Obituary: Nick Testa 1928-2018

RIP to Nick Testa, whose major-league career lasted for 1 inning with the San Francisco Giants on April 23, 1968. He died on November 16 at the age of 90. Testa also served as a batting practice coach for the New York Yankees.

Testa was born to Italian immigrant parents on June 29, 1928 in New York City. He started playing professional ball in 1946, breaking in with the
Newburgh/Walden Hummingbirds when he was 18. He played in the minors, mostly batting in the .260s, until 1952 and then missed the 1953 season to serve his country during the Korean War.

Returning to baseball after his service, Testa struggled in Sioux City in 1954 and Dallas in 1955 before finding his swing in Wilkes-Barre/Johnstown of the Eastern League, later in 1955. He hit .307 in 74 games there with 2 of his 9 career minor-league home runs. He returned to Dallas in 1957 and hit 2 more homers, but his batting average dipped to .235.

Testa was invited to the Giants Spring Training camp in 1958, where the 29-year-old was in competition with four other catchers for a roster slot. He ended up being the third-string catcher, behind Bob Schmidt and Valmy Thomas. Testa had a pretty fair Spring Training, including a double off of future HOFer Hoyt Wilhelm, and he did get to watch future legends like Mays, McCovey and Cepeda play.

“He’s always — well, almost always — the first guy to take his swings,” he said of Mays.

Testa’s one and only major-league appearance came on April 23 against the Cardinals. In a substitution-filled game that the Giants eventually won 8-7, Testa was sent in to pinch-run for Ray Jablonski in the bottom of the 8th inning. Jablonski was pinch-hitting for Schmidt, who had already replaced starting catcher Thomas, so Testa caught the top of the 9th inning. As catching performances went, it wasn’t the best. Don Blasingame singled and stole second base, scoring on a Stan Musial double. Testa dropped a pop foul hit by Del Ennis, but it didn’t lead to any runs. The Giants, down 7-4 going into the bottom of the 9th, won it on a 2-run triple from Cepeda and a walk-off  2-run homer by Daryl Spencer.

Testa never played in another game, leaving him with a career .000 fielding percentage and no at-bats. He was released on May 13, but he stayed with the team for the rest of the season as the bullpen coach. Testa returned to the minors in 1959 and played until 1964. In his 16 seasons in the minors, he had .259 batting average from the stats that are available. He also played with the Daimai Onions of the Japan Pacific League in 1962, hitting ..136 in 57 games. According to an 1987 article about his career in the Daily News, Testa also played professionally in Mexico, Italy, Colombia, Nicaragua, Canada, England and Holland.

“I was a star in Holland for two weeks,” he quipped.

Testa went on to become the first baseball coach at Lehman College and was inducted into the college’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 2001. He also served as a batting practice coach for the Yankees and was a part of five World Championship teams. He also won a World Series with the New York Mets in 1986 as their batting practice pitcher. Testa later moved to Florida where he coached in the short-lived Senior Professional Baseball Association and was a Spring Training instructor for the Chicago White Sox. The New York native was buried in New St. Raymond’s Cemetery in Bronx.


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