Sports

Karl Lindholm: The Castigliones of Middlebury — and Joe!

JOE CASTIGLIONE, THE radio Voice of the Red Sox for 40 years, has a genuine connection to Addison County and Middlebury College. His sister Cheryl is a 1972 graduate. His uncle and aunt Salvatore and Pierina Castiglione were on the Middlebury faculty for over 30 years. Photo by Doug Lane, courtesy of WEEI Boston

Writer Bill McKibben of Ripton (and the world) and his wife, the writer Sue Halpern, invite another person into their home most evenings in the spring and in the balmy summer months, a warm friend whom they admire and of whose company they never tire. 

That friend is Joe Castiglione, the “Voice of the Red Sox,” the team’s radio announcer for the last 40 years.  

Bill writes of Joe in a forthcoming piece in Yankee Magazine: “I would argue that home plate at Fenway Park is the spiritual center of New England, the place that resonates more clearly than any other spot in the entire region.

“And if there’s a single voice that unites us, it’s the calm and gathered tone of one Joe Castiglione.”

Joe’s 40 years in the radio booth at Fenway is the longest tenure of any Boston broadcaster in the team’s history. He’s a member of the Red Sox Hall of Fame, inducted in 2014 along with Red Sox stalwarts Roger Clemens, Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martinez. That’s good company! 

Last July, Joe was honored at Fenway in a special pregame ceremony for his distinguished tenure and was presented with a plaque that’ll hang in what will be from now on “the Joe Castiglione Booth.” He’s called more than 8,000 Red Sox games, been our companion in all the moments, both heroic and devastating (and the mundane ones too), that have comprised our Red Sox experience.

Now, dear readers, what you may not know is Joe’s relationship to Middlebury and Middlebury College. 

I had the opportunity to meet Joe Castiglione more than 30 years ago when he was visiting the Middlebury campus with his son Tom looking at possible college destinations. During our conversation, Joe mentioned his Middlebury connections. His sister Cheryl (“Cherie”) attended Middlebury, graduating in the class of 1972. Also, Joe’s Uncle Sal (Salvatore) and Aunt Pierina Castiglione were prominent members of the Middlebury faculty for more than 30 years.

In fact, they were teaching at Middlebury when I was a student, but I had not made the connection, though I had listened to Joe Castiglione for a long time, even back to my Cleveland days during the ‘70s, when I was teaching and studying there and he was a local sportscaster. 

PROFESSORS SALVATORE (RIGHT) and Pierina (second from left) Castiglione, here with other Italian summer language school faculty, were respected and beloved members of the Middlebury College Italian summer school, the Italian School in Florence, and undergraduate Italian department from 1937 to 1975.
Courtesy of Middlebury College

The reason perhaps is that the Professors Castiglione were known at Middlebury as the Cas-till-YOWN-ays, not Cas-STIG-lee-owns. “When they first heard on the radio how my name was pronounced,” Joe said in a recent phone conversation, “they were appalled!”

Joe’s uncle Salvatore Castiglione and Joe’s father Frank were both raised in New Haven, Conn., and attended Yale University; Sal (Yale ’32) became a scholar, Frank (’36) a medical doctor.

Sal first came to Middlebury to teach in the Italian summer school in 1937 and was its director from 1947 to 1975, while teaching first at Yale and then at Georgetown during the undergraduate year. 

In 1966, he accepted an appointment at Middlebury as the Fulton Professor of Italian, and he and Pierina became year-round faculty members and residents of Middlebury (actually Cornwall) until their deaths in 1989 (Sal) and 2000 (Pierina). Sal was remembered by Vice President for Languages Stephen Freeman for his “quiet personal intensity” and Pierina for her “buoyant enthusiasm.”  

Sal’s best friend in New Haven growing up was Valentine Giamatti — “they walked to school together every day,” according to Joe. Valentine also became a scholar studying at Yale, then Harvard, before joining the faculty at Mt. Holyoke. For four summers in the 1950s, he joined his boyhood pal, Sal, on the Middlebury Italian summer school faculty. 

Valentine’s son, A. Bartlett Giamatti, also a scholar, taught at the Middlebury Bread Loaf School of English in the early ’70s, while he was on the faculty at Yale, before he became Yale’s president, and before he served as the seventh Major League Baseball Commissioner. 

WHEN RED SOX Hall of Fame announcer Joe Castiglione visited Middlebury with his son in 1991 looking at colleges, he met with the columnist, who located (without difficulty) in his office a Red Sox program for Joe to sign.
Courtesy of Karl Lindholm

“My Dad, Dr. Frank, was a great baseball fan. He used to hit me fungoes and taught me to read baseball scores before I learned my ABCs,” Joe reported. “He knew Bart Giamatti from Yale and from the Amity Club, a New Haven organization for professionals of Italian Heritage. 

“He and Bart would often sit together at baseball games when my brothers Frank and Charlie pitched for Yale. Charlie is the only Yale pitcher to defeat Harvard twice in one season!”

The oldest of eight children, Joe went off to Colgate for his undergraduate education because, he said, “I could be a rock ‘n roll DJ there.” He announced Raiders football and baseball games, went on to earn a Master’s at Syracuse, then assumed broadcast positions in Youngstown and Cleveland before coming to the Red Sox in 1983. 

Joe recalled visiting Middlebury as a kid. He was very close to his aunt and uncle and their daughter, Vanna, his cousin six years older. “My parents always loved Middlebury. We came frequently in the summers,” he said. “I remember eating at the Dog Team Tavern.”

One of Joe’s favorite memories is from the summer of 1961 when he visited Florence, Italy, for a month with his Uncle Sal and Aunt Pierina and Cousin Vanna, at age 14. “Pierina’s dad lived on the fifth floor in an apartment building built in the 1400s, just on the east side of the Arno. 

“They took me all around, from Naples to Lake Como,” Joe said. “I hit fungoes to the Italian kids in Florence and read the Daily American and got the ball scores two days late. It was a great experience!”

Joe and Jan, his wife of 51 years, have three children: Joe Jr., or “Duke,” the news anchor at WCVB-TV (Channel 5) in Boston; Tom, a doctor of internal medicine; and Kate, who is in “marketing and production.”

In a family of doctors, Joe is a doctor himself, having been awarded an honorary doctorate from Quinnipiac University in his hometown of Hamden, Conn. He will become a doctor twice over when his alma mater, Colgate, bestows on him that honor next spring.

Maybe Dr. Joe doesn’t qualify as a native son of Vermont, but he certainly does as a close friend, a reassuring presence, a member of our extended family. 

—————

Karl Lindholm, Ph.D., is the Emeritus Dean of Advising and retired Assistant Professor of American Studies at Middlebury College. He can be reached at lindholm@middlebury.edu.

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