The original Pierotti’s Clowns. Courtesy photo
The Los Alamos History Museum will host a community celebration of Pierotti’s Clowns 4-6 p.m., Tuesday in the Municipal Building lobby. This celebration coincides with the display of the Museum’s latest Municipal Building exhibit, “Pierotti’s Clowns: Creating Community.” The celebration will offer refreshments and memories of the Clowns.
At 4:45 p.m., researchers and family members will share stories of the team, its history, and its influence on the community. There also will be a 30-minute video about the Pierotti’s Clowns shown at 4 p.m. and at 5:30 p.m. in Room 110, the Boards and Commissions Room. The video features original footage of the Clowns as well as oral history interviews with friends and family of the athletes who played for the team.
“Pierotti’s Clowns: Creating Community” shares the history and celebrated accomplishments of the team and how this five-man, fast-pitch softball team shaped the development of Los Alamos with their athletic skill, charming antics, and philanthropy.
In 1953, security fences still surrounded Los Alamos. The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) operated the town. The community was still finding its identity after the end of the Manhattan Project. Lou and Lee Pierotti ran the local soda fountain under contract to the AEC.
Lou was a talented softball player and had the idea to create a fast-pitch softball team with five players rather than the usual nine. Lee suggested the team play as clowns so that if they lost they could say they were just playing around. Lou built the team around a stellar pitcher, Bernard “Bun” Ryan. In the program for their final game, the team reflected on their beginning, saying, “To win, all of the players would have to field like vacuum cleaners, run like gazelles, knock the seams off the softball at the plate, and most important of all—have a pitcher of world class.”
Pierotti’s Clowns played 202 games over a span of 25 years. They won 177 of those games and raised more than $2 million for charity by today’s standard. They played in Los Alamos and the surrounding region, drawing crowds of hundreds. They were known as the Goodwill Ambassadors of Los Alamos and the Globetrotters of Softball.
They had some 40 clown tricks they would use in games: batting from one knee, pitching blindfolded, pitching balls on elastic strings, fielding balls with trash can lids, and one clown would run to home on his hands. While Ryan struck out pitchers, the infielders would shoot dice or play with tops, or Lou might play a concertina and sing. They would throw “mush balls,” which were grapefruits or cantaloupes painted to look like softballs.
If you remember watching the Clowns play, or want to learn more about the team, plan on joining us Tuesday. The Municipal Building exhibit also extends onto the Los Alamos History Museum website. Visit www.losalamoshistory.org/clowns to learn more about the history of the team and see a roster of the athletes who played for the Clowns.