers, Richard Travers, and Jim Vieira.

While the Mt. Hope Bocce League has prospered over the years, so has the Hopeworth Bocce League, which has been around for many years, according to Liz Bisbano-Annunziata.

Hopeworth Avenue bocce started during the 1960s when Vasco Castro, along with many of his friends, carried on this long-standing tradition. Now, Liz directs the league, which is as popular as ever.

“There are 18 teams in the league with a roster of six people each,” she said. “Players range in age from 18 to 90. The season starts early June and runs through most of September, and we end with the finals and a potluck dinner each year. This year it will be on Saturday, Sept. 21.”

Players’ efforts don’t go unnoticed, either.

“Trophies are awarded to each individual player of the winning team,” said Ms. Bisbano-Annunziata. “There is also a regular season MVP (in memory of Richard Bisbano), regular season most improved player (in memory of Joseph Cabral) and a Playoff MVP (in memory of Edward Dupont).”

Regular-season games are played on Wednesday nights from 6 p.m. to approximately  9:45 p.m.

“We do grilling of hamburgers and hot dogs each week for a small fee,” Liz added. “Chips and beverages are also available. It really is a fun league where people love to come and gather for some good times and lots of laughs.”

Throughout this sport’s history in town, bocce courts and active leagues were quite popular, even during the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s, at places like the Cup Defenders Association, Tweet’s Family Restaurant area, the Mt. Hope A.C., and several other locations scattered throughout town. Age doesn’t matter in this game.  It’s a great form of recreation and those who swear by it, love the competition.

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.