May 16, 2014

Former Italian / American New York Giants Player: Louis Chiozza (1937-1939)

Louis Peo Chiozza was born on May 17, 1910 in Tallulah, Louisiana. The six foot left handed hitting Chiozza, was raised in Memphis Tennessee becoming an all around athlete in high school. He played baseball, basketball, football, handball, ran track & was also a boxer. He was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1933, getting his MLB debut the next year.
He became the Phillies main second baseman also playing third base & a bit of outfield. In his rookie year he batted .304 with a .357 on base %, 0 HRs 28 doubles 5 triples 34 walks & six hit by pitches (3rd in the league). He became known as one of the fastest men in the game at that time. He stole nine bases which don’t seem like much now, but it put him the league’s top ten back in the 1934 season.

In the first ever night game in baseball history on May 24th, 1935 President Franklin D. Roosevelt pressed a button from the White House which lit up Crosley Field, in Cincinnati. Chiozza made history as he stepped up to the plate as the first batter in that historic night game. That season he also set a record with eleven assists in a game against the Boston Braves. 

Family: His brother Dino Chiozza played in two games for the Phillies that year as well, making them one of baseball’s first big league brothers combo to play on the same team.

In a June 1935 game against Boston, Chiozza hit a ball in the Baker Bowl that a 40 year old Babe Ruth attempted to catch down the line. Ruth couldn’t get to it and the ball rolled around the outfield. The Braves short stop retrieved the ball & threw it to the catcher attempting to nail Chiozza at the plate.

The ump called him out, preventing the inside the park HR. Most people agreed that Chiozza was safe & the call was a sympathy gesture to make up for Ruth’s sloppy play. Even Ruth knew his career was done; he walked off the field and retired two days later. Chiozza would play two more seasons for the Phillies batting .284 & then .297 before getting traded to the New York Giants for the 1937 season.

He was the Giants main third baseman in their 1937 NL Pennant season, but his average fell off to just .232. He stole six bases, hit 4 HRs with 11 doubles & drove in just 29 runs, least among all the Giants main players. In the World Series he went 2-7 (.286) playing in just two Series games against the AL New York club.

By the 1938 season his role became that of a utility player as Mel Ott moved from the outfield to play third base. Chiozza played in 34 games at second base, 16 in the outfield & just one at home.

In 1939 he had a severe collision with outfielder Jo Jo Moore on a pop fly, in which he suffered a compound fracture to his leg. The injury ruined his career at age 30 and he was forced to retire after a failed comeback.

In his si277 with 633 hits, 14 HRs 107 doubles 22 triples 303 runs scored 107 RBIs & a .324 on base % in 616 games played.

Retirement: After his baseball career, he ran a grocery store with his brother. He also ran a liquor store, in Memphis, Tennessee. He was married & had five children, passing away at the age of 61 in 1971.
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