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Antonio Joseph Vitelli (b. April 12, 1908 in McKees Rock, PA – d. February 7, 1967 in Pittsburgh, PA) was a Major League Baseball pitcher who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1944 and 1945. His parents, Italian natives Dominico and Piffaela Vitelli, had emigrated to the United States before he was born. His dad worked as a laborer on the railroads in Pittsburgh, and his mom ran a boarding house. Joe grew up only nine miles from Forbes Field, where he eventually would pitch.
Joe was a pitcher for eleven years (1931-1945) - two in the Majors (1944-1945) and nine in the minors (1931-1935; 1937-1940), losing two years to the Military and two years to inactivity. Vitelli broke into Organized Baseball in 1931 at age 23 with the Decatur Commodores and then was with the Cumberland Colts in the Middle Atlantic League (7-6, 4.43 in 1932), the Wheeling Stogies in the Middle Atlantic League (1933) and the Johnstown Johnnies in the Middle Atlantic League (1933-1934). He was 16-9, 3.23 for Wheeling and Johnstown in '33, third in the MAL in wins. In 1934, he was 7-3, 4.33.
Vitelli then appeared with the Norfolk Tars in the Piedmont League (5-4, 3.94 in 1935) and Akron before going with the Albany Senators in the New York-Penn League in 1937 and remaining with them through 1940; the league was renamed the Eastern League in 1938. Overall in the minors, he was 71-52.
In March 1942 he was inducted into the U.S. Army 628th Reconnaissance Company during World War II at Camp Livingston, LA. In May 1944 he joined the Pittsburgh Pirates as a batting practice pitcher but during the season he appeared in 4 games for them, and, at 36 years of age, broke into the big leagues on May 30, 1944.
On the day he broke in, Pittsburgh was playing the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field on May 30, and after the fifth inning with Brooklyn comfortably ahead, 7-0, manager Frankie Frisch called upon Vitelli for some mop-up work. He was pretty impressive in his inaugural appearance, and Ed Balinger of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette observed that “Vitelli then showed that in addition to pitching batting practice . . . , he can turn in a very neat rescue job. He allowed only one of the 12 Brooklyn swats and the two runs off him resulted from bad support"
His four games were all in relief with no decisions, finishing all four, striking out two, walking seven and hitting one batsman with an ERA of 2.57 and a WHIP of 1.714. In 1945 he appeared in one game for the Pirates as a pinch runner, but then quit the team because they wouldn't give him a chance to pitch so he could make more money. He played his final MLB game on May 30, 1945 at age 37 and the Pirates released him on June 14, 1945.
He worked for Allegheny County, PA for years, serving as head of its baseball clinics. He died at age 58 at a VA Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA on February 7, 1967 and is buried at St. Mary's Cemetery in McKees Rocks, PA. Even though his own baseball career culminated in disillusionment and disappointment, in the end his contribution to youth baseball in the city of Pittsburgh crowned his life in the game with success.
This player has no additional cards on Baseball Amore.
Joe is part of the Military Service during Wartime Tour – go to the Next Stop
Joe is also part of the Pittsburgh Pirates Players Tour – Go To the Next Stop
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