(Edited on 12/6/2018 to add more specific details of Nello’s minor league career, newspaper article references, and a team photo when he pitched for the Oklahoma City Indians in 1918.)
I was doing research on another baseball project when I came across this article in The Sporting News.
NEW STAR FROM IRON COUNTRY
Strikeout Artist Who May Make ‘Em Take Notice in Big Show
This burg made famous by iron ore claims to have the “world’s greatest” baseball pitcher, if strikeouts are to be considered for such a statement, and they confidently expect him to be in the big show next year.
Nello Tedeschi, who started with Des Moines in the Western League, but was let out this summer when the number of players were cut down as a war measure, is the pitching hero. In a game with the Escanaba team recently Tedeschi rivalled Robert TeCarr’s stunt of whiffing 25. TeCarr is a Tarrytown, N.Y. pitcher and both he and Tedeschi made their records last year.
In this game, which Tedeschi won in ten innings by a 1 to 0 score, the former Western leaguer fanned the last two men in the first inning and three in the second, third, and fourth innings. In the fifth the first batter was retired at first, the second fanned, and the third made the only hit scored off Tedeschi during the game. The fourth man up fanned.
The local hero here started another spasm in the sixth by whiffing three and then duplicating in the seventh, eighth, and one in the ninth. At the end of the sixth Tedeschi had 16 out of a possible 18 strikeouts.
He has fanned from ten to 12 men in every game previous to this feat, while last year he never struck out less than 11 in each game. In one game he fanned 16, permitted one to reach first, caught him napping, then held the other men from reaching first thus pitching to 27 men.
Local bugs are all excited over Tedeschi and expect the Cloverland marvel to be hurling in World’s Series long before Pittsburgh and the Athletics hook up for the “big push.”
(The Sporting News, 04 October 1917, Page 2.)
After reading this, I needed to see who the heck this guy Nello Tedeschi was… Let’s make it a top ten list. First, however, have a look at my new favorite pitcher from Capestrano. And some guy named George Ruth.
1) Onellio Theodoro Tedeschi was born 31 May, 1891. So, to be fair, by the time this article appeared in The Sporting News he was 26 – which was a little old for a prospect. And, if he was that good, he wouldn’t have been one of the kids cut from a Western League team unless he agreed to be cut to work and play closer to home.
2) Nello was born in Italy, Capestrano, Provincia di L’Aquila, Abruzzo, and came here with his mother, the former Rosa DeFiore, in 1903.
3) His father, Giuseppe, came over in 1901 with Nello’s older brother Domenico. Anglicizing his name to Joseph, Mr. Tedeschi took a job in the local iron mines of northern Michigan. Iron Mountain was practically another Italian city…
4) When not playing baseball, like his father and brother, Nello was a miner in Iron Mountain, Michigan. For a period of time, he also worked in a lumber mill.
5) Nello married Michilina Colavecchio on 10 May 1916. They had five children – Theodore, Matilda (who died in infancy, 19 days after her birth in 1919), Marjorie, Norma, and Rudolph. Lena’s sister Letizia married Domenic.
6) You can’t find this guy in Baseball-Reference using his correct name – he’s listed as Wells and not Nello – so we have some work to do to put together his baseball biography… However, I know his nickname was Fungo.
7) He was given a tryout with the White Sox in 1918 but between minor injuries and a lack of experience he was dispatched to the Hutchinson (KS) Salt Packs for that season. That team didn’t draw well and moved mid-season to Oklahoma City (see team photo below). After that, he disappears from the sports page and he returned to pitching in Northern Michigan and Minnesota – mostly mining towns with baseball teams. When he registered for the draft during World War I, he was pitching for a team in the Western League Circuit (the Hutchinson/OKC team). From the looks of it, the bulk of his baseball life was probably pitching in semi-professional leagues.
8) You can find a lot of great photos of him. Relatives posted family images of him at various times of his life on Ancestry.com (including his wedding photo, above), and an effort to digitize images by Michigan State University to document the state’s history turned up a couple of great images of Tedeschi, including the one shown here with Babe Ruth who was on one of his barnstorming tours in 1926.
9) Tedeschi was inducted into the Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame in 1993.
10) Tedeschi passed to the great baseball league in the sky on 26 April 1975.
1910, 1920, 1930, 1940 US Census
Michigan Marriage and Death Records
“Change of Clubs is Satisfactory”, Daily Oklahoman, 09 June 1918, Page 14.
“Sox Release Two Players”, Hutchinson (KS) News, 15 April 1918, Page 3.
“Just a Little Dope From Dixie”, Madison Capital Times, 04 April 1918, Page 6.
“Tedeschi Needs Pair Shin Guards”, Chicago Tribune, 04 April 1918, Page 13.
“Peninsula Man to White Hose”, Escanaba Morning Press, 05 February 1918, Page 1.
Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame Website
Michigan State University Digital Archives