My Italian-American All Star Baseball Team

Sunny Italy Has Given Us Some Baseball Players.

My All Italian-American Baseball Team / by (Predominant Big League Club)

Pitcher: Mike Mussina (Yankees)

Catcher: Ernie Lombardi (Reds)

First Base: Mike Piazza (Dodgers/Mets)

Second Base: Tony Lazzeri (Yankees)

Third Base: Ron Santo (Cubs)

Shortstop: Phil Rizzuto (Yankees)

Left Field: Yogi Berra (Yankees)

Center Field: Joe DiMaggio (Yankees)

Right Field: Dom DiMaggio (Red Sox)

Their famous name numbers are not voluminous on baseball’s wall of history, but the significant contributions of the few Italian-Americans who have made it to the Hall of Fame level are quite remarkable. My own Italian-American All Star club had to be slightly gerrymandered for the sake of getting all the best bats in the starting lineup. Case in Point: Yogi Berra. Yogi was undoubtedly the best catcher of the group, but I had to put him in left field to make room for the mobility-limited big bat of Ernie Lombardi, whom I then put behind the plate. Yogi played some left field late in his career. Remember? Yogi got to left field in 1960 just in time to have the closest look at Mazeroski’s Series-winning home run leave the yard in Game Seven at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh.

I put another catcher, Mike Piazza, at first base to take advantage of his power. I could have picked a few more natural fielding candidates from guys like Zeke Bonura, Joe Pepitone, Wayne Belardi, or Jason Giambi, but none of these guys, not even Giambi, had the pop in his bat that Piazza possessed.

Third Base was only tough from the standpoint that I wasn’t really sure of Ron Santo’s ethnicity until I Googled the issue. Once confirmed, Ron was a no-brainer. Regardless of ethnicity, Santo was of the best “least honored” third basemen in the history of the game.

The outfield was easy enough with Joe D. available for center field and brother Dom another great defensive, good hitting choice to move over from his routine center field pasture to cover right. We could have fielded an All-DiMaggio Outfield by placing older brother Vince in left, but he couldn’t hit all that well and we needed the spot for Yogi.

The quality here helped make up for the limited quantity of Italian-American candidates.

Five of the guys, Lombardi, Lazzeri, Rizzuto, Berra, and Joe DiMaggio are all members of the Hall of the Fame – and Santo should be as the so-far unrecognized sixth HOF man on that list.  Five of the guys also, and including Mussina, Lazzeri, Rizzuto, Berra, and Joe DiMaggio, were all Yankees during their playing days. Mussina is the only one from that group that even played significant time with another club prior to his Yankees best-years career. The other four guys were career Yankees. Yogi got into four games with the Mets in 1965 during his management of that club, but that slight taint on his Yankees purity hardly counts.

Why so many of the great Italians played for the Yankees, we really can’t say. All we can know for sure is that the Yankees loved Italians and they gobbled them up back in the 1920’s, 1930’s, and 1940’s.

I may have missed someone, but I cannot imagine now who it may have been. If it were do-able, I would certainly  be willing to play your club of nine other Italian-Americans with my guys for a Friday Night DeLuxe Valian’s Pizza anytime, anywhere you want.

How about Mason Park Field on 75th in Houston’s East End? That one worked for me back in the early 1950’s and probably still would.

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23 Responses to “My Italian-American All Star Baseball Team”

  1. Fully Says:

    As a student of baseball you are a genius, but I would like to see a little homerism here and for you to find a way to get Houston’s own #7 unto this squad. Longer career and better defense than Poosh Em Up Tony.

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Fully:

      I tried to take Biggio over Lazzeri, but could not overcome two things: (1) a lifelong fascination for the little guy from San Francisco with the powerful bat; and (2) Tony outperformed Craig as a hitter for average, power, and on-base facility. You had it right on Biggio’s longer career and superior defense, but you overlooked a fact: Tony Lazzeri never coached my old St. Thomas Eagles to a state baseball championship.

      Check back with me in a couple of years. If Biggio goes into the HOF on the first ballot, it may allow him to “poosh” Tony off my All Italian team.

      I’ve been waiting for somebody to comment on my Biggio omission and, with you around, it didn’t take long.

  2. gary Says:

    I think you can make an argument in favor of Biggio. Using OPS+, Biggio’s career mark is 111 while Lazzeri’s is 120. However, Biggio had a lot longer career – about 3000 more plate appearances. If you compare Lazzeri’s 7303 career plate appearances to Biggio’s first 7435 PAs (1988-99), then Biggio wins 124-120. Also, our 1988-99 Biggio provided almost 200 more stolen bases than Lazzeri.

  3. Mark Wernick Says:

    Ohmygosh, you have to play Berra at catcher! He’s one of the greatest catchers in history!

    You can have Lombardi as a backup. And you can put Biggio in left. He was a better outfielder than Berra.

    And I think you get better offense in right with little decrement in defense with Carl Furillo.

    Trust me, Biggio is a first ballot HOFer, assuming we don’t learn he juiced before he’s up for election, and you can’t leave a HOFer off an all-star team.

    My only problem with all-ethnic teams is, what do you do with hybrids?
    Still fun to do, though.

    Mark

  4. Ed Says:

    Mike Mussina is NOT Italian. He is of Slavic descent. I always thought he was Italian but just found out that unfortunately he is not.

  5. dino Says:

    Mussina is Italian, but there is a better RH pitcher who’s mother was Italian…JOHN SMOLTZ. And don’t forget Vic Raschi You need a LH starter and you can choose between Antonelli, Viola and Petite. For a relief pitcher Franco. Sambito and Bottalico come to mind as well as Smoltz.

    One way to solve the overload is to make Piazza the DH. Roy Campanella was also Italian. A great 1B was Phil Cavaretta, but leave a spot for Joey Votto. :))))

  6. dino Says:

    I also forgot to add Dave Righetti as a relief pitcher and another old timer at !B Dolph Camilli

  7. Joe Evangelista Says:

    Some better than average players you didn’t mention were Tony C.,Rocky Colavito,Malzone, Petrocelli and Joe Torre….

    I grew up in Philly and we have large Italian Population and Phils never had their share;made it easy to root for NYY and still do…

  8. Lanza Says:

    Mike Mussina is unfortunately not Italian. It’s an understandable mistake. He was once asked to play for the Italian team in international competition but declined, explaining that he is not Italian.

    Also, I would have played Biggio at second and Berra (just) ahead of Lombardi though I’m really splitting hairs there. Finally, even were Mussina Italian, the greatest Italian pitcher of all time is probable Eddie Cicotte (assuming he’s not blackballed from your fantasy league).

  9. Dino Says:

    Man, I could swear that I remember Mussina saying that he had Italian heritage when they honored IA players at Yankee Stadium. Many do, unfortunately, down play their Italian roots especially if they are mixed and very diluted. They consider themselves American, not Italian.

  10. Lanza Says:

    Gene Orza, the chief operating officer of the players’ association, persuaded Mike Piazza to play for Italy. He tried to get Mike Mussina, too.

    “I told him I’m not Italian and nobody in my family is Italian,” Mussina said.

    http://www.redorbit.com/news/sports/412089/will_baseball_tournament_be_a_classic

    I think that ought to clarify things. It’s a shame too. Mussina is a future Hall of Famer. I would love to claim him as an Italian.

  11. Enrique Abreu Says:

    I just found a site thats says Mussina is a jewish last name. I thought it was italian.

  12. SuperMamy Says:

    SuperMamy…

    […]My Italian-American All Star Baseball Team « The Pecan Park Eagle[…]…

  13. Dennis Marconi Says:

    you forgot Jack Clark, OF…mom was Italian. What about Robin Ventura ?

  14. Lou LouIs Says:

    Andy Pettite is part Italian we could use him as well. Did anyone mention Dolph Camilli? Gene Tenace,

  15. Mike DeGirolamo Says:

    No All Star team of Italian American baseball players can be valid when Rocco Domenico Colavito is excluded!!

  16. Ray Belliotti Says:

    Mike Mussina is of Slavic origins. The name was changed when his ancestors arrived in USA. Pitchers should include Raschi, Maglie, Antonelli. Rollie Fingers is of Italian descent if you want to strengthen the bullpen. Dolph Camilli, Rocky Colavito, Jack Clark, and Carl Furillo merit consideration. Joey Votto is coming on strong as is Rizzo of the Cubs. Thanks for initiating the site.

  17. Anthony granozio Says:

    I am proud of your listing,I am a proud American,I am a proud Italian-America.

  18. slaft Says:

    Joe Rudi and Jim Fregosi two other excellent Italian American players.

  19. R.V. Biagioni Says:

    I think Mike Mussina is a future Hall of Famer, but he’s not of Italian ancestry. Paul Konerko , John Smoltz and Jack Clark are all Italian on their mother’s side.

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