Commentary: On Being a Pirates Fan, Playing the Accordion

By Louis A. Zona
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Unfortunately, these are not the best days for a lot of things and they definitely are not the best days to be a Pittsburgh Pirates fan.

My goodness, how much losing can a guy take before he sees himself as a loser?

I have come to believe that the baseball gods do exist and that they just do not like me.

I mean, how many five-year plans can I live through without wondering if I can still count to five? How many outstanding ballplayers who once wore the Pirates uniform are now hitting home runs and playing in the World Series for competing teams?

It is disheartening. No, it’s maddening!

So here we are once again, sitting at home during the playoffs and wishing that our team were lining up on the first base line as the players are announced to a World Series crowd.

All I can say is that it is great that we Pirate fanatics can at least use our imaginations and pretend that all’s fair in love, war and baseball. Our imaginations surely have had a nice workout in recent years and the words “imagine that it’s us” should be our motto. Another possible motto: At least the Guardians are good.

Now, switching subjects:

I really love music, especially the so-called Great American Song Book where Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole displayed their amazing talents. I never could learn to read music, however. Even if I could, I probably would not have been able to make use of the knowledge by playing an instrument.

Family and friends loved to tease me when I was a kid when they learned that I took accordion lessons for six months. The problem I had with the accordion was that I could never figure out what those little round buttons on one side of the instrument were there for.

Obviously, they are there for some reason. I never discerned their function. And to think that I could have joined an all-accordion band – if only I had been able to dazzle the world with whatever sound those little round buttons exist for.

The only negative beyond the buttons is that all accordion bands and orchestras exist in Eastern Europe and that is one heck of a commute – especially carrying my heavy accordion travel case.

In reality, a cousin of mine, Archie, could play the accordion and he entertained at picnics and birthday parties. The thing about Archie was that he had been a linebacker at college and his football prowess was well known in our hometown of New Castle, Pa.

So the fact was that his rendition of “Lady of Spain” impressed our family, no matter how many times Archie played it. It was written for the instrument.

Of all the people in the family who loved to hear cousin Archie squeeze those bellows, it was my dad who applauded the loudest at the ending.

“Lou, why don’t you pick up the accordion?” he suggested. “It could provide a nice side income for you. You could be the entertainment at parties and family picnics when Archie hangs up his accordion.”

I guess that Dad didn’t fully understand that Archie would become superintendent of schools and would not need to play the accordion for a buck or two.

But there is no getting around the fact that the accordion is a nerdy instrument and that Lawrence Welk loved it!

Dad did, however, realize early on that I had very little talent when it came to hitting a baseball. At least he didn’t encourage me to try to make it on a Major Leagues ballfield.

But heck, to think that I could play the National Anthem on my accordion at all Pirates or Guardians home games! That would have really pleased my dad and told him that his son had made the big time.

My grandfather on my mother’s side of the family, Paul Rozzi, was in the fireworks business. He delighted in the fact that a few of his grandchildren would enter the business as well as his son Arthur, who moved the company to Cincinnati.

Uncle Arthur wanted me to work for the company after graduating from college but my mother put the kibosh on it even though it would have been an office job.

Over the decades, family members have experienced accidents and even death because of the nature of the business.

Mom wanted no part of it and frankly would have rather seen me squeezing an accordion than being anywhere near explosives.

I guess that we have no control over the talents that we have or do not have. As the nuns once told us, we all have natural abilities, talents, that direct us a certain way.

As for me and baseball, forget about it! It was not to be. Like the late baseball manager Chuck Tanner once said about me, “Boy, that Lou Zona sure knows how to carry his ball glove. “

Playing a musical instrument? Forget about that as well.

As I think about it, I’ve been short-changed in the talent area. But hey, you should see me give my shoes a “spit” shine! 

Anybody need a shine?