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Former Team Italy interpreter Lawrence Baldassaro receives Ernest Spaights Award from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) honored former Team Italy interpreter Professor Lawrence Baldassaro with the Ernest Spaights Award for his significant and lasting contributions to the university in a special ceremony held on October 16, 2019.  To commemorate the event, Lawrence Baldassaro's name was added to a plaque listing all previous recipients of this prestigious award located at the UWM Ernest Spaights Plaza. 

Many recall Lawrence Baldassaro’s influential role in creating camaraderie among MLB Italian American players like Mike Piazza and Italian-born-and-developed players such as Alessandro Maestri while acting as official Team Italy interpreter during the 2006 World Baseball ClassicIn his various academic roles, Lawrence Baldassaro served and strengthened UWM through teaching Italian and his service as a faculty member of the Department of French, Italian and Comparative Literature. As director of the Honors College from 1995 to 2008, he was a dedicated researcher and ambassador for UWM in the community.

A renowned authority on Dante, Lawrence Baldassaro has used classical material to inspire his students to pursue a deeper understanding of Italian language, literature, and culture. A former student wrote about his ability to balance academic rigor with humor in the classroom, and said, “While delving into ancient Italian art and poetry, Professor Baldassaro might don a Picasso-inspired tie or make a comparison between Machiavelli and baseball.” He has also published essays on Italian literature, film and politics in American and Italian journals and served on the Executive Council of the Dante Society of America.

Baseball scholar Lawrence Baldassaro has written several books about baseball including Baseball Italian Style and Beyond DiMaggio: Italian Americans in Baseball, which is the basis for the film Italian American Baseball Family. In this award-winning documentary, he is interviewed and shares his expertise and knowledge about how Italians assimilated into American popular culture through the game of baseball.

Lawrence Baldassaro is also the editor of Ted Williams: Reflections on a Splendid Life and co-editor of The American Game: Baseball and Ethnicity. His work has appeared in numerous publications including NINEElysian Fields Quarterly, and Twentieth Century American Sportswriters. A contributing writer for the Milwaukee Brewers magazine Gameday since 1990, Lawrence Baldassaro actually pitched batting practice for the Brewers in 1992.

The grandson of Italian immigrants, Lawrence Baldassaro grew up in Chicopee, Massachusetts, where he played high school, American Legion, and semi-pro baseball. He is a renowned expert on Italian Americans in baseball and has presented his research at the University of Minnesota Immigration History Research Center, the NINE Spring Training Conference, the International Conference on Baseball at Arizona State University, and the annual meetings of the Society for American Baseball Research and the American Italian Historical Association. In November 2005 he was an invited speaker at the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s “Celebration of Italian Americans in Baseball.”

As a passionate supporter of Italian baseball, Lawrence Baldassaro witnessed firsthand the chemistry Team Italy possessed during the 2017 World Baseball Classic (WBC) exhibition games against the Chicago Cubs and Oakland Athletics in Mesa, Arizona. After Team Italy was eliminated in the 2017 WBC, he wrote some eloquent and comforting words: “Regardless of the outcome, Team Italy comes away from this tournament with the knowledge that they played their hearts out and were on an even footing with some of the best players in the world. Surely their performance, marked throughout by energy, enthusiasm, and camaraderie, was a tribute to (former) manager Marco Mazzieri and the entire coaching staff.” Forza #Italia!

by Roberto Angotti