2013 Hall of Fame : Frank Defino Sr. - Printing's Heavy HitterSeptember 2013 By Erik Cagle, Senior Editor
Sometimes, we find ourselves trading one dream for another. It's not necessarily a bad thing, nor does it mean you are settling for something less.
In the case of Frank Defino Sr., when life gave him fastballs, he hit them to the opposite field.
Defino longed to play professional baseball. He shuttled around the left side of the infield, eventually settling on third base. At 5-6, Frank Defino lacked size, but he watched plenty of diminutive superstars—including Yankee greats Phil Rizzuto and Yogi Berra—making good on the diamond. Heck, Defino used to watch Dim Dom Dallesandro, the 5-6 Cubbies left fielder, while he sat in the bleacher seats, chowing down on bologna sandwiches. And Dom wasn't exactly Ernie Banks.
Defino took his shot at the big leagues, getting looks from the "Go-Go" White Sox and Atlanta Crackers, and continued to play semipro ball after graduating from high school while working three jobs to make ends meet. Baseball was his true love.
"In 1956 my dad asked me why I kept playing ball after I graduated from high school," Defino recalls. "It was my hobby, my pastime, my passion. I asked him how much he makes a year at his job. He took three buses to work and worked 10 to 12 hours a day, and he said he made $5,000 a year. I told him that players make $7,000 when they first come up into the major league."
Defino soon found something he loved more than baseball...a girl he called Lilly. She would change his life, as would a newspaper ad in January of 1963 that offered a lithographic plate shop that was for sale. A bum knee might have kept Defino in the bleachers, but the girl and the newspaper ad paved his destiny—a road that also led to the 2013 Printing Impressions/RIT Printing Industry Hall of Fame induction class.
"At the time, I had a wife, two kids, worked the third shift at Rand McNally and did two other jobs during the day, trying to pay for a home," Defino says. "I saw the for sale ad for the plate shop, which was in a sub-basement in Chicago. I ended up purchasing it with a down payment of $575 and asked a friend, Mike Vitallo, to be my partner."