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Al Santorini

Sport: Baseball

Born: May 19, 1948

Town: Union

Alan Joseph Santorini was born May 19, 1948 in Irvington and grew up in Union. Al excelled at almost every sport he tried. He was fast, strong and coordinated with an electric right arm. Al enrolled at Union High School and became the top pitcher for Gordon LeMatey’s varsity Farmers as a sophomore. Al also won the starting quarterback job for Union High as a junior and was a member of the school’s state championship bowling team.Among Al's teammates was another future major leaguer, Elliott Maddox.

Al used his crackling fastball to earn first-team All-State honors three years in a row and was named Metro Player of the Year by the Daily News and Union County Athlete of the Year as a senior. Al was practically unbeatable as a prep pitcher. He won 35 of 36 decisions, with more than 500 strikeouts and a sub-1.00 ERA over four seasons. In 1965, he beat Westfield 10–2 in the county title game and, in 1966, Al notched a pair of 19-strikeout games and yielded only three earned runs. He beat Richie Zisk’s Parsippany High team 2–1 in the final. Union High went 49–9 in his last two varsity seasons.

Al’s final appearances for Union High came in the Greater Newark Tournament. He pitched all four games, fanned 62 batters and twirled a no-hitter as the Farmers captured the state title. The Milwaukee Braves selected Al with the 11th pick in the 1966 draft. making him the first-ever first-rounder from New Jersey. He was the 4th pitcher taken that spring.

Al pitched a 7-inning no-hitter his first year in the minors against El Paso. He spent three season in the minors, pitching mostly at AA and AAA and was called up by the Braves late in the 1968 season. He made his big-league debut against the Giants on September 10th. He started and lost the game, giving up four runs—three on a homer by Willie McCovey. In 1968, Major League Baseball announced that it was adding four teams for the following season. In the ensuing expansion draft, Al was plucked off the Braves’ roster by the San Diego Padres.

ASantorini1969ToppsAl made 32 starts for the Padres in 1969 and tied Joe Niekro for the team lead in victories, going 8–14 with 111 strikeouts and a 3.95 ERA. On May 27th, Al made his first “home” start at Shea Stadium. He pitched a complete game, scattering 12 hits and striking out 5 to win 3-–2. Al received a standing ovation from friends and family when he smacked a 7th-inning single off of Don Cardwell. Al was named the Padres’ Rookie of the Year and Pitcher of the Year after the season.

Al took a step backward in 1970, losing his spot in the starting rotation and eventually been demoted to AAA. He made the team as a reliever in 1971 and showed enough to interesting the St. Louis Cardinals, who traded Leron Lee and Fred Norman for Al in June. He started and relieved for the Cards, saving 2 games. He reclaimed his role as a starter for the Cardinals early in 1972 and went 8–11. Three of those wins were impressive shutouts, against the Phillies, Pirates and Mets. That season, Al shared a St. Louis apartment with reigning MVP Joe Torre.

The 1973 season was Al’s last as a major leaguer. After pitching a handful of games out of the St. Louis bullpen, he was traded to the Kansas City Royals in May and was released after going 0–5 for Class-AA Omaha. The Phillies picked him up and sent him to their farm team in Eugene, Oregon, but his performance did not improve. After one more year in the minors, Al called it quits at age 26.

In 1999, Al was named to the Newark Star-Ledger’s All-Century Team. He continued to work in baseball as youth baseball and softball instructor and was generous with his time for a wide range of New Jersey charities. In 2015, he was inducted into the NJSIAA Hall of Fame along with Jeffrey Hammonds, Jeff Torborg, Art Still, Gary Williams, Clary Anderson and the late Frank Budd.


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