|Cover design by Gayle Higgins|
Last week I talked about the book, “Pietro,” based on Pete Denevi’s life. I thought I’d run a few of his stories by you just for fun.
Pete grew up in
in an Italian community. If you scrape
away all the yuppies, you can still find remnants of those original Italian
families in town. Pete had a beautiful plow horse that he entered in the Los Gatos parades and
made money plowing all the vegetable gardens in his neighborhood when he was a
Pete’s cousin was Frankie Crosetti, the famous shortstop with the New York Yankees. Crosetti was known as “The Crow,” and spent 17 seasons as a player and another 20 as a third base coach. Frank was Pete’s hero and became his best friend. But Frank also became human to Pete the day he took Pete to the doctor after Pete shot a hole in his big toe with a 22 rifle.
Pete didn’t tell his parents that he had a hole in his toe for fear that his dad would take his gun away, but his cousin, Frank, insisted on taking Pete to the doc. The doctor took a metal instrument and ran it right through the hole in Pete’s toe pushing out the infection and anything else that might be in there. Pete heard a crash and turned to see his hero passed out on the floor. Watching that instrument running all the way through Pete’s toe was more than “The Crow” could handle. Crosetti was out cold.
It was through Frankie that Pete met Joe DiMaggio. Joe would visit Frankie and they would both play with Pete, who was just a kid then. Pete said he always felt important when he hung out with Frank and Joe. They would sometimes take Pete to
Francisco to ride the trolleys. Pete remembers he and Frank got on the
trolley, but Joe wouldn’t climb on board.
Joe said, “Go ahead. I’ll catch
Joe would then run after the trolley and leap on the cow catcher on the back. He would sometimes get caught, but would just turn around and do it again.
Many years later Joe introduced Pete to his new wife, Marilyn. She gave Pete a kiss that he still remembers. Along with Marilyn Monroe, there is a story of Lucille Ball kissing Pete after he helped her sell a motel she owned. Lucille’s lips were always covered in bright red lipstick and Pete had to use a sandblaster to wash his face.
When Pete graduated from college he had to decide between playing professional football or baseball. He chose baseball and Crosetti and DiMaggio pushed for him to sign with the Yankees. Pete had a chance to play immediately if he would sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates, which he did. Injuries cut his professional career short.
There are stories of when Pete helped Frank Sinatra make spaghetti sauce, visiting Bob Hope in his fantastic home on the top of the hill, being offered the opportunity to built recreational facilities for Howard Hughes, playing tennis with Paul Newman, between beer breaks, accidently knocking Pope Paul VI to the ground in Rome, being called personally by President Nixon, and other interesting stories.
And, of course, there were athletics. Pete was said to have been the best athlete in the history of
. He was the same outstanding athlete at San
Jose State College. He was All-League in
football and baseball, as well as a star in basketball and the heavyweight
boxing champ. Pete played quarterback
all four years at State and his roommate and primary receiver was Billy Wilson,
later to become a 49er great. Los Gatos
I could go on with the stories. As many of you know, Pete was my football coach and a mentor in many ways. After graduating from college I went to work for Pete and developed and managed a small golf course and country club; I helped manage other swim and tennis clubs, and sold land for him. Pete built the Los Gatos Swim & Racquet Club, Courtside, and many other clubs and golf courses.
Pete is 85 years old now and in great physical shape. Once an athlete, always an athlete. Somehow it didn’t work that well for me. We have been friends for almost 60 years. It was an honor to ghost write and publish the autobiography of my good friend, Pietro.