When "bambino Rocco" was 18 months of age, he contracted pneumonia. Although the infection nearly killed him, his exceptionally strong constitution enabled him to survive without impairment.
As a pre-teenager, Rocky relished his mother's Italian cooking so much he bordered on being stocky. This was underscored by his relatively short but muscular arms and legs. However, even at this young age, his overall bearing suggested exceptional physical strength.
Throughout his teenage years, Rocky took great advantage of living across the street from the James Edgar Playground, where he especially enjoyed playing baseball. It was during this period that he began the habit of exercising to his limit." After spending countless hours hitting and chasing after baseballs, he would often go home and do chinups and lift homemade weights until he was totally fatigued."
After supper, "Rocky and his pals often spent hours pummelling a stuffed mail sack that hung from an oak tree in the Marchegiano's back yard....In hot weather, they usually finished their workouts by racing over to Saxton's Spring to get a cold drink of water."
Unfortunately, Rocky's experience of growing up in a multi-ethnic, working-class setting contributed to his involvement in a number of "altercations." Although most were territorial battles that took place at James Edgar Field, some occurred well beyond....
Even prior to his teenage years, Rocky's reputation for being a "really tough Italian kid" extended all the way over to the Bush, Brockton's Irish section. However, by the time he was 14, Rocky's notoriety as a baseball slugger began to overtake his reputation as a slugger with his fists.
The legend of his athletic prowess began at age 15 when, as cleanup batter on the local American Legion team, he blasted a towering home run over the left field fence at James Edgar Playground. It landed on the front porch of a slightly irate neighbor.
At age 15, Rocky entered Brockton High School - an institution with a nationally prestigious football tradition. Error! Bookmark not defined. Rocky's favorite subjects were Italian and Manual Training. And, except for a rather erratic scholastic record, all went reasonably well for him - at first.
In the fall of his sophomore year he won the position of center on the varsity football team. Long after he became a great boxer, he liked to recall how one of the greatest thrills of his life was when - as a substitute linebacker - he intercepted a pass and ran 60 yards to score a touchdown against arch-rival New Bedford.
The following spring, Rocky became the first string catcher on the BHS varsity baseball team. It is said that his throws were almost always on target, and few runners beat his "rocket-like" pegs to second base "until after that fateful day he threw his arm out."
An unusually slow runner, Rocky was now relegated to occasionally playing right field and pinch hitting. During this time, he was chastised on a number of occasions for consistently violating a long standing school policy that prohibited dual involvement in a local church league. Finally, he was cut from the team. This upset him so much, he began cutting classes.
That summer, Rocky spent a good deal of time with older friends in downtown pool halls and ten cent movie theaters. He also enjoyed swimming and hiking in Brockton's beautiful Field Park. When fall rolled around, he decided not to return to Brockton High School.
Realizing he had very few skills to offer an employer, he briefly considered a former teacher's plea that he enroll at the "old" Brockton Vocational School. Ultimately, however, he decided that the obligation to immediately get a job and help out his...