Johnny Antonelli was left-handed starting pitcher who played for the Boston and Milwaukee Braves (1948-50, 1953), New York and San Francisco Giants, and Cleveland Indians between 1948 and 1961.
Johnny, at the outset of his pro career, was the recipient of the biggest bonus in baseball history at the time when he signed with the Braves for $52,000 in 1948, he later became a six-time National League All-Star, a two-time 20-game-winner, and the leader of the 1954 world champion Giants’ pitching staff. He batted left-handed, stood 6 feet 1 inch tall and weighed 185 pounds.
Antonelli is a native and lifelong resident of Rochester, New York. A brilliant schoolboy career at Jefferson High School led to fierce competition among nine of the 16 Major League Baseball teams in existence in 1948, with the Braves the highest bidder. Baseball rules of the time mandated that “bonus babies” be kept on major league rosters for at least two full seasons before they could be sent to the minors. So Antonelli went from high school to the MLB Braves, a veteran team fighting for Boston’s first National League pennant since 1914. He never would pitch in the minor leagues.
While the Braves went on to win the 1948 NL championship, Antonelli was used largely as a batting practice pitcher. He appeared in only four games and four innings pitched, all relief assignments in low-leverage situations.
His large bonus dwarfed the salaries of veteran Braves like ace starting pitcher Johnny Sain, causing some resentment among his teammates. When the Braves voted to divide their World Series share, they ignored Antonelli completely.
His second season with the Braves, 1949, brought no pennants to Boston, but it saw Antonelli gain more experience and greater success. He worked in 22 games with ten starts, notching his first three career complete games and shutout. After a mediocre 1950 season, he served in the United States Army, where he was stationed at Fort Myer, Virginia, and starred on its baseball team.
His two years of service over, Antonelli rejoined the Braves—now based in Milwaukee—for 1953. As a regular member of the Braves’ starting rotation, he posted only a 12–12 win-loss mark but finished fifth in the National League in earned run average.
Antonelli was born April 12, 1930. After his baseball career, Antonelli returned to Rochester and for many years ran a chain of Firestone Tire stores bearing his name.