Ralph Arthur Pinelli was born Rinaldo Angelo Paolinelli, on October 18, 1895 in San Francisco, California. He was the son of an Italian immigrant carpenter. Pinelli's interesting career began in 1918 right after high school. The five foot nine, right hand hitting infielder was signed by the Chicago White Sox, playing 24 games there in 1918.
He was quickly traded to the Detroit Tigers by 1920 where he hit .229 with 21 RBIs in 109 games played.
He spent all the next season in the minors before landing in Cincinnati in 1922.
He would be the Reds main third baseman from 1922 through 1925 batting over .300 twice in that time period. In 1922 he drove in 72 runs, stealing 17 bases (9th in the league), while posting a .368 on base percentage, playing in every game of the season. He would lead the league in put outs (204) & assists (350) at third base but also committed a league leading 32 errors.
He was an excellent bunter as well, leading the league in sac hits in 1924 & 1925. In the 1924 season he once again hit over .300 (.306) driving in 70 runs posting a .353 on base %.
In 1925 he batted .283 for the third place Reds playing in 130 games. In 1927 he played his last game in the majors but continued playing in the Pacific Coast League with his hometown San Francisco Seals through 1931. In 1932 he ended his playing career with the PCL's Oakland Oaks.
Pinelli finished his eight year MLB playing career batting .276 with 723 hits 5 HRs 101 doubles & 298 RBIs posting a .328 on base % in 774 games. In the minors he was a career .295 hitter.
In the next part of his career, Pinelli became an umpire in the Pacific Coast League for two seasons (1933-1934). He was then hired as a National League Umpire & worked his way to become one of the most respected in the game.
He would umpire for 22 seasons from 1935-1956, during some classic years of baseball history. Pinelli worked six World Series (1939, 1941, 1947, 1948, 1952, & 1956). In 1956, his last season as umpire, he called balls & strikes for Don Larsen's perfect World Series game. His final game was Game #7 of that 1956 World Series. In his career, he also umpired four All-Star games (1937, 1941, 1950, & 1956).
In 1946 he worked the three game National League playoff series where the St. Louis Cardinals won the pennant.
In his rookie year of umpiring he was told not to call any strikes on the Boston Braves Babe Ruth who was winding down his career. Pinelli didn’t see it that way, and called a strike when it was a strike. During one game Ruth argued a close pitch saying “there are 40.000 people in this park that knew that was a ball you tomato head”. Babe Pinelli replied “Yea, but mine is the only one that counts” Ruth shut his big mouth and went about his business.
Gil Hodges once told a story on how Pee Wee Reese was telling the Dodger clubhouse, that Pinelli was the umpire least likely to toss you out of a game. Of course that day, the Brooklyn Captain, Reese was ejected by the umpire. Pinelli was known to be a sharp dresser in expensive clothing, always looking his best.
Retirment: Pinelli retired to Daly City California, where he lived until 1984, passing at the age of 89. He was elected to the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in 2000.