Card: 1980 TCMA Arkansas Travelers #5
John Edward "Sonny" Ruberto (b. January 2, 1946 in Staten Island, NYC – d. March 25, 2014 in Ave Maria, FL) was a backup catcher and pinch runner in Major League Baseball who played over parts of two seasons for the San Diego Padres (1969) and the Cincinnati Reds (1972).
Sonny was a two-time all-city (nyc) catcher at Curtis High School, made it to the major leagues as a player with the 1969 Padres and 1972 Reds, and as a coach with the 1977 and 1978 Cardinals. In between, he played all nine positions in a minor-league game; was a manager at 24; threw out 22 consecutive baserunners; and accounted for all three outs in an inning, throwing out two runners and picking the third off base.
Interestingly, while playing for Sparky Anderson and the St. Petersburg Cardinals in 1966, Ruberto played in what was the longest game in organized baseball history up to that time; he was the starting catcher in the June 14th game against the Miami Marlins. The 29-Inning Minor League Marathon took place on a balmy June evening at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg, Florida with 740 fans in attendance.
The first runs of the game came in the bottom of the seventh, as the Cardinals drew first blood. With no outs, Cardinals first baseman Terry Milani popped a single into right field and advanced to second base on shortstop Steve Myshrall’s throwing error. Sonny followed with a bunt in front of home plate. Marlins catcher Charlie Sands fielded the ball cleanly, but threw wildly past first baseman Dick Hickerson, allowing Milani to score and Ruberto to move all the way to third base.
Shortstop Frank Rodriguez then singled, plating Ruberto, and the Cardinals flew ahead, 2–0, but the Marlins tied it sending it into extra innings. As the game went deeper and deeper into extra innings, the players became more aware of the historic significance that was building around them. Ruberto fondly recounts, “I don’t remember who took the photo, but I think it was the twenty-sixth inning, one of the Marlins ran out there. Someone ran out there and took a picture of the scoreboard.” He added, “Then word started spreading that this was the longest game in the history of professional ball and we said, ‘Really?’”
Luckily for Sonny, he moved to shortstop in the 10th inning and did not have to crouch for the entire affair, unlike his opponent, Charlie Sands. The Marlins scored in the 29th inning to take the game 4-3.
The title for longest pro game was eclipsed on April 18, 1981 at McCoy Stadium in Rhode Island between the Triple-A International League’s Rochester Red Wings and Pawtucket Red Sox.
The contest was halted after 32 innings with the score tied at 2–2 in the wee hours, when the umpiring crew ruled it would be continued at a later date. The conclusion would come more than two months later, on June 23, 1981, when Pawtucket’s Dave Koza singled off of Cliff Speck in the 33rd inning, scoring teammate Marty Barrett and giving the PawSox the victory, 3–2.
After his playing days, Ruberto worked as a Minor league manager and coach in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. He also operated a photography business in St. Louis and resided there with his family for 26 years. In 2007, Sonny was inducted into the Staten Island, NY Sports Hall of Fame.
Sonny is part of the New York City Born Player Tour – Go to the Next Stop
Sonny is part of the Cincinnati Reds Player Tour – Go to the Next Stop
See Sonny’s baseball cards at TCDB
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