Card: 1954 Topps #68
“He... used to fix some of the children's gloves. And if he wasn't able to fix them, he'd tell them to leave the gloves overnight and then he'd go out and buy them a new one. He loved children and he loved baseball.”
Samuel Francis Calderone (b. February 6, 1926 in Beverly, NJ – d. November 28, 2006 in Mount Holly Township, NJ) was a professional baseball catcher who spent three seasons (1950; 1953–54) in Major League Baseball as a member of the New York Giants and Milwaukee Braves. Sammy played baseball, football and golf at Burlington City High School. Primarily a backup, Calderone was known for being a defensive wiz behind the plate.
“I remember he used to always catch Hoyt Wilhelm and I'd always wonder why he had to get behind the plate when there was a knuckleballer out there,” Angie Calderone said with a laugh. “But he loved to play. He once went 33 consecutive games catching that knuckleball without making an error.”
Calderone first signed with the Giants' archrivals, the Brooklyn Dodgers, in 1945 but could not make the Major League team, despite batting .317, .293 and .316 in successive minor league seasons. He was selected by New York in the 1949 Rule 5 draft and spent the 1950 season as the backup to regular Giant catcher Wes Westrum, batting .299 in 34 games and 67 at bats. He served in the United States Army during the Korean War and lost the 1951–1952 seasons to military service.
One of his teammates on the 1951 Fort Myer, Virginia, Army team was Boston Braves southpaw pitcher Johnny Antonelli, and a year after Calderone returned to baseball, he and Antonelli would figure in a major trade between the Giants and the Milwaukee Braves prior to the 1954 season. In the deal, the Giants' 1951 hero Bobby Thomson and Calderone were swapped to Milwaukee for Antonelli, pitcher Don Liddle, catcher Ebba St. Claire, infielder Billy Klaus and $50,000. Antonelli would help lead the 1954 Giants to the world championship, going 21–7, leading the National League in earned run average, and picking up a win and a save against the Cleveland Indians in the Giants' World Series sweep.
Calderone, meanwhile, served as the Braves' third-string receiver that season and batted only 29 times, although he rang up 11 hits for a .379 average. He was sent to the Pacific Coast League for 1955 and finished his playing career in Triple-A in 1958. He managed in the Giants' minor league system briefly before leaving baseball. All told, Calderone appeared in 91 Major League games, batting 141 times with 41 hits.
Upon his retirement from baseball, Sam Calderone stayed around the game. He coached various teams in Burlington County and could often be found having a simple game of catch with the neighborhood children.
Sam Calderone died at age 80 in Mount Holly Township, New Jersey. According to his obituary, Calderone had been battling Parkinson's disease. He died on the day that was he and his wife's 53rd anniversary.
Sammy is part of the Military Service during Wartime Tour – go to the Next Stop
Sam is part of the Born in New Jersey Tour – go to the Next Stop
Sam is also part of the New York/SF Giants Players Tour – Go To the Next Stop
Sam is also part of the Braves Players Tour – Go To the Next Stop
See all of Sammy’s baseball cards at TCDB
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