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Jay Difani

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Clarence Joseph Difani

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Jay Difani was signed out of the University of Missouri by the Chicago White Sox in 1944. The slender outfielder adapted to the professional game well, hitting .281 in 138 games for the Little Rock Travelers of the class A Southern Association. He adapted so well that on November 7, 1944, Difani was drafted by the New York Yankees from Little Rock in the minor league phase of the 1944 Rule V Draft.

Difani would be with the Newark Bears and the Oakland Oaks in a split season affair in the 1945 year, playing, second, third and short and hit at a .283 clip and fielded at a .950 pace. Jay was demoted to the Birmingham Barons for the '46 season, where he hit a strong .288 in 111 outings. He was on the move again in 1947 in a split season affair with the Beaumont Exporters and the Augusta Tigers. This was his most productive season to this point. He hit a career-high .312 and 10 home runs, plus stealing 30 bases.

Evidently the Yankees didn't think Difani was ready for the show yet and let him get away to the Washington Senators on November 10, 1947 in the 1947 Rule V Draft. Difani made the Senators in spring training of 1948 and made his debut on April 23, on the road against the Philadelphia Athletics. Jay struck out in two appearances at-bat and was sent back to the minors, where he had another split season affair with the Newark Bears and the Chattanooga Lookouts, where he hit .291 with 15 four-baggers.

After his fine performance with the Lookouts and the Bears in 1948, Difani was given one more look at major league pitching with the Senators in 1949. Jay made his only chance with the bat count for his first and only major league hit, smacking a double and scoring a run. This gave Jay a major league career batting average of .333 in three at-bats. He would spend the rest of the season with the Charlotte Hornets, hitting just .212 in 79 games.

Jay would spend one more season in baseball with three different teams - the Amarillo Gold Sox of the class C West Texas-New Mexico League where he hit .302 and 14 home runs, the class B Charlotte Hornets again, where he was at .243 and also the Dallas Eagles of the AA Texas League, hitting .219. This marked Difani's seventh year in pro baseball, and his last. Jay would wind it all up at 27 years of age with a minor league career .282 batting average and 46 home runs in 817 games.

Jay moved back to his native home in Crystal City, MO, where he passed away on December 3, 2003 at the age of 81. Defani had donated his remains to medical science for research.

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