Creativity Magazine

What Does Italian Baseball Have To Do With Content Marketing?

By Mrstrongest @mrstrongarm

Question for you: if you were a young American guy honeymooning in Italy, and someone asked you to stay and play for an Italian baseball team, what would you say?

One of my favorite writers, Charles McNair, said yes back in 1979. He wound up playing third base for the Verona Arsenal.

More than 35 years later, he wrote about it for Coca-Cola Journey. And thanks to yours truly, he wound up with his very own baseball trading card.

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plate of spaghetti with baseballs instead of meatballs on red and white checkered tablecloth bottle of Coke passport Due McNain Verona Arsenal baseball trading card

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I learn a lot when I’m asked to illustrate content marketing posts. I knew baseball was played in Central and South America, and in Japan– but Italy? I had no idea.

I wasn’t surprised to learn that Italians drink Coca-Cola, but I was surprised to learn they drink it without ice.

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plate of spaghetti with baseballs instead of meatballs on red and white checkered tablecloth bottle of Coke passport

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Naturally you’re asking yourself: if his name is Charles McNair, why does his baseball card say Due McNain?

Mr. McNair explains:

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I got my name in the newspaper, to the hilarity of my teammates, who read the story and convulsed over a mistranslation. Instead of Charles McNair, the reporter had somehow used my jersey number – 2, or due – and then misspelled my last name: Due McNain. 

I became, then, Due McNain. When my teammates said it, they slapped one another with gloves and laughed until tears rolled down their cheeks.

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Is Mr. McNair as handsome today as he looks in his card? Yup– see for yourself.

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Due McNain Verona Arsenal Italian baseball team trading card photo of Southern writer Charles McNair

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Editor Jay Moye was originally looking for just a header image. After reading about Mr. McNair’s teammates, I asked Jay if he’d be open to including some trading cards. I was delighted when he gave me the green light.

I didn’t have any photos of the players, just descriptions– in some cases, just a sentence or two. The cards needed to be horizontal. After scratching my head for awhile, I hit on the idea of including a front and back for each card in a single image. I came up with a design that used the colors in the Italian flag.

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All I knew about Robbie the center field was that he had “wild blonde curls (that) escaped the edges of his baseball hat comically, like clown hair.” I made up the rest.

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Verona Arsenal Italian baseball team trading card Robbie center field curly blond hair ladies man bio likes dislikes

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I laughed reading about Gianni, the shortstop:
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(He) lived a dream life – a rich family, fashion magazine good looks, a stunning girlfriend. He’d swoop by some nights in a little Italian coupe and take us for bouncing, hysterical rides around mountain hairpins, Verona twinkling below like a fairy-tale world.

Once every game, shortstop Gianni took a grounder off his shin and collapsed in agony … real or Italian agony, hard to tell. (Remember – these people invented opera.) When Gianni went down, Luciana, his gorgeous goddess girlfriend, floated down from the stands in diaphanous white and swept across the diamond, sunlight streaming through her sheer silks, to collapse over her poor hurt warrior. She cradled Gianni’s wounded head. She cooed and stroked Gianni’s cheek. Once, she even wept for his hurts.

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Verona Arsenal Italian baseball team trading card Gianni shortstop crybaby girlfriend Luciana bio likes dislikes

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All I knew about Paco was that he had red hair and played second base. I’m afraid I padded his bio by giving him a rather messy (and wholly fictitious) habit.
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Verona Arsenal Italian baseball team trading card Paco second base chews tobacco spits a lot bio likes dislikes

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Frederico? He was “the mild, bespectacled 18-year-old right-fielder (who) spoke excellent English, rode a Vespa, and, sadly, followed the Fascist party.”
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Verona Arsenal Italian baseball team trading card Frederico right fielder rides Vespa socialist politics bio likes dislikes

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Alain, our catcher, ran a ristorante in the hills – the baseball team rode up after games, and we feasted on homemade risotto made with mushrooms harvested that morning.
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Verona Arsenal Italian baseball team trading card Alain catcher ristorante owner bio likes dislikes

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And how about that wild and crazy Poalo? He played left field and “cursed most profanely in Italian, every breath.”
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Verona Arsenal Italian baseball team trading card Poalo left fielder bad temper swears a lot bio likes dislikes

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Good content can take many forms. One of these is a funny story. Even better: a funny story with a surprise ending. And if you can casually drop your brand name along the way, that’s better still.

Mr. McNair’s A Third Baseman Of Verona does it all. You can read it here.

About that ending. I’ll set the stage for you:

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The Arsenal is out for revenge. They score 13 runs in the first inning. But their rivals chip away. Suddenly it’s the last inning. The Arsenal is clinging to a 13-12 lead. The bad guys load the bases. Three balls, no strikes, tying run on third…

Yogi Berra once famously said: “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

I think he’d be surprised how this one ends. So will you.

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  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

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Is brand-related storytelling part of your content marketing strategy?

Any Shakespeare scholars out there? A Third Baseman Of Verona references which of Bill’s plays?

Did you collect baseball cards when you were a kid? Do you remember when they came with bubble gum??


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