By Father Gabe Costa
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Presently, the hottest Yankees free agent, of course, is Robinson Cano. Reports indicate that amounts of over $300 million (that’s a lot of zeroes!) are being talked about. No doubt this All-Star second baseman is clearly the team’s best player, and should the Bombers lose him, it would be extremely difficult to replace his bat and glove.
If Cano exits the Bronx for greener pastures, he would leave behind a legacy from which most fans would consider him the greatest of all the Yankees’ keystone sackers. Thus far, it is hard to argue that Cano has not already exceeded the records of such stars as Joe Gordon — a relatively recent Hall of Fame inductee) — Bobby Richardson and Willie Randolph. And perhaps even another Hall of Famer, Tony Lazzeri.
Tony Lazzeri? Now there’s a blast from the past.
It was Lazzeri who played alongside the iconic figures of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, and who preceded the great Joe DiMaggio as the first great Italian-American ballplayer. Yet, for some reason, this popular, steady “pro’s pro” has been largely forgotten. So in this installment of By The Number’s, I would like to spotlight Anthony Michael (Tony) Lazzeri.
Lazzeri was born in San Francisco, Calif., on December 6, 1903. The son of Italian immigrants, the olive-colored skinned Lazzeri grew to nearly 6-foot-0 and weighed about 170 pounds in his prime. He threw and batted right-handed.
Lazzeri came up to the Yankees in 1926. He starred for the Bombers for twelve years, leaving the club at the end of the 1937 season. During those years the second baseman anchored the Yankees’ infield and played for six pennant winners and five World Championship teams, including the storied “Greatest Team of All Time”, the 1927 Yankees.
In 1938, he went to the Chicago Cubs and helped them win the National League flag that year.
During the following year, Lazzeri split time with both the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants before finally retiring from the game.
Lazzeri died in San Francisco on August 6, 1946, at the age of 42.
Some interesting tidbits about Lazzeri:
• During his career he racked up nearly 1,200 RBIs and had a lifetime OPS of nearly .850.
• It has been well-documented that Lazzeri was an epileptic, yet there is no record of him ever suffering from a seizure on the playing field.
• Lazzeri was the first of the wave of Italian-Americans who played for the Yankees, In addition to DiMaggio, the Bombers showcased players such as Frankie Crosetti, Marius Russo, Phil Rizzuto, Yogi Berra, Vic Raschi and Billy Martin.
• He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee in 1991.
To learn more about this forgotten Yankee, read this.
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