Forever young: Fan, 111, catches game in Bronx
Preaching healthy living, LaPallo recalls meeting Babe, going to Hilltop Park
NEW YORK -- Bernando LaPallo never thought he would live to see a new Yankee Stadium. He remembers going to games at Hilltop Park -- the Yankees' first home ballpark -- with his father when he was 9 or 10 years old, and he remembers when the first Yankee Stadium opened in 1923, but he never thought he'd have the chance to watch the Yankees call a third stadium home.
On Saturday, though, LaPallo witnessed what he never thought he would. The 111-year-old was on the field before the Yankees' game against the Red Sox, watching Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira and many other players nearly 80 years younger than him take batting practice.
LaPallo met manager Joe Girardi and shortstop Derek Jeter before the game, but those are far from the most famous Yankees he's ever shaken hands with. He still remembers meeting Babe Ruth when he first came to New York 93 years ago.
"I shook his hand and he said, 'My greatest admirer, my youngest admirer,'" LaPallo said. "I remember that like yesterday."
In a life like the one LaPallo has lived, meeting Ruth likely isn't even among the highlights. LaPallo earned a degree in culinary arts from the Sorbonne in Paris in 1928, lived in Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance and fought in World War II. He spent the early part of his professional life opening hotels and resorts before changing career paths in his early 70s, graduating NYU with a degree in podiatry and reflexology and opening a massage therapy business which he ran for 20 years.
LaPallo is now an author. He wrote his first book, "Age Less Live More," when he was 107, and his second book, "Beyond 100 -- How to Live Well into Your Second Century," is scheduled to be released on Aug. 17, his 112th birthday.
LaPallo was born when New York's team was still called the Highlanders, three years before the name Yankees first came into existence. He's the same age as the American League. There are an estimated 200-350 supercentenarians -- people who have lived past their 110th birthday -- and LaPallo is one of them.
That doesn't mean he's old, though.
"Being old and shaking in a wheelchair, that's no good. That's hell," LaPallo said. "I'll get up every morning and I'll take my walk, come back, I can shave, I can bathe, I can do everything you can do."
LaPallo has gotten to his age by listening to his daddy, he said. His father taught him a particular way to live his life, and he's followed every principle. He practices obedience and moderation, and he keeps his colon clean. He eats healthy, and he stays away from wild living and whiskey. He puts olive oil on his feet to avoid corns and calluses, and he rubs olive oil on his face to avoid wrinkles.
"Do I have any wrinkles?" LaPallo said. "I wouldn't preach something I hadn't practiced. I know it works."
While he's at the ballpark on Saturday, he won't be eating a stadium hotdog for dinner. He's only eaten one in his life -- he was 12 years old at the time -- and he hasn't eaten once since.
"I broke the rule of what my daddy told me. He said, 'Never eat those hotdogs or hamburgers, because if you do, they'll make you sick,'" LaPallo said. "Well, I let a friend of mine persuade me -- he insisted and all that -- and I tried it. Half hour later, they had to pump my stomach out."
On Saturday, he watched a Yankees game more than 100 years after seeing his first one as a child. LaPallo hopes he'll get to see his favorite current Yankee, closer Mariano Rivera, pitch, because he hates to think about seeing Rivera retire after this season, even though he acknowledges that "time takes it away" eventually.
Overall, it was a special day for LaPallo. One he never dreamed he would get to experience.
"This day has got me choked up," LaPallo said. "I never thought I would live to see a new Yankee Stadium when I lived before the first one. I never thought about it."
Josh Vitale is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.