Giulio Glorioso was born in 1931 in Udine, Italy. He is one of the best baseball players all-time in Italian history, having a career record of 235-88 with an ERA of 1.90 and 2884 strikeouts in 2706 innings. He played for Lazio, Nettuno, Parma, Milano and Roma in Italy. He led the Italian Baseball League in ERA in 1959 (0.68), 1961 (0.46), 1962 (1.27), 1963 (0.68), 1964 (0.81) and 1966 (1.65). He also led the league in batting in 1960 (.423) and 1961 (.444). He also appeared in 68 games for the Italian National Team and threw a no-hitter in a 0-1 loss to the Netherlands in 1960. Mr. Glorioso agreed to an interview with Mister-Baseball.com to speak about his playing career, Italian and European Baseball.
Q: You were one of the first and best European Baseball players. Now in retrospective, what do you think, was your greatest accomplishment? Is there a game or a time, on which you are looking back with joy?
A: For the book, my greatest baseball accomplishment dates back to the 1961 season with Gigi Cameroni’s Europhon Milano, with an 18-0 WL record as a pitcher and a league-leading .444 batting average, good enough for the MVP award. In my heart, however, my greatest accomplishment in connection to baseball was the safe return home of the Lazio Baseball team trapped in Prague by the Warsaw Pact troops invasion on August 20, 1968. The event I still remember with joy and pride is the Italy-Spain game played in Rome on August 31, 1952, even though I was the losing pitcher. It was the first game for the first Italian national baseball team, a terrific success with the public and the press, and the first step toward the establishment of the European Federation.
Q: Did you have the opportunity to play professional baseball in the USA?
A: No. I was in Florida for a stage at the Cleveland Indians minor league spring training camp in Florida on an athletic fellowship I had been awarded as the 1952 MVP. Anyway at 22, with only two years as a pitcher, I was not a prospect.
Q: What did you do after your playing career and are you still involved in Baseball in Italy?
A: After my playing days I have been involved in baseball as a member of the Lazio Baseball board. While stationed in Paris, 1978-1982, I spent some spare time with the Paris University Club team, and kept in close contact with Klaus Helmig who had started the German-American Baseball Bundesliga comprising the Mannheim Amigos and U.S. Forces personnel stationed in Germany. Today I am in charge of coordination of club activities, currently limited to youth baseball.
Q: When you are comparing European (or Italian) Baseball at the time of your playing career with nowadays, do you see a development to the better, regarding the skills of the players itself and the quality of the competition?
A: Yes. I see a development to the better in Italy. Nowadays batters are more aggressive and powerful, infielders quicker and less erratic than those of my playing days, pitching staffs are probably stronger. But the pace of the game is slower, sometimes the players seem to be just going through the motions. Perhaps the play is affected negatively by poor attendance. Or vice versa.
Q: What do you think of Italian Baseball at the moment? Is it moving forward?
A: Italian Baseball has succeeded in winning the support of MLB in the establishment of a Baseball Academy in Tirrenia, used by MLB for their summer tryouts of European and African talents, but failed so far to build a sound player development program and to win back part of the lost popularity. In reality, while boastful of the merits of the non-existing “Italian Baseball School”, of the fancy “IBL” logo and of promotional programs like the indoor “Winter League” for school pupils, Italian baseball has been losing ground in international baseball, as shown by the record of Italian teams, from the Athens Olympics to the 2006 World Baseball Classic (where Italy was represented by an ersatz “Team Italia” also known as “Team USA Two”), to the 2007 Olympic qualifier in Barcelona and the 2007 World Cup in Taiwan, to the recent performances of Italian youth teams. The Italian federation claims to be a leading power in Europe in terms of registered players, yet lags behind in players in the crucial age groups. It spends freely to scout, recruit and field with the national team professional ballplayers of Italian ancestry living abroad, and in so doing kills the very identity of the team and denies Italian players an opportunity for growth. It does maintain a close cooperation with Cuban baseball in the framework of a protocol signed in 1988 whose benefits do not meet the costs. It excels in rhetoric and window dressing, yet it fails to deliver on the field and at the box office: attendance figures for the 2008 regular season released by FIBS show an average of less than 400 paying spectators per game. Add the red-tape, and a board consisting of 20 people matching perhaps in numbers the Deutsche Bank’s board of directors and sharing the national inclination to favor “la bella figura” while neglecting the real issues, and you have the picture of the current state of the art of Italian baseball.
Q: You are living nearby Viterbo, where recently the Cadets European Championships took place. Can we look optimistic into the Future of European Baseball?
A: I did not attend the Cadets European Championship games. Regarding the future of European Baseball, we ought to be realistic. Indications are that playing standards did improve in the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Russia, and that interest in the game is growing in Poland and the Baltic countries, in particular Lithuania, thanks to the EMEA Little League Center in Kutno. However, no progress is to be expected in the absence of the massive investments required to build new baseball facilities and to support a sound player development program run by professionals.
Q: More and more prospects are going into the USA. Is this good for the quality of the European Baseball leagues or not, as the most talented players are leaving the old continent? Although most of the players are coming back after a few years.
A: Rick van den Hurk’s promotion to the Marlins is a remarkable exception. Chances to move up the ladder to the Majors are slim, and all the more so today, because after Hideo Nomo paved the way to the USA, MLB clubs can sign established stars of the Central and Pacific League in the framework of an agreement worth the Japanese counterpart. However, even those European players who come back after playing ball in the Minors are an asset for their country in developing the game. The contribution given to German baseball by Klaus and Juergen Helmig (Baltimore Orioles, 1956), in Italy by infielder Alberto Rinaldi (Cincinnati Reds, 1965), and by outfielder Claudio Liverziani (Seattle Mariners) who today is on the roster of Bologna, is manifest. Not to speak of the several Dutch players who had the opportunity of a stage or played pro ball in the States, from Han Urbanus to Herman Beidshat, Rob Hoffmann and Wim Crouwel to Robert Eenhoorn, who played in the Majors.
Q: The Netherlands and Italy were more than just competitive at the Baseball World Cup last November. Do you think they can beat top teams like the USA and Cuba regularly in the near future? What do you expect from the Dutch team at the Olympics? Who is your favorite to win the Gold medal?
A: The Dutch team is a solid, competitive war machine based on a sound athletic program and hard work. The Italian team is a symphonic orchestra consisting of talented players with a different background who are not necessarily amalgamated – hence their hardly impressive performances. Anyway, I doubt that either the Dutch war machine or the Italian symphonic orchestra can beat the USA and Cuba regularly in the near future. I do trust however that as European champion the Dutch team will be up to the challenge in Beijing. My favorite to win the gold medal is Japan.
Q: Is there a possibility that next year’s World Cup is leading to the breakthrough of Baseball in Europe? What is Baseball missing to be successful in Europe?
A: Next year’s World Cup is conceived as a contribution to the international drive for reinstatement of baseball in the 2016 Olympic Games program. Should the event fail to win the support of European National Olympic Committees, it would still be instrumental in spurring the national federations hosting the event to strengthen their organization and improve their facilities. For instance, the Milano 46 Club came up with a beautiful renovation plan of the J.F. Kennedy Stadium that was the venue of the 1964 European championship and is due to host a few World Cup games. But, once again, a real breakthrough of Baseball in Europe depends on a strong relationship with MLB clubs and Collegiate Baseball, the overall strategic objective for growth being player development.
Q: IBAF president Dr. Harvey Schiller is trying to get Baseball back to the Olympics. Do you think there is a chance? He is also talking about a professional baseball league in Europe starting in 2010. Do you have thoughts about it?
A: I am aware of Dr. Harvey Schiller’s “Plan for the future of baseball for 2007-2015”, and do appreciate it. I also read with interest Robert Eenhoorn’s interview on Mister-Baseball.com about a potential European Baseball League. As a firm believer in international cooperation, a field I have been involved with as a civil servant, I subscribe to his statement; “If MLB chooses to support only one project in Europe and then selects the Italian application, it would have a very bad effect on baseball development in almost all other European countries, now heading to continental cooperation. Only if the Americans are prepared to finance more projects in Europe, the catastrophe by the one-sided aspirations of the Italian federation might turn out less harmful.” May I add that I doubt very much that the format of the professional Italian league envisaged by the business plan proposed by FIBS to MLB club owners – a 37,5% stake by FIBS, 20% by MLB clubs, 40% by Italian franchises, 3,5% by other investors, in essence a league controlled by the FIBS board – would ever be viable.
Picture 1: Rome, August 31, 1952 Italy vs. Spain # 20 Giulio Glorioso
Picture 2: Rome, The Boys of Summer, 1947 GILDA SOFTBALL CLUB – 2nd Division, LEGA ITALIANA SOFTBALL (team name inspired by Rita Hayworth starring in the 1946 film) standing, second from the right – Glorioso, shortstop
Picture 3: Kyoto, June 1978
Photos: © Giulio Glorioso