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Bill Serena

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William Robert Serena

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[edit] Biographical Information

Bill Serena was an infielder, principally a third baseman, for 13 years (1945-1957), two in semipro/independent ball (1945-1946); six in the Majors (1949-1954), and seven in the minors (1946-1949 and 1955-1957), losing most of one year to injury. The son of a carpenter who had emigrated from Italy, he graduated from Alameda High School in 1942 at age 17 and early in 1943 entered the U.S. Army, served overseas for World War II and was discharged in 1945 in time to play in the Alameda Winter League.

Signed by scout Bernie DeViveiros of the Detroit Tigers as an amateur free agent in 1945, he broke into Organized Baseball in 1946 at age 21. In 1946 he played for Montgomery in the Class B Southeastern League and in 1947 he was with the Lubbock Hubbers in the Class C West Texas-New Mexico League. Playing shortstop, he hit 70 home runs, 57 in the regular season and 13 in the playoffs in 152 games and had over 200 RBI. In the regular season, he had 189 hits, 183 runs, 43 doubles, 9 triples, 57 home runs, 190 RBI and 1 stolen base at (.374/.514/.832).

In 1948, he played for the Dallas Eagles in the Texas League and the Buffalo Bisons of the International League. He was declared a free agent by commissioner A. B. Chandler on October 27, 1948 and signed by Dallas on January 14th (BR). Playing for Dallas in 1949, he had 138 hits, 102 runs, 28 doubles, 4 triples, 28 home runs, 110 RBI and 8 stolen bases for a batting line of .281/.448/.525. On August 10, 1949 he was purchased by the Chicago Cubs from Dallas.

Serena was 24 years old when he broke into the big leagues on September 16th, with the Cubs. After the season, he married Betty Neill on November 11th. He played for Chicago until 1954. In a May 1, 1951 game against the New York Giants, while Chicago was in the field, Umpire Frank Dascoli banished the entire bench of Cubs players (11 of them) to the Polo Grounds bathhouse. They were calling Dascoli the name "Rabbit Ears." Later in the game, two of the ejected players, Serena and Smoky Burgess, were allowed to come back for pinch-hitting duties. On May 6th that year, he fractured his left wrist sliding into second base in the 1st inning, but stayed in the game, getting two more hits with two runs and an RBI. That was his last game of the year, however.

He recovered from his wrist injury to post his best year in 1952 when he hit .274 with 15 homers and 61RBI in 122 games. In a memorable game that season, on June 14th, with victory in sight, Warren Spahn of the Boston Braves, in the process of an 18-strikeout game, finally yielded, allowing a game-tying home run in the 9th to Serena.

Bill played his final major league game on August 7, 1954 at age 29. On September 30th, he was purchased by the Chicago White Sox from the Cubs. He returned to the minors with the Oakland Oaks and San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League in 1955 and the Buffalo Bisons of the International League in 1956 and 1957. He ended his baseball-playing career at age 32.

He then turned to scouting and worked for 38 years as a scout for the Cleveland Indians, Milwaukee Braves, Atlanta Braves, Texas Rangers, Detroit Tigers and Florida Marlins, spending 25 years with the Braves, retiring in 1994 and ending his baseball career at age 70. He discovered or signed players such as Jack Pierce, Junior Moore, Frank LaCorte, Eddie Miller, Bob Porter, Chuck Cary, Jeff Blauser and Jason Schmidt.

In 1952, his best year in the majors, he had 107 hits, 49 runs, 21 doubles, 5 triples, 15 home runs, 61 RBI and 1 stolen base at (.274/.345/.469) in 122 games. Overall in the big leagues, he had 311 hits, 154 runs, 57 doubles, 16 triples, 48 home runs, 198 RBI and 2 stolen bases at (.251/.348/.439) in 408 games. In the minors, he had 182 home runs and 639 RBI.

He had black hair and hazel eyes, his ancestry was Italian and his principal hobbies were fishing and hunting. He died at age 71 from lung cancer at his home in Hayward, CA on April 17, 1996 and was cremated.

[edit] Career Highlights

[edit] Further Reading

  • Jamie Selko: "The Best Post-Season Ever: Wild Bill Serena's 1947 Batting Feats", The Baseball Research Journal #34, SABR, December 2005, pp. 82-86.

[edit] Sources

Principal sources for Bill Serena include newspaper obituaries (OB), government Veteran records (VA,CM,CW), Stars & Stripes (S&S), Sporting Life (SL), The Sporting News (TSN), The Sports Encyclopedia:Baseball 2006 by David Neft & Richard Cohen (N&C), old Who's Who in Baseballs (1951-1955) (WW), old Baseball Registers (1950-1954) (BR) , old Daguerreotypes by TSN (none) (DAG), Stars&Stripes (S&S), The Baseball Necrology by Bill Lee (BN), Pat Doyle's Professional Ballplayer DataBase (PD), The Baseball Library (BL), Baseball in World War II Europe by Gary Bedingfield (GB) ; The Pacific Coast League: A Statistical History, 1903-1957 by Dennis Snelling; The Texas League in Baseball, 1888-1958 by Marshall D. Wright; The International League: Year-by-year Statistics, 1884-1953 by Marshall D. Wright; and independent research by Walter Kephart (WK) and Frank Russo (FR) and others.

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