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Even this was gone in 1950. He pitched only 59 innings, won two games and lost three, and had an earned-run average of 5.80 which wasn't progress no matter how you looked at it.
ARMY TO THE RESCUE
At this juncture the Army came to Johnny's rescue. He was drafted in 1951 and reported for training at Fort Meyer, Va. This might have been the crowning blow; it turned out to be Johnny's luckiest stroke of all. At Fort Meyer, Antonelli was assigned to the post's baseball team. Sam Calderone, third-string catcher for the New York Giants, had also been assigned there earlier. In the ensuing two years, the battery of Antonelli and Calderone didn't demolish any enemy targets but what it did to opposing baseball nines is still remembered. Antonelli won 42 games, 20 of them consecutively, and lost only two. The class of opposition he mowed down was anything but amateur or semipro. In 44 games, he faced 29 major leaguers and an uncounted number of double and triple A players. Twice he pitched one-hitters, and in one game struck out 21 batsmen. Fort Meyer, with Antonelli winning the three games he pitched, won the annual National Baseball Congress Championship at Wichita, Kansas in 1952 and with it a trip to Japan to participate in the Inter-Hemisphere series. There, Johnny shut out the Japanese team in both games he pitched.
When he was still a soldier, Private Antonelli married a pretty Medford, Mass. girl named Rosemarie Carbone, whom he had courted during his tough years in Boston. This step proved to be as beneficial to Johnny as the minor league training the Army had provided him. It freed him from the domination of his father, a tie which, along with the bonus, has proved embarrassing to the young pitcher, motivated though it was by paternal devotion.
Early in the season, when asked to pose with Joe Amalfitano, the Giants' bonus third baseman from California, Johnny excused himself. "Joe is my pal but I don't want to emphasize that bonus stuff. That's a dead issue now."
So is the role his father played. "I appreciate everything my dad has done for me," said Johnny. "Dad got me into the majors but that phase of my career is over. I've got to do all the rest for myself." Lest anyone draw any erroneous conclusions about filial ingratitude from this, let it be said that Papa?now Grandpapa?Antonelli serves as baby sitter for Johnny's one-year-old daughter, Lisa, whenever her mom and dad spend a night on the town.
Although Antonelli has the poise and confidence of a veteran, he had one attack of stage fright this season. That was in the All-Star Game at Cleveland in which he got a rough going over during his two-inning stay on the mound. The unkindest cut of all was Al Rosen's homer. Rosen and Johnny had met before. When the Giants and Indians were traveling through the West in spring training, Johnny started to bolt his ice cream one night so he could give his seat to the Cleveland batting champion whom he had struck out that afternoon.
"Don't gobble that ice cream so fast," said Al, good-naturedly. "I wouldn't want to see a kid who can pitch like you wind up with ulcers." The sentiment, of course, didn't apply to All-Star or World Series games in which the twain should happen to meet.
HE WHIPPED THE CREAM
The ability to rise to occasions?a reliable index of greatness?is another of Antonelli's virtues. He did it at Rochester that night when he turned in a no-hitter for the 18 major league scouts. He did it one Sunday last June when the Giants came up to the ninth with a precarious one-run lead over the St. Louis Cardinals. Durocher pulled out relief star Hoyt Wilhelm, who had held the Cards scoreless in the last two innings, and called on Antonelli in his first relief assignment as a Giant. The Cardinals had always been Johnny's Nemesis up to then, having beaten him seven times out of eight. But with the cream of the Cardinal order coming up in the persons of Stan Musial, Ray Jablonski and Wally Moon, each hitting over .325 at that stage, Papa Antonelli's little bonus baby bowled them over like three sitting ducks in a shooting gallery. That was the day Durocher became completely sold on his golden left arm.