Edward Abbaticchio who was known as “Batty” and at times “Abbey”, is the second Italian American to play major league baseball, although many sources have him also down as the first. Logically he has to be second because his career started after Lewis Pessano who was known as Buttercup Dickerson. One thing for certain, Abbaticchio didn’t change his name to sound more American. Not only is he an Italian American baseball pioneer, but he is believed to be the first Italian American to play pro football as well.
Edward James Abbaticchio was born on April 15, 1887 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. After playing semi pro ball he made his debut in September of 1897 with Philadelphia. He played there briefly for two seasons, and then went to play in the Southern League for two seasons, leading the league in hitting both times. He came back to the NL with the Boston Bean Eaters for two seasons. There in 1905, he hit .279 with 30 stolen bases as well as career highs in doubles (25) & triples (12) while leading the league in at bats (610).
He was a fine defensive infielder playing both shortstop & second base. In 1903 he led the league in put outs at second (316) & then in 1905 led the league in games played (152), put outs (386) & errors (75) at short. In 1908 he would lead all second baseman in fielding (.969%). Abbaticchio was a fast runner and a good base stealer, stealing over twenty bases five times & over thirty bases twice.
After the 1906 season he retired from playing ball and ran a family owned hotel in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh Pirates convinced him to return to baseball and convinced him by paying him very well.
In 1907 he became the Pirate second baseman, playing alongside the great Hall of Famer Hounus Wagner. The two would form a strong friendship that lasted beyond their playing days. In 1909 he was a member of the Pirates World Champion team, although he was only a reserve player by then. He hit .230 in 36 games that season, diving in 12 runs with two stolen bases. He made one appearance in the World Series striking out in a pinch hit at bat.
He finished his baseball playing career with nine seasons, 855 games & a .254 batting average. He had 772 hits with 11 HRs 43 triples 99 doubles 324 RBIs and 142 stolen bases.
Pro Football: In 1895 Abbaticchio was a member of the first American professional football team, the Latrobe Volunteer Firemen Football team. He was a star full back and kicker, who gets credit for developing the spiral punt. He was payed a hefty $50 a game to play football in 1895.
Retirement: After playing sports he continued to run his Hotel, the Latrobe House until his retirement in 1932. He moved to beautiful Fort Lauderdale, Florida and lived there for 25 years before passing away on January 5, 1957 at age 79. He is inducted into the Italian American Sports Hall of Fame as one of its first members.