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Area social clubs and towns get on the ball as bocce surges in popularity


Some of the earliest recorded games of bocce were played in 5200 B.C. in Egypt. While it is not being played in the 2024 Paris Olympics, the sport is seeing a resurgence in popularity.

The bocce league at Bardascino Park in Philadelphia hosts 42 teams with teams such as Deboccerie, Watchers on the Wall, and Boccelism. | PHOTO BY RALPH NARDELL

Many municipalities in the Delaware Valley have formed leagues. West Chester Bocce Club in West Chester, Pa., began in 2014 on an old driving range and miniature golf course. Its current home is at VFW Post 106. Tom Moretti and Frank Dilullo established the club with only four teams. The club now has 24 teams with a minimum of four players, but most teams have six or seven people. The summer season will start in mid-July. The club’s wish list includes putting a roof over the courts. Moretti describes an environment of friendly competition, with participants in their 30s and older.

The bocce courts at Philadelphia’s Bardascino Park trace back to the park’s beginnings in 1978. The Friends of Bardascino Park started in the early 1990s as a fund-raising group. About 15 years ago, Chris Archer began the bocce league, which hosts 42 teams with names such as Deboccerie, Watchers of the Wall, and Boccelism. The season begins in March and April but ends in early September. The final tournament usually has 16 teams and is an all-day affair with food and refreshments. Friends of Bardascino park welcomes donations to park, garden, and bocce league. The courts need new bocce sand and the wood beams are rotting. The court sustained significant flooding during last season’s tournament.

Since 1906, Holy Saviour Club in Norristown, Pa., has been an Italian-American social club, hall rental facility, and a great place to play bocce. In 2009, Joe Mirabile went from board member to president of the club. Bocce is played there six nights a week, with games sheltered from the rain. HSC is wheelchair accessible, has a card room, two bars and a ballroom. A summertime fund-raiser called The Feast takes place this year from Aug. 9-11. 

The bocce season at Bardascino Park in Philadelphia begins in March and April and ends in early September. | PHOTO BY RALPH NARDELL

In 1935, Mark D’Angelo’s grandfather founded the St. Anthony’s Club in New Castle, Del. The club offers both indoor and outdoor bocce leagues. The outdoor courts are sheltered from the rain. The spring/summer league starts in May and ends in August. St. Anthony’s even offers a Thursday night indoor league in the winter. A High Stakes Tournament this Aug. 2-3 is expected to draw players from as far away as Texas. There is a $4,000 first prize and a $2,000 second prize. Tom Rash, committee treasurer, says that St. Anthony’s Club previously has raised $4,600 for the Special Olympics. 

Beyond Italian social clubs, individual municipalities and neighborhoods have joined the bocce craze. Rich Enhow, Director of Recreation in Marple Newtown, Pa., says he was contacted by Broomall Rotary Club eight years ago to start a bocce league. Their bocce league starts in April with 28 teams, two 14-team divisions, and seven regular season matches played at Drexel Lodge Park, Newtown Square, Pa., and Veterans Park, Broomall, Pa. The Veterans Park courts offer coverage. There is a small fee to join.

Hershey Mills is an active adult community in West Chester that offers a bocce program, among other activities. There are more than 100 bocce players with skill levels ranging from beginner to experienced. Their bocce season begins in May and ends in August. The courts are available 24/7.

Beneduce Vineyards in Pittstown, N.J., is a 77-acre vineyard that includes bocce leagues. Games start on May 24 with 12 teams. Competition last six weeks and ends with a championship. They will be hosting many other activities, live music, and can have up to 100 guests. More information and how to sign up for a team can be found on their Instagram/@beneducevineyards! There are two bocce courts that are first-come, first-served on Saturdays and Sundays. 

Frank Costello of Costello’s Custom Landscapes installs and repairs bocce courts for leagues, clubs, and private residences. Costello, who built his own backyard court, drew inspiration from going to his uncle’s home court and playing the game with his father. Bocce provides “infinite enjoyment for your investment,” he said. IAH

Nancy Perone is an Italian-American communications professional with a passion for writing. Her roots in the boot hail from Southern Italy in the regions of Campania and Calabria. She aspires to travel to Italy as well as pen her own book. 

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