Steven Richard Nicosia
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 10", Weight 185 lb.
- High School Miami Norland High School, North Miami Beach High School
- Debut July 8, 1978
- Final Game September 27, 1985
- Born August 6, 1955 in Paterson, NJ USA
Steve Nicosia played 13 years in professional baseball, 8 in the majors and six in the minors.
Nicosia was a pitcher early in high school. As a sophomore, he threw in one game. He hit batters with his first two pitches, walked the next batter on four, then allowed a grand slam on the next. He later recalls: "I could see I probably wasn't going to make the big leagues as a pitcher... I couldn't even make the second inning." He transferred to North Miami Beach High School the next year, which had just opened across the street from where Steve was living. Nicosia volunteered to catch for the team, opening his path to pro baseball. Nicosia's senior year of high school he played with William Eve, a future 27th round draft choice of the San Francisco Giants.
Nicosia was the last first-round pick of the 1973 amateur draft, taken 24th by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was sent straight to A ball with the Charleston Pirates. There, he was managed by Chuck Cottier, who he credits with teaching him more about baseball than he had ever learned before and with how to look nice as well. Nicosia had 23 passed balls in 53 games and hit .230/~.362/.339. He went 1 for 9 with 2 walks and 6 strikeouts for the AA Sherbrooke Pirates.
In 1974, Nicosia was with the Salem Pirates. He batted .304/~.364/.496 with 9 triples, 15 home runs and 92 RBI, third-most in the Carolina League and he was in the top 10 in several stats. He made the league All-Star team at catcher. Steve's fielding improved, though his 12 errors led the league's catchers; his passed ball total fell to 17 in 112 games. Steve had never seen snow, having grown up in Florida, and he got excited when the temperature in Rocky Mount, NC fell to 25 degrees while the team was there. Teammate John Candelaria sprayed fire extinguisher foam over the swimming pool in the motel where they were staying and convinced Nicosia it was snow. Steve later recalled: "If you've never seen snow before, a lot of things could be snow. It was white and it was yet... You ever try to make a snowball with fire extinguisher foam?"
Steve was back in AA in 1975, this time with the Shreveport Captains. He continued to improve defensively, leading the Texas League with a .9861 fielding percentage behind the plate. He hit .268/~.345/.389 and joined Gerard Stone as Texas League All-Star catchers.
By 1976, Steve was in AAA with the Charleston Charlies. The 20-year-old held his own with a .262/~.343/.378 batting line. In 1977, Nicosia only played in 25 games for the Columbus Clippers, hitting .212/~.326/.412. The next year, 1978, though, he had a huge season for the Clippers. Steve batted .322/~.425/.503 and was second in the International League in batting average behind only teammate Mike Easler. Nicosia was also second to Easler in OBP. He missed the league All-Star team, though, as Gary Allenson was chosen as the catcher instead. He went 0 for 5 in a brief stint with the major league Pirates.
Reflecting back on his time in the minors, Nicosia said "the most surprising thing I learned in the minor leagues is how little I learned." He also remarked that "The best thing about looking back on the minor leagues is being able to look back on it."
Nicosia had a solid rookie season, platooning with Ed Ott for the Pirates in 1979. He hit .288/.367/.435 and had career highs in almost every area. The day before 24th birthday, he went 4 for 4 with two doubles, a homer and three runs. With the score tied, two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the 9th, Steve was set to try to cap his big day - when Chuck Tanner brought in left-handed pinch-hitter John Milner even though the Philadelphia Phillies had just brought in a southpaw, Tug McGraw. Milner made the move pay off with a grand slam to end the game. Nicosia only went 1 for 16 in the 1979 World Series but got to take home a ring in his first year. There was an incident in one game when clubhouse man John Halloran convinced Nicosia to try placing a small fan on his bat to cause resistance. Steve used it in the on-deck circle and the fan flew back into the stands; he went back and had the ushers retrieve it. When he put it back on, though, it flew into the stands again with the next swing. The fans tried to give it back to him, but he denied any knowledge of it. Meanwhile, Bill Madlock had grounded out and the game was being held up by the delay.
Again as a platoon catcher in 1980, the 24-year-old hit just .216/.291/.278 in a major decline. Ott, Nicosia's platoon partner, left as a free agent after the season, and Steve became the starter in 1981. He only hit .128/.209/.154 in April however and Tony Pena was called up; Pena became a starter immediately and would hold the role for six years. Nicosia bounced back in bench duty and hit .231/.286/.337 overall that year.
He batted .280/.348/.340 in 1982. After a 6-for-46 start in 1983, he was traded to the San Francisco Giants for Milt May and money. With San Francisco, Nicosia went 11 for 33. With the Giants in 1984, the backup backstop hit .303/.336/.462 in 48 games. He broke two ribs in a home-plate collision with Mike Scioscia, knocking him out of action for a spell. The next season, he only managed a .186/.247/.209 line in a season split between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Montreal Expos and became the first player released by both Canadian major league teams in one year to end his career.