Stories From Main Street: Veteran Hopes To Honor Friend By Singing Anthem At Yankee Game

Sean Adams
November 17, 2019 - 4:30 pm
Dr. Gabriel Vitalone

Sean Adams/WCBS 880

POMPTON PLAINS, N.J. (WCBS 880) — A 97-year-old from Pompton Plains is trying to achieve a dream he’s had for years: to sing the national anthem at Yankee Stadium.

In this week’s Stories from Main Street, Dr. Gabriel Vitalone tells WCBS 880’s Sean Adams that while he’s lived a long, amazing life, he’s far from done.

“You're looking at a guy who’s, really I've had it all, and yet I still have the feeling it's unfinished,” he said.

The retired William Paterson University educator and coach came from humble beginnings in Yonkers, when Yankee baseball was everything.

“Well, I ended up getting the number one ticket to the 1943 World Series,” Vitalone said.

He even has the ticket still – which cost $1.10.

The 97-year-old saw Babe Ruth play, has been to several key games in Yankee history and he did this all with his best friend, Joe Romano.

Vitalone said the two shared a handful of World Series Games together: “’36, ‘37, ‘38, ‘39. We saw a ‘41, ‘42 and then he missed ‘43 and I made ‘43.”

Vitalone would go on to fight in World War II as a member of General George Patton’s Third Army. Romano would also go on to serve in the Marines, but unfortunately died in Saipan at the age of 20.

Vitalone received the news in a letter and remembers being devastated by the loss of his best friend.

“I just went to the chapel and I cried,” Vitalone recalled.

Still, all these years later, he still considers Romano his best friend and says every time he hears the Star-Spangled Banner, he thinks of him.

“You know, I'm living my life, but I'm living his too,” Vitalone said. “Because he got 20 years and I get 97 – there’s no justice in that.”

To honor the life of his lost friend, he hopes to one day sing the national anthem at Yankee Stadium in his memory, and in memory of all other forgotten veterans.

Vitalone has even been practicing especially, “in the shower – so no one can hear me there.”

Vitalone says he hopes the team will allow him to fulfill his dream and says if he does it’ll be sending a message: “We haven’t forgotten you guys, haven’t forgotten you.”