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Joseph Francis Giannini (b. September 8, 1888 in Drytown, CA – d. September 26, 1942in San Francisco, CA) was a shortstop in Major League Baseball who played briefly for the Boston Red Sox during the 1911 season. He was signed by the Boston Red Sox out of the University of San Francisco.
His father, Giacomo, was born in Canton Ticino, in the Italian area of Switzerland, in April 1846 and was a farmer in Drytown, which was founded in the 1840s during the California Gold Rush. (Its name may refer to the lack of gold, which was panned from rivers and streams, not to the lack of whiskey.) Giacomo is listed as divorced in the 1900 Census; his ex (and Joe’s mother) was Mary Esola Giannini, born in Italy around 1865 and arriving in the United States in 1871 (naturalized in 1888, the likely year of Joe’s birth). Joe was the couple’s only child.
Joe was a major leaguer whose career, statistically speaking, was only slightly different from that of Eddie Gaedel or Moonlight Graham. He played one game in major league baseball, on August 7, 1911, for the Boston Red Sox against Cleveland. Smoky Joe Wood was pitching for the Red Sox. It was his second start after his July 29 no-hitter. Steve Yerkes was out after hurting the index finger on his throwing hand on August 6, so Giannini started the game at shortstop.
He had a tough day at the park. The Boston Herald claimed, “It was his general all around weakness that allowed the Naps to secure the majority of their half a dozen runs tallied in the sixth inning.” The New York Times concurred, leading its brief game account, “The errors of Giannini, a Red Sox shortstop recruit from the Pacific Coast, together with four hits, including a homer by Lajoie, netted Cleveland six runs in the sixth inning and gave them the game today, 8 to 3.” [New York Times, August 8, 1911]
In the field, Giannini was charged with two errors, both in the sixth inning. The Indians scored two runs on Lajoie’s inside-the-park home run. Then, with one out and two men on base, Fisher hit a tailor-made double-play ball to Giannini. Joe threw wildly to Heinie Wagner at second and the bases were loaded.
The next batter hit a grounder that reporters thought Giannini should have reached, but he did not. Two runs scored. A double steal moved the runners up. A grounder hit right at Giannini went through his feet, and he was charged with his second error of the inning, while the fifth and sixth runs of the inning crossed home plate. After Wood struck out the final batter, a change was made at short and Joe G was given the rest of the day off. The Herald noted, “[Billy] Purtell was played after that disastrous showing, and was a big improvement.”
He died in San Francisco, California, at age 54. At the time of his death on September 26, 1942, by heart attack in San Francisco, Joe was an assistant manager at the Bank of America. The Bank of America grew out of the Bank of Italy, founded by A.P. Giannini in San Francisco. Coincidence? Apparently. Librarians at the San Francisco Public Library have been unable to trace any connection between Joe and A.P., despite consulting the various resources available to them.
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