Bocce Ball

Whenever two or more Michigan Tech Alumni gather, the conversation usually ventures quickly into reminiscences about the "good old days" at Tech. Popular topics center around Hockey, Winter Carnival, antics in the residence hall and comparisons about how much snow fell during one's time in Houghton. Few alumni will wax poetically about Tech's great Bocce Ball tradition. Bocce Ball? That's a sport usually played in warm, sunny places such as Florida, California or Arizona, but NOT the UP of Michigan!

Modern Bocce Ball traces its roots to Italy and is more commonly known as lawn bowling. Believe it or not, for many glorious years, the Bocce Ball Club was active at Michigan Tech and boasted at one time more than 40 members. The 1989 Tech yearbook even has a picture of a Winter Carnival Bocce Ball Court, so in the great Michigan Tech tradition, members managed to figure out how to make Bocce Ball a year-round sport.

As a group of former Bocce Ball Club members started getting more involved in supporting Tech over the past few years, we inquired about the existence of the court and what it would take to revive Bocce Ball as a recreational sport on campus. I'm pleased to report that a location for the new court has been selected to be installed on the west side of Douglass Houghton Hall. The Michigan Tech Recreational program has endorsed the return of Bocce Ball, and is committed to maintaining the court and promoting the sport to students. 

The minute I saw the word bocce in the letter I knew it was from either Mike Smaby or Fred Koerschner as the pioneers of bocce at MTU.  The tradition started in the common area of East Coed (now East McNair) on the carpet between the elevator and west stair well.  It was there that the Gruski comb was first used to measure which ball was closest to the bolene.  I recall another instance where the closer ball was indiscernible to the naked eye and too long for the comb when Fred whipped off his tie to make judgment.  I believe the tie remained in the official toolbox of bocce measuring instruments ever after. The zenith of bocce in my era was the courts built of ice and snow for Winter Carnival tournaments.  Considering the amount of "warming" liquid consumed during the construction of the courts I was amazed they were level and smooth.

I never played on the courts build by the SDC back in the day, so I've made my donation in hopes of playing on the new court next summer.  For 10000 bucks I'm guessing that includes a few cubic yards of "official bocce clay" from Rauffa, Italy and a solid 24 carat gold bolene. 

Please join those that have already contributed and help support the return of Bocce Ball to the Michigan Tech campus!

Bocce Ball Memories


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Our task now is to raise $10,000 to build the new court. Anyone who commits $500 or more toward this project will have their name engraved on one of the Bocce Balls that will be available for students to use on the court (there are 8 bocce balls in a set and we intend to purchase two sets). All donors will have their names engraved on a dedication plaque to be installed near the court.

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