I know; I know. It's the most frequent question I get: “How did Spit get his name?” No, it's not because he was a dentist; although, the connotation served him well during his career. It goes way back to when he was a Junior in high school. And the explanation starts with his mother calling to him, from the kitchen window, that dinner was ready.
He was throwing a tennis ball against the white concrete wall of the detached garage, on which there were two painted strike zone boxes; one with the silhouette of a right handed batter, and the other with a lefty. As he fielded the rebounds and threw out imagined runners, he called a nine inning game in his mind.
“Why do you spend so much time throwing a ball at a wall. Salvatore?,” his father asked, as he approached the dinner table.
“I'm still trying to get rid of my frustration at your making the Boy Scouts a higher priority than baseball, Dad,” he answered, with a smile that any dentist would have been proud to create. “And Mom, Dad, call me 'Spit'. That's what I go by, now.”
“Spit? Are you out of your mind? Who ever heard of such a name? How on earth did you come up with that?,” they both said in unison and with equal despair.
“Mom, Dad, slow down: deep breath, count to ten, and relax. I can explain.”
“No one could explain such a thing!” his mother exclaimed.
“Of all the names out there, you pick Spit,” his father said, shaking his head sadly.
“One sec, I'll be right back,” Spit replied, as he ran from the table. He scampered up the stairs to his bedroom, grabbed a book, and scooted back to the dining room table.
“I'll tell you all about it, as we enjoy Mom's wonderful meal,” he announced, confidently, as his parents continued to stare at him with sad eyes and no signs of having an appetite. “Okay, okay,” he stated, with apparent frustration, as he put down his fork and picked up the book.
“In English class, today, my teacher announced that each of us was to choose a different American author whose major works we would read, and whom we would impersonate, through the course of the school year. My classmates, who are on the track team, got to the library first, and they gobbled up the authors who wrote the shortest and the fewest novels. I am happy to announce, however, that F. Scott Fitzgerald is dining with you tonight.”
“Well, S. Spittell Toon has a ring to it,” his father observed.
“I did consider that, Dad, but it just didn't seem right. Spittell doesn't evoke the masculinity of Scott, but Spit does. Sorry, Mom. Your maiden name is very special to me, and I'm proud to have it as my middle name. However, Spit is authentically derived from my middle name, which is consistent with Scott's commitment to authenticity. Besides, if an immigration officer at Ellis Island, way back when, could shorten my grandfather's family name from Tonacchio to Toon, I feel comfortable shortening Spittell to Spit.
“You'll always be Salvatore to me,” his mother said, with tears in her eyes.
And as Spit began his quest to immerse himself into Scott's psyche and persona, he realized he needed to do more than just read his major works. So, he also read the minor ones, the biographies, the literary reviews, and Scott's screenplays. On the last day of that school year, he walked into class, dressed to the nines, with a martini glass in hand and his Zelda on his arm. Although he admitted that the search for her was the best part of being Fitzgerald, he claimed that he did it, only, to insure authenticity. As expected, no one believed him, except one person: his mother. And for that reason, ever since, Spit's signature line became: “Call me Spit, everyone does, except my mother, who still calls me Salvatore.”