Dec 1, 2012

Five Time Italian / American New York Giants World Series Catcher: Gus Mancuso (1928-1945)

August Rodney Mancuso was born on December 5, 1905 in Galveston, Texas. The stocky five foot ten, Italian American catcher was known as Gus or the nickname “Blackie”. 

He began his career in St. Louis in 1928 with the Cardinals and played on two pennant winners in 1930 & 1931 as a back up to Jimmie Wilson. In 1931 Mancuso played in 56 games as catcher & threw out a league leading 54% of would be base stealers. The 1931 Cardinal team won the World Series beating Connie Mack's Philadelphia A's after losing to them the prior season. In 1932 he became the teams regular catcher although they fell to sixth place in the NL.

In 1933 Mancuso got traded along with Ray Starr to the New York Giants for Ethan Allen, Jim Mooney, Bob O'Farrell and Bill Walker. In New York he would become one of the best catchers in the game during the 1930’s. Manager Bill Terry credits Mancuso with turning the pitching staff around and helping the Giants go from sixth place to winning the World Series in 1933. They would also win two more pennants in 1936 & 1937.

Mancuso helped a great Giants pitching staff become one of the game's best, as he caught Hall of Famer Carl Hubbell's screwball and three other Giants greats; sinker baller Hal Schumacher, knuckle baller Freddie Fitzsimmons & Roy Parmalee. Overall in his catching career he caught five different Hall of Fame pitchers. Not only did he handle a pitching staff well, It was almost impossible to steal on Mancuso.

He would throw out 50% or more of would be base runners seven times in his career & never have a percentage under 38% in any season. His caught stealing percentages were among the league's top three catchers six different seasons. In his career he averaged 48%, which is 24th best all time. He led the league in put outs three times & in catching base runners attempting to steal twice, coming in second place two other times in that category.

He would catch 120 games or more in four straight seasons with the Giants. With all the work behind the plate, he also led the NL in errors three times & passed balls twice.

In 1933 the Giants won their first pennant in nine years, Manager Ralph Terry gave a lot of credit to his catcher. Mancuso was so good defensively, he came in sixth in the MVP voting even though he batted .264 with just 6 HRs & 56 RBIs.

Post Season: In Game #2 of the 1933 World Series against the Washington Senators, he had a bases loaded bunt single contributing to a six run Giant sixth inning. He then scored on Jo Jo Moore's base hit for the sixth run, in the 6-2 win. In the final Game #7, he drove in the first run of the game with a double off Washington's General Crowder. This was the same pitcher who had surrendered the runs in Game #2. The Giants went on to a 4-3 win over the Washington Senators, winning the World Series.

In 1935 he hit .298 making the All Star team as a reserve catcher. In an extra inning game that season at the Polo Grounds against the St. Louis Gas House Gang Cardinals, Mancuso caught all 27 innings of the contest. In 1936 the Giants won another NL Pennant, with Mancuso having his best year at bat. He hit .301 with 23 doubles & a .351 on base %, while having career highs in HRs (9) RBIs (63) hits (156) & runs scored (55). 

He led the league's catchers in putouts, base runners caught stealing, & finished second in assists. That year he finished an overall eighth in the MVP voting. This was the same season Giants pitcher Carl Hubbell began his record setting 24 game win streak, which went into the '37 season.

Post Season: In the World Series he hit .263 (5-19) with two doubles & an RBI. The popular New York catcher even got his face on a 1930’s Wheaties cereal box. The Giants repeated as NL Champions again in 1937, as Mancuso threw out 60% of would be base stealers (2nd in the league).

He led the league in put outs for the third time, was second in assists (104) & 5th in fielding at .982 %. He missed time when a foul tip broke his ring finger on his right hand. Harry the Horse Danning became the clubs main catcher & when Mancuso returned they shared time at the position. In 86 games Mancuso batted .279 with 4 HRs & 39 RBIs. He made another All Star game & and got to his fifth career World Series.

He spent six seasons in New York, before going on to being a backup catcher with the Chicago Cubs (1939) Brooklyn Dodgers (1940) & St. Louis Cards (1941-1942). He returned to the Giants in 1942 when Danning was serving in the military.

Mancuso now 37 years old, shared time with 35 year old veteran Ernie Lombardi and also served as a pitching coach. He didn’t hit well in his later years; batting only .198 in 94 games in 1943 followed by a .251 average in 78 games for 1944. He then played his final season in Philadelphia with the Phillies, when his old Giants battery mate; Freddie Fitzsimmons became the manager.

He finished his 17 season career playing in 1460 games, batting .265 with 1194 hits 53 HRs 197 doubles 16 triples 545 RBIs & a .328 on base %. Behind the plate he had 5613 put outs making 148 errors in 6564 chances. In 1360 games behind the plate he posted a .977 fielding % while throwing out 48% of base runners.

Retirement: He became a coach for the Cincinnati Reds in 1950, and then managed in the minor leagues. Outside of baseball he was a newspaper columnist, a beer distributor, as well as a broadcaster working with Harry Caray.

Family: His brother Frank Mancuso played four seasons for the St. Louis Browns in the mid 1940’s.

Gus Mancuso passed away in Houston, Texas in 1984 at the age of 78. He is a member of the Italian American Sports Hall of Fame.

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