Aug 22, 2013

Former Hoboken N.J. Born Italian / American Catcher: Johnny Romano (1958-1967)

John Anthony Romano Jr. was born on August 23, 1934 in Hoboken, New Jersey. At a young age his uncle gave him the nickname of “honey” which would stick withhim. His father was a semi pro base ball player and taught Johnny to play the game. The five foot ten inch, two hundred pound catcher, got signed by the Chicago White Sox in 1954.

He then put up some impressive numbers in the minor leagues. Romano bashed 38 HRs while batting .351 at Waterloo in 1955 winning the MVP Award, getting promoted to the Pacific Coast League the next year. He soon set a minor league record by hitting HRs in seven straight games. In 1957 he played at AAA Indianapolis under Former New York Giants catcher Walker Cooper the teams manager. Cooper helped Romano work on his catching abilities. In 1958 he hit .291 with 25 HRs & 89 RBIs getting his big league call up.

He debuted in the big leagues in 1958 playing briefly with the White Sox for two seasons. There he learned even more about the art of catching from manager Al Lopez, one of the best catchers of his era. In 1959 Romano batted .294 with .407 on base % , five HRs & 25 RBIs in just 126 at bats (53 games) for the A.L. Champion (Go Go) Chicago White Sox. In the World Series he got one at bat going hitless. In December 1959 he was traded with Norm Cash and Bubba Phillips to the Cleveland Indians for Dick Brown, Don Ferrarese, Minnie Minoso and Jake Striker. It was in Cleveland he would have his best years.

In 1961 he made his first of two straight All Star appearances, batting .299 with 21 HRs 29 doubles a .39 on base % & 80 RBIs. That season he set a club mark for catchers with a 22 game hitting streak, later broken by Ray Fosse in 1970. He threw out 40% of would be base stealers over the next three seasons, averaging a .990 fielding percentage. In 1961 he was first in the league throwing out 31 base runners; he would come in second & third in that category over the next two years.

In 1962 he had career highs in HRs (25) RBIs (81) 7 triples (3) while batting .261. He was injured part of the next season and after a .242 batting averahe & 19 HR year in 1964 he was Traded in a three-team deal. Romano went back to the White Sox along with future Met Tommie Agee and Tommy John, other notables involved in the trade were Rocky Colavito & Cam Carreon, former Met Mark Carreon’s dad.

He spent two more seasons with the White Sox hitting over 15 HRs both times, and playing a solid defense behind the plate. In 1965 he led all catchers in assists with 61. He was traded to the St. Louis Cards in 1967 for Walt “no neck” Williams & Don Denis. He played in 24 games for the ’67 World Champion Cardinals behind Tim McCarver & Don Ricketts, but did not play in the World Series.

Retirement: Romano retired after the season, batting .255 lifetime with 706 hits 129 HRs 112 doubles & 417 RBIs. He posted a .990 fielding percentage throwing out 35% of would be base stealers.

After his playing days he sold swimming pools in New Jersey & worked for the offices of Bergen County, New Jersey. He retired in Naples, Florida and has taken up the hobby of flying model airplanes.

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