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.