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Quick Hands And Temper At Third:

BABE PINELLI

         

His name was Rinaldo Angelo Paolinelli. He is best remembered for when he threw up his right hand and called Dale Mitchell out on strikes to bring to a close Don larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series.

 

But rhis man, who changed his name to Ralph Pinelli, also was a better-than-average third baseman for the Cincinnati Reds.

 

It was a long and tough road for Pinelli to the major leagues. His father was killed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and Pinelli quit school at an early age to help provide for his family. His nickname "Babe" was given to him because he was the youngest "the baby" - of his childhood group of friends.

   He was quick with his hands and his temper and he seemed constantly embroiled in a fight. At one time he considered becoming a professional boxer after battering a promoter one evening in a bloody fight.

But baseball was his game. He first played professionally in 1917 with Portland in the Pacific Coast league. He briefly made it to the majors with the Chicago White Sox in 1918, but the following year he was back with Sacramento in the PCL. That season almost ended Babe's baseball career forever.

 

He had a clubhouse fight with his manager, Bill Rogers, who fined Pinelli $50 for sitting on the bench with a sprained ankle instead of resting ar the hotel. later that year Pinelli decked an umpire, one of the mosr serious offenses a player can commit.

 

Home plate umpire Bill Byron called a strike on Pinelli and the two engaged in a wild argument. Byron accidently bumped into Pinelli, hitting him with his mask. That sent Pinelli into a frenzy and he punched the umpire, knocking him down.

 

"I should have known that it was an accident, that Byron didn't mean to strike me with that mask, but I simply lost control of myself," Pinelli said in a Sporting News interview in 1956 just after he retired himself as an umpire.

 

Al Jolson, the great singer, was in the stands that afternoon and later came to Pinelli's defense. He sent a telegram to league president William McCarthy explaining the situation. Finally, with Pinelli sweating out the decision, McCarthy simply slapped the young player's hands and cautioned him about fighting. The episode seemed to turn things around for Pinelli.

   In 1920 Pinelli was back in the major leagues but batted only .229, and in 1921 he returned to the Pacific Coast league. It was at Oakland that he learned to be a hitter.

 

Outfielder Denny Wilie, who had played portions of three years in the major leagues in the early teens, took Pinelli under his wing ..

    "The first thing he did was put a golf club in my hand - a driver," Pinelli recalled. "He had me swing ir to get the feel of following through. I had never realized what follow-through meant.

"After he was satisfied with my follow-through, he gave me a 40-ounce bat to swing. He told me the 40-ounce bat would teach me to learn to time the ball. With the big bat I no longer would try to kill the ball. Instead, I would master control of the bat with good timing.

 

"His instructions must have been right, because that year I had the greatest batting success I ever enjoyed."

 

Pinelli hit .339 for Oakland and the Reds came calling, checkbook in hand. The Reds paid Oakland $35,000 for Pinelli and sent three players to the PCl club to boot.

 

When Pinelli arrived in Cincinnati, he found himself in familiar surroundings. He was playing on an all-San Francisco infield. lew Fonseca was at first base, Sammy Bohne was at second, Jimmy Caveney was at short and Pinelli was at third.

"I'll bet," Pinelli said, "it's the only time in major league history an entire infield was from the same town."

         
       

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