IT and US: The Italians in the Major League Baseball 2 of 2
- WTI Magazine #105 Jul 21, 2018
Before finisching this ride among the Italian players arrived in MLB, we’d like to mention two Italian athletes who stopped at the antechamber of the Major League. Alberto "Toro" Rinaldi in 1965 at 18 years old, flew to the States for a spring training session for the Cincinnati Reds and to play a season in Single A with a team from Tampa (Florida). Alessandro Maestri played several seasons, from 2006 to 2011, in Minors in Double A at Daytona and in Tennessee and played a single pre-season match with the Chicago Cubs in 2009.
Marino Paul "Chick" Pieretti (September 23, 1920 Lucca, Italy - January 30, 1981 San Francisco, CA), pitcher.
Pieretti was the first Italian to play in the MLB with a certain continuity after World War II. Small in stature, weighing 69 kg, he proved to be a very effective launcher. He arrived in the States from Tuscany and grew up in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco, an area of Italians and good baseball players (one for all, Joe DiMaggio). The press had signaled him as one who enjoyed a world with slips to the bases and as a player with an always dirty uniform...
He signed his first professional contract in 1943 with the Portland Beavers of the Pacific Coast League. In two years he played 457 innings with 194 strikeouts and attracted the attention of Major League scouts. He made his MLB debut on 19 April 1945 with the Washington Senators (1945-1948) playing a good rookie season; later he played with the Chicago White Sox (1948-1949) and the Cleveland Indians (1950). On October 1, 1950 he played the last match in the Major, after launching for 674 innings with 188 strikeouts.
In 1951 Pieretti returned to the minors signing again for PCL (Portland Beavers 1951-1952; Sacramento Solons 1953-1955; Los Angeles Angels 1956), the Western League (Des Moines Bruins 1957) and the California League (Modesto Reds 1958). In the off season and once retired from competitive activity Pieretti had worked in a slaughterhouse in San Francisco. In the mid 70s he discovered he had cancer and, between ups and downs, survived until 1981 at the age of 60; during the illness some former baseball players of the Bay Area organized themselves to bring him some comfort. In January 2011, a voluntary organization called "Gli amici di Marino Pieretti" (Marino Pieretti’s Friends) was set up to assist pensioners in difficulty.
Henry Arcado "Hank" Biasatti (January 14, 1922 Beano, Italy - April 20, 1996 Dearborn, MI) First baseman
Biasatti was the first Italian to play at least once in the MLB and NBA, the pro basketball league. He emigrated to Canada, grew up in Windsor, Ontario, and became a leading athlete at the Continuation School and then at the High School, excelling in baseball, basketball and even football.
During World War II, stationed with the Canadian army in England, he excelled in joint baseball tournaments from 1943 to mid-1945. Back home he resumed playing in basketball and baseball teams in college and, in the spring of 1946, was called to the training camp of the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International Baseball League. In the same year he was also called to the inaugural camp of the Toronto Huskies for the first season of the Basketball Association of America (which will later be called NBA). Biasatti also played the first official match of the league in November and was considered as the first non-American player in the history of the NBA.
In 1947, despite the call of the Boston Celtics, he chose to respond to that of the spring training camp of the Philadelphia Athletics in the MLB: he ended the season in the Savannah Indians farm team, standing out among the best rookies of the South Atlantic League. In 1948 he passed into Triple A, returning to play with the Maple Leafs (21 homeruns) and, finally, on April 23, 1949 he made his MLB debut with the Philadelphia Athletics against the Chicago White Sox. Hank played 21 games in the rest of the season, without excelling and with a bad average in beat. In 1950-1951 he passed to the Buffalo Bisons in the IBL and then, in 1953 and 1954, he became a player-trainer in the minors of Quebec linked to the Philadelphia system. In 1956 we will find him again in the role of head coach of the basketball team of the newborn Assumption University, which won the championship of Ontario-Quebec; Biasatti will remain at the head of the college team for other 6 seasons, winning two other titles.
Reno Pierino "Peter" Bertoia (January 8, 1935 San Vito al Tagliamento, Italy - April 15, 2011 Windson, Ontario-CA) Third baseman
Bertoia emigrated to Canada at the age of 2 with his mother Rina to join his father Libero, who had arrived in Windsor in Ontario 22 months earlier and was employed in a Ford factory. As a young boy, Reno delivered the local newspaper and admired his neighbour Hank Biasatti, dreaming of one day becoming a professional baseball player.
During his high school years he was an excellent athlete and in 1951 he won the Canadian baseball championship of the amateur federation with the Trumbull Chevrolet team. In 1953 Bertoia was under contract by the Detroit Tigers of MLB and debuted among pros on September 29, playing for the same team until 1962 (with a break between 1959 and 1960 with the Washington Senators) with 612 games in MLB scoring 425 valid hits, 27 home runs and 171 RBI with a batting average of .244.
Alex Liddi (August 14, 1988 Sanremo, Italy) Third baseman
Liddi was the first Italian school player to make his MLB debut (27 March 2008 with the Seattle Mariners) and to make his first home run against the Cleveland Indians in 2011.
Raised in the team of the Sanremo Baseball Club, high school at the Agricultural Institute of Albenga, in 2006 he was selected by the Seattle Mariners who sent him to make his bones in the minors with the Peoria Mariners and, in August 2007, with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. Liddi will remain with them throughout the 2008 season, becoming one of the protagonists in the field. In 2009 he will be switched to the High Desert Mavericks and will earn the titles of the California League MVP and that of the California League Player of the Year. Once recalled in Seattle, he will be used at an even higher level: in Double A with the West Tenn Diamone Jaxx in 2010 and in Triple A with the Tacoma Rainiers from March 12, 2011.
On the evening of September 6, 2011 he was called up in the Mariners' roster on MLB; he is the 7th Italian of all time and the first grown up in an Italian team to arrive there. The next day he will be taken to the field and the next match, on September 9, he will make the first hit against the Kansas City Royals and, on September 19, the first home run against the Cleveland Indians. In 2012 he's still on the pitch with the Mariners and, on May 12, in the match against the Texas Rangers, with the 6th home run he realizes the first grand slam of his career in MLB.
In 2013 there was talk of an exchange with the Baltimore Orioles, but instead, Liddi went down to Triple A playing in Tacoma with the Rainiers and in Norfolk with the Tides, before returning to the first team and playing 8 games in MLB with the Mariners. In 2014 he is again in Triple A with the Charlotte Knights and then in Chattanooga and Albunquerque; the following year he plays in Double A with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals and in 2016-2017 in the Mexican league. This year, after the spring training camp in MLB with the Kansas City Royals, as I write he has already done 10 home runs with the Arkansas Naturals.
In 2009 and 2013, Liddi played in the World Baseball Classic with the Italian national team.