Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer and Windsor baseball legend, Reno Bertoia, passed away this morning at the age of 76.
He had been diagnosed with lymphoma in February.
“Reno is a true Canadian icon who will be remembered forever in our Hall’s museum, and by me personally, as a kid whose Windsor roots put a passion for baseball in me that burns to this day,” said Tom Valcke, Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame president, in a statement. “Windsor baseball has many dimensions, and Reno Bertoia will always remain at the peak of that pyramid.”
Born in Italy, Bertoia moved with his family to Windsor when he was just 18 months old. With fellow Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer, Father Ronald Cullen, as his coach and mentor, Bertoia developed into a local baseball star and top big league prospect at Assumption High School.
On August 31, 1953, he inked a deal with the Detroit Tigers that included an $11,000 signing bonus. Bertoia, who had never played a game in the minors, was added to the Tigers roster almost immediately and would room with future Hall of Famer Al Kaline.
Bertoia’s best season was in 1957 when thanks to a torrid early stretch, he was leading the American League with a .383 batting average on May 16. In 1959, after being dealt to the Washington Senators, Bertoia would club a career-high eight homers. He would follow that up by recording seven triples (third in American League) and 13 sacrifice hits (5th in league) in 1960.
In all, the smooth-fielding Windsor native would play parts of 10 seasons in the majors. After hanging up the spikes, he would teach history in Windsor for 30 years and scout for the Tigers and the Toronto Blue Jays. He was elected to the Windsor-Essex County Sports Hall of Fame in 1982 and both the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and University of Windsor Hall of Fame in 1988.
“Ironically, I spoke to the Eddie Lake Society in Warren, Michigan just yesterday. Reno was a beloved member of this group founded by Joe Falls and made up of a couple of hundred diehard Detroit Tiger junkies, and although nobody was aware that Reno’s time here was about to end, his name came up at least a dozen times during the luncheon, and every time in a fond manner,” recounted Valcke. “In hindsight, and I pray that somehow Reno knows this – it was the perfect tribute and a most appropriate send-off to our dear friend on his final day.”
Funeral arrangements are incomplete, but Windsor Chapel will be in charge of the ceremony.