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What can you tell me about the long name of Atlanta Braves catcher Jerrod Saltalamacchia?
Answer: And a long, long name it is. In "Q&A: Catching Up with the Longest Name in Baseball" (USA.com posting of May 9), Ray Glier confirmed that "with 14 letters, (Saltalamacchia) has the longest last name in baseball history." Sports announcers have shortened the name to "Salty."
Saltalamacchia can be broken down into three Italian words, salta (he jumps), la (the) and macchia (spot). There appears to be no meaning beyond the literal translation, said Paola Sergi of the Italian Cultural Institute in New York's Archive and Records in a June 14 telephone message.
The Italian Web site, "Salta la Macchia vinse con il su padrone" ("Salta la Macchia won with his owner" at ilpalio.org/aneddoti_leocorno07.htm) told of a still-famous racehorse that wowed spectators in Siena in 1704. An unruly stallion named "Salta la Macchia" was feared and respected by the local jockeys. Nobody offered to ride "Jump the Spot" in an upcoming race until his owner, a peasant named Marracchino, stepped up to the task.
Because Maracchino had never ridden "Jump the Spot" in the Sienese Piazza del Campo race course, he refused risking public humiliation should his horse misbehave. So, he rode with his face covered, to the delight of a crowd enamored of masked intrigues. The steed won the race, of course.
At the other end of the "boot" of Italy lies the island of Ustica. The Usticesi inhabit a volcanic island just off the northern coast of Sicily. On the "Saltalamacchia Family Chart of Ustica" at ustica.org/genealogy/ustica/charts/c91.htm, not only individual members of that family are listed but also the variant spellings of the name: Sartalamacchia, Saltalamachia, Saltamachia and Sartele.
Among the million names at Gale Thomson's online Biography Resource Center, there was only one listing for any of the spellings on the Ustica Web page -- Jeri Ann Saltalamacchia, assistant head nurse, at John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Lake Worth, Fla.
Italian "macchia" comes from the Latin word macula (a spot), which is the root for the English words macular and immaculate.
Macchia is a word well known to American opera lovers. "Una macchia e qui tuttora" ("There is still a spot there") is a famous aria from Giuseppe Verdi's 1847 opera, "Macbeth." Francesco Maria Piave based his libretto for the opera on William Shakespeare's tragedy. Here is the text, with the English translation following each Italian verse:
Una macchia e qui tuttora (There is still a spot there.)
Via, ti dico, o maledetta! (Away, I tell you, curse you!)
Una ... Due ... Gli e questa l'ora! (One, two, it is time!)
Tremi tu? Non osi entrar? (Are you shaking? Don't you dare go in?)
Un guerrier così codardo? (A soldier and so cowardly?)
Oh vergogna! Orsu, t'affretta! (Shame! Come on, hurry!)
Chi poteva in quel vegiardo (Who would have thought that there would be)
Tanto sangue immaginar? (So much blood in that old man?)
The adaptation captured the spirit of Shakespeare's words:
Out, damned spot! out, I say! -- One: two: why, then, 'tis time to do't. -- Hell is murky! -- Fie, my lord, fie! a soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account? --Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him.