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Forgotten Bucs history: Mario Cuomo dead at 82

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With former New York Governor Mario Cuomo having died yesterday, I thought it might be worth taking a moment to remember that before the beginning of his career in politics, he was a minor league ballplayer for the Pirates.

This article from MiLB.com does a good job of summarizing his history in baseball, but the upshot is that Cuomo was a center fielder on the varsity team at St. John's. The Pirates discovered him at an exhibition game where Cuomo's team played against a military squad in a game started by Whitey Ford, and they were impressed enough by what they saw from Cuomo to offer him a $2,000 signing bonus back when that was real money. He spent 1952 with the Class-D Brunswick Pirates, drawing walks and playing good defense, but his season ended when he was beaned by a Phillies pitcher. Players in those days generally didn't wear helmets, and Cuomo missed the rest of the season as a result of his injuries, and then was forced to retire after a brain scan indicated that he ran the risk of worse injury if he returned to the game. Fortunately for him, his fallback plan seems to have turned out fairly well.

As an interesting side note, Cuomo wasn't the first man to move from a Pittsburgh baseball career to a seat in the governor's mansion. A Pittsburgh ballplayer named John Tener pitched for the Pittsburgh Burghers of the Players' League in 1890, alongside 19th century Pirates stars like "Pud" Galvin, Jake Beckley, and Fred Carroll, and after retiring to a career in banking, he was elected to first the House of Representatives and later the governorship of Pennsylvania, serving in the latter capacity from 1911 to 1915. So who knows? Maybe twenty years from now, we'll be stepping up to the screen on Election Day and putting a check mark next to Neil Walker's name.