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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) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: fans, johnny antonelli

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   1. Starring RMc as Bradley Scotchman Posted: March 04, 2020 at 06:19 AM (#5927900)
Some people who get to meet their childhood idols are disappointed to discover they are not very nice people.

I remember when I met Bill James at Wrigley Field in 1986. Yeah.
   2. Ron J Posted: March 04, 2020 at 08:38 AM (#5927907)
#1 Only met him once and it was more awkward than anything else. At a SABR convention and he seemed to want to be some place else. By preference some place without a lot of people he didn't know.

Dunno. A lot of the stories I've read about him have an unspoken -- takes a while for him to open up to new people. He had a rep as a difficult client with his publishing house but eventually came to trust a few people enough to open up to them in a positive way.

   3. The importance of being Ernest Riles Posted: March 04, 2020 at 09:24 AM (#5927917)
I found Mr. James to be perfectly friendly and talkative while we knocked back a few Coronas at a Cambridge bar. (Yes, I was thrilled.)

Although his off the cuff prediction is Mark Teixeira, Hall of Famer (this was circa 2006), doesn't look so great now.
   4. Moeball Posted: March 04, 2020 at 02:57 PM (#5928116)
I think his HOF book has a section where Bill predicts who will get elected to the HOF from 1995-2020 or thereabouts. Like most of us, he nailed some of the picks and was way off on others.
   5. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: March 04, 2020 at 03:01 PM (#5928119)
Two things I remember about Antonelli

1. after a decent career with the Giants, he was traded to the Indians where he aged 25 years overnight (that happened to everyone who was traded to Cleveland in those days)

2. I always always got multiple multiples of him when buying baseball cards
   6. jeffy Posted: March 04, 2020 at 09:53 PM (#5928231)
Reading about Johnny Antonelli causes me to reflect on how much the baseball origin map has changed. In the 1950's and 60's quite a few good to excellent pitchers - Warren Spahn, Whitey Ford, Sandy Koufax, Eddie Lopat, Sal Maglie, Johnny Antonelli, Johnny Podres, Herb Score, Billy Loes, Ralph Branca, Jim Konstanty, Don McMahon and Bob Shaw were New York State products. Now almost all the best American pitchers are from the Sunbelt states. I can't think of one noteworthy current starting pitcher from NY.
   7. Itchy Row Posted: March 04, 2020 at 10:59 PM (#5928237)
Looks like Patrick Corbin and Marcus Stroman are the best active pitchers from New York state.

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