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Dario Lodigiani

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Dario Antonio Lodigiani (Lodi,Dempsey)

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[edit] Biographical Information

Dario Lodigiani was an infielder 17 years (1935-1954), six in the Majors (1938-1942; 1946) and 14 in the minors (1935-1940; 1947-1954), losing three years to the Military.

He was born on June 6, 1916, in San Francisco, CA. When he played second base at San Francisco's Lowell Junior High, his double play partner was Joe DiMaggio. He graduated from Galileo High School in San Francisco in 1935 at age 18, where he made all-star teams in baseball, basketball and football. Scouted by Ossie Vitt and Edward Hennessy, he entered Organized Baseball at the AAA Level in 1935 at the age of 19.

He played for the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League (PCL) (1935-1937) and Williamsport in the Eastern League (1938) when, at 21 years of age, he broke into the big leagues on April 18, 1938, with the Philadelphia Athletics. He played for Philadelphia (1938-1940); Toronto in the International League (1940); and the Chicago White Sox (1941-1942) when he enterred the U.S. Army Air Corps on March 3, 1943, where he served in the Pacific Theatre.

He married Constance Mathews on June 5, 1944 and was discharged from the Air Force on November 16, 1945 (BR), returning to the White Sox for the 1946 season but an elbow injury hindered his comeback and he played his final MLB game on August 18, 1946 at age 30.

He returned to the minors with Oakland (1947-1949); the San Francisco Seals in the PCL (1949-1951); Yakima in the Western International League (1952-1953); Ventura in the California League (1953); and Channel Cities in the California League (1954); ending his baseball playing career at age 38.

In the 1930s, the biggest single concentration of big leaguers was in the San Francisco Bay area, which spawned Lefty O'Doul, Joe Cronin, Dick Bartell, Monte Pearson, Babe Dahlgren, and a steady flow of Italian-American players, including by 1940 Joe, Vince and Dom DiMaggio, Ernie Lombardi, Frankie Crosetti, Ping Bodie, Babe Pinelli, Tony Lazzeri, Dolph Camilli, Cookie Lavagetto, Joe Orengo and Lodigiani (and later Billy Martin). Until his death in 2008, no one alive was more tied to the Bay Area's rich baseball past than Lodigiani.

Like many of these players, Lodigiani's game was honed on the playgrounds and sandlots of the city. He was reared on one side of North Beach Playground, in fact, with the DiMaggio family living on the other side. The childhood friends' paths diverged in the middle 1930s, but not much. DiMaggio joined the San Francisco Seals in 1933, and, two years later, Lodigiani signed with the Oakland Oaks.

Dario Lodigiani cartoon.jpg

They both moved up to the American League, DiMaggio to start a Hall of Fame career as a center fielder with the New York Yankees, Lodigiani to begin a productive stay as an infielder with Connie Mack's Philadelphia A's (Tiburon's Sam Chapman was his roommate) and the Chicago White Sox. He finished his big-league career with a .260 average and 156 RBIs in 405 games.

His baseball days were just getting started, however. He joined manager Casey Stengel as one of Casey's "Nine Old Men" and the soon-to-be PCL champion Oaks in 1947. In 1949 he moved on, playing for manager Lefty O'Doul and the Seals for three more seasons, becoming one of the PCL's most popular players in the process.

Then he was player-manager at Yakima, WA in the Western International League and Ventura, CA in the California League. He played 1,089 games over 7+ seasons in the PCL with 271 doubles, 61 home runs, 486 RBI and a batting average of .299. Overall, he played 1,484 games over 13+ seasons in the minors with 196 doubles, 74 homeruns, 589 RBI and a batting average of .301. His best year was with the 1937 Oaks when he had 35 doubles, 18 homeruns and 84 RBI at .327. In 2006 he was elected to the Pacific Coast League Hall of Fame.

[edit] Long non-playing career

In 1954, he started scouting for the White Sox, took time out from that to work as a coach for manager Joe Gordon with the Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Athletics, and then resumed scouting for the White Sox in 1963, working Northern California, Oregon and Washington for more than three decades.

Scouting for the White Sox (1957-1987), he discovered and/or signed players such as Stan Johnson, Gene Leek, Rich Morales, Ron Lolich, Bob Spence, Ken Hottman, Mike Buskey, Nyls Nyman, Dave Frost, Mike Colbern, Rusty Kuntz, Chris Nyman, Guy Hoffman, Fran Mullins, Kenny Williams (who later became a GM) and Jack McDowell.

He gave several interviews, included in television documentaries, e.g., "ESPN SportsCentury" episodes on Stengel (2000); Billy Martin (2000); Moe Berg (2000); and DiMaggio (2000). He also did When It Was a Game 2 (1992) (TV).

He had brown hair and brown eyes, his ancestry was Italian and his principal hobbies were hunting, fishing and golf. A widower who lived in Vallejo near his daughter, Diane Paniagua, and granddaughter Julie, Lodigiani continued to move around at a pace that would tire a guy 30 years younger. He celebrated his 90th birthday in June 2006, still refusing to retire. He was still on the search for talent until the very end - having spent 73 years in pro baseball.

[edit] Quotes (mostly re Joe DiMaggio)

"I go wherever I want to go, as long as I can go home at night. I'm pretty much my own boss. I get a little spooky driving, so I mostly watch all the high school, junior college and college players in the Bay Area."

"This has been my life forever so I don't even think about it [retirement] anymore."

"Lefty O'Doul was the pride and joy of the city in his day. I don't know anybody who had a bad word to say about him. Playing for him was like playing for your big brother. He drew big crowds even when he was managing. How many managers can say that?"

"I grew up with Joe. We were both in the San Francisco Boys Club in the late 1920s and at Francisco Junior High and Galileo High School in the early 1930s, and we played semipro ball together."

Lodigiani remembers that the young Joe DiMaggio "was quiet, reserved. Never said too much. But he was a great athlete, no matter what sport he played. I even saw him playing tennis one day against the playground director, and he was holding his own."

"Joe made it a point to come out last all the time so he would be by himself when he came out of the dugout. And the people, naturally: 'Hey, there goes Joe DiMaggio see. There's Joe DiMaggio going by,' see. Made it a point to let everybody know it."

"Joe never said two words, but he played hard. He'd hit a ball past an infielder or in between the outfielders, he'd round first and he would slide on that asphalt. And good night, that would take a little hide off your sides, you know. But it didn't mean anything to him. He just wanted to be sure he got to second base."

"Joe just didn't like school. When he graduated from Junior High, he went to Galileo High School and he only stayed there about a couple of months or something and then he left."

"If I don't get what I want, he says, I'm going to go back to fishing. And, Geez, when I read that, I started to laugh. I said, Joe can't go by, underneath, the Golden Gate Bridge. How in the heck is he going to go fishing?"

"He was really a in a way you'd have to say, a mean ball player. I remember one game we're playing in Yankee Stadium and Joe was at bat and he hit a ball to left center. And he rounded first base and he come into second base and they're throwing the ball at me. I'm covering the play. When I caught that ball, I thought a train hit me. You know, I tagged him and he plowed into me and knocked me over on my back and everything. And I got up and I said, 'Hey Joe, what's going on here?' He didn't say nothing. He just brushed his pants off and ran over in the dugout. And I thought, well, if that's the way he plays ball, you got to be careful when he gets on base."

"My God, it [the wedding of DiMaggio to Dorothy Arnold] was the biggest wedding in the history of San Francisco. Knowing that the favorite son at that time was getting married, everybody was there. Good night. And they had the place roped off and all. And it was really something."

"I remember we was laying in the barracks one day and just talking and he says, when I go back, they're going to pay me. And I said, well, Joe, the GI Bill of Rights guarantees you your job back, your salary back and everything. He said, yeah, but they're going to pay me for the three years that I spent in the service."

"They [DiMag & MM] were great. They were laughing, you know, a lot of times, telling stories. Joe was telling stories about when we were kids, you know, what we did and all that. And she would get a big bang out of it. And I think Joe and Marilyn were, in a roundabout way, well-meant for each other."

"Never mentioned her [MM]. Never. No matter what. He would never say anything about it. And we dared not say anything to him about it. You know, because that was something that wasn't easy to, I guess, to just let go."

[edit] CHRONOLOGY

  • 1935:
    • Graduated from Galileo High School in San Francisco CA
    • Scouted by Oscar Vitt and Edward Hennessy
    • Entered Organized Baseball at the AAA Level
  • 1940: On 16 December traded by Philadelphia to the White Sox for Jack Knott.
  • 1943: Entered the U.S. Army Air Corps on 3 March
  • 1944: married Constance Mathews on 5 June
  • 1945: Discharged from the Air Force 16 November
  • 1946 played his final MLB game on 18 August
  • 1948 On 27 September, Lodigiani helped the Oakland Acorns win their first championship in 21 years in a seesaw battle with the Sacramento Solons. The big Oaks putsch was for four runs in the third. Merl Combs led off with one of his four singles, Cookie Lavagetto doubled and Nick Etten's two-bagger to right drove both across. Les Scarsella was hit by pitcher, then Shortstop Lenny Ratto fouled up Brooks Holder's roller to fill the bases. One run came home on Lodigiani's fly ball; another via Vic Lombardi's single. That lead was enhanced in the fifth when Loyd Christopher lofted a 365-foot homer into left center, his fourteenth of the year.
  • 1949: The Seals trip to Japan: After the 1949 PCL season, the Seals embarked on a good will tour of Japan, playing 16 games in various places in Japan, including a game in Tokyo. Among the players on the trip were Brooks Holder, Lew Burdette, Con Dempsey, Jim Moran, Jim Westlake and Lodigiani. The team was primarily made up of San Francisco Seals, but there were a few major leaguers. There were twenty players that made the trip. Even Lefty O'Doul played in a couple of games. The Japanese loved O'Doul, calling him "O'Dou-San." They also loved all the other players. Dempsey recalls "We went on tours and had taxis at our disposal with Seal signs all over them. The taxi drivers wanted to show off by going to their village with us in the back seat." Westlake recalls the warm reception the players got when they arrived in Tokyo. "We got off the plane about 4:00 and they put us in convertibles and they drove us from the airport into downtown Tokyo. I didn't think much of it; there were just a few people standing along the road. However, by the time we got to downtown Tokyo it was jammed. I could not believe the reception we got at all these cities. There were about half a million people greeting us as we came through. General Douglas MacArthur who met the players felt O'Doul's tour was one of the most important pieces of diplomacy the U.S. could do for Japan. Although he did feel strongly about the team doing well. Several players recall him asking the team to "please win every game! The Seals did indeed win every game on the tour; some games were routs, others were close fought contests, but probably the most important thing the Seals won on their tour was the love of the Japanese fans.
  • 1954: Ended his baseball playing career
  • 2008: Died at age 91 on February 10

[edit] Sources

Principal sources for Dario Lodigiani 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 {{{WW}}} (WW), old Baseball Registers {{{BR}}} (BR) , old Daguerreotypes by TSN {{{DAG}}} (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) {{{MORE}}} and independent research by Walter Kephart (WK) and Frank Russo (FR) and others. including The Pacific Coast League: A Statistical History, 1903-1957 by Dennis Snelling

[edit] Awards & Honors

2006 - Pacific Coast League Hall of Fame - Inductee

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