Jan 13, 2016

One Of Six MLB Players To Be Born In Italy: Reno Bertoia (1953-1962)

Reno Bertoia was one of only six MLB players, to actually be born in the country of Italy. Reno Peter Bertoia was born January 8, 1935 in San Vito al Tagliamento, Udine, Italy.

Udine is located in the North Eastern section of Italy, between the Adriatic Sea & the Alps Mountains.

When Reno was 22 months old, his parents immigrated to Canada and settled in Windsor, Ontario.

His neighbor growing up was Hank Biasatti, who was also born in Italy. Biasatti, would go on to play pro basketball & MLB baseball. Reno Bertoia grew up a Detroit Tiger fan, manily because he was a newspaper boy during their 1945 Championship season. He would learn about Hank Greenberg, Dizzy Trout & Hal Newhauser's Tigers, through the newspaper headlines.

In 1953 Bertoia signed with his favorite team, the Detroit Tigers as a bonus baby, getting to play one game that season. He was the second youngest player in the league at just 18 years old.

In his first game he faced the legendary; Satchel Page and got spiked at second base. He knew he was in the big leagues now. The next season was his actual rookie year and he was roommates with future Hall of Famer & Tiger legend; Al Kaline. The two players, became good friends and Bertoia was an important part of Kaline’s early Tiger years. 

Bertoia would play utility infield for the Tigers for six seasons, struggling at the plate his first three years, never batting higher than .206. His best year in Detroit came in 1957, when he hit a career high .275 with 4 HRs, 16 doubles & 28 RBIs.

In December 1958 after dropping to a .233 average, he was traded along with Jim Delsing & Ron Samford to the Washington Senators for Rocky Bridges, Neil Chrisley and future Mets coach Eddie Yost. In Washington he saw more playing time, becoming the teams main second baseman in 1959, sharing time with Ken Aspromonte.

In 1960 he moved over as the Senators main third baseman having his best year. He posted a .961 fielding % (4th in the league) making only 13 errors in 112 games at third base. At the plate he was third in the AL in triples (7) fourth in getting by pitches (8) fifth in sac hits (13) while batting .265 with four HRs and a career high 45 RBIs.

In 1961 he moved with the team to Minneapolis as an original member of the Minnesota Twins, but was sent to the Kansas City A’s that June as a player to be named later.

He was sent back to Detroit where he finished his MLB career in 1962. Bertoia finished his ten year career with a .244 lifetime average, 425 hits 27 HRs 171 RBIs 60 doubles & .949 fielding % in 612 games played.

Retirement: He played briefly in Japan in 1964 then returned to Windsor, Ontario and became a Catholic School teacher for 30 years. He was honored there, by getting elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1988. 

In May of 2009 he & his wife saw their first professional Italian baseball game at Europeo-Nino Cavalli Stadium, in Parma, Italy. Bertoia was honored as a celebrity in his return to the land of his birth.

In April of 2011, he passed away at age 76, after a battle with lymphoma at Windsor.

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