October 8 – Happy Birthday Ping Bodie
His real name was Francesco Stephano Pezzolo and he holds a dear place in my heart because he was the first player of Italian descent to play for the New York Yankees. He was a legendary slugger in the Pacific Coast League before joining the White Sox in 1911. He played four seasons in Chicago and then a year with the Philadelphia Athletics. The Yankees got him in 1918 and he spent his last four Major League seasons in a New York uniform. He was the starting Yankee right-fielder for two of those years and he was also Babe Ruth’s first Yankee roommate. His best season in New York was 1920 when he drove in 79 runs and hit .295. San Francisco-born Italian Americans who followed Bodie to the Yankees and credited him as their inspiration included Joe DiMaggio, Tony Lazzeri, and Frankie Crosetti.
After he hit just .172 in 1921 both his Yankee and Major League playing careers were over. He went back out west and continued playing in the Pacific Coast League for a while, eventually migrating to Hollywood where he began his second career as an electrician in the movie industry. Bodie became well known on movie sets and created friendships with several of the leading actors and actresses of his day. He died in 1961 at the age of 74.