Card: 1936 World Wide Gum v355 #84 (name spelled wrong on front)
One of the greatest pitchers in minor-league history, lanky righthander Louis “Crip” Polli compiled a minor league lifetime record of 263-226 over 22 seasons. Lou pitched three no-hitters at the highest level in the minors, including one in his very last game in organized ball in 1945.
Louis Americo Polli (July 9, 1901 – December 19, 2000), nicknamed "Crip", was a professional baseball relief pitcher. The lanky righthander was the first major league player born in Baveno, Italy, being one of only seven Italian-born players in MLB as of 2017.
At the turn of the century, Vermont quarries actively recruited skilled stonecutters from northern Italy, making them one of the few groups whose immigration was aggressively solicited. They were reputedly the best stonecutters in the world, descended from the men whose skills built Rome and supplied raw stone to Michelangelo. Louis’ father, Battista, was one of that breed. He had already emigrated to Barre at the time of Louis’ birth, and the rest of the family joined him when Louis was only seven months old.
While at Goddard Seminary school, Lou suffered a football injury that briefly put him on crutches, and his classmates branded him “Crip,” short for “Cripple.” Even though he fully recovered from the injury, he retained that nickname his entire life, and it was the name by which most people knew him. Less politically correct times, for sure.
After a late start in professional ball, Polli had the mixed blessing of spending his prime years in the juggernaut New York Yankees organization of the late 1920s and early 1930s. On the one hand, he personally knew immortals such as Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig; on the other, he was held back in the minors when he probably could have been pitching in the big leagues with a less powerful organization.
Polli only played two years of MLB. He first played in the majors with the St. Louis Browns in 1932, pitching 62⁄3 innings with a 5.40 earned run average. Polli would not play again in the major leagues until 1944, a period of 12 seasons, when he pitched 352⁄3 innings for the New York Giants, with a 4.54 earned run average. Polli's MLB career ERA was 4.68.
After retiring from baseball, Lou became the first constable for Barre Town, Vermont, serving until 1970. Over the years he also became Town Agent and Collector of Taxes, and daughter Margaret remembers him staying up late at night computing tax bills in his head–he never used an adding machine. Polli remained in those offices until his retirement at age 80 in 1981, but even in “retirement” he went back to work at a friend’s service station on Washington Street.
At the time of his death in 2000, aged 99, Polli was the oldest living former MLB player.
Lou Polli is part of the Born in Italy Tour – Go to the Next Stop
Lou is also part of the NY/SF Giants Players Tour – Go To the Next Stop
“Crip” is part of the Great Italian American Player Nicknames Tour – Go to the Next Stop
See all of Lou’s baseball cards at TCDB
Visit a random Italian American MLB player: