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Johnny Antonelli Newsbeat

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Johnny Antonelli and Me

Johnny Antonelli, a star pitcher for the New York Giants in the 1950s and my boyhood hero, died at age 89 on Friday.

Some people who get to meet their childhood idols are disappointed to discover they are not very nice people. I was fortunate to meet my boyhood hero and discover he was a warm, gregarious, generous, and humble person.

It happened two summers ago. I was scheduled to give a talk at a symposium at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. A few weeks before my visit to Cooperstown, I wrote a letter to Johnny, who grew up and still lived in Rochester (three hours from Cooperstown), and asked if I could take him lunch. I explained that in 1954 – when I was six years old — my uncle Augie, the day after going to a game at the Polo Grounds, brought me an 8-by 11-inch glossy photo of Johnny in his New York Giants uniform, posing as though he had just completed his follow-through. In the upper right-hand corner, in dark black ink, it said: “To Peter Dreier (a future major leaguer) Your friend, Johnny Antonelli.”

It was my first baseball autograph, and I have treasured it ever since, making sure whenever I moved, it came with me. Sixty-four years later, I still had the photo. The ink had faded, but it was still legible. My wife had the good sense to put it in a frame as a birthday present. I included a copy of that photo in my letter to Johnny, hoping it might entice him to allow me to visit him.

Some thoughts on loyalties, between both people and communities.


QLE Posted: March 04, 2020 at 01:38 AM | 7 comment(s)
  Beats: fans, johnny antonelli

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Roth: Rochester’s Johnny Antonelli was an All-Star in baseball and in life

Today, Gus Antonelli would be known as a helicopter parent. The guy hovering over every move his child makes.

In 1948, that was Antonelli, who had immigrated to America from Abruzzo, Italy. Who was so proud of his son Johnny, so determined to help him succeed as a baseball pitcher, he would attend spring training lugging a scrapbook bulging with his son’s newspaper clippings and show them to Major League managers, scouts, fans, anybody who would listen.

Johnny Antonelli could hurl a baseball as smoothly as ice cream is dished on a hot summer’s day. He was a 6-foot-1 lefty who went 15-2 with five no-hitters during his career at Jefferson High School, averaging two strikeouts per inning. A teenage phenom in the Bob Feller mold.

Without the assistance of the internet or a sports performance academy, Johnny was on the radar of scouts thanks to his dad’s relentless advocating, but there was still a problem. Rochester springs are soggy and short and during Antonelli’s senior season at Jefferson, he appeared in only seven games.


QLE Posted: February 29, 2020 at 12:55 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: johnny antonelli, obituaries, rip




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