Player: Donatelli, Augie
Card: 1955 Bowman #313
“My parents were from Italy. They immigrated over here around l900, and my father, Tony, went to work in the coal mines. There were eight children in our family; I was number five. The oldest and youngest were girls; the rest boys. All the boys worked in the mines. It was dangerous and hard work, but what else were you going to do? I started even before graduating from high school. Times were tough then because of the Depression. Jobs were scarce, so I was glad to have the work. I did everything – worked outside as a coal dumper and inside as a loader and a spragger.” (Augie Donatelli)
August Joseph Donatelli (b. August 22, 1914 in Heilwood, PA – d. May 24, 1990 in St. Petersburg, FL) was an American umpire in Major League Baseball who worked in the National League from 1950 to 1973. Highly regarded for his ability, he was also known for his inclination to eject players and managers quickly and dramatically. He was on the cover of the first issue of Sports Illustrated, with catcher Wes Westrum and batter Eddie Mathews, in August 1954.
After enjoying a 14-game career as a minor league infielder in 1938, he served in the Army Air Forces’ Eighth Air Force during World War II and spent 15 months as a German prisoner of war after flying 18 missions as a tailgunner on a B-17. His plane was shot down during the first daylight raid on Berlin, and he suffered a broken ankle upon parachuting. He began umpiring softball games while a POW before being freed when Soviet troops overran the area. He and another prisoner escaped during a forced march but were recaptured.
After the war he opted for an umpiring career rather than return to the coal mines near his hometown, and after graduating from Bill McGowan’s school in 1946 worked in the Pioneer League in 1946, the South Atlantic League in 1947, and the International League in 1948–49.
He was on the league staff for 24 seasons, and during this time he umpired two National League Championship Series, including the first one in 1969, five World Series, and four All-Star Games. Moreover, he was the home-plate umpire for four no-hitters: Warren Spahn (1961), Carl Erskine (1956), Ken Johnson (1964), and Bob Moose (1969). In 1955, his fifth year in the majors, Donatelli was voted “the best National League umpire on the bases” by baseball writers. He was also not above praising a ballplayer like Bob Ramazzotti.
In February 1973 he received the Al Somers award as the Outstanding Major League Umpire of 1972; that the first two Somers awards, voted on by umpires, went to Al Barlick and Nestor Chylak, universally regarded as the premier arbiters in the National and American Leagues respectively, indicates Donatelli’s recognized stature within the umpiring profession.
Donatelli is widely regarded as having been a primary force in the creation of the first umpires’ union, the Major League Umpires Association, in 1964. He lost his position as crew chief immediately afterward.
Find out more about Augie in the book “Augie” by John Bacchia at: https://www.augiedonatelli.com/
AJ is also part of the Military Service during Wartime Tour – go to the Next Stop
AJ is also part of the Umpires Tour – Go to the Next Stop
View all Augie’s baseball cards at TCDB
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