I finished paying my respects to Thomas “Tommy” Irwin and carefully made my way back to the vehicle. Before I left this spot, I wanted to pay my respects to another baseball player who rested nearby, on the opposite side of the roadway from Irwin’s resting place. Note: more about Irwin can be found here: Thomas “Tommy” Irwin.
I paused in front of my vehicle and scanned the field of stone – I could see the name “Ramazzotti” engraved on a stone a short walk away and started towards it. As I approached toward the granite marker, I could see an American flag flapping over the flat, stone marker next to the family memorial. Pausing at the stone, I could see it remembered Robert Ramazzotti and his service during World War Two, but nothing on it – or the family stone – notes his career as a professional baseball player.
Ramazzotti should have been a break-out star and noted baseball player, but his career was hampered by a plague of bad luck and unfortunate events.
Robert “Bob” Louis Ramazzotti was born January 16, 1917 to Paola and Madalena Ramazzotti who had settled in Altoona after immigrating from Italy. Ramazzotti attended Altoona High School, graduating in 1936 and soon after began playing baseball for the Columbia Park team of the Altoona City League.
In 1939, Ramazzotti tried out for the Pittsburgh Pirates who saw potential in the young player. They were impressed with his abilities and offered him a contract. Ramazzotti responded by turning down the offer – the pay was not enough to cover the expense of his room and board. That August, Bill Killefer, a Brooklyn Dodgers scout, arrived in Altoona to watch Ramazzotti and signed him to the Brooklyn Dodgers.
On May 10, 1940 Ramazzotti made his professional debut as a shortstop with the Johnstown Johnnies. He made a big impression in that first game hitting a grand slam to help the Johnnies in their 15-8 win over McKeesport. His debut season ended with 143 hits, thirty doubles, six triples and eleven homeruns.
With a solid first season, Ramazzotti was sent to the Durham Bulls of the Class B Piedmont League for the 1941 season. He again had a solid season and was sent to the Triple A league in Montreal for the 1942 season. Ramazzotti would not play in the 1942 season – he left baseball to serve as a Staff Sergeant for the 71st Infantry Division during World War Two.
After being honorably discharged in 1946, Ramazzotti made his return to baseball in time for the 1946 season, singing with the Brooklyn Dodgers. That season, the Dodgers moved to Cincinnati and Ramazzotti was moved from shortstop to third base.
The following year, Ramazzotti was sent to the St. Paul Saints, where his season came to an abrupt end on Thursday, August 7 – a night that almost cost him his life. The Saints were playing the Columbus Redbirds when Ramazzotti was hit in the left temple by a fastball pitched by Otey Clark. Ramazzotti’s skull was fractured in three places and he was listed as serious, but stable condition. On Saturday August 9, it was discovered he had a blood clot in his brain and had to be operated on. The surgery was successful and Ramazzotti returned to Altoona to recover. In January 1948 it was discovered the blood clot had returned and after another surgery, he had a metal plate placed in his head.
Determined to return to baseball, Ramazzotti attended the Dodgers spring training in the Dominican Republic, only a couple months after his surgery. Despite overwhelming odds, Ramazzotti managed to make the Dodgers’ 1948 roster. However, he would only appear in four games before being sent back to the St. Paul Saints. The following year he once again made the Dodgers roster, but only played five games before being traded to Chicago. Ironically, Ramazzotti would make his first appearance with the Cubs against the Dodgers. Note: in many regional newspaper articles, it is reported he was traded to Chicago in 1950, but his baseball statistics show the trade happened in the 1949 season.
The 1950 season saw Ramazzotti only making an occasional appearance until June when he was placed at second base. The errors that plagued Ramazzotti previously seemed over.
Then July 2, 1950 happened.
Chicago was playing Cincinnati and Ramazzotti was playing second base. The Cubs were winning 12-0 when Eddie Erautt slid into second base and spiked Ramazzotti in the left forearm. Ramazzotti received eleven stitches and was taken out of the game for two weeks while he recovered. He returned to second base, but only a couple days after his return Ramazzotti injured his knee while attempting a double play and was out for a month. On his return Ramazzotti found himself on the bench and would only make a handful of appearances for the rest of the season.
The start of the 1951 season saw Ramazzotti again on the bench. On July 18, 1951 he took over the shortstop position after Jack Cusick was injured. Ramazzotti played the remainder of the season at shortstop, and though he gave his all for the game, the Cubs finished last in their division that season.
The 1952 season almost didn’t happen for Ramazzotti. At the end of spring training, there was no place for him on the roster, until Bud Harden injured his arm and Ramazzotti found himself on the opening day roster. As a starting member of the Cubs’ roster, Ramazzotti’s bad luck once again seemed to be over. However, his good luck came to an abrupt end on the opening day of the 1952 season against Cincinnati. Eddie Miksis had doubled and in the process of running to second base had injured his leg. Ramazzotti sent out to pinch run. Cincinnati pitcher Herm Wehmeier attempted to pick Ramazzotti off and in the process hit him in the back of the head with his throw. Ramazzotti stayed in the game but was pulled the following inning after making an error.
Ramazzotti would return to second base and would have an impressive start to the season. However, on June 2, his streak of good luck came to an end when he injured his right knee in a game against Brooklyn. Though team doctors thought he would be back in a week, Ramazzotti only played in a handful of games in June due to his knee giving him problems. On July 12, his knee gave out again and it was discovered that he had torn cartilage and was placed in a full leg cast. Ramazzotti ended up having season-ending surgery in September of that year.
Bad luck seemed to avoid him in the 1952 season, but it returned in 1953 due to numerous injuries, including a double-fracture of a finger. That would be his final season in the Major Leagues. Ramazzotti ended his career in the Majors with 196 hits, twenty-two doubles, nine triples, four homeruns, and fifteen stolen bases.
He would make an appearance with the Los Angeles Triple A team in 1953 and in 1954 Ramazzotti was a member of the Havanna Sugar Kings. He played in just nine games before being injured again and in June, Ramazzotti announced his retirement from baseball.
After retirement, he returned to Altoona and would become involved with various youth leagues, while being employed at a plant making ball bearings, where he worked for twenty years before retiring. In May 1988, Ramazzotti was inducted into the Blair County Sports Hall of Fame. He would pass on February 15, 2000, at the age of eighty-three.
I finished paying my respects to Robert “Bob” Ramazzotti before I left him resting within the borders of Calvary Cemetery. I walked slowly back to the vehicle remembering his baseball career and his service during World War Two, leaving him rest in the silence of the garden of stone.