Playing ball for Ig Vella
One of the most influential men in my teens has passed away. Ig Vella, owner of Vella Cheese Company of Sonoma, and our softball and baseball coach in 1947, '48, '49 and into the 1950s, was a large part of many of our lives as kids. Our softball teams went undefeated for many years in a row under his coaching.
Joe Carbonaro, Cary Ammann, Bill Douglas, Ron McNay, Joe Baetge, Jim Brennan, Lanny Hoover, Bobby Basch, Bob Perry, Bob Sangiacomo, Bob Skavland, Al Mazza, Louie Ramponi and I all benefited from his teachings.
He was able to get donations of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball uniforms for our local baseball team that he coached for years. Many times he would take as many teammates as would fit into his brand new, 1950 Ford, and head to Bodega Bay for a weekend of playing ball on the beaches and great picnics.
Ig hired me for the first job I ever had, on my 16th birthday, when I passed my first driver's license test. I drove a truck all over the Sonoma and Napa areas, six days a week, picking up milk that was then pasteurized and made into the best Jack cheese in the state. It was a wonderful experience for me to work for him.
I'm so happy I visited him many times and was able to talk over our adventures in baseball and softball that we both enjoyed so much. We reminisced on my last visit about his signals never being stolen by another team. His system was very simple to remember. If called by our first name while at bat, it was the signal to bunt on the next pitch. If called by our first name while on base, it was the signal to steal a base on the next pitch. I'll bet those on our softball and baseball teams still remember how well we played under his direction. He was very demanding, but the results were worth it!