William Florine Sarni
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 11", Weight 187 lb.
- High School Los Angeles High School
- Debut May 9, 1951
- Final Game September 18, 1956
- Born September 19, 1927 in Los Angeles, CA USA
- Died April 15, 1983 in Creve Coeur, MO USA
Bill Sarni (pronounced SARR-nee) was a catcher for 13 years (1943-1956), five in the majors (1951-1952; 1954-1956) and ten in the minors (1943-1953), losing one year and most of another to the Military. He attended Los Angeles High School, where he starred in baseball.
Signed after his sophomore year by scout Pants Rowland of the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League as an amateur free agent in 1943, he broke into Organized Baseball at age 15. A right-handed hitter, he weighed 185 pounds and possessed a strong arm. At that time, there were no baseball rules forbidding teams from signing players still in high school as there are now. Sarni batted .229/.340/.314 with one homer and 9 RBI in 33 games in 1943 and .227/.286/.336 with 5 HR and 24 RBI in 87 games in 1944. He was hitting .313 for LA in 1945 when the Chicago Cubs sent him to the Nashville Volunteers (he batted .293 for them) and he was in the Army in 1945 and most of 1946.
He continued to play baseball except for his time in the U.S. Army during World War II from 1945 to 1946 when he turned 18 (TSN 8/26/43, 4/2/47). He returned to L.A. (.189) and the Tulsa Oilers of the Texas League (.326) in 1947. With the Shreveport Sports of the Texas League, Sarni hit .255 in 1948 and .265 with 10 homers in 1949. He married Bette Jane Anderson on October 21, 1949.
On December 5, 1949 he was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals from Shreveport in the 1949 minor league draft. He played for the Columbus Red Birds of the American Association in 1950 and hit .280/~.347/.387 and fielded .989, the top mark in the AA among catchers with 70 or more games. In arguably his best year in the minors, he had 120 hits, 52 runs, 21 doubles, 8 triples, 3 home runs and 47 RBI in 132 games.
Sarni was 23 years old when he broke into the big leagues on May 9, 1951 with St. Louis. On July 5th, Managers Birdie Tebbetts of the Cincinnati Reds and Harry "The Hat" Walker of the Cardinals battled with their fists as part of that day's baseball exhibition. Players from both teams joined in and both bosses were ejected, along with Sarni. He stayed with St. Louis for the full season but returned to Columbus in 1952 (.254/~.295/.391) and 1953 (.277). Back up with the Cardinals starting in 1954, he led National League catchers in fielding, while hitting .300. (EW) That year, his best in MLB, he had 114 hits, 40 runs, 18 doubles, 4 triples, 9 home runs, 70 RBI and 3 stolen bases at .300/.337/.439 in 123 games.
On June 14, 1956 he was traded by the Cardinals with a player to be named later, Jackie Brandt, Dick Littlefield and Red Schoendienst to the New York Giants for Alvin Dark, Ray Katt, Don Liddle and Whitey Lockman. St. Louis sent Gordon Jones to the Giants on October 1st to complete the trade. He finished the 1956 season in New York where he played his final major league game on September 18th at age 28.
He had a heart attack the first day of spring training in 1957 in Phoenix, AZ and did not play after that, ending his baseball playing career at age 29 and on March 27th he was released by the Giants as a player and signed as a coach. Sarni was a New York coach that season, ending his baseball career.
Overall in MLB, he had 311 hits, 107 runs, 50 doubles, 11 triples, 22 home runs, 151 RBI and 6 stolen bases at .263/.313/.380 in 390 games. Overall in the minors, he had 664 hits, 293 runs, 94 doubles, 35 triples, 54 home runs and 349 RBI.
In later years, Sarni became famous in the world of autograph collecting. His was one of the most difficult to obtain because he never answered any requests for his signature. He was a general partner in a brokerage firm in St. Louis, MO. He had brown hair and brown eyes, his ancestry was Italian and his principal hobbies were "all sports". He died at age 55 of heart disease at St. John's Mercy Hospital on April 15, 1983 at Creve Coeur, MO and is buried at an unknown location.
- Youngest player ever to play in the Pacific Coast League
- Led Texas League catchers in fielding average, 1948 (.991)
- Led American Association catchers in putouts (597) and fielding average (.989), 1950
- Led National League catchers in double plays (12) and fielding average, (.996) 1954
Principal sources for Bill Sarni 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 (1955-1956) (WW), old Baseball Registers (1952-1956) (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) ; and others The Pacific Coast League: A Statistical History, 1903-1957 by Dennis Snelling, The Texas League in Baseball, 1888-1958 by Marshall D. Wright, The Southern Association in Baseball, 1885-1961 by Marshall D. Wright, The American Association: Year-By-Year Statistics for the Baseball Minor League, 1902-1952 by Marshall D. Wright; and independent research by Walter Kephart (WK) and Frank Russo (FR) and others.