R.I.P. to John Romano, a catcher whose 10-year included four All-Star appearances over two seasons. He died on March 4 at the age of 84. Romano played for the Chicago White Sox (1958-59; 1965-66), Cleveland Indians (1960-64) and St. Louis Cardinals (1967).
John Romano was born on August 23, 1934 in Hoboken, N.J. He was signed by the White Sox in 1954 and immediately showed the power that he would go on to display in the majors. He appeared in 27 games for Dubuque and hit .355 with 6 homers. The next year, he was promoted to the Waterloo White Hawks and belted 38 home runs, setting a Three-I League record in the process. He homered 11 times in 12 games in one stretch and also led the league with 108 runs, 272 total bases and 124 RBIs, to go with a .321 average.
Romano never reached those numbers again, but he continued to be a good hitter in the minors and was named to Parade’s 1958 All-Star minor-league team, along with future major leaguers Rocky Nelson, Vada Pinson and Andre Rogers. The White Sox brought him up in September of 1958, and he had 2 hits in 7 at-bats. He’d never go back to the minors.
Romano was the backup catcher to Sherm Lollar for the 1959 Go-Go Sox. In 53 games, he hit .294 with 5 homers and 25 RBIs. He also walked 23 times for a .407 on-base percentage. He went hitless in one at-bat in the World Series against the Dodgers. A plan to move Lollar to first base never materialized, so the Sox found themselves with an excess of catchers (Romano, Lollar and Earl Battey).
Cleveland took Romano off the Sox’ hands in a big trade that also sent Norm Cash to the Indians in exchange for Minnie Minoso and three other players. Cash never played a game for Cleveland, as he was shipped to Detroit in April 1960 for Steve Demeter. That trade was a bust — Demeter went 0-for-5 in his career with Cleveland — but at least the Tribe still had Romano. He delivered as a catcher, eventually taking the starting catcher job from Russ Nixon and Hank Foiles. In 1960, he batted .272 with 16 home runs in 108 games.
His only problem was his weight. Romano weighed upwards of 230 pounds in his high school days and dropped to 186 pounds by the end of 1960. He showed up to Spring Training in 1961 at 206 pounds, to the displeasure of manager Jimmy Dykes. Dykes had to have loved Romano’s production though. The catcher hit 21 homers that season, drove in 80 runs and slashed .299/.377/.483. He was named to both All-Star teams (they had two All-Star squads then) and went a combined 0-for-4 as a starter in both contests. Romano earned a couple MVP votes for his season too.
He duplicated his All-Star feat in 1962, again being named to both All-Star teams. He singled off Bob Shaw for his lone All-Star hit. For the season, he reached career highs in home runs (25), RBIs (81) and walks (73). He suffered a hand injury in 1963 that kept him out of the lineup for a time, and he only hit .216 when he did play. He hit 19 home runs for Cleveland in 1964, but he ended up sharing time as a catcher with Joe Azcue.
In January 1965, he was part of a huge 3-team, 7-player deal that saw Romano, Tommy Agee and Tommy John go to the White Sox, Rocky Colavito go to Cleveland and Jim Landis go to Kansas City. He played in 122 games in each of the next two seasons with the Sox, with 18 and 15 home runs, but his batting average was below .250 each year. His finished his career in 1967 with the Cardinals , batting .121 in 24 games as a backup to Tim McCarver.
In his career, Romano slashed .255/.354/.443, with 706 hits, 129 home runs, 417 RBIs and 355 runs scored. He had a career .990 fielding average as a catcher and threw out 35% of baserunners. In announcing his death on Twitter, the Indians noted that he was 2nd all-time in home runs as a catcher and was named to the list of 100 Top Greatest Indians.