Aug 17, 2013

Former Italian / American Queens Born Brothers: Tony & Al Cuccinello

Anthony Francis 'Tony' Cuccinello was born on November 8, 1907 in Long Island City, Queens New York. He played baseball at Bryant High School in Queens getting a baseball contact with the Cincinnati Reds.

Tony hit over .300 three times in the minors getting to the big leagues by 1930. He hit .312 with 22 doubles & 10 HRs in his rookie year, making a big impression. He followed that up with another .300 season (.315) posting a .374 on base percentage, although his power numbers fell off. In 1932 he got traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers and was back home in New York.

He spent four seasons in Brooklyn getting to two All Star games, as the Dodgers main second baseman. In 1934 he had career highs in HRs (14) & RBIs (94) with 32 doubles.

On July 5th 1935 at the Polo Grounds both Cuccinello brothers (Tony & Al) hit HRs for their respective teams, becoming the first big league brothers to do so in a game while opposing each other. This feat has only been accomplished six times since.

Cuccinello moved on to the Boston Bees for four and a half seasons, moving on to the New York Giants for part of the 1940 season. He then went to the Boston Braves & Chicago White Sox. In his career Cuccinello batted over .300 five times, drove in over 80 runs four times, hit over 30 doubles five times, & posted on base percentages over .370 four times. These were all good numbers for second baseman of his time.

In 1945 at the age of 37 his last year of play, he batted .308 coming in second for the batting title. He had hit around .390 in the first three months of the season but wore down as the season went on. He went into the final day of the season having just enough at bats to qualify but his game was rained out. New York's Stuffy Stinweiss went 3-4 & beat out Cuccinello by the closest margin in baseball history. One of Stuffy's hits was first ruled an error & then changed by the official scorer.

The scorer ironically worked for the old Bronx Home News & later said he changed the ruling when he found out Cuccinello's game was rained out. Years later Stuffy was on an Indians team where Cuccinello was the coach, even he said the writer gave him the batting title.

Defensively he led the league in assists & double plays three times at second base. In his last season (1945) he batted .308 missing the batting title by one point, losing out to Snuffy Stirnweiss who went 3-3, as Cuccinello’s game was rained out. That year he made his third All Star team as well. He finished his 15 season career batting .280 with 1729 hits, 334 doubles, 94 HRs & 884 RBIs.

Retirement: After his playing days, he managed & coached in the minor leagues until 1949 when he became a coach for the Cincinnati Reds for three seasons. Then his old team mate Al Lopez now a big league manager, hired him as a coach. The two first worked together with the Cleveland Indians & then with the Chicago White Sox. He got to coach in two World Series; 1954 with the Indians losing to the New York Giants & then 1959 with the Go Go White Sox. He was on the losing end both times.

In Game #2 of the 1959 Series Cuccinello was coaching at third base & was involved at in a controversial play. The Sox had a runner on second & future Met Sherm Lollar on at first base. Al Smith doubled, the first run scored and Cuccinello waved home Lollar to attempt to score. He was thown out by a mile, the Dodgers wnt on to win the game & eventually the series. The Chicago press & fans blamed Cuccinello for the loss but his friend Al Lopez stood up for him, saying the odds were against the Dodgers making the play. He moved on to coach in Detroit in 1967 & in 1968 was part of the Tigers World Championship team.

Family: Tony is the brother of former New York Giants player Al Cuccinello & the uncle of Sam Mele who went on to manage the Minnesota Twins during their sixties hey days. Tony Cuccinello passed away in 1995 of congestive heart failure at the age of 85 in Tampa, Florida.

Alfred Edward Cuccinello was born on August 26, 1914 in Long Island City, Queens, New York. He is the brother of All Star Second baseman Tony Cuccinello who played four seasons with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Tony also played with the Cincinnati Reds, Boston Braves, Chicago White Sox & half a season with the New York Giants (1940).

Al hit .320 during his first year of minor league ball & when he began the next season hitting over .300 again, he was called up to the Giants team. Al was one of three Giants second baseman in 1935, along with Mark Koeing who saw the most time & Hughie Critz. His first game at the Polo Grounds was at the end of May in a double header against his brother’s team, the rival Brooklyn Dodgers. Al hit a two run HR that day along with Mel Ott lifting the Giants to an 8-3 victory.

On July 5th back at the Polo Grounds both Cuccinello brothers hit HRs for their respective teams, becoming the first big league brothers to hit HRs in a game while opposing each other. This has only been done six more times since 1935. Al ended the year batting .248 with 4 HRs & 20 RBIs. Cuccinello booted the ball 13 times in the 48 games he played at second, but turned 26 double plays posting a .964 fielding percentage.

In 1936 he was back at AAA Rochester where he hit .310. He played in the minor leagues through the 1938 season, ending his baseball career. After five minor league seasons he batted .293 with 17 HRs playing in 479 games.

Retirement: After his playing days he became an MLB scout. He moved to Malvern, New York on Long Island. He passed away there at the age of 89 in 1993.

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