Jul 20, 2012

The First Italian American Baseball Pioneer: Lewis Pessano

Lewis Pessano  known as "Buttercup Dickerson" is a pioneer for Italian Americans. He is credited as being the first Italian American professional baseball player, paving the way for many greats to come after him.

Due to the prejudice against Italians & Americans of European descent back in those early days, many people change their names to make them sound more American. (Very unlike today where people want to sound non American and get everything handed to them beacuse of it.) Pessano changed his to Dickerson, and was known by the nick name Buttercup. The origins of that name come from a character in the Gilbert & Sullivan play H.F.S. Pinafore.

Lewis Pessano was born on October 11, 1858 near Baltimore Maryland. He began his playing career back in 1878 as an outfielder with the Cincinnati Red Legs. He led the league in triples (14) in 1879 while hitting .294 the following season. He was mostly a part time player, also playing for the Troy Trojans & Worcester Ruby Legs batting .316 in 1881. After that season he was put on the National League's blacklist (probably because of his ethnicity) but did get reinstated the next year.

In 1883 he went to play for the Pittsburgh Allegheny’s, who were known as one of the hardest drinking teams of all time. He went to play briefly with franchises in St. Louis, Buffalo, Baltimore & Louisville. Pessano played in 408 career games with 500 hits and a .284 batting average.

Pessano passed away in July of 1920 in Baltimore, Maryland at age 61. He was inducted into the Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in 1979 as one of its first members.

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