All-Time Italian American MLB All-Star Team

Ahead of the MLB All-Star Game in Los Angeles, we compiled a team of the greatest baseball players of Italian heritage in the history of America’s national pastime. 

Italian Americans have been a part of the rich fabric of Major League Baseball for over a century. Ed Abbaticchio, considered to be the first Italian American to play professionally, made his debut with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1897. His career is fascinating and worth an article of his own.


Perhaps Francesco Stephano Pizzolo, who eventually changed his name to Ping Bodie to counteract the many indignities Italian Americans were facing in the United States at that time, is the first Italian-American to make an impact. Bodie made his debut with the White Sox in 1911, with 97 RBI as a rookie, and when he joined the New York Yankees in 1918, he became the first Italian American to wear pinstripes, delighting the many Italians who lived in New York City. By the time he joined the Yankees, Bodie was more of a personality than he was a standout ballplayer, but his high profile was the foundation for the influx of Italian Americans to follow. In compiling an Italian-American All-Star Team, considerable research is needed. 


America Domani examined the careers of over 800 Italian American baseball players who have appeared in Major League Baseball. We considered their stats and key contributions, era of play, number of championships, and the lasting cultural impact of each player. The list below represents our selection for MLB All-Star starting lineup of Italian-Americans. We welcome your comments, questions, and debates.


1B - JASON GIAMBI

“Winning depends on where you put your priorities. It's usually best to put them over the fence.” - Jason Giambi


The numbers are impressive, slashing .277/.399/.516 with 440 home runs and 1,441 RBI in his 20-year career. Giambi appeared on five All-Star teams, won two Silver Sluggers, and won the 2000 MVP honors. He drove in 100 or more runs seven times and led the AL in OBP three times. Like many players who put up huge numbers during the Steroid Era, Giambi’s legacy is tainted by his admission that he used PEDs during his career. However, unlike other notable sluggers of that time, he not only admitted his transgressions but emerged as a humble team leader who played through injury and the controversy that surrounded his later years.


2B - TONY LAZZERI

“Tony Lazzeri didn’t discover America, but Christopher Columbus never went behind third for an overthrow to cut off the tying run in the ninth inning.” - The New York Times


This selection was difficult at first glance, as it’s hard to ignore the career of Houston Astros second baseman Craig Biggio, who finished his career with 3,060 hits. But after looking deeper into the numbers and the era in which they played, while much can be said about Biggio’s longevity, Tony “Poosh-'em-up” Lazzeri’s power numbers and impact get the nod here. Lazzeri played for six New York Yankees pennant winners from 1926-37, and over his 12-year career in pinstripes, batted .293 with 1784 hits, 327 doubles, 115 triples, 169 home runs, and 1157 RBI. The rallying cry of “Poosh-’em-Up!” from Italian American fans at Yankee Stadium was the expression of joy that one of their own was starring on a might Yankees team.


3B - RON SANTO

"What set Ron Santo apart from so many other great ball players were three key ingredients: Determination, excellence, and dedication." - Johnny Bench


Santo had a remarkable career, finishing with five Gold Gloves, a .277 average, 342 home runs, 1,331 RBI, 1,108 walks, and 1,138 runs scored. He was also named to nine All-Star teams. It’s one of the great injustices in MLB history that Ron Santo wasn't inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame until after his death. According to Lawrence Baladassaro’s brilliant book “Baseball Italian Style,” Ron’s father, Louis Santo, was born in Foggia, Italy, and came to America as a teenager. His son Ron grew up in the heart of “Garlic Gulch,” Seattle’s Italian district. Santo, who died in 2010, wasn’t enshrined until 2012.


SS - PHIL RIZZUTO

"My best pitch is anything the batter grounds, lines, or pops in the direction of Phil Rizzuto." - Vic Raschi


Most people recall Phil Rizzuto as a beloved broadcaster and pitchman, but when he played shortstop for the New York Yankees, he was considered one of the most important players on the field. Hall of Famer Ted Williams once remarked: “If the Red Sox would have had Phil, we would have won all those pennants.” High praise came from the Splendid Splinter, and it was deserved. With Rizzuto at short, the Yankees won eight World Series, and 10 AL pennants during his 13 seasons with the club. His stats don’t pop out at you, (.273, 38 HRs, and 562 runs batted in.), but he was selected to five All-Star Games, and in 1950, his .324 batting average, and 66 RBI runs earned him the AL MVP.


OF - JOE DIMAGGIO

“I knew every big leaguer when I was growing up, but Joe DiMaggio was my hero. He was our hero; he was everything we wanted to be.” - Tommy Lasorda


Limited to just 13 seasons because of his World War II service and lingering injuries, Joe DiMaggio is still considered the greatest Italian American to play the game. His numbers tell only a part of the story, .325 career batting average, 361 home runs, and 1,537 RBIs. He epitomized grace on the field and is considered one of the best center fielders to play the game. He was an All-Star in every season he played, won three MVP Awards, and was an American icon. His teammate, Lefty Gomez, once said, “All the Italians in America adopted him. Just about every day at home and on the road there would be an invitation from some Italian American club.”


OF - CARL FURILLO

”I remember how tough Carl Furillo was, how strong he was, how consistent he was as a player. When he hit a single, it was a bullet. When he hit a homer, it was a rocket. And his arm portrayed his strength.” - Carl Erskine


Yes, Carl Furillo, also known as “Skoonj” short for one of his favorite foods—the Italian seafood dish scungilli – had a powerful throwing arm. But he could also hit. And during his 15 years with the Dodgers, he hit .299, with 192 home runs and had 1,058 runs batted in. His best season was in 1953 when he led the NL with a .344 average. Furillo batted over .300 in four other seasons and drove in 90 or more runs for the Dodgers six times.


OF - ROCKY COLAVITO

"He (Rocky Colavito) was everything a ballplayer should be.” - Terry Pluto


One of the most popular players in Cleveland baseball history, Rocky Colavito’s career speaks for itself. He hit 374 home runs (an average of 33 per season), drove 1,159, and had one of the most powerful throwing arms in MLB history. Playing in Cleveland may have hurt his overall popularity, but his value as a slugger and fielder is evident in his performance. He had 11 seasons of at least 20 HRs, seven seasons of 30 HRs, and three seasons in which he hit at least 40 HRs. As a fielder, Colavito was ranked in the top five of the AL in assists as an outfielder six times (including a league-leading 16 in 1961). As a testament to his stature as an Italian American icon, a statue of Rocky Colavito was unveiled and dedicated in Cleveland’s “Little Italy” in 2021.


C - MIKE PIAZZA

“Mike Piazza is the best right-handed hitter I have ever seen, forget about best-hitting catcher,” - Mike Vaccaro


In 16 seasons, Piazza hit .308, smacked 427 career home runs, drove in 1,335 runs, and had a career OPS of .922. In 19 seasons, Yogi Berra hit .285, hit 358 HRs, drove in 1,175 runs, and had a career OPS of .830. Berra won three MVPs, was a 15-time All-Star and has 10 World Series rings. Piazza never won an MVP, never won a World Series, and made the All-Star Game. Piazza hit 396 homers as a catcher, while Berra hit 306 wearing the tools of ignorance. But if we are picking the best player at the position, it’s a no-brainer. It’s Mike Piazza.


SP - VIC RASCHI

“If there was only one game I had to win, the man I’d want out there on the mound for me would be Vic Raschi.” Tommy Henrich


Known as ”The Springfield Rifle,” Vic Raschi posted a 120-50 W-L record in his eight seasons with the Yankees and finished his 10-year career with a 132-66 record and a 3.72 earned run average. He won 19 games in 1948, then posted 21 wins in three consecutive seasons from 1949-51, and was a four-time All-Star. Raschi made his living with the fastball and was so dominant, that Ted Williams once said, "Vic Raschi is the best pitcher alive. There just can't be anyone as good."


CLOSER - JOHN FRANCO

"John never gives in. That's been his trademark for as long as he's pitched." - Jim Leyland


John Franco’s career was memorable in many ways. Statistically, his 424 saves and 2.89 ERA rank with the very best relievers of all time, and when you look deeper, his ability to compete is even more impressive. Critics will point to Franco having blown 101 saves in his career, but the lefty’s save conversion rate was 81%. When you compare his numbers to someone like Rollie Fingers; 341 saves, 109 blown saves for a conversion rate of 75.8, it gets you thinking. Furthermore, Franco is one of just five pitchers to ever reach the 400-saves plateau, and throughout his career, he saved at least 28 games in a season 11 times and led the NL in saves three times. Perhaps even more impressive is that Franco pitched as long and effectively as he did without overpowering stuff and spent the bulk of his final seasons as a set-up man.

Mark C. Healey

Mark C. Healey is the Editor In Chief of The Wave newspaper in Rockaway, NY. A journalist for more than 25 years, Mark is the author of "Gotham Baseball: New York's All-Time Team." He also worked at Associated Press, and SiriusXM Radio and served as the first online editor of Baseball Digest. Mark was also featured in the ESPN documentary, "Once Upon A Time in Queens.”

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