SI Vault
Laura Hilgers
June 20, 1988
When the Buffalo Bisons, a Triple A baseball team, asked Governor Mario Cuomo to throw out the first pitch of the 1988 season, they didn't have to give him any pointers. In the summer of 1952, Cuomo played centerfield for the Class D Brunswick (Ga.) Pirates, Pittsburgh's farm team in the now-defunct Georgia-Florida League. On the Bisons' Opening Day, Cuomo threw the ball in the manner of a politician rather than a former minor leaguer. But during warm-ups he displayed the fine arm that had earned him a spot in professional ball.
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June 20, 1988

Back When Cuomo Was A Contender

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His greatest asset was a toughness he had developed on the streets of Queens. McCarrick wrote in his '52 report that Cuomo "plays hard...and will run over you if you get in his way." He was fast, as well. He stole seven bases that summer, and in a game against the Thomasville (Ga.) Tomcats on July 15, he hit a triple and then stole home.

Cuomo's hard-nosed style of play was especially useful for Brunswick. In a 1986 interview with The New York Times, he recalled, " Hollywood was the Pittsburgh Pirates' farm team in the Pacific Coast League at the time, and they wore shorts, which filtered down to Brunswick. These were notable mainly because of the fights started when the guys in the other dugout whistled at us."

A fighting spirit was no defense, though, against the errant pitch that halted Cuomo's nascent baseball career—and, he says jokingly, started his political one. On August 29 a pitched ball hit him in the head, and he developed a blood clot on the brain. He was in the hospital for about a week. Cuomo played a few more games for Brunswick, but after suffering dizzy spells he returned to Queens in mid-September to begin his senior year at St. John's. He would never play baseball again. "The residual effects of that hematoma drove me into politics," says Cuomo.

He went on to graduate summa cum laude from St. John's and finished tied for first in his graduating class at the university's law school. Twenty-two years later he was elected lieutenant governor of New York and then, in 1982, governor.

After he delivered an eloquent keynote address at the 1984 Democratic Convention in San Francisco, Cuomo became the focus of national attention, and many political observers speculated that he would run for president this year. In recent months, however, Cuomo has repeatedly insisted that he will not enter the race. When a reporter asked him if he might accept a draft, Cuomo replied, "I will take a draft to the Yankees or to the Mets. A draft for President is not conceivable."

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