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Joe Pignatano Autographs, Memorabilia & Collectibles

Born: August 04, 1929 in New York City, New York
Died: May 23, 2022 in Naples, Florida
Biography | show moreshow less
Joe Pignatano
This article was written by Paul Hirsch and is presented in part, courtesy of the Society for American Baseball Research

Joe Pignatano was almost out of baseball within a month of his debut. Instead, his mother intervened and he enjoyed 38 years in the game, 27 of those in the majors as a player and coach. He was the bullpen coach for the 1969 Miracle Mets, and the backup catcher to John Roseboro on the 1959 Cinderella Dodgers team that upset the Braves in a playoff and knocked off the White Sox in the World Series.

Let’s start with his near-early exit from the game that became his life’s work. “I signed with the Dodgers in 1948 after a tryout with 50 other players. They signed two of us,” he remembered. “I was first sent to Sheboygan, Wisconsin, where I didn’t play at all. Then I went to Cairo, Illinois.” Pignatano played in three Class D games for Cairo. In those games, he hit .375, scored and drove in two runs, and got “a standing ovation for catching a popup. No other catcher had caught a foul popup for them.”

As a reward, Pignatano was released a few days later and was sent back to his home in Brooklyn with a check for $127 and no cash in his pocket. Pignatano traveled 27 hours without food since he could not cash the check. He was sleeping in a train station in Chicago when a cop roused him and told him he couldn’t sleep there. “I explained that I had no money and was catching a train in the morning,” said Pignatano. The police officer then took Pignatano to a hotel, paid for the room, and made sure he would be awakened in time to make his train.

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