A solid hitter who retired with a .307 average–remembered as the colorful first baseman who refused to flag a ground ball.
Henry James “Zeke” Bonura had a short career in baseball, but it was a colorful one. Known as “Banana Nose,” Bonura will be remembered as the slow-moving first baseman who refused to touch any ball he couldn’t catch. He is cited as a poor fielder, though he led the American League for three years in fielding averages due to an absence of errors.
Though he was popular with fans, he left managers understandably frustrated. His trademark was a wave with his glove that signaled his refusal to flag a ground ball. Bonura hit 27 home runs and drove in 110 runs during his rookie year with the White Sox, but that was not enough to prevent a trade to Washington in 1938. Bonura would also play for the Giants and the Chicago Cubs before his retirement in 1940.
Despite his less-than-stellar reputation as a fielder, Bonura’s skill as a ballplayer was undeniable. He played in over 900 games, hit 119 home runs, drove in 704 runs, and retired with an average of .307. In 1925, prior to his career in the major leagues, he was an AAU Javelin Champion.
Zeke Bonura died on March 9, 1987, and was elected to the National Italian Sports Hall of Fame in 1988