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Alfred Stephen Gardella was born on January 11, 1918, in Bronx, New York City. He was the second of four children born to Albert and Henrietta Gardella. His father was a mason who specialized in fancy inlaid marble floors for banks. His mother, who emigrated from Italy in 1912, stayed at home with the children. The Gardella family lived on East 188th Street in the Fordham Road section of the Bronx.
According to his daughter, “Al started playing baseball in New York as a child. His father was a hard taskmaster, and when Al made a glove for himself, his father destroyed it.” Al and Danny grew up playing with Bronx sandlot and club teams. Al attended Roosevelt High School, where he was named to the All-Scholastic baseball team in 1935. In 1936 he worked at the Hotel New Yorker and played first base on the hotel’s baseball team. He caught the eye of New York Yankees scouts, who signed him to a contract.
After kicking around the minors from 1939-1945, Gardella, who was 4-F due to severe varicose veins in his legs, signed with Jersey City of the Double-A International League and won the starting job at first base. The Sporting News described Gardella as “a slick article around the initial sack,” and his contract was purchased by the slumping New York Giants on May 16. He was expected to replace injured first baseman Phil Weintraub. His brother Danny was in his second year with the club.
Al made his major-league debut on May 17th, 1945 when he was Weintraub’s ninth-inning replacement in an 8-5 win over Chicago. His brother Danny also played, making them one of nearly 100 sets of brothers who played together in the major leagues. They appeared in 13 more contests over the next few weeks. Noting Al’s debut, the New York Sun said he “figured in three consecutive putouts and handled himself as though he knew what it was all about, despite the fact that he has had no experience with a big minor league club, other than a few games with the Little Giants.”
Hitless in three pinch-hitting appearances in Pittsburgh, Al Gardella got his first start on June 2 in St. Louis, where he stroked his first major-league hit, a ninth-inning single to center off Al Jurisich. He also walked twice and scored a run in a 3-2 Giants win. His only other major-league hit was a second-inning infield single off Brooklyn’s Vic Lombardi on June 5.
During the spring of 1946, Jorge Pasquel’s Mexican League was offering major-league players generous bonuses and salaries to jump across the border to play baseball. His brother Danny was the first to sign and 21 others followed. One who didn’t was Al’s friend, Phil Rizzuto, who was offered a $15,000 signing bonus and a five-year contract for $12,000 per season.
The offer was initially conveyed to Rizzuto by Al, who received it from Danny. Phil’s wife, Cora, was pregnant with their son Phil Jr. and Rizzuto confided to Al that he didn’t think he could continue playing for the Yankees because he couldn’t afford it. Al told him not to accept the offer; if he did he would never be able to play in the US again. He told Rizzuto to use the offer to negotiate a better deal from the Yankees. Phil took Al’s advice and the Yankees gave him a $5,000 raise. Rizzuto once told Al’s daughter that he “owed Al his career.”
Gardella spent his offseasons working on the New York docks and in a variety of sales positions. During the winter of 1949-1950, he worked in a New York power plant. In the winter of 1952-53, he worked as an inspector at a Radford, Virginia, arsenal.
Overall, Al's MLB career consisted of 26 at bats in 16 games for the NY Giants in 1945. He later managed in the minor leagues after his playing career ended, bringing his total time in professional baseball to 16 years. After leaving pro baseball, Al worked at Yale & Towne Corporation, a lock manufacturer as a time study engineer from 1953-79. He died at 88 on September 10, 2006, in Coral Springs, Florida.
This player has no additional cards on Baseball Amore.
Al is part of the New York/SF Giants Players Tour – Go To the Next Stop
Al is part of the New York City Born Player Tour – Go to the Next Stop
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