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The New Haven Register sports department is celebrating our 200th birthday by sharing 200 of the most interesting stories relating to sports in Greater New Haven over the past 200 years. Check back daily for historical updates.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Columbus Auto Body amateur sports teams become big-ticket attraction in city

In the days before cable television, the Internet and Xbox, amateur sports were a major source of entertainment. And in New Haven, in the years after World War II into the 1970s, the Columbus Bears were a big ticket attraction. Today, it’s hard to imagine thousands packing in to a neighborhood field for a softball game. But it was commonplace back in the day.

John DiLauro, second-generation owner of Columbus Auto Body, began sponsoring fast-pitch softball teams in 1948. The Columbus empire soon expanded to basketball, baseball and bowling. He did it for no other reason than a basic love for local sports. Joe Ciaburri hooked on as manager and coach, recruiting top athletes in the area. Columbus was the team to beat in a thriving, local sports scene. Fans began flocking to watch it compete.
“Everyone wanted to play the Bears,” said Ciaburri, 82, a prominent local banker who once served on President Ronald Reagan’s economic advisory board. “But no one could come close to beating us.”

Vin DiLauro, present owner of Columbus Auto, keeps the tradition begun by his father alive today, most notably with an entry in the West Haven Twilight League. It’s his passion. Still, nothing compares to the glory days os Columbus sports.
Read Chip Malafronte's complete story

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