The Pitchers (Part 3)
They were the aces and stoppers, the firemen and closers. Some played chin music, others painted the black. They threw heaters, cutters, Uncle Charlies and the high cheese. This week The Italian Tribune looks at the man on the hill – the pitcher. There have been some impressive arms, both left-handed and right handed that have taken the mound over the decades. Who would you select for the All-Italian All-Star Team?
John August Antonelli (born April 12, 1930)
Johnny Antonelli served in Korea and didn’t become a regular starter until 1953. The following year, he went 21–7, led the league in ERA (2.30), was selected an All-Star and led the Giants to a pennant, facing the Cleveland Indians in the World Series. Antonelli started and won Game 2, then came into Game 4 as a reliever to shut down an Indian rally, as the Giants pulled off a sweep. He pitched well for several more years, making four straight All-Star teams from 1956 to 1959.
John Anthony Franco (born September 17, 1960 in Brooklyn, New York) Relief Pitcher
During a 21-year baseball career, he pitched in 1,119 career games – an NL record. His 424 career saves ranked second in major league history when he retired and the most by a left-hander. Was Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award in 1990. In 2012, Franco was inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame.
Salvatore “The Barber” Maglie (April 26, 1917 – December 28, 1992)
Played from 1945 to 1958. Known as “Sal the Barber” because he gave close shaves to batters with his inside pitches, he is one of the few players and only pitcher, to play for all three New York City baseball teams (Dodgers, Giants and Yankees). Maglie broke into the major leagues with the Giants in 1945, but played in the Mexican League (for more money) prior to the 1946 season. Due to this, the commissioner banned him from organized baseball until 1950. During a 10-year major league baseball career, Maglie compiled 119 wins, 862 strikeouts and a 3.15 earned run average. In 1956, he pitched a no-hitter against the Philadelphia Phillies 5-0 at Ebbets Field.
Andrew Eugene “Andy” Pettitte (born June 15, 1972)
Yes, Andy Pettitte qualifies for the list. He is Italian on his mother’s side. He pitched for 18 seasons in the Majors. Pettitte won five World Series championships with the Yankees and was a three-time All-Star. He ranks as MLB’s all-time post-season wins leader with 19. For his career, Pettitte had a 256–153 win-loss record with a 3.85 ERA and 2,448 strikeouts in 3,316 innings. He never had a losing season in the major leagues.
Victor John Angelo “Vic” Raschi (March 28, 1919 – October 14, 1988)
Was one of the top pitchers for the New York Yankees in the late 1940s and early 1950s. A 4-time All-Star from 1946 to 1953, Raschi won 120 games while losing 50. He led the American League in won/lost percentage with a .724 record in 1950 and in strikeouts with 164 in 1951. Skilled with a bat more so than most pitchers, Raschi had seven runs batted in (RBI) in one game, an American League record for pitchers.
David Allan Righetti (born November 28, 1958)
This lefty began his career as a starter, but the Yankees converted him into a relief pitcher. He won the American League (AL) Rookie of the Year Award in 1981 and threw a no-hitter on July 4, 1983 in Yankee Stadium against the Red Sox. Not only was it the first no-hitter in Yankee Stadium against the Sox, it was the first no-hitter by a Yankee Southpaw since 1917! Twice named the AL Rolaids Relief Man of the Year and pitched in two MLB All-Star Games. In 1986, he broke the major league record with 46 saves. He was the first player in history to both pitch a no-hitter and also lead the league in saves.
John Andrew Smoltz (born May 15, 1967), Pitcher
Another pitcher on our list that you may not realize has Italian roots is John Smoltz – Smoltzie’s mother is Italian! His Hall of Fame career began in 1988, he pitched through 2009, all but the last year with the Atlanta Braves. An eight-time All-Star, his post-season record is 15–4 with a 2.67 earned run average (ERA) in 41 games. In 1996, he went 24-8, winning the Cy Young Award in 1996 equaling the most victories by an NL pitcher since 1972. Smoltz was converted to a reliever in 2001. In 2002, he set the NL record with 55 saves, and became only the second pitcher in history to record both a 20-win season and a 50-save season. He is the only pitcher in major league history to record both 200 wins and 150 saves, his NL total of 3,051 strikeouts ranked fifth in league history when he retired. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2015. He can also play the accordion.
Frank John Viola, Jr. (born April 19, 1960)
Viola helped pitch the Twins to their second World Series appearance and first World Series win in 1987, finishing the season 17-10, with a 2.90 ERA and 197 strikeouts. He went 3-1 in the postseason and was named World Series MVP. On May 21, 1981, Viola (pitching for St. John’s) faced future Mets teammate Ron Darling, then playing for Yale University; the game is considered to be the best in college baseball history. Viola’s best year was in 1988, he compiled a 24-7 record, with an ERA of 2.64 and won the Cy Young Award in a landslide. He was a three-time All-Star and finished his career with 1844 strikeouts.
Barry Zito (May 13, 1978)
A left-handed starting pitcher, Zito had an extensive pitching repertoire. He played 15 seasons in Major League Baseball. He won 23 games (while only losing five) in 2002 and won the Cy Young Award. In 2006, he made the All-Star team and posted a 15–1 record when receiving two or more runs of support. In 2012, Zito helped lead the Giants to their second World Series title in San Francisco history by going 2–0 with a 1.69 ERA in three postseason starts.
Honorable mention – Jacob Joseph Arrieta (born March 6, 1986)
Jake is included in the honorable mention category since his grandfather is Italian and his career has been taking off over the last two seasons. He came up to the major’s in Baltimore and now pitches for the Chicago Cubs. In 2014 he went 10-5 with a 2.53 ERA, but 2015 was remarkable year and one of the most dominating pitching performances seen in decades. Jake won the Cy Young Award, had a win-loss record of 22-6 and an ERA of 1.77. He pitched a no-hitter and his ERA in the second half of the season was just 0.75 – a major league record. We can’t wait to see how Jake performs in 2016 and in the years to come.
Next time, we move from the battery to the infield. There have been many great Italian infielders through the years, so next stop “Who’s On First?”