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Big Leaguers From Italy

Posted by Steve Lombardi on March 16, 2011

So, maybe this is strange focusing on Italy on the day before St. Patrick’s Day? But, I recently read that Mariners’ prospect Alex Liddi – who was recently cut from Seattle’s big league spring camp – may soon be the first player in the major leagues, in a half-century, who was born in Italy.

That got me wondering as to who the other “Italian Born” big leaguers were – and here’s that list:

1 Reno Bertoia 1962 1953 1962 18-27 612 1957 1745 204 425 60 10 27 171 142 11 252 16 31 23 46 16 15 .244 .303 .336 .639 *54/67 DET-WSH-TOT St. Vito Udine, Italy
2 Hank Biasetti 1949 1949 1949 27-27 21 33 24 6 2 2 0 0 2 8 0 5 0 1 0 0 0 0 .083 .313 .167 .479 /3 PHA Beano, Italy
3 Rugger Ardizoia 1947 1947 1947 27-27 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0         /*1 NYY Oleggio, Italy
4 Marino Pieretti 1950 1945 1950 24-29 220 225 207 20 45 3 1 0 18 8 0 27 1 9 0 5 1 1 .217 .250 .242 .492 *1 WSH-TOT-CHW-CLE Luccia, Italy
5 Julio Bonetti 1940 1937 1940 25-28 46 61 55 4 7 1 0 0 2 4 0 13 0 2 0 0 0 0 .127 .186 .145 .332 /*1 SLB-CHC Genoa, Italy
6 Lou Polli 1944 1932 1944 30-42 24 8 8 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .125 .125 .125 .250 /*1 SLB-NYG Baveno, Italy
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/16/2011.


1 Marino Pieretti 1950 1945 1950 24-29 194 68 21 4 61 30 38 .441 8 673.2 713 397 339 321 188 4.53 82 34 3006   5 4 14 WSH-TOT-CHW-CLE Luccia, Italy
2 Rugger Ardizoia 1947 1947 1947 27-27 1 0 0 0 1 0 0   0 2.0 4 2 2 1 0 9.00 48 1 10   0 0 0 NYY Oleggio, Italy
3 Lou Polli 1944 1932 1944 30-42 24 0 0 0 11 0 2 .000 3 42.1 55 33 22 23 11 4.68 84 3 201   0 0 2 SLB-NYG Baveno, Italy
4 Julio Bonetti 1940 1937 1940 25-28 46 16 7 0 20 6 14 .300 1 173.0 234 127 116 77 50 6.03 80 14 805   2 0 6 SLB-CHC Genoa, Italy
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/16/2011.


I wasn’t expecting many – but I was surprised to see it was only six players. I suspected that there may have been more who were born in Italy and came to America, as youngsters, in the 1920’s and ‘30’s, and then made the majors. Looks like that was incorrect. And, if he makes it, Liddi won’t have to do much to be the best of the bunch.

By the way, check out Reno Bertoia - he's now in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. How about that?

19 Responses to “Big Leaguers From Italy”

  1. depstein Says:

    My top 25 man roster of European-born players (1901-present):

    Starting Lineup

    1. 3B Jimmy Austin, S
    2. LF Elmer Valo, L
    3. CF Bobby Thompson, R
    4. DH Mike Blowers, R
    5. RF Patsy Donovan, L
    6. 2B Glenn Hubbard, R
    7. 1B John Anderson, S
    8. SS Dave Brain, R
    9. C Jimmy Archer, R


    C Eddie Ainsmith, R
    1B/2B/3B/OF Jeff Baker, R
    2B/3B Reno Bertoia, R
    2B Hobe Ferris, R
    OF Brian Lesher, R
    OF Jimmy Walsh, L

    Starting Pitchers

    RHP Bert Blyleven
    RHP Jack Quinn
    LHP Otto Hess
    RHP Charlie Lea
    RHP Edwin Jackson

    Relief Pitchers

    RHP Moe Drabowsky
    LHP Craig Lefferts
    LHP Will Ohman
    LHP Lance Painter
    RHP Tom Waddell

    Manager: Bruce Bochy (apologies to Ron Gardenhire)

  2. Larry R. Says:

    I guess it doesn't take much to get enshrined in the Canadian Baseball HOF.

  3. Tmckelv Says:

    Lou Polli is an interesting case, look at his Bullpen entry.

    I clicked on his name first because I saw he played from 1932 to 1944 but only played 24 games. Then when I got to his player page I noticed he ONLY played in the years 1932 (5 games) and 1944 (19 games) - 12 year gap. That intrigued me so I checked out his Bullpen page.

  4. Dr. Doom Says:


    Actually, I've been e-mailing a lot lately with the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. It's harder than you might think to get in. They do have a particular fondness towards 1992-93 Blue Jays, but Tim Raines isn't even in yet. I would say it's harder to get in there than it is to get into the Royals Hall of Fame, if Poz's piece today is to be taken at face-value.

  5. Barry1776 Says:

    Interesting article! The Cubs have a pitcher named Alex Maestri, who was born in Italy, who has been kicking around their farm system for 5 years. Based on his numbers, it is a real long shot that he will ever make the majors, but if he does, he will be the Italian born pitcher to ever make it MLB!

  6. DavidRF Says:

    Several good Europeans from the 19th century. Tommy Bond, Tony Mullane, Jim McCormick, Harry Wright (though not George).

  7. kingcrab Says:

    when i think about Italy and baseball i always think about the Victorino/world baseball classic story...

  8. James Says:

    Bertoia was kind of a local legend in Windsor, having made the majors for what was basically his hometown team (Windsor being right across the border from Detroit). I suspect that his Canadian Hall of Fame induction has a lot to do with his subsequent teaching and coaching days, and not just his Major League stats.

  9. oneblankspace Says:

    Saturday the 19th is St Joseph's Day, which is sort of big in Italy. So you can blame this post on that.

  10. Max Says:

    Well, actually today we are celebrating 150 years of Italy being reunited, thus your timing is perfect. (St. Joseph isn't popular everywhere).

  11. camisadelgolf Says:

    I don't know how many active Italians are playing baseball, but here's a Reds prospect, Luca Panerati, that once got some attention from Baseball America:

  12. Scott Says:

    Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame Inductees:
    75% Canadian
    25% born outside Canada, but have given a significant contribution to baseball in Canada

    Blue Jays inducted: Ron Taylor, Pat Gillick, Bobby Mattick, Dave McKay, Paul Beeston, Cito Gaston, Don McDougall, Joe Carter, Peter Hardy, Dave Stieb, Tony Fernandez, Peter Widdrington, Ernie Whitt, Roberto Alomar, Paul Quantrill, Tom Henke

    Expos inducted: Charles Bronfman, Gary Carter, Andre Dawson, Jim Fanning, Steve Rogers; Claude Raymond, Ron Piche, John McHale, Larry Walker

    Montreal/Quebec inducted: Calvin Griffith, Allan Roth, Billy Harris, Sherry Robertson, Sparky Anderson, Tommy Lasorda, Jim McKean, Joseph Lannin, Richard Belec, Harry Simmons, Jackie Robinson

    Inductees such as Bertoia, Tom Burgess, Ron Piche, in not only for their playing, but also for that they did for Canadian baseball after their playing days.

  13. John Autin Says:

    On a tangent ... there's a good book about baseball being played in Italy -- "Baseballissimo," by Dave Bidini (a Canadian).

    Continuing the Canadian connection, a film option on the book has been bought by Geddy Lee, the lead singer for Rush:

  14. John Autin Says:

    How about that line by Hank Biasetti?
    Just 2 hits in 32 AB -- but both were doubles!
    He also drew 8 walks, giving him a .313 OBP despite an .083 BA.

    Biasetti's 33 PAs without hitting a single are the most by any non-pitcher.
    And he's the only player with at least 1 hit and more than 3 times as many walks as hits.

    It's a small sample, of course -- but Biasetti's plate discipline was real. He drew over 100 walks at AAA both the year before and the year after his brief MLB career, with about 3 times as many walks as strikeouts.

  15. Andrew Says:

    It's surprising that the list is so short, especially when considering that if you expand the list to include Italian-Americans and not just Italians, you'll find it no small wonder that generations of Italian-Americans in New York and New Jersey were inspired to baseball (especially Yankee) fandom by players such as Tony Lazzeri, Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto, Joe DiMaggio, and Roy Campanella.

  16. Max Says:

    ...and while we are still waiting for the first Italian-born, Italian-trained big leaguer, here's the first to have played in the minors:

  17. . So the Tigers are on the right track by frontloading their starting rotation with aces. In fact « wholesale new era hats,cheap new era caps. Says:

    [...] baseman/third baseman from 1953-58 and made a brief encore in 1961-62. Baseball-Reference brings this factoid up because Italian-born infielder Alex Liddi has a shot at making the Seattle Mariners [...]

  18. Hornblower Says:

    I remember Reno Bertoia well, because of an inside the park home run he hit at a game I attended at Griffith Stadium. In a close play at the plate, he somersaulted and hit the plate with his head. I could not tell whether he merely stumbled or collided with the catcher. He appeared to be stunned, and the crowd was silent for a few seconds until he got up and returned to the dugout apparently not hurt.

  19. MCT Says:

    Bertoia's bullpen page states that he attended Assumption College in Worcester, MA (which happens to be my alma mater). There used to be another Assumption College in Windsor, ON, however. It was a predecessor to what is now the University of Windsor. Given Bertoia's connections to the Windsor/Detroit area, I'm wondering if he really went to the Assumption College in Massachusetts, or if he actually attended the Assumption College in Ontario, but is mistakenly believed to have attended the former because it is the only North American college known by that name today.