But on Sunday, September 13, the Yankees made Vitalone’s dream come true, in a slightly different fashion. The team played a video of his rendition of the anthem for the players and coaches in attendance, as well as viewers watching the broadcast of the Yankees’ afternoon game against the Baltimore Orioles.
For Vitalone, a World War II veteran, developmental psychologist, and former coach and professor at William Paterson University, the inspiration to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Yankee Stadium came from a desire to honor a boyhood friend who was killed during that conflict.
“The reason for all this is the loss of my friend Joe [Romano] during World War II,” he told Jack Curry, FCRH ’86, on Curry’s show YES We’re Here on the YES Network last April. “This has been a lifelong dream to sing at the Yankee Stadium, but after Joe was killed, every time I heard ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’ I thought of Joe automatically.”
Vitalone told Curry that the boys grew up together and bonded over their common love for baseball.
“I think it says so much about you that a person that you met when you were both altar boys in Yonkers as 12-year-olds, that all these years later—and it’s so unfortunate that Joe was lost more than 70 years ago—but yet, that bond was so strong that you still think about him, you still talk about him, and he still brings you such calm in your life,” Curry said.
Singing the anthem was the latest achievement for Vitalone, who besides his service and teaching record, has won numerous Senior Olympics medals. Vitalone credits being active with his ability to “stay young.”
“I realize that the thing that has been my saving grace has been my attitude towards activity, which is something I developed as a playground athlete when I was a kid,” Vitalone told Fordham News in 2014. “The thing is, the more active you are, the more you can delay the descending curve.”
Watch Vitalone sing the national anthem for the Yankees.