Card: 1973 Topps #276
Joseph Lovitto, Jr. (January 6, 1951 – May 19, 2001) was an American professional baseball player, a center fielder in Major League Baseball who played for the Texas Rangers (1972–1975). He was a switch-hitter and threw right-handed, standing 6 feet (1.8 m) tall and weighing 185 pounds (84 kg). A native of San Pedro, California, Lovitto was a competent outfielder with blazing speed who batted over .300 in his minor league career, but never fulfilled expectations at the Major League level.
Lovitto was the #2 pick in the first round of the January 1969 amateur draft, by the Washington Senators. He moved his way up the minors, most notably hitting over .300 at two stops in 1971, the Pittsfield Senators and Denver Bears.
He made his major league debut in April of 1972, the first season after the Senators had relocated and become the Rangers, and started in center field on Opening Day. As a rookie, Lovitto's manager on the 1972 Rangers was Ted Williams, who was in his last season on the job.
According to some, Lovitto’s had a flippant attitude towards his development as a player, though to others it was his "sense of humor". Ted Williams and his coaching staff likely did not see it as just a quirky sense of humor. An example was Lovitto reportedly telling Williams, when asked if he had read Williams’ book on baseball, “Hell, Ted, I didn’t even know you wrote a book.”
Another is the photo of Joe, in uniform, sitting in the dugout, with his mouth completely filled with a baseball. To complete the picture, there is another story of Ted Williams telling Lovitto he was wasting his talent, which resulted in Lovitto storming from the room and slamming the door in his manager’s face.
In November 1972, Williams resigned and Whitey Herzog was hired to replace him. Brutally honest, Herzog sized up his 1973 Rangers as follows, “Defensively these guys are really substandard, but with our pitching staff, it really doesn’t matter.”
Despite an approach that did not sit well with management, teammates and fans developed a love for Joe, prompting Bill Zeigler (Rangers’ trainer during Lovitto’s tenure with the team) to provide a perspective on him that most of his teammates shared: “Joe was a guy who played hard and aggressively. As I recall he hurt his shoulder on several occasions diving for balls in the outfield. He dressed flamboyantly, with gold chains and such, but his teammates loved him. A very popular guy with all of us.”
After the 1975 season, he was traded to the New York Mets but they released him in March 1976. He was still only 25 but done with major league baseball. One of his former managers, Billy Martin, wrote in his autobiography that Lovitto could have had a great career if not for injuries.
He fought cancer for seven years before passing away in 2001.
This player is not associated with any Baseball Amore Tours.
See all Joe’s baseball cards at TCDB
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