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Reno Bertoia

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Pierino Peter Bertoia

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Reno Bertoia, who played ten seasons in the major leagues, was the most recent major leaguer to have been born in Italy until Alex Liddi made his debut in 2011. Before Liddi, all six Italian major leaguers had played in the majors between 1932 and 1962.

Bertoia's family moved to Canada when he was 22 months old. He grew up in Windsor, ON. His next-door neighbor was Hank Biasatti, who had been in the majors in 1949. He attended Assumption High School under legendary baseball coach Father Ronald Cullen, then went to Assumption College in Worcester, MA.

Bertoia broke in at age 18 and spent his first six major league seasons with the Detroit Tigers. He and Al Kaline were the same age, and he roomed with Kaline for five years. Neither of them was the youngest player in the league as rookies, though, because Bob Miller was only 17. Bertoia was a bonus baby, like Kaline and Miller, and was forced to spend his first three seasons in the majors, where he was employed sparingly, getting 119 plate appearances over that span. The Tigers were finally allowed to send him down in 1956, and he responded by hitting .289 in 125 games for the Charleston Senators of the American Association. Like many of the bonus babies, however, his development as a player was adversely affected by his lack of playing time at a time when he should have been developing in the minors, and his failure to become a star can be partly blamed on those three wasted years.

Primarily a third baseman, Bertoia had several seasons where he was used mostly as a second baseman. He also filled in at shortstop from time to time, mostly from 1955 to 1957.

Never a strong hitter, Bertoia's best years with the bat were 1957, when he hit .275 on a team that hit .257, and 1960, when he hit .265 and was among the league leaders in triples, hit-by-pitch, and sacrifice hits. After playing most of the 1961 season with two second-division teams, he was traded back to the Detroit Tigers in August, and was part of their attempt to catch the New York Yankees. The Yankees ended up winning 109 games while the Tigers won 101 games.

After his major league career he played for Hanshin in Japan in 1964.

After baseball, he went back to Windsor, and became a college teacher and scout. He was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1988. In 2005, writer Marty Gervais wrote a book called Reno, about a boy's hero worship of Reno Bertoia in 1957.

One key source: Reno Bertoia Tiger by Day, Student by Night.

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