Italian / American Baseball Commissioner: Bart Giamatti (1989)

Angelo Bartlett Giamatti was born on April 4, 1938 in Edgartown, Massachusetts on Martha’s Vineyard. His grandfather had emigrated from Naples, Italy in early 1900 & his father became an Italian language teacher at Mount Holyoke College. Bartlett grew up in Wakefield , Massachusetts outside of the Springfield area. He attended his junior year in high school overseas in Rome. He returned to attend Yale University, eventually becoming the Yale University from 1976 to 1986.

He was a lifelong die hard Red Sox fan who once said, all he ever wanted to be was “President of the American League”. In 1986 he became President of the National League overseeing the Mets win the World Series.

He suspended Pete Rose in April of 1988 after he shoved Umpire Dave Pallone. During the NLCS between the Dodgers & Mets he suspended L.A. pitcher Jay Howell after he was caught using pine tar. The executives in MLB loved the way Giamatti enforced rules, something he learned by fighting the unions at Yale.

Three years later in 1989, he became the Commissioner of Major League Baseball succeeding Peter Ueberroth. Giamatti helped the game become more fan friendly at ball parks, a strong belief he felt needed to be improved. He made the umpires strictly enforce the balk rule which had become very lax. He also helped support the issue of promoting minorities to positions of managers & executives in baseball.

In August of 1989 with all the scandals of Pete Rose going on, it was Giamatti who worked out a voluntary agreement with Rose. The Dowd report had been submitted to the Commissioner showing bank, phone & betting records proving Rose had bet on his own team while serving as manager.

Giamatti worked out a deal which ended the betting scandal for Rose by permanently banning him from the game avoiding any further punishment.

The one thing baseball has always frowned upon since the days of the 1919 Chicago Black Sox scandal, was gambling within the game. Giamatti was determined to maintain the integrity of the game.

Eight days later, Giamatti passed away from a massive heart attack at age 51 while at his home on Martha’s Vineyard. He was known as a heavy smoker & many people believed the stress of the Pete Rose scandal added to his heat attack. He had served just five months in office before his friend Fay Vincent took over the position.

The 1989 World Series was dedicated to him in his honor. The research center at the Baseball Hall of Fame was named the Giamatti Research Center.& The Little League complex in Bristol, CT, home town of ESPN is also named in his honor.

His son Paul Giamatti is a successful actor who has appeared in Donnie Brasco, Howard Stern’s Private Parts, My Best Friend’s Wedding, The Truman Show, Saving Private Ryan, Planet of the Apes, The Cradle Will Rock, Big Mommas House & John Adams.


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