Bloomingdale's Randazzo built Italian sports history

Editor's note: This article has been updated to correct where George Randazzo grew up.

Known for building relationships, George Randazzo brought people together over his favorite topics: Italian culture and sports, longtime friends say.

Randazzo, the founder of the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame, which once was headquartered in Arlington Heights, died Sunday. The Bloomingdale resident was 77.

In the 41 years he ran the hall of fame, Randazzo inducted more than 270 athletes, including Joe DiMaggio, Mary Lou Retton and Tony Esposito; gathered artifacts including Mario Andretti's Indy 500 race car, Rocky Marciano's first heavyweight championship belt and swimmer Matt Biondi's Olympic gold medals; and helped the organization raise money for scholarships.

"He brought people together from all over," said Tony Ferraro of Pittsburgh, chairman of the hall of fame's board. "He was fantastic at bringing people together (with) his passion for his heritage and family."

Randazzo, a Chicago native, played softball growing up and developed a love for sports, his best friend Gary Hall said.

"He was a neverendingly energizing guy who had a dream," Hall said. "And the dream was to start an Italian boxing hall of fame."

So in 1977, Randazzo collected memorabilia, planned a fundraising dinner and invited 23 Italian-American boxing greats to attend. The event was so popular, Randazzo's friends say, that he expanded it the next year to become a hall of fame for Italian Americans in all sports. The hall originally was in Elmwood Park, but moved to Arlington Heights in 1988. It stayed there for about a decade before moving to Chicago's Little Italy neighborhood.

The hall is closed temporarily, with its artifacts in storage, ahead of a move to Rosemont. Ferraro said officials are in negotiations for potential sites and do not yet have a projected reopening date.

Randazzo stayed involved with the hall of fame, running it as his full-time job until his death, his friends say. Lately, he was working on this year's gala, set for Nov. 9 in Rosemont, to honor inductees Glenn Carano, Alexis DeJoria and, posthumously, Ralph "Babe" Serpico.

"It meant a lot to him ... to perpetuate the accomplishments of Italian Americans," Ferraro said.

Hall described Randazzo as a "kind and generous man" who showed compassion to people of all nationalities, not only to his beloved Italians.

"He was a man who gave his heart and soul to the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame, but also to anybody who needed help along the way," Hall said.

Randazzo is survived by his wife, Linda, their children, Anthony and Marc, and nine grandchildren. Visitation is 3 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Salerno's Rosedale Chapels, 450 W. Lake St., Roselle. A funeral Mass is set for 10:45 a.m. Friday at St. Isidore Parish, 427 W. Army Trail Road, Bloomingdale, with interment at Mount Carmel Cemetery in Hillside.

George Randazzo, founder of the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame, died Sunday. He was 77. Courtesy of National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame
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