The birth of Franco Harris’ Italian Army
Then in 1972, a cultural revolution occurred in the NFL. This was the birth of Franco’s Italian Army. Two things paved the way for the founding of Franco’s Italian Army. First, by November of 1972, fans had finally learned of Franco’s family background. Fans found out Franco was half Italian and half African American.
Then two loyal fans Al Vento, the owner of Vento’s Pizza, and Tony Stagno, came up with an idea. Stagno had noticed that there were no banners in Three Rivers at that time, and the Steelers faithful were drab in their support. Stagno said someone had said it would take an army to move this crowd. Thus Stagno said ok, we would be the Italian army.
Then as Al Vento said, they asked a guard at Three Rivers to ask Franco if he would mind calling themselves Franco’s Italian Army. Franco apparently told the guard said he didn’t care, and then, as you would say, the rest was history.
Then you had banners around in the stadium saying “Franco’s Italian Army”, “Run Piasano Run”. With their, the “official army” consisting of Al Vento, Tony Stagno, and others had 12 seats, two of which were for all the food and smuggled wine they brought in thanks to hollowed-out loaves of bread.