by Pim van Nes
Even before the Italian federation FIBS was founded in 1948, five Italian individuals managed to reach the Major Leagues in the United States. All five players were born in northern Italy and emigrated, when most Italian emigrants left the southern part of the country because of the high unemployment rate in that region. The first was born in 1901 and the last in 1922. They debuted in the American Majors in 1932, 1937, 1945, 1947 and 1949: four as pitchers and one as infielder. After this last Italian debut, no other Italian born players reached the top level rosters of professional baseball in the States. FIBS.it pointed out to these players in an article by Riccardo Schiroli a few days ago.
Recently MLB.com wrote about pitcher Alessandro Maestri as “a rarity in Italian baseball”, because he is the first pitcher from Italian school having reached the American minor leagues. Without this Italian school, however, four Italian boys started to play baseball at the other side of the Atlantic Ocean and made it to the pitching mounds of the Major Leagues:
1) Louis Americo Polli was born in 1901 and debuted in 1932 for the St. Louis Browns,
2) Julio Bonetti was born in 1911 and debuted in 1937 for the Chicago Cubs,
3) Marino Piereti was born in 1920 and debuted in 1945 for the Washington Senators and
4) Rinaldo Joseph Ardizoia was born in 1919 and debuted in 1947 for the New York Yankees.
Two years after this last Italian pitcher, also an Italian infielder debuted in the Majors: in 1949 Henry Arcado Biasatti played first base in 21 games for the Philadelphia Athletics. In 1922 he was born in a small village in the Italian province of Udine and died in 1996.
Except one, the Italian pitchers also died already:
a) in 1952 Julio Bonetti from Genova after 46 games for the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Browns (1937 – 1939),
b) in 1981 Marino Piereti from Lucca after 194 games for the Washington Senators, Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indians (1945 – 1950) and
c) in 2000 Louis Americo Polli from the Verbania province after five games for the St. Louis Browns (1932) and 19 for the New York Giants (1944).
The only Italian Major League player still alive is Rinaldo Joseph Ardizoia, born in the Novara province and performer in one 1947 game of the New York Yankees. He may still remember the first Italian player from the Italian baseball school to make it to a minor league contract. Alberto Rinaldi was born in Bologna in 1946, debuted in Italy in 1961 for Bazzanese and in USA in 1965 for the Cincinnati Reds. After his return, in Italy the national federation prefered to discourage home grown talents, like Giorgio Castelli and Roberto Bianchi, to sign professional contracts with American scouts. These searchers of foreign talents decided to consider Italy as a no-go-area during some decades, until in the nineties David Rigoli and Claudio Liverziani dared to break the federal ban and played a few US minor league seasons. Nowadays Rigoli is a TV commentator for baseball games and Liverziani is still one of the best home grown Italian players in the league.
Pim van Nes
Baseball writer for