john Antonelli infielder
Image from SABR.org

Player: Antonelli, John

Card: NO CARD AVAILABLE

Position: 3B/2B

Image from Baseball-Birthdays.com

When he’d get to battling an umpire really good, we’d move the ball bag over so he could do his thing,” one of his former batboys told a reporter about the normally mild-mannered John’s on-field temper “When he’d get thrown out, he’d come over and grab that bag and sling baseballs all over the field.

John Lawrence Antonelli (b. July 15, 1915 in Memphis, TN – d. April 18, 1990 in Memphis, TN) was an American third baseman in Major League Baseball in 1944–45 and a longtime coach and manager at the minor league level.

He was born on July 15, 1915 in Memphis, Tennessee, to John Antonelli, Sr. and Vivian (Solari) Antonelli. John Sr. ran the Faust Cafe and was a New York native whose parents had emigrated from Italy. Vivian was a Memphis native and daughter of a local grocer.

John was one of the youngest and least-experienced managers in minor league baseball annals. In 1935, he signed his first professional contract with his hometown Memphis Chicks of the Southern Association, played in three games, batted 11 times, and garnered two hits for a .182 batting average. He was then assigned, at age 19, to be the playing manager of the Lexington Giants of the Class D KITTY League, where he batted .326 and led the Giants to a 42–44 won/loss mark. Antonelli remained a playing skipper in the KITTY League through 1937, where in his final season he managed the Union City Greyhounds, a farm club of the St. Louis Cardinals, to a first-place finish.

After 1937, he suspended his managing career and was purely a second baseman and third baseman with the Cardinals’ Houston Buffaloes and Columbus Red Birds farm clubs for almost seven full seasons. Antonelli batted over .300 only once, but led his leagues in fielding percentage as both a second- and third baseman.

On September 16, 1944, at age 29, John was recalled by the Cardinals and played his first MLB/National League game. He appeared in eight games for the 1944 Cardinals and two more in the beginning of 1945 before St. Louis swapped him to the Philadelphia Phillies on May 8. he played 125 games for the 1945 Phillies and batted .256. With the end of the World War II manpower shortage, John’s major league playing career ended. In 135 games and 528 at bats, he batted .252 with one home run and 29 runs batted in.

Antonelli’s minor league playing career ended in 1950 as a playing manager, when he led the Hot Springs Bathers to the championship of the Class C Cotton States League. He briefly scouted for the Chicago White Sox in the years following, but largely spent the period of 1951–67 out of professional baseball.

In 1968, the New York Mets established a Double-A Texas League farm team, the Memphis Blues, in John’s hometown and he returned to uniform as a coach. In 1969, Antonelli succeeded Pete Pavlick as Memphis manager’ and held the post until Roy McMillan arrived from Class-A Visalia to take over the helm. Then, in 1970, Antonelli was named the permanent pilot of the Blues, and he continued as a manager in the Mets’ farm system through 1976 with Memphis (1970–72), the Triple-A Tidewater Tides (1973–74), and the Double-A Jackson Mets (1975–76). His career record as a minor league manager was 745–688 (.520).

Antonelli then served as a roving minor league infield instructor in the Mets’ system, through 1985. He died in 1990 in Memphis at the age of 74 and is buried at Calvary Cemetery.

He is mentioned in the song “Van Lingle Mungo.” by David Frishberg, although most listeners think the reference is to his more famous quasi-namesake Johnny Antonelli. The song is clearly about ballplayers from the 1940s, a period when John was active in the major leagues, but not Johnny, who came up in the early 1950s.

(excerpted from SABR, Baseball Almanac, BR Bullpen & Wikipedia)


John is part of the Van Lingle Mungo Song Tour – Go to the Next Stop


John is also part of the St. Louis Cardinals Players Tour – Go to the Next Stop


John is also part of the Philadelphia Phillies Player Tour – Go to the Next Stop


See all John’s baseball cards at TCDB


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