The second Italian American to gain entrance to major league baseball—and before that, a star fullback for America’s first pro football team.
When Ed “Batty” Abbatticcio became a member of the Philadelphia Athletics in 1897, he was the second Italian American to gain entrance into major league baseball, and the first to gain any true measure of stardom.
Three years out of junior college, the 20-year-old Abbatticcio was a fine all-around athlete who was not only a solid major league ball player, but one that had already been a star fullback and kicker for the first professional gridiron team in the nation, Latrobe, PA. There, he was credited by coach Fielding Yost as the inventor of the “spiral punt.”
Abbatticchio’s baseball career with the Athletics began in 1897 and spanned eight seasons. He also played for Connie Mack in Milwaukee and had a run as shortstop and second baseman for the Boston Bees. It was in Boston that he first decided to retire.
He left the major leagues to manage his father’s hotel in Latrobe in 1906, re-naming it 777 Latrobe House. However, he returned to baseball the next year, joining up with the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 1908, Abbatticchio hit what appeared to be a grand-slam home run during the season’s last game that would have won them the National League Pennant, but it was ruled a foul, and a woman who had been in the stands during the game sued the team, claiming she had been hit by Abbatticcio’s ball. The following year was better for Abbatticcio; in 1909, he played second base and shortstop for the World Champion Pirates, teaming with Hall of Fame’s Honus Wagner as a solid double-play combination for the team. Abbatticchio retired in 1910, finishing out the season with the Boston Doves.
He returned to the hotel business until his retirement to Florida in 1937. He died in 1952, and was elected to the Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in 1980.