Mario Cuomo: Before politics, he played baseball

Once, the Pittsburgh Pirates had a promising young outfielder toiling in the low minor leagues. Management forecast a solid career for him. And indeed the Pirates’ prospect, a former St. John’s University student and an Italian immigrant grocer’s son, did eventually accomplish great things—but not on the ball diamond.

Mario Cuomo, who served as the 53rd governor of New York from 1983 to 1994, played only one season (1952) for the Brunswick Pirates in the Class D Georgia-Florida League where he hit .244.

But the Pirates’ scouting report indicated, incorrectly, that better things lay ahead for Cuomo:

A below average hitter with plus power. He uppercuts and needs instruction…Potentially the best prospect on the club and in my opinion could go all the way…He is aggressive and plays hard. He is intelligent…Not an easy chap to  get close to but is very well liked by those who succeed in penetrating his exterior shell. He is another who will run you over if you get in his way.

Some of the report, at least, is accurate. Cuomo graduated number one in his law school class.

But a concussion derailed Cuomo and he did not return in 1953. Interestingly, Mickey Mantle who signed at the same time but for $1,100 instead of Cuomo’s $2,000 was not impressed by the governor-to-be’s baseball skills. Said Mantle about Cuomo: “He couldn’t hit a barn with a paddle.”

Cuomo is not exactly out of baseball. He’s an avid fantasy player and always selects Italian players no matter how well they may be doing. On a more serious note, a federal judge appointed Cuomo, a Yankees fan, mediator in the $1 billion case between the New York Mets owners against the trustees representing Bernie Madoff’s defrauded victims.

In reassessing his baseball career, the always philosophical Cuomo imparted a valuable life lesson to all of us. Remembers Cuomo:

I was not a good prospect really because I didn’t think I was good enough. And we learn from the rest of our lives, you can’t make it anywhere unless you go all out and that’s part of baseball, too. You’ve got to give it everything.

9 Replies to “Mario Cuomo: Before politics, he played baseball”

  1. I have often been accused of favoring athletes whose name end in a vowel. While this may ring true in certain instances, in the case of Mario Cuomo, it is demonstrably false, even though our surnames end in the same vowel. In point of fact, Signor Cuomo was a far greater threat to this nation’s traditions as Governor of New York than he would have been patrolling the nether reaches of Forbes Field.

    It is the politician Cuomo who has been the paradigm of every contemptible congressman and senator of either party who now invokes the “I’m personally opposed to abortion…” mantra, discarding the teachings and traditions of the Church in which he was raised. And, of course, his willingness to accept infanticide was overlooked by the Church hierarchy, for they could not tell, “what was in his heart and conscience.”

    The politician Cuomo also became another advocate for the amnesty of millions of aliens, illegally present in this country, on the basis that his parents were immigrants; ergo, why shouldn’t we allow others to come to this country even if they broke our laws? The fact that the overwhelming number of these Third World folks would vote for the Democratic Party would, of course, have meant nothing to Gov. Cuomo’s deliberations.

    God works in wondrous ways, but if I am ever given the opportunity to meet my Maker, one of the questions I might ask is why He did not allow Mario Cuomo to continue with his baseball career, for he would have been far less destructive to the nation.

  2. Vincenzo:
    You put forward the interesting idea that a longer, more successful career in baseball might have denied or diminished Cuomo’s rise to political power, whereas one could cite Jim Bunning, Steve Largent, Bill Bradley and others in support of the opposing point, that prominence as a professional athlete can abet political aspirations.

  3. My Good Hibernian Brendan,

    My point was that Cuomo had the opportunity because of his failure to play in the Major Leagues to embark on a life in politics. All of the others were well known political figures AFTER their stints in professional sports. In short, Cuomo’s career was greatly enhanced by the length of time he spent cultivating his political network. The others were established sports figures who segued into sports after leaving their occupation. To Cuomo, politics WAS his occupation, and for that, the nation suffered far more than the efforts of the others you mentioned.

  4. Brendan,

    Please forgive my improper wording:

    The others were established sports figures who segued into sports after leaving their occupation.

    It should read, “…segued into politics after leaving their occupation.”

    Mea culpa.

  5. Pingback: RIP Mario

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