*Italian Heritage Doubtful/Unlikely
Card: 2020 Aceo LJACards Scotts Head Tobacco
Michael Richard Balenti (July 3, 1886 – August 4, 1955) was a Major League Baseball shortstop and left fielder who played 70 games for the Cincinnati Reds and the St. Louis Browns in 1911 and 1913, respectively.
Balenti's father was an immigrant from Hungary who settled in Oklahoma, and his mother was half-Cheyenne and served as an interpreter for Army General Philip Sheridan. His maternal grandfather, Charles Rath, was the namesake of Rath City, Texas. Balenti's mother was born of Charles Rath's marriage to a Cheyenne woman named Making-Out-Roads. Balenti himself was born of his mother's marriage to a Hungarian immigrant. Charles Rath's later marriage to a white woman bore him a son named Morrie Rath, against whom Balenti played in the American League without knowing they were related.
Mike Balenti was Jim Thorpe's quarterback at the Carlisle Indian School, which was both a high school and a college. He signed with the Philadelphia Athletics and played baseball in the minor leagues in 1909, but then went on to play football at Texas A&M University, where he led the team to an undefeated season. There were protestations that Texas A&M was using professional players (including Balenti) but they led nowhere. He returned to the minor leagues in 1910, playing for the Savannah Indians of the South Atlantic League, then began 1911 with the Macon Peaches of the same circuit.
Blessed with great speed and an excellent arm for an infielder, Mike made his major league debut with the Cincinnati Reds in 1911, but played only 8 games. He also played with the St. Louis Browns in 1913, spending the entire season with the team, but his lack of hitting meant that he did not stick in the major leagues, as he hit .180 in 70 games that season. He played in the minor leagues until 1917.
After his playing career, he managed the Guthrie team in the Oklahoma State League in 1922 and the Blackwell Gassers of the Southwestern League in 1926. Between the two stints, he was back as a player for the Henryetta Hens of the Western Association in 1923.
Balenti married an Alaska Native, Cecilia Baronovich, who he met while attending Carlisle Indian School. They lived among the Cheyenne in Oklahoma part-time and among Cecilia's people in Alaska during the offseasons. On at least one occasion it took Balenti two months to travel from his minor league club's home in Chattanooga to his offseason home in Alaska.
After retirement, when he wasn’t busy with sports, Mike farmed his 160 acres in Oklahoma. In the 1930 US Census, he listed his occupation as bookkeeper at a garage. Ten years later, he was a foreman for a highway construction firm. He eventually found employment at the Altus Air Force Base in the 1950s. In 1950 he consented to let himself be portrayed in the movie Jim Thorpe – All American. It’s unclear who portrayed him or even if his character made it into the movie, since there is no one credited as portraying Mike Balenti.
Mike is part of the Cincinnati Reds Player Tour – Go to the Next Stop
*Mike is also part of the Italian Ancestry Unsure/Doubtful Tour – Next Page
See all Mike’s baseball cards at TCDB
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