Friday, April 19, 2013 seemed like a typical day at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. The New York Yankees were in town to take on the Blue Jays, with veteran lefty Andy Pettitte squaring off against right-hander Brandon Morrow.
The turnstiles clicked away as 40,028 fans filed into the stadium to witness the game between two American League East rivals. But for one fan, this game signified the completion of every baseball fan’s dream: seeing a game in all 30 MLB cities.
That fan is Brooklyn Auxiliary Bishop Raymond Chappetto’s younger brother Richie.
Richie Chappetto is one of five boys in the family and is six years younger than Bishop Ray. Bishop Ray became a Brooklyn Dodgers’ fan in October, 1955 while watching the World Series as he recovered from a tonsillectomy, but Richie has his own story of how he developed his passion for baseball.
On June 2, 1958, seven-year-old Richie and his brother Tommy were taken by their father to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx to see the Yankees play the Chicago White Sox. Richie said it was the best day of his life as the Yankees captured a 3-0 victory.
“It was a thrill to go to Yankee Stadium!” he said. “Mickey Mantle hit a home run that night. I was hooked with the Yankees.”
The Yankees were the only team in town at the time, since the Dodgers and New York Giants had moved out west prior to the 1958 season and the New York Mets did not begin play until 1962. Richie immediately fell in love with the sport and the “Bronx Bombers.”
“If I cut myself, I bleed pinstripes,” he said.
“He (Richie) is true and true,” said Bishop Ray, who is now a Mets’ fan. “He lives eats and breathes baseball. I’m sorry to say he’s a Yankee fan, but I still love him anyway.”
The Chappetto boys grew up in Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish, Astoria. Richie played baseball and softball as a first baseman in local Catholic Youth Organization leagues before attending Mater Christi H.S., Astoria. He graduated from St. John’s University, Jamaica, with a degree in business education.
In 1989, he moved to Casselberry, Fla., where he is a parishioner at SS. Peter and Paul, Winter Park, Fla. He currently is an adjunct instructor of business at Professional Golfers Career College, Winter Garden, Fla., where he also enjoys free golf anytime.
In addition to Yankee Stadium, Richie went to games as a youngster at the Polo Grounds to see the Mets and was even at the first-ever game at Shea Stadium on April 17, 1964. A few years later, he took a trip to California and saw games at Dodger Stadium and Anaheim Stadium (California Angels).
While on the train to see the Yankees play the Orioles in Baltimore in 1977 with his wife Carol and friend Dominic, the idea of visiting all 26 MLB cities – there were only 26 teams in 1977 compared to 30 today – was mentioned in passing.
“It was a dream at the time,” he said. “I had been to five of the 26 and said that maybe I could do it some day.”
That idea gained steam as Richie went through a career change. After teaching stops at Bishop Loughlin M.H.S., Fort Greene, and Christ the King R.H.S., Middle Village, Richie went into business full-time with his brother Tommy collecting and selling baseball cards. He had been collecting since he was a kid, and he turned his hobby into a business – naming the company “Baseball Cards Forever.”
Through this venture, he was able to travel the nation appearing at card conventions. In each city, he made it a point to visit the local team’s ballpark. Conventions in Cleveland, Chicago and Houston allowed him to check each city’s stadium off his list. Seeing the Indians at Jacobs Field in 1997 marked the halfway point.
“When I got to number 15, I felt like it could be done,” Richie said. “It’s a real possibility.”
The stadium lap has included some memorable stops along the way. Richie said his favorite stadiums – besides the “House that Ruth Built” of course – are Dodger Stadium and Kauffman Stadium, the home of the Kansas City Royals.
He’s seen two All-Star Games – 1977 at Yankee Stadium and this past July at Citi Field with Bishop Ray. He also was present for Game 5 of the 1976 American League Championship Series, which featured a walkoff, pennant-clinching home run from Yankees’ slugger Chris Chambliss, and Game 3 of the 1999 World Series, when Yankees’ outfielder Chad Curtis hit two home runs, including a walkoff shot in the bottom of the 10th inning.
Though Richie has not yet been to some of the newly constructed ballparks, he still has hit every professional baseball city. In New York (Mets and Yankees), Chicago (White Sox), Baltimore and Milwaukee, he’s seen the old and the new stadiums. He’s also seen a game at the old Olympic Stadium in Montreal for the Expos and the new Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.
At each new stadium, Richie bought a program, saved his ticket stub and took plenty of photos. His daughter Linda made him a scrapbook to keep all his mementos together.
Richie’s other daughter Kathryn has followed in her father’s footsteps. She’s visited 27 MLB cities, including being present at AT&T Park in San Francisco on June 13, 2012 – the day Giants’ pitcher Matt Cain threw a perfect game.
Heading into the 2013 season, Richie had visited 28 ballparks and planned to make Detroit’s Comerica Park No. 29 this past April. But Kathryn surprised Richie with tickets to see the Rogers Centre in Toronto – the final stop along the journey – the day after his 62nd birthday.
They flew into Buffalo, N.Y., the day of the game, and it took over an hour to pass through customs at the U.S.-Canada border. They arrived 10 minutes after the first pitch, but the mission that had been started when Richie was seven years old had been accomplished.
“It took 55 years, 17 states, one district and two countries, but I did it!” said Richie, who fittingly enjoyed watching his favorite team earn a 9-4 win that night as he held up a sign that read “30!” – for all 30 MLB cities.
In addition to seeing games in all 30 professional cities, this past March, Richie completed the lap around Florida to see the spring training homes of all the teams that play in the Grapefruit League.
To further celebrate his baseball fandom, Richie edited a book entitled “Is He in the Hall?” – a baseball fact book that lists the members of the Baseball Hall of Fame, various records, award winners, milestones and World Series results. It is the ultimate reference guide for any die-hard baseball fan, and he plans to update it every year.
Now that he’s completed the dream of baseball fans everywhere, Richie said he would consider gradually trying to hit the other seven current stadiums he has not seen.
“I told my wife I was now going to do football stadiums,” he said jokingly, “and she screamed!”