- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 2", Weight 195 lb.
Elio Gambuti played in Italy's top league in four different decades; he is in the Italian Baseball Hall of Fame.
Gambuti debuted in 1976 with his hometown Rimini club, getting into one game as a backup catcher and not batting. In 1977, he was a backup left fielder for Rimini, going 4 for 40 with three walks in the regular season at age 16 and 8 for 44 with two doubles and two walks in the postseason. He did not play in Italy's Serie A from 1978-1981. During his youth, Gambuti was also a goalie in soccer and drew some interest from top Italian teams, but he opted to focus exclusively on baseball in 1982. That year, he returned to Serie A1, hitting .248/.292/.319 for Rimini and was 6 for 40 with 3 walks and a homer in the postseason.
Elio moved to third base in 1983 and hit .339/.394/.459 with 64 runs in 60 games; offense was king in Italy in that aluminum bat era (1974-1999). Rimini won the title. During '84, he hit .322/.414/.561 with 13 homers while moving to catcher, where he would spend the rest of his career. He would become noted for a long-time battery he formed with Paolo Ceccaroli. In 1985, he batted .322/.372/.507 with 10 home runs and 55 RBI in 54 games. The RBI total was only good enough for a tie for 20th. Gambuti produced at a .301/.362/.526 clip with 10 homers, 43 runs and 44 RBI in 48 games in 1986 then was 12 for 31 with a homer and two walks in the finals, when Rimini fell to Grosseto.
He made his debut for the Italian national team in the 1986 Amateur World Series, hitting .271/.314/.500 with 11 RBI in 11 games. He tied Guglielmo Trinci and Roberto Bianchi for second on Italy in RBI, behind Giuseppe Carelli. Gambuti fielded .895 backing up Bianchi at catcher and serving as Italy's main DH. In 1987, he batted .416/.492/.611 with 31 RBI in 29 games; he was well back of batting champ Bianchi's .474. In the finals, he was only 3 for 21 with two walks but Rimini won the championship. In the 1987 European Championship, he batted .515/.543/.727 with two homers, 11 runs and 7 RBI in 8 games, again starting at DH and backing up Bianchi at catcher. He was third on Italy in runs and second with 17 hits (two shy of Bianchi) and they finished second behind the Netherlands.
During 1988, Gambuti hit .418/.484/.620 with 18 runs and 24 RBI in 21 contests. He was only .004 behind batting leader Tim Wallace. In the finals, he was 4 for 15 with a walk, two hit-by-pitch, two doubles and a dinger as Rimini repeated as Italian champs. In the 1988 Baseball World Cup, he hit .333/.476/.424 with a team-high 9 walks and 10 runs (one ahead of Carelli) as Italy's starting catcher (Bianchi moved to LF). He tied for 6th in the Cup in walks, 5 behind leader Ty Griffin. He fielded .951 at catcher and threw out 5 of 20 runners who tried to steal.
Gambuti hit .320/.397/.633 with 39 RBI in 34 games in 1989. He was 7 for 21 with four walks, two doubles and a homer in the finals as Rimini lost to Grosseto. Italy won the 1989 European Championship and Gambuti did his share, hitting .314/.400/.629 with a team-best three home runs and 12 RBI while starting at catcher and playing DH when DH Bianchi moved to catcher. Robert Niggebrugge of the Netherlands was named European Championship MVP.
Elio batted .399/.477/.685 with 37 walks, 74 runs, 28 doubles, 12 home runs and 57 RBI in 61 games in 1990 then was 17 for 29 with three doubles, a homer, two walks, five runs and five RBI in the finals but Rimini still fell to Nettuno. He tied Martin Montano for third in runs, tied Ernesto Gomez and Jim Morrison for 6th in home runs, tied Alberto Gallusi for the double lead, tied Ken Clawson for 4th in hits (93) and was .027 shy of batting champion Carelli. In the 1990 Baseball World Cup, he hit .385/.500/.692 starting at catcher and backing up Bianchi at DH; he had no errors in the field. He led the Azzurri in slugging (.025 over Bianchi), tied Bianchi for the homerun lead (2), had two of Italy's three game-winning RBI and was third on the club in OBP (behind Bianchi and Andrea Succi).
In 1991, Gambuti hit .347/.419/.563 with 14 doubles, 40 runs and 40 RBI in 36 games for Rimini. He was 4th in runs, tied Massimo Fochi for fifth in RBI and tied Leonardo Schianchi for second in two-baggers. He was only 3 for 20 with a double and eight whiffs in the playoffs, as Rimini fell to Parma. He hit .333/.412/.600 in the 1991 Intercontinental Cup but allowed 10 steals in 11 tries and had an error and passed ball in four games; he split the catching with Bianchi and Francesco Petruzzelli. In the 1991 European Championship, he batted .368/.478/.895 with 3 homers and 13 RBI in five games as Italy won it all; he again split catching with Pettruzzelli and Bianchi (Bianchi also played 1B, LF and DH) and this time made no errors. Despite only appearing in five of their nine games, Gambuti tied Fochi for the Italian lead in home runs, was second to Fochi in slugging and tied Trinci and Bianchi for the RBI lead. Trinci was named MVP.
At age 30, he hit .414/.485/.593 with 43 runs in 36 games in the 1992 season. He was third in runs, one behind co-leaders David Sheldon and Marco Mazzieri and led in hits (60, 3 more than Carelli); Darryl Brinkley won the batting title handily at .462. In the finals, he was 2 for 11 with two walks and three runs as Rimini swept Bologna in three games. In the 1992 Olympics, he starting at catcher ahead of Luigi Carrozza and Petruzzelli. He was 3 for 19 with a double and a RBI in six games in Barcelona, while fielding .938 (one error), having two passed balls and allowing 9 steals in 11 tries. He had the lowest average of any Italian starter. It would be his last international tournament due to off-field work commitments (baseball not paying enough in Italy for players to support themselves without other jobs).
In 1993, Gambuti batted .331/.394/.421 with 30 RBI in 36 games. He was then 7 for 14 with 7 walks in the finals as Rimini lost to Nettuno. He was 5th in RBI in the regular season, between Jessie Reid and Joel Lono. His batting line in 1994 was .353/.424/.552 with 16 steals in 19 tries, 61 runs, 20 doubles and 47 RBI in 48 games. The steals were especially surprising for a 32-year-old backstop who had never had more than 11 swipes in a season before; he would steal even more the next year. He was second in Serie A1 in both doubles (two behind Luis Martinez) and runs (one behind Steve Carter).
Gambuti hit .314/.372/.454 in 1995 with 39 runs and 25 steals in 29 tries over 50 games. He finished second in stolen bases behind speedy David Rigoli. He did not play from 1996-1998. In 1999, he returned, now with T&A San Marino. He hit .285/.345/.382 in his first season with wood bats and smacked 15 doubles. He tied Orlando Muñoz and Jairo Ramos Gizzi for 6th in doubles. During 2000, he batted .358/.414/.515 with 14 doubles, 4 home runs and 12 steals in 18 tries. The 38-year-old was 7th in average (between Luca Bischeri and Carrozza), tied Kevin Noriega for 5th in doubles and tied for 6th in steals; everyone with more steals was at least 10 years younger.
Elio's production dropped in 2001 as he hit .259/.327/.394. He did not play in Serie A1 in 2002; in 2003, he batted .228/.347/.317 in a return to Rimini. He was with San Marino in 2004 and hit .222/.287/.275. In 2005, he was 5 for 20 with a double for San Marino, backing up Vincent Parisi. He returned to Rimini for a third time and was resurgent as he hit .313/.349/.363 in 26 games in 2006, 29 years after debuting with them. Had he qualified, he would have tied Vic Gutierrez for 9th in average. In the finals, he was 2 for 13 with two walks as Rimini beat Grosseto. In game 5 of the Italian Series, the last game of his long career, he started at DH (Matteo Baldacci was catching for Rimini) and hit 7th, going 0 for 3 and reaching base somehow before Filippo Crociati pinch-ran in a 2-1 win. His last hit had come the game before against ex-big leaguer Jaime Navarro.
Gambuti wound up playing 1,026 games in Italy's top league, hitting .319/.386/.480 with 730 runs, 729 RBI, 265 doubles, 117 homers, 153 steals in 207 tries and 407 walks. He fielded .986 in 717 games at C (78 passed balls, opponent steal % of 64), .935 in 129 games at LF, .943 in 44 games at RF, .868 in 43 games at 3B and .977 in 41 games at 1B. He played every position at least one game. Through 2014, he was 6th in Italian history in games played (between Michele Romano and Mazzieri), 15th in runs (between Alessandro Gaiardo and Matteo Dall'Olio), 5th in hits (between Riccardo Matteucci and Trinci), 5th in doubles (between Alberto D'Auria and Matteucci), 12th in home runs, 12th in RBI (between Ceccaroli and John Cortese), 24th in steals (between Luigi Cameroni and Sheldon), 25th in walks (between Marcello Verni and Ramos Gizzi), tied for 37th in slugging (with Sheldon), tied for 35th in average (with Davide Bassi, Adolfo Gomez and Francesco Casolari) and 43th in OPS (between Giuseppe Mazzanti and Ramon Tavarez).