From Rocky Marciano to Vince Lombardi to Joe DiMaggio, Italian Americans have left a lasting impact on American sports, and one museum in Chicago’s Little Italy commemorates the greatest of the greatest.
At what must be one of the world’s most narrowly focused museums, the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame honors some 230 of the greatest Italian-American athletes, broadcasters, and sports workers to ever benefit athletics in the United States.
The hall of fame encompasses a wide variety of games, from traditional sports like baseball and football to more obscure pastimes like ballooning, bodybuilding, and roller derbies.
Throughout the three-story facility, you can find boxing gloves, bobbleheads, football jerseys, and racing suits. There’s an original Heisman Trophy, a bat used by Joe DiMaggio, Mario Andretti’s Indy 500 race car, Rocky Marciano’s first heavyweight championship belt, and Vince Lombardi’s Packers coat.
The collection began back in 1977, when Chicagoan George Randazzo, a longtime fan of Italian boxers, started the American Boxing Hall of Fame with the mission of raising money for struggling Chicago youth. After seeing the hall of fame’s success, Randazzo opened up the boxing display to include Italian-American athletes from all kinds of sports. Favoloso!