LARGO — As a promising high school baseball player, Lou Zammito sacrificed everything for the game. Later, he sacrificed a possible career in baseball for his family.
Even so, Mr. Zammito found happiness in adult leagues, playing more than 200 games a year into his 60s and 70s. He also scouted for the St. Louis Browns before and after the team became the Baltimore Orioles. He continued playing senior softball in north Pinellas County, winning a world championship with his team.
Mr. Zammito, a financial planner with a passion for baseball, died Sunday. He was 86.
He grew up in Corona, N.Y., the son of an Italian father and a Jewish mother. According to family lore, his father was so strict that he would send his son to bed without supper because he had baseball practice. He got a sandwich anyway, wrapped in wax paper by his mother and carried upstairs by the family German shepherd.
After high school, the New York Giants offered him a contract. By then, the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor.
"You'll see me after the war," Mr. Zammito told the team.
While in the Coast Guard, he met Claire, a USO hostess. "He was a gentleman," said Claire Zammito, 85. "We just clicked." They married in 1942.
After the war, Mr. Zammito tried to look up the Giants representative who had offered him the contract. That person had died, he learned.
"He said, 'Well, that's it,' " Claire recalled.
Mr. Zammito thought he still could have caught on with a pro team, but he decided raising a family was a higher priority. The couple moved to Chambersburg, Pa. Mr. Zammito opened a men's clothing store. The couple had four sons.
Mr. Zammito still played semiprofessional baseball.
"He was fast, a good hitter, and he could hit the ball into any field," said his son, Ron Zammito, 60. Mr. Zammito worked as a scout for the Browns-Orioles. His friends were baseball players, including Nellie Fox, Luis Aparicio and Ted Williams.
Mr. Zammito played senior softball after moving to Largo in 1980.
"A lot of people, once they get over 45, they figure, 'That's it, the game's over,' and they sit back in their rocking chairs and wait for the Big Man to call them. But we won't do that," Mr. Zammito, a player-manager for the Tampa Bay 65s, said in 1992. "I'm just thankful that at 69 years old I'm still healthy enough to do this."
His wife played a role, too. "A lot of wives say, 'He's not going to play ball three or four times a week, no way,' " Claire Zammito said. "I say, 'Hey, if you want him to live long, you better (allow it).' "
In September 1992, the Tampa Bay 65s won the Seniors Softball World Series, Ron Zammito said. It was a fitting outcome for a man who said, "If I wake up in the morning and I don't see my obituary in the paper, I go out and play ball."
He did just that for another 11 years — until he turned 80.
Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or email@example.com.