Transaction of Today…December 30, 1941 – The Boston Braves signed Tony Cuccinello as a free agent.
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Boston just couldn’t quit Cootch. Born in 1907 on Long Island, Cuccinello was a diminutive middle infielder who first appeared in the majors with the Reds in 1930. He quickly showed he belonged by hitting .312/.380/.451 with 10 HR, a fairly surprising show of power from the 5’7″, 160 pound player. He played third base that year before being moved to second base in 1931. He drove in 93 that year, which even for a guy like me who doesn’t value the RBI statistic that much, for a 2B in the 30’s to amass that many RBIs is pretty impressive.
Still, his time in Cincy came to a close because he wasn’t anxious to sign a new contract. Traded to the Dodgers to begin 1932, Cuccinello would spend the next four years with the Dodgers and hit .271/.344/.410 for them. It was productive numbers, sure, but hardly as productive as his time with the Reds. He played in the first All-Star Game during 1933, striking out to end the game against Carl Hubbell.
On December 12, 1935, the Dodgers traded Cuccinello, with his best bud Al Lopez, to the Braves for Ed Brandt and Randy Moore. It turned out to be a bad deal for the Dodgers as neither Brandt or Moore lasted long in Brookly. Meanwhile, Lopez solidified the catching position and Cuccinello hit .308/.374/.402 during his first year in Boston. His numbers kind of trailed off from there, though he was an All-Star for the second time in ’38. Cuccinello also made for an excellent double play combo with Eddie Miller. He likely would have continued to play well with Boston, but a knee injury after being taken out on a play at second in ’39 limited his mobility. Boston moved him to third base in 1940 before trading him to the Giants.
After struggling to end the 1940 season, Cuccinello retired. He managed Jersey City in the International League during 1941 and would have continued to do so, but got a call from his former manager Casey Stengel. Managing the Braves, Stengel convinced Cuccinello to come back to Boston as a player-coach for the ’42 campaign and he officially rejoined the Braves on this day in 1941. He coached third base and threw batting practice while pinch-hitting from time-to-time. It didn’t suit him as he went 0-for-19 in 13 games for Boston before the Braves released him so that he could sign with the White Sox, who were desperate for players to fill out their roster after much of their team was drafted into the military.
Cuccinello’s career takes an interesting turn from here. After being a reserve until 1945, Cuccinello likely would have retired if not needed because of the war. It was a good thing he played one more year because ’45 was a big one for him. Getting much more playing time at third base, Cuccinello got off to a big start with the White Sox, but struggled to maintain his great batting average as summer dragged on. He was battling Snuffy Stirnweiss for the batting title and needed to play every day in September just to qualify for the batting title. As the last day loomed, Cuccinello got bested by Mother Nature and a curious call by a scorer. The Sox were scheduled to play in a double header, but it got rained out. Meanwhile, Stirnweiss went 3-for-5 to pull ahead of Cuccinello’s .308 average by .000087 points. One of the hits was originally called an error, but changed by the official scorer…who was also a writer for the Bronx Home News. Stinweiss later told Cuccinello, “he gave it to me.”
Cuccinello would remain in baseball as a coach and later was hated in Chicago for sending home a runner in the 1959 World Series who was thrown out by a mile. The Dodgers later beat the White Sox for the Series win. Cuccinello would continue to coach until 1970, when he became a Yankee scout in Tampa for another 15 years. Ten years after finally leaving the game for good, Tony Cuccinello pass away in 1995, a month before the Braves won the title.
Cootch’s SABR page was incredibly useful for this post.