Phil Masi began his baseball career when he was contracted in 1936 by the Cleveland Indians at the age of 20. In 1937 he played for the Wausau Timberjacks and demonstrated his versatility by playing as a catcher, outfielder, third baseman and as a first baseman. Masi became known as the Pepper Martin of the Northern League because of his head-first slides and prancing running style, while leading the league with 31 home runs and being named to the league’s All-Star team.
In 1938 Masi was then purchased by the Milwaukee Brewers who assigned him to play for the Springfield Indians of the Middle Atlantic League. Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis found this move to be in violation of baseball rules and allowed him to sign a non-reserve contract with Springfield, meaning that he would be a free agent at the end of the season. He played mostly as a catcher for Springfield in 1938 where his backup that year was the future All-Star catcher for the Cleveland Indians, seventeen-year-old Jim Hegan. Masi posted a .308 batting average with 16 home runs and 97 runs batted in for Springfield, earning a promotion to the major leagues when he was signed by the Boston Braves, then known as the Bees.
The Bees already had future Hall of Fame member, Al Lopez, as well as future All-Star, Ray Mueller and veteran Johnny Riddle as catchers going into spring training in 1939 however, Masi impressed Bees’ manager Casey Stengel so much that, Mueller and Riddle would be traded before the start of the season, leaving Masi as Lopez’s backup. He made his major league debut with the Bees on April 23, 1939 Boston Bees season at the age of 23. After his father died in 1942, he was given a 3-A draft classification exempting him from military duty as he was the sole support for his family.
Masi served as the Braves’ backup catcher first to Al Lopez, then Ray Berres, and finally to Ernie Lombardi. He began to develop his reputation as a good defensive catcher from his association with knuckleball pitcher Jim Tobin. The other Braves catchers shunned Tobin due to the unpredictability of the notoriously difficult to catch knuckleball and, Masi took over the job as his catcher. When Lombardi was traded to the New York Giants in 1943, Masi became the Braves regular catcher. His work with Tobin paid off on April 27, 1944 when Tobin pitched a no hitter against the Brooklyn Dodgers.
|162 Game Avg.||162||521||457||55||121||6||55|
|BSN (11 yrs)||945||3025||2668||333||698||34||314|
|CHW (3 yrs)||236||769||665||71||182||11||90|
|PIT (1 yr)||48||155||135||16||37||2||13|
|NL (11 yrs)||993||3180||2803||349||735||36||327|
|AL (3 yrs)||236||769||665||71||182||11||90|