Friday, April 22, 2005

April 22nd, 2005

Richard Barbieri Goes to Rome

Since I didn't find anything of particular interest on this date, and will be spending it in Rome, I thought it would be appropriate to write something on Italy and baseball. Despite having produced many great athletes, including footballers and Olympians, it has contributed just six players to Major League Baseball. (Although obviously many players of Italian descent like Joe DiMaggio and Yogi Berra have been all-time greats). The man who had the longest career having being born in Italy was Reno Bertoia, who was from near Udine, Italy outside of Venice. Bertoia moved to Canada before his second birthday, and had a ten year career for the Tigers (who were his team as he lived just on the other side of the border from Detroit), Senators/Twins (the team moved during Bertoia's tenure) and Kansas City A's. Bertoia was a mediocre infielder who held onto a job by playing all three of the infield skill positions.

The longest tenured Italian pitcher was Marino Pieretti who was born in Lucca Italy (near Florence) in 1920. He made his debut, oddly, while many Americans were fighting a war in his home country winning fourteen games for the Senators in 1945. He would hang on for five more seasons and finished his career with a 30 and 38 record and a 4.53 ERA. He is also notable for giving up the 2,000th hit to previously noted Italian-American Joe DiMaggio.

No native-born Itailan has played in a game since Bertoia since 1962 and none of the other four Italians player in even fifty games. So, if you can, do as I will be doing today, and sit at a cafe, have an espresso and toast to Reno Bertoia, Marino Pietetti and all the other Italians who have played Major League Baseball.

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