Buff Biographies: Danny Gardella

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Danny Gardella He was only a Houston Buff for 39 games in 1950, but he came here as a historical character who had broken his contract with organized baseball to play for “big money” in the outlaw Mexican League in 1946. For that offense, Danny Gardella and his handful of defecting baseball brethren were banned for up to five years from American baseball and forced to either fight the ruling or flee the game. Gardella chose to fight, filing a $300,000 law suit against the Giants and the other lords of baseball for unfair practices that kept him from getting a job in the sport. In the suit, he described the reserve clause as an instrument that is “monopolistic and (one that) restrains trade”.

In the end, Commissioner Happy Chandler and MLB backed off in fear of Gardella’s suit as a strong potential threat to the reserve clause. They lifted the ban on players who had defected to Mexico and settled with Gardella for his discomfort. Gardella dropped his suit, later explaining that he had received a $60,000 settlement check to do so. I am presuming that these actions were taken quietly to help MLB avoid paying all the players who found themselves in Gardella’s position.

Gardella got in a little more minor league service in 1948-49 and then, after a one-out, one-at bat career with the St. Louis Cardinals on April 20, 1950, Danny Gardella went back to the minors for 26 games with Class D Bangor, Maine before coming to Houston for 39 games with the 1950 Buffs.

Danny Gardella (5’7″, 160 lbs.) (BL/TL) batted only .211 with 144 hits and 2 HR as a right fielder for the 1950 Buffs. He played another year at Class C Trois-Rivieres in 1951 and then retired at age 31.

Danny Gardella (DOB: 02/26/20 in New York City) batted .256 with 41 homers over 9 seasons (1938-40, 1944, 1946, 1948-51) as a minor leaguer. He hit .267 with 24 HR as a major leaguer in 3 seasons with the New York Giants (1944-45) and St. Louis Cardinals (1950).

During his short stay with Houston, Danny Gardella became one of those players recruited by Buffs President Allen Russell to sing at home plate prior to a game as an added entertainment attraction. For whatever now-lost reason, Gardella sang “The Donkey Serenade” the night I was there.

The lyrics to “The Donkey Serenade” go like this:

There’s a song in the air,
But the fair senorita
Doesn’t seem to care
For the song in the air.
So I’ll sing to the mule
If you’re sure she won’t think that I am just a fool
Serenading a mule.

Amigo mio, does she not have a dainty bray?
She listens carefully to each little word we play.
La bella senorita?
Si, si, mi muchachito,
She’d love to sing it too if only she knew the way.
But try as she may,
In her voice there’s a flaw!
And all that the lady can say Is “e-e-aw!”
Senorita donkey sita, not so fleet as a mosquito,
But so sweet like my Chiquita,
You’re the one for me.

There’s a light in her eye,
Tho’ she may try to hide it,
She cannot deny,
There’s a light in her eye.
Oh! the charm of her smile
So beguiles all who see her
That they’d ride a mile
For the charm of her smile.

Amigo mio, is she listenin’ to my song?
No, no, mi muchachito, how could you be so wrong?
La bella senorita?
Si, si, la senorita,
She loves to sing it to me
If only she knew all the words,

Her face is a dream
Like an angel I saw!
But all that my darlin’ can scream
Is: “e-e-aw!”
Senorita donkey sita, not so fleet as a mosquito,
But so sweet like my Chiquita,
You’re the one for me.

Playing the outfield or defecting to Mexico had to be easier than remembering all the words to this song, plus staying in tune with the melody. Gardella was another tenor, if I remember correctly.

Danny Gardella passed away at the age of 85 in Yonkers, New York on March 6, 2005. God rest your donkey spirit and New York Italiano soul, Danny Boy!

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3 Responses to “Buff Biographies: Danny Gardella”

  1. John Watkins Says:

    About the same time as Gardella’s antitrust suit, another one was brought by two more blacklisted contract-jumpers, both pitchers: all-star Max Lanier of the St. Louis Cardinals and Fred Martin, a Cardinals’ farmhand. Their suits were also settled, the amounts undisclosed.

    In 1952, Commissioner Happy Chandler told the House Antitrust Subcommittee that the cases were settled because baseball’s lawyers did not believe they would ultimately prevail.

    Lanier and Martin both came up through the Cardinals’ farm system. Lanier did not play for Houston, but Martin was with the Buffs for four seasons. His best year by far was 1941, when he was 23-6 with a 1.44 earned-run average.

    All told, Martin spent 17 seasons in the minors and three with the Cardinals — plus the two in the “outlaw” Mexican League that got him blacklisted and led to the lawsuit.

  2. Bud Kane Says:

    Bill, do you remember who made that Donkey Serenade song popular? Allen Jones, father of Tom Jones.

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Bud ~ Tom Jones was a Brit. The son of Allan (with a second “a”) Jones was, and still is, Jack Jones, born January 14, 1938, exactly two weeks after I got here with far less fanfare on December 31, 1937. Jack Jones was a pretty good singer in his own right.

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