Edward Abbaticchio - The First Italian American Major Leaguerby Lou Parrota
Edward James Abbaticchio, commonly referred to as "Batty" was born on April 15, 1877, in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. Abbaticchio was a major leaguer from 1897 until 1910, playing a total of nine years in baseball's National League. He was a member of the Philadelphia Phillies, the Boston Beaneaters (a predecessor of the Boston Braves), the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the Boston Doves (another name that was used prior to the Boston team becoming the Braves). A more interesting fact about Abbaticchio was that he is generally considered to be the first person of Italian descent to play in the major leagues.
Abbaticchio got his start in baseball by playing for a semi-pro team in Greensburg, Pennsylvania in 1897. On September 4, 1897, he made his major league debut. He played in three games that season for the Philadelphia Phillies. He resumed to play 25 games in 1898, and then went to play in the 'Beer and Whiskey" League which had frequently courted National League players with more money to play with them. He played with the Minneapolis team in 1899, then played for the great Hall of Fame manager Connie Mack in Milwaukee in 1900. For the 1901 and 1902 seasons, Abbaticchio moved on to play with the Southern League's Nashville team. He ended up leading the league in batting average during his two seasons there. He accomplished this with clips of .360 and .367, respectively. From 1903 until 1905, he was a member of the Boston Beaneaters.
Not wanting to play any longer, "Batty" was out of baseball for the 1906 season. Abbaticchio decided to open a hotel upon his announcement not to play, and he did so in 1906 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. He purchased the hotel from his father and named it 777 Latrobe House. After he finished his playing career in 191O, Abbaticchio returned to Latrobe to run his hotel until his retirement in 1932.
The Pittsburgh Pirates convinced Abbaticchio to return to the playing field for the 1907 season. After a great deal of haggling over money, Abbaticchio decided to stage a comeback. He joined the Pirates for the 1907 season and remained there until the start of the 1910 season. He finished the year with the Boston Doves, and then he retired to run his hotel.
Abbaticchio played most of his career with below average teams. Five of the nine seasons he played, he played for teams that had sub-.500 records, and were an average of 45 games out of first place. He played for two teams above .500; one above .600; and one above .700 - the 1909 World champion Pittsburgh Pirates.
Defensively, Abbaticchio was an infielder for most of his career. He logged 419 games at second base, 388 games at shortstop, and 20 games at third base. He also appeared in 3 games in the outfield. In total, he was a starter for five out of the nine seasons he played, while being relegated to a reserve role for the other four. Abbaticchio led the National League in putouts for infielders twice - once in 1903 with 316 and again in 1905 with 386. He also led the National League in fielding in 1908 with a .969 fielding percentage. At the same rate, Abbaticchio was not without flaws. He dubiously led the league with the most errors committed three times in his career - once in 1904 with 75, again in 1905 with 75 and finally in 1907 with 36.
Abbaticchio never shied away from getting involved in making a play. This was proven by the numerous times he assisted someone in making a put out, or the many times he executed ones himself
He also took part in the turning of over 200 double plays throughout his career. With a hand in over 4,150 putouts, he participated in an average of almost five putouts in every game he played during his career, an outstanding feat for sure.
At the plate, Abbaticchio was a decent hitter. He was not noted as a power hitter, but one of the contact and clutch variety. He only hit a home run once every 277 at bats, giving him a total of 11 in his career. He had a season high of 3, which he achieved twice - once in 1904 and again in 1905. On the flip side, throughout his career he smacked 99 doubles and above-average 43 triples. He had season highs in doubles with 25 and triples with 12 during the 1905 season.
Other highlights in Abbaticchio's career include leading the National League in at bats in 1905 with 610, and knocking in 82 runs in 1907 which tied him for second in the league in that category. The best season of his career was in 1905 with the Beaneaters in which he had 170 hits and a respectable batting average of .279.
On the basepaths, Abbaticchio was terrific. He stole more than 20 bases three times during his career, and more than 30 twice. He finished his career with nearly 150 stolen bases in 855 games played. Also, he scored over 350 runs throughout his career, topping out with 76 in 1904. In today's language, Abbaticchio would be known as one who 'created runs well.'
Although Edward Abbaticchio played in only 855 games over a 13-year period, he did get to participate in every ballplayer's dream - a World Series. In 1909, the Pittsburgh Pirates closed out their season at an amazing 110-42, with a .724 winning percentage. They won nearly seventy-five percent of their games that year, and they earned themselves a trip to The Fall Classic. Abbaticchio made only one appearance in that Series, in which he pinch hit and struck out. No matter, he could still be one who claimed he actually participated in a World Series, while some of the game's greats like Ernie Banks, cannot. The Pittsburgh Pirates won that World Series four games to three, and Abbaticchio's good friend, Hall of Famer Honus Wagner, led them. This allowed Abbaticchio to receive the coveted World Series crown that is the dream of every baseball player in the country. Even Hall of Famer and baseball immortal Ted Williams is unable to say that.
Abbaticchio was by no means an outstanding baseball player. However, he was a steady contributor for parts of nine seasons. He showed flashes of excellence on the basepaths and truly created runs well. In the field, he was like a human vacuum cleaner. He helped to make, or actually did make, nearly twenty percent of his team's putouts. That is a wonderful sign of his willingness to play the game.
Abbaticchio was a good friend of the great Honus Wagner. They played alongside each other in the Pirate infield that went on to win the 1909 World Series. In a letter to a fan, Wagner summed up what "Batty" meant to the Pirates and to the game of baseball itself. He called "Batty" a "great second baseman with whom he had the honor to play with. " He goes on to say that "Batty was one of the best of his day as a player and one of the finest of any baseball era as a man and a true friend.... Any way you measured him, Ed was one of the best.... He was an ever lasting credit to baseball, to Pittsburgh, and his home section of Latrobe...." These were some very strong accolades paid to Abbaticchio from arguably one of the top five players to ever grace the game. This was truly a tremendous tribute.
When Abbaticchio died in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida on January 6, 1957, he left behind a very respectable career. He was the first man of Italian descent to play Major League Baseball and he proved to be a worthy groundbreaker. Adding to his legacy as a breaker of barriers, "Batty" was also known as a fairly good football player. In fact, he was a member of the first professional football team in the United States. In 1895, Abbaticchio was a member of the Latrobe Volunteer Firemen football team, where he starred as a fullback. He quite possibly was the first man of Italian decent to become a professional football player. Simply put, he more than likely broke barriers in the United States' top two professiona1 sports.
Players like Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto, Yogi Berra, Rocky Colavito, Ron Santo, Carl Furillo, Joe Craragiola, and Sal "The Barber" Maglie, Ken Caminiti, Craig Biggio and Mike Piazza, owe a lot to the first Italian-American to play Major League Baseball. If it was not for Abbaticchio's persistence, it may have taken a lot longer for Italians to play the game affectionately known as "America's Pastime." All Italian athletes should be proud of Edward James "Batty" Abbaticchio and the road he paved for them.
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