That name is on his birth certificate, but we knew my father as John Pilgrim Campana. Born on 6 June 1914, the son of Italian immigrants Consiglia and Domenico Campana, who arrived on these shores from Naples, Italy, in the late 1890s.
But his true sports love was baseball. He played shortstop and pitched on the Harvard team till he graduated in 1936. I have a team ball signed by all the players on the 1936 team, with the inscription: Harvard - 3, Yale - 0.
He married 'Southern belle' (North Carolina) Ruth Ellen Emerson in 1943 and they had three children. They first lived in Manhattan, then moved out to Queens, and finally, headed to the Long Island suburbs in December 1951, where they remained until 1978, retiring to Mooresville, North Carolina.
He started teaching in the New York City school system in 1938, a career that spanned 36 years, 26 of which were spent at Brooklyn's Erasmus Hall High School, the nation's second-oldest high school. He taught history and political science. He recalls EHHS students Barbra Streisand, chess champion Bobby Fischer, and Lainie Kazan. Don't ask him about the first two. In those days, EHHS was one of the nation's best. Its top students won scholarships to the USA's finest universities. Even the top Jewish students, who for years could not get into the Ivy League schools, routinely made Princeton, Yale, and Harvard starting in the mid-1950s; African-Americans (few in number at EHHS in those days) and others soon followed. As I grew up, I remember many visits from former students who would drop by to thank him for all he had done. They told me what a remarkable teacher and man he was and how much he had helped them.
He left EHHS in 1964 to help open Canarsie High School in Brooklyn. He was the Assistant Principal, a position that earned him more money but meant no more teaching. That was a tough call for him.
I think the Yankees will beat out your Sox again this year. But the beloved Bruins look like they are en route to the Stanley Cup. Oh, how he loved watching Bobby Orr!