It was a dream come true for a 12-year-old boy. Not only did Michael Cipollaro attend a World Series game at Ebbets Field, he also got Babe Ruth to autograph his game program.
That 48-page, 50-cent program from the 1947 World Series featured the Brooklyn Bridge on the cover, as the Brooklyn Dodgers were hosting the New York Yankees. The cover also contained a collage of photographs, including downtown Brooklyn, a church (after all, Brooklyn was known as the borough of churches) and Ebbets Field. Inside, on the scorecard page, was a clear, large autograph of the Bambino inside. That autograph — and that program — will be part of a Memory Lane auction this summer.
Cipollaro attended one of the three games played in Brooklyn with his father, noted Manhattan dermatologist Anthony Cipollaro.
Now 84, Cipollaro does not recall which game he attended. Games 3 and 4 of the 1947 World Series were won by the Dodgers. Game 4 was memorable because New York pitcher Bill Bevens came within an out of pitching the first no-hitter in World Series history, only to lose on Cookie Lavagetto’s double off the right-field wall in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Ruth attended multiple World Series games that year and can be seen in newsreels, sitting in the stands.
Game 5 was played on a Saturday, and the Yankees won 2-1. Cipollaro believes this may have been the game he attended.
“My father was a doctor, and a very busy one,” Cipollaro said from his Houston home, reasoning that getting time off for a Thursday or Friday game was unlikely, especially since the World Series was played during the daytime in those days.
Just before the World Series game began that day at Ebbets Field, Cipollaro, sitting 20 rows behind home plate, looked over his shoulder and saw the unmistakable figure of Ruth.
“It was before the game started but the place was already full. Excitingly full,” Cipollaro said. “I turned around and there was an elevated portion and he was in the front row.
“I asked my dad, do you think I could go get his autograph and he said, ‘Sure,’” Cipollaro said. “So I went and asked, ‘Mr. Ruth, can I get your autograph?’
“Well, he had that deep voice and growled, ‘Sure, kid,’ and signed it.”
The program had two pages set aside in the middle of the magazine for keeping score, and Ruth signed on the right-hand side. The page had a pair of advertisements for Chesterfield cigarettes.
Ruth had been having some physical issues and had less than a year to live, but Cipollaro did not notice.
“He didn’t look wan or pale but he was wearing a heavy coat so it was hard to tell,” he said.
It was the highlight of Cipollaro’s day. He did not have a stake in either team at Ebbets Field.
“I was a Giants fan,” he said. “I hated the Dodgers and didn’t like the Yankees. I’m still a San Francisco Giants fan.”
But when you get a chance to attend a World Series game, you do it. And Cipollaro’s father had the connections to get into the stadium.
“Dad had a lot of patients, and they would take care of him, you know, like, ‘Do you want tickets to the game?’”
After living on Riverside Drive during the early 1940s, Cipollaro’s family moved to the Lenox Hill section of Manhattan. His father worked a few blocks away at 61st Street and Park Avenue. He was a graduate of the Columbia School of Medicine and taught at the Cornell University School of Medicine. His mother, Rose, was a college geology teacher.
With that kind of pedigree, it was inevitable that Cipollaro would succeed. He was an executive for McCormick & Co. Inc., and was president of the Gerber Products Co., International division, concentrating on Europe and the Pacific rim from 1989 to 1993. He founded International Trade Assistance in 1993, and four years later created Maxima Graphics, a digital imaging company.
Cipollaro also was a professor of international business for nearly a decade at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, and was the founder and director of the school’s Center for Entrepreneurship. He finally retired from academics in 2007.
Cipollaro, who turns 85 in August, said “it’s time to declutter,” and selling the program with the Ruth autograph is a way to start.
“All of my kids were born in Europe, so soccer is their major sport,” he said. “They have no interest in this. But it’s time to sell.
“It’s fresh, and it’s from a World Series.”
Not to mention that it contains one of the most famous — and recognizable — autographs in sports.