Lou Pierotti, surrounded by the Los Alamos Lassies softball team in the 1960s. The Lassies were one of the many teams Pierotti mentored. Courtesy/Los Alamos Historical Society and the Pierotti family
By BONNIE J. GORDON
Los Alamos Daily Post
Luigi “Lou” Pierotti will be inducted into the New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame Saturday. Unfortunately, he won’t be there in person. Pierotti died at age 94, March 21, 2015.
Pierotti is a legend in Los Alamos. For more than 55 years, the Pierotti family ran two popular businesses, Los Alamos Flowers and Gifts and The Soda Shop. He made many contributions to Los Alamos.
Pierotti is best known as the founder of Pierotti’s Clowns. In a still-closed city, the Clowns provided the town with entertainment and raised the profile of New Mexico sports around the world.
The five-man team played against nine-member teams in full clown makeup and performing all kinds of hijinks.
Pierotti’s son Mike Pierotti remembered that his mom had the idea of clown makeup and did the Clowns’ makeup until they learned to do it themselves.
“Mom used to say that her five kids were raised at the ball field,” he said.
In a 2013 interview with the Los Alamos Daily Post, Pierotti said that all the athletes who played for the Clowns were good athletes, especially pitcher Bun Ryan, whose fast ball was legendary.
“We played against nine-man teams and we won 177 games and lost only 23,” Pierotti said in the interview. “In the 25 years the Clowns played, we raised over $200,000 for charity. “We got away with murder because we were clowns.”
According to the Los Alamos Historical Society, Pierotti was born June 7, 1920, in Walsenburg, Colo. Pierotti was orphaned by the age of six. He was the youngest of six children and was raised by his older brothers and sisters. He played third base for his high school team, the position he would later play for the Clowns.
Some may not know that Pierotti excelled locally, statewide, and nationally in five sports – track, baseball, softball, military boxing and golf.
“I want to make sure people know he’s being honored for more than The Clowns,” his son Mike said. “He was an all-around athlete and contributed so much to sports in New Mexico.”
Courtesy/New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame)
- Advanced his natural abilities playing baseball in high school, playing with men in the local Fast Pitch softball league and military baseball during World War II.
- Offered professional baseball contracts while still in the military to play with the Balboa Brewers in Panama, and later with the St. Louis Browns and the Brooklyn Dodgers. Contracts in those days only paid $150 per month plus expenses; he turned all of them down in favor of returning to Walsenburg to raise his family.
- While in the service, played in the National Baseball Congress Summer Series held annually in Omaha, Neb.
- Played for the local “Bomber” Baseball Team and for the most prominent two-time State Championship “S-Site Softball Team.” He quickly became the starting third baseman and player manager. He went on to participate in the World Championship series as a leader of the S-Site Team that won their second New Mexico State Championship, and played in three other world championship games, as the third baseman for other New Mexico State champions. They played in the World tournaments from 1954 to1960. Pierotti played against softball stars, Harvey Sterkel and Joe Lynch at World Tournaments.
- Creator of the Pierotti Clowns, the only 5-man Softball Team in the World. After creating the Pierotti’s Clown team in 1953, he quickly became “The Clown Prince of Fast Pitch Softball”. The Clowns never lost a game against any of the five professional teams they played, such as the Albuquerque Dukes, a Triple-A Farm Team for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
- Accomplished boxer while in the military, winning his weight class during inter divisional competition in 1943-1944.
- Won mile races in Divisional competition leading up to entry, participation, and winning a mile race in a worldwide allied military track and field contest in Canada. (1943)
- In bowling, Pierotti’s Soda Bar team was regularly winning the Merchants Bowling League championships during the 50s and 60s in Los Alamos.
- He was setting league scoring records for high scratch games, high scratch series scores, and received many other individual awards each year including for closing 30 straight frames in league play.
- While playing for the Merhege Brothers team in 1963 on the Tewa Lanes in an Espanola league, he hit ten strikes in a row, hung a seven pin in the 11th frame, picked up the spare and was honored for the scratch single game score of 288. He also was honored that night with the annual Century Award, for a score that was 100 points over his consistent 185 average in league or tournament play.
- In April 1963 at the State tournament in Hobbs, Pierotti captured third in class A doubles and first place in Class A singles, plus the Team event. His score for the three series (9 games) averaged over 200 each game for a total pin count of 1,813.
In the 70s, Pierotti sponsored the Pierotti’s Floral team continuing to maintain his average and hitting scratch series scores over 620 and 628. In 1972 his Pierotti’s Floral team qualified for the Albuquerque State Championship tournament where he and his doubles partner received recognition for finishing 24th with a handicap, series score of 1,260.
- Pierotti was introduced to golf by friends at the age of 40. He soon played with top-flight players and city champions 20 years his junior. He relied on his coordination, forearm strength and hands to hit the ball down the middle, his approach shot onto the green and was as lethal with a nine iron as he was with a putter. Pierotti became an advocate for Northern New Mexico Senior Golf.
- Pierotti lost his first Los Alamos Open Championship Flight tournament final to Dennis McCloskey, on the 19th hole of the three-day tournament to a college whiz kid that later became the Los Alamos Club Pro.
- Pierotti soon competed in all tournaments, in the Championship Flight, with a low handicap and won the Atomic City Invitational and the Los Alamos Men’s City Tournament before participating in “Men’s” Championship Flight Tournaments, held in Albuquerque, Farmington and Santa Fe.
- After age 55, Pierotti won the Los Alamos Senior Championship Tournament 6 years in a row, setting the Los Alamos course record for seniors. Pierotti played senior tournaments as far north as Southern Colorado, Farmington, Raton, Taos, and Santa Fe and south to Ruidoso, Albuquerque, T or C and competed in State Tournaments each year.
- Pierotti’s crowning achievement in golf was winning two New Mexico State Senior Golf Tournament Championships in 1976 and 1977 and nationally with leading professionals of the 70s, including Lee Trevino, while competing in the US Golf Association Senior Amateur Championship tournaments held at Cherry Hills in Denver, Colo. and in San Antonio, Texas.
Pierotti played Senior golf for an additional 25 years winning the Northern New Mexico Senior Men’s Golf Association Championship in 1990 at 70 years old carding the overall low Gross Score. That same year he started the NNMSGA from Scratch with Santa Fe Pro Ray Torrez, served as the Associations first President and later as the Illustrated dated Aug. 16, 1954.
- In 2009 he and the Pierotti’s Clowns were inducted into the New Mexico ASA Softball Hall of Fame in Las Cruces.
- Pierotti’s Clowns were inducted into the New Mexico section of the ASA National Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City.
- Honored with first annual designation of “Living Treasure of Los Alamos” Sept. 26, 1999, by Los Alamos County. Pierotti and Bun Ryan were honored in the first year of the annual award, with three other Los Alamos citizens.
- The Los Alamos County commissioned Susan K. Daily for the creation of a giant tile mosaic monument depicting the circus atmosphere created by the Pierotti Clowns team while playing softball. The mosaic, on Central Avenue in front of Mesa Public Library, captured the shape of the Jemez Mountain landscape behind the monument, and included a tile gathering area.
- Pierotti and his wife Lena were honored by Los Alamos as Heroes of the Cold War. Photos of the couple’s successes are exhibited in the Los Alamos Historical Museum. Pierotti and Lena are one of a very few merchants honored in this way.
- Pierotti’s Clowns were honored by the State Penitentiary, because of the many games they played at the Penitentiary and for creating an atmosphere of respect and acceptance that sprung from the enjoyment of the game and the show.
- Pierotti’s Clowns also were honored to be the first team and community that hosted a sporting event, against the Rocks in Los Alamos, outside the prison walls. Members of the “Rocks” would present each clown with a drawing often in color showing how they remember them in their uniform from the previous year.
- Pierotti was honored by the NNMGA for his work to create, organize, and serve as President and communications director during his advocacy, by ordering a replica of his 1990 Championship Trophy from the Nambe foundry after it melted in the Cerro Grande Fire.
- Pierotti was a productive member of Kiwanis International from 1952 through 2015.
Pierotti was honored with the first Los Alamos lifetime Honorary Membership of Kiwanis International for his work providing hundreds of thousands of dollars for various Kiwanis charities.
- At age 69 Lou organized and together with Santa Fe’s Ray Torres created the Northern New Mexico Seniors Golf Association. (1990)
- Served as President of the Northern New Mexico Seniors Golf Association. (1991-1993).
in 1990 Lou, then 69 years old, organized members of several clubs and started the over 55 Northern New Mexico Seniors Golf Association. The association would grow to over 375 golfers.
- Supported local charities and for funding needed for student activities and sporting events continued for 50 years such as bowling and little league teams, Lassie League teams, Babe Ruth teams and American Legion teams.
- Served as a board of director for the Los Alamos National Bank, the Los Alamos Community Bank, the Los Alamos Hospital Board, the Sombrillo Nursing Home and Aspin Ridge Assisted Living Center. (Different service times from 1960 through 2002)
- Two occasions when they owned the Soda Bar, they made and delivered sandwiches, soft drinks, and water for fire fighters working relentlessly stop raging forest fires in the Los Alamos area.
- Entertained hospitalized patients (in his clown uniform) at the Los Alamos Medical Center.
Learned the auctioneer cadence after the war at cattle auctions and used his skill to conduct charitable money raising auctions for the Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish. The floral shop made sure that the altar flowers that Lee designed were fresh for Sunday mass at the church for 19 years
- Spoke to grade school children for countless years at the request of teachers.
Helped with announcing as a football color commentator. Darrell Burns invited him to join the radio station, located 230 feet from the Soda Bar, to read the morning sporting news for ½ hour following the breakfast rush.
- Dressed in a complete Topper Football uniform with helmet and a mask to raise money for the Los Alamos High School. The students and adults would pay a small donation for the right to try to guess who the local celebrity was and try to win the grand prize.
- Brought Touchdown Tony Hill of NFL Dallas Cowboy fame to Los Alamos for a charity event in 1983.
Donated his Pierotti’s Clowns memorabilia to the Los Alamos Historical Society for use as an exhibit in the Los Alamos Historical Museum
- Never missed an invite to throw out the first pitch on opening day of the little league season. At a Triple A Albuquerque Isotopes game, he threw the first pitch at a game held in honor of the Pierotti’s Clowns.
- Family maintains the Lou and Lena Pierotti Kiwanis Scholarship fund to help deserving civic minded student-athletes. Individual Lou and Lena Pierotti Scholarships have been awarded annually since 2016.
To learn all about Pierotti’s clowns, visit https://www.losalamoshistory.org/clowns.html#krsn. The site features archival and modern videos and pictures as well as much information. To learn more about Pierotti, visit http://nmshof.org/lou-pierotti/.
Lou Pierotti and his wife Lena surrounded by the many trophies he won during his career. Courtesy/Mike Pierotti