Dreier: Johnny Antonelli and me

From SABR member Peter Dreier at The Hardball Times on March 3, 2020:

Johnny Antonelli, a star pitcher for the New York Giants in the 1950s and my boyhood hero, died at age 89 on Friday.

Some people who get to meet their childhood idols are disappointed to discover they are not very nice people. I was fortunate to meet my boyhood hero and discover he was a warm, gregarious, generous, and humble person.

It happened two summers ago. I was scheduled to give a talk at a symposium at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. A few weeks before my visit to Cooperstown, I wrote a letter to Johnny, who grew up and still lived in Rochester (three hours from Cooperstown), and asked if I could take him lunch. I explained that in 1954 – when I was six years old — my uncle Augie, the day after going to a game at the Polo Grounds, brought me an 8-by 11-inch glossy photo of Johnny in his New York Giants uniform, posing as though he had just completed his follow-through. In the upper right-hand corner, in dark black ink, it said: “To Peter Dreier (a future major leaguer) Your friend, Johnny Antonelli.”

It was my first baseball autograph, and I have treasured it ever since, making sure whenever I moved, it came with me. Sixty-four years later, I still had the photo. The ink had faded, but it was still legible. My wife had the good sense to put it in a frame as a birthday present. I included a copy of that photo in my letter to Johnny, hoping it might entice him to allow me to visit him.

Read the full article here: https://tht.fangraphs.com/johnny-antonelli-and-me/

Originally published: March 5, 2020. Last Updated: March 5, 2020.