Part Five-The Shortstop
More hit balls go to the shortstop than to any other position, and it is considered to be among the most demanding defensive positions. In major league baseball, the position has historically been filled by defensive specialists, in fact, many shortstops are relatively poor batters who bat later in the batting order. A good hitting shortstop who was range in the field and a good arm is a great find for any team. Like a second baseman, a shortstop must be agile, for example when performing a double play and like a third baseman, the shortstop fields balls hit to the left side of the infield, where a strong arm is needed to throw out a runner before they reach the safety of first base.
Richard Santo Aurilia (born September 2, 1971)
Aurilia was born in Brooklyn, New York. Before being drafted by Texas, Aurilia was a standout at St. John’s University. He made his debut with the Giants in 1995 and had his last major league game in 2009. He is most remembered for his playing days spent with San Francisco. Aurilia hit .275 over his lifetime, an outstanding average for the position. In 2001, he had a career year, leading the league with 206 hits, while batting .324, with 37 home runs in 156 games. From 1999 to 2001, he led NL shortstops in home runs. Aurilia had a shined the 2002 post-season. In 14 playoff games, he batted .296, with 5 home runs and 14 RBI (an NL record for a shortstop in the postseason).
Mark Henry Belanger (June 8, 1944 – October 6, 1998)
Nicknamed “The Blade,” Mark was an American shortstop in Major League Baseball who played almost his entire career with the Baltimore Orioles. A defensive standout, he won eight Gold Glove Awards between 1969 and 1978, leading the American League in assists and fielding percentage three times each, and retired with the highest career fielding average by an AL shortstop (.977). Despite his famously poor hitting, Belanger had substantial success against some of the best pitchers of his era, including Bert Blyleven, Nolan Ryan and Tommy John. He hit a rare home run in the first American League Championship Series game ever played in 1969, and after uncharacteristically hitting .333 in the 1970 ALCS, his contributions led to the Orioles’ 1970 World Series victory, the team’s second title in five years
Lawrence Robert Bowa (born December 6, 1945)
Joining the Philadelphia Phillies in 1970, Bowa would go on to set the record for the most games played at shortstop in National League history. Larry was a five-time All-Star and helped his club to five post season appearances during tenure at shortstop. A top notch defensive infielder with good hands and a strong throwing arm, Larry led national league shortstops in fielding six times, while picking up two Gold Glove Awards. He retired with a .260 average and more than 2,100 hits. Bowa managed at San Diego and Philadelphia and was named National League Manager of the Year in 2001.
Frank Peter Joseph Crosetti (October 4, 1910 – February 11, 2002)
Nicknamed “The Crow,” he spent his entire seventeen-year Major League Baseball career with the New York Yankees before becoming a coach with the franchise for an additional twenty seasons. The finest year of Crosetti’s career came in 1936, when Crosetti batted .288 with fifteen home runs, 78 RBIs and 137 runs scored (all career highs) batting lead-off for the Yankees. His lifetime batting average was .245 with 1,541 hits and 649 RBIs. As a player and third base coach for the Yankees, Crosetti was part of seventeen World Championship teams and 23 World Series participants overall, the most of any individual.
Joseph Paul DeMaestri (born December 9, 1928)
Nicknamed “Froggy,” DeMaestri played for four teams from 1951–1961. In an 11-season career, DeMaestri was a .236 hitter with 49 home runs and 281 RBI in 1,121 games played. He made the American League All-Star team in 1957. In the eighth inning of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series, DeMaestri took over for regular Yankee shortstop Tony Kubek when Kubek was struck in the throat by a bad-hop ground ball hit by Bill Virdon of the Pittsburgh Pirates. DeMaestri was on the field when, one inning later, Bill Mazeroski hit his famous walk-off homer against Yankee pitcher Ralph Terry.
Samuel Joseph Dente [Blackie] (April 26, 1922 – April 21, 2002)
Played for five different teams between 1947 and 1955. He was born in Harrison, New Jersey and played high school baseball at Kearny High School. In a nine-season career, Dente was a .252 hitter with four home runs and 214 RBI in 745 games, including 205 runs, 585 hits, 78 doubles, 16 triples, and nine stolen bases. A patient hitter and very hard to strike out, he averaged one strikeout for every 24.16 at-bats (96-to-2320). Sam lived in Montclair, NJ and he is the grandfather of Rick Porcello.
Timothy John Foli (born December 8, 1950),
Nicknamed Crazy Horse, he played shortstop for five major league teams, including the Yankees and the Mets, but had his best seasons with Pittsburgh and was a member of the 1979 World Series champion Pirates, compiling a .333 batting average during the series. Foli was known as a fiery player who was a reliable fielder, but only an average hitter. Although he accumulated few walks, Foli was also one of the most difficult to strike out, posting the league’s best strikeout percentage three times and finishing in the top ten five times. He was an accomplished bunter, finishing in the league top ten in sacrifice hits eight times. His lifetime batting average .251, with a total hits 1,515 and 501 RBIs.
James Louis Fregosi (April 4, 1942 – February 14, 2014)
During an 18-year major league career, from 1961–1978 he played for four teams, primarily the Los Angeles and California Angels. He made his first All-Star squad in 1964, batting .277 and in that same year, became the first Angel to hit for the cycle. He became regarded as the league’s top-hitting shortstop, leading the AL in triples (13) in 1968, and was named an All-Star every season from 1966 to 1970. His lifetime batting average was .265 with 1,726 hits, 151 home runs, 844 runs, 706 RBI, 264 doubles, 78 triples, and 76 stolen bases, in 1902 games played. He returned to the Angles as manager, guiding it to its first-ever postseason appearance in 1979, and later managed the Philadelphia Phillies to the 1993 National League pennant.
Americo Peter “Rico” Petrocelli (born June 27, 1943 in Brooklyn, New York)
Rico played his entire career with the Boston Red Sox (1963–76). In 1967 Petrocelli was selected to the All-Star game during the Red Sox’ “Impossible Dream” year. In Game 6 of the World Series, he belted two home runs against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Sox ultimately lost the series 4 games to 3. In 1968 and 1969 Petrocelli led the league shortstops in fielding percentage. In 1969 he set a record for home runs by a shortstop with 40 and repeated as an All-Star. In 1970, he hit 29 homers and had a career-high 103 RBI. During his career, Petrocelli hit 210 home runs with 773 RBI and 653 runs in 1,553 games. His lifetime batting average was .251 and in 1997, he was inducted to the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame.
Philip Francis “Phil” Rizzuto (September 25, 1917 – August 13, 2007)
Nicknamed “The Scooter,” he spent his entire 13-year baseball career with the New York Yankees (1941–1956), and was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994. A popular figure on a team dynasty which captured 10 AL titles and seven World Championships in his 13 seasons, Rizzuto holds numerous World Series records for shortstops. He was voted the American League’s Most Valuable Player in 1950 when he piled up 200 hits and a batting average of .324. Despite this offensive peak, Rizzuto was a classic “small ball” player, noted for his strong defense in the infield. The slick-fielding Rizzuto is also regarded as one of the best bunters in baseball history. Rizzuto retired as a player after the 1956 season with a lifetime .273 average. Phil’s “Holy Cow!” has become one of the most famous broadcast phrases in baseball history. A longtime friend of The Italian Tribune, Phil was named Grand Marshal of our Columbus Day Parade in 2000 and was a recipient of the Christopher Columbus Publisher’s Award at our Columbus Day Gala in 2003.
Marcos Scutaro, better known as Marco Scutaro, (born October 30, 1975)
Scutaro made his MLB debut with the New York Mets in 2002. Since then, he for several big league teams. Scutaro was named the most valuable player of the 2012 National League Championship Series while with the Giants. Because of his Italian heritage, Scutaro was given the option of playing for either Italy or Venezuela in the 2006 World Baseball Classic. He had an impressive lifetime batting average of .277, with 1,355 hits, 77 homers and 509 runs batted in.
Joseph Bert Tinker (July 27, 1880 – July 27, 1948)
Joe played from 1902 through 1916 for the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds of Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Chicago Whales of the Federal League. He was a speedy runner, stealing an average of 28 bases a season and even stealing home twice in one game in 1910. He excelled at fielding, often leading the National League in a numerous stats, including four times in fielding percentage. During his decade with the Cubs, they went to the World Series four times, winning in 1907 and 1908. Considered to be an average hitter during an era of high batting averages, his lifetime total of .268. Tinker is perhaps best known for the “Tinker to Evers to Chance” double play combination in the poem “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon,” written by the New York Evening Mail newspaper columnist Franklin Pierce Adams in July 1910. The poem was written as a lamentation from the perspective of a New York Giants fan on how the team is consistently defeated by the Chicago Cubs. Tinker was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1946.