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Fan hits 102 with Dodgers

Community: Nick Corsinita celebrates birthday with baseball greats Bill Russell and Al Downing

Posted: February 7, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: February 7, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Former Los Angeles Dodgers Al Downing, left, and Bill Russell, right, meet with Corsinita. Corsinita’s love of the game began as a child in his hometown of Brooklyn, N.Y. “We’d take the street car down to the road to Prospect Park; it was just everyday living and the American sport,” he said. “I tried to play, but my eyes were bad, so I couldn’t...

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Instead of taking him out to the ball game, longtime Dodger fan Nick Corsinita had the ball game brought to him on Thursday as the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center in Newhall celebrated Corsinita’s 102nd birthday.

Baseball greats Bill Russell of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Al Downing, who played for  the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers, stopped by for a surprise visit to the delight of Corsinita, his family, friends and fellow seniors, who were enjoying lunch in the center’s cafeteria.

Russell and Downing made their entrance to the tune of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” with all in attendance singing along. Corsinita, decked out in his trademark Dodger sweatshirt and baseball cap, grinned broadly as his heroes took the stage.

“Nick, you’ve been one of our most loyal fans. We thank you for that. Congratulations on turning 100,” Downing said.

After a guest in the audience yelled out, “He’s 102!”, Downing quickly quipped, “102? Well, then you could be playing second base for us tomorrow.”

“I know he was a big Brooklyn Dodgers fan,” Russell added later. “He’s seen a lot of games, I’m sure.”

As flashbulbs popped from local media and television news crews, Corsinita expressed his gratitude to the crowd.

“I’m sort of shy, so this is overwhelming,” he said. “Thank you all for coming today, it’s very sweet. I feel famous all of a sudden.”

Corsinita’s love of the game began as a child in his hometown of Brooklyn, N.Y. “We’d take the street car down to the road to Prospect Park; it was just everyday living and the American sport,” he said. “I tried to play, but my eyes were bad, so I couldn’t hit well. I was good in the field, though.”

The New Yorker became a Californian after moving to Los Angeles in 1944, according to son Joe Corsinita, a retired city of Los Angeles public works inspector who lives in Stevenson Ranch.

“Dad started working for the United States Steamship Co. and then went to work for the federal government as a Navy purchaser,” Joe Corsinita said.

Joe Corsinita and his brother Paul Corsinita, who now lives in San Diego, were the only children from Nick Corsinita’s first marriage, which lasted for many decades until his wife Agnes died in 1977.

Growing up in the Corsinita household was pleasant, according to Joe Corsinita.

“He was a great dad, a great provider. He just did whatever he could for us. We went camping, fishing, all the things you can take advantage of in California,” he said.

The family would often play ball, too, as Joe Corsinita recalled.

“Dad always wanted to be a left-handed pitcher. I’m left-handed, but I’m not a follower of baseball. It kind of broke his heart,” he said.

After becoming a widower again when second wife, Eileen, died in 1997, Corsinita lived independently in Rancho Santa Paula until he fell down and spent a week in the hospital in 2010.

Joe Corsinita then decided to move his father to the Santa Clarita Valley. Nick Corsinita now resides in Valencia at an assisted-living facility. He likes to spend time with his family, including grandkids Matt Corsinita and Christie Rueter.

“Whenever he’s around the family, he’s always concerned with how we’re doing,” Rueter said. “I recently married and his advice to us was, ‘Just love each other.’”

While her grandfather is moving rather slowly these days, there’s one thing that can always be counted on to get his attention.

“He’s got a lot of get up and go for ice cream. Say ‘We’re going out for ice cream’ and he’s heading for the door,” Rueter said.

Matt Corsinita remembers his grandfather teaching him how to box when he was about 7 years old.

“I gave him a fat lip, but he wasn’t mad at me at all,” he said. “We’d play catch down at the park and in the backyard.”
Today, Matt Corsinita is learning different lessons from his grandfather.

“He’s taught me to care of yourself while you’re young and love while you’re alive,” he said.

Corsinita had a few more pearls of wisdom about reaching the ripe old age of 102.

“First you have to make it to 101,” he said with a grin. “I never smoked in my life and  drank only a little. I’ve had nice wives. Just live cleanly and eat an apple a day.”

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