The Team That Forever Changed Baseball and America: The 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers

By Lyle Spatz; Maurice Bouchard et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 59. Vic Lombardi

Lawrence Balciassaro

At five feet seven and 158 pounds, Vic Lombardi was hardly an imposing figure on the mound. But the left-hander had enough talent and guile to pitch in 538 games over a seventeen-year professional career, including six seasons in the Majors with two starts in the legendary 1947 World Series. He was also a good-enough athlete to win a National Left-Handed Open Golf title and to work as a teaching professional until his death at the age of seventy-five.

Victor Alvin Lombardi was born on September 20,1922, in Reedley, California, twenty-two miles southeast of Fresno. He was the son of Biagio Vito Lombardi, a farm worker who had emigrated from Italy, and Lena (Freitas) Lombardi, the daughter of Portuguese immigrants and the mother of five children from a previous marriage. When Vic was young, the family moved thirty-eight miles south to Tulare. As a pitcher at Tulare High School, he played for Pete Beiden, who would later become a legendary coach at Fresno State University.

Lombardi was signed as an amateur free agent in 1941 by Brooklyn Dodgers scout Tom Downey. That year, at age eighteen, he began his professional career with the Johnstown Johnnies of the Class D Pennsylvania State Association. Twice striking out 19, as well as 18 and 17, he finished with 204 strikeouts and posted a 12–3 record, with a leagueleading 1.85 ERA. He ended the season by going 1–1 for the Santa Barbara Saints, Brooklyn’s Class C affiliate in the California League.

Vic Lombardi started the season poorly, but he was
Brooklyn’s most effective pitcher in the month of August.

In 1942 Lombardi had a 9–4 record and a 3.08 ERA with Santa Barbara before being promoted to the Durham (North Carolina) Bulls in the Class B Piedmont League, where he was 4–1 with a 2.06 ERA. After marrying Adrienne Grimaud on December 18, 1942, he did not play professional baseball again until 1945. (Lombardi and his wife had two daughters, Victoria and Christine. The couple divorced in 1951.) For reasons that are lost to history, Lombardi chose to sit out the entire 1943 season. Nor did he play pro ball the following season when he served in the navy from May 13 to June 6, 1944. (According to a 1945 article in the Fresno

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