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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Nick Testa: no plate appearances.

There's a too long article in The Times about Maurice Lerner. Maury Lerner played 482 minor league games in eight seasons but never played a single major league game. Lerner evolved into a mob hit man and spent 18 years in prison. In the stuff about baseball in the article is a mention of a teammate, Nick Testa:
PositionsCatcher and Pinch Runner
Bats: Right, Throws: Right
Height: 5' 8", Weight: 180 lb.
Born: June 291928 in New York, NY (Age 88.118)
High School: Christopher Columbus HS (Bronx, NY)
Schools: Bergen Community College (Paramus, NJ)New York University (New York, NY)University of Delaware (Newark, DE)University of Florida (Gainesville, FL)
Debut: April 23, 1958 (Age 29)
TeamGiants 1958
Last Game: April 23, 1958 (Age 29)
Notice that debut and last game have the same dates. Nick Testa played in one major league game but never came to the plate. Testa was almost 30 years old. Testa started in D ball in 1946 and finished in A ball in 1964. He did not play in 1953, presumably because he was in the U.S. Army. In 1962 at age 34 Testa played 57 games in the Japan Pacific League. Then back to the U.S. to play in Reno and Yakima.

From 1947 through 1958 Testa was in the Giants minor league system. They were the New York Giants for all but the last of those seasons. So, Testa was playing for one of his hometown teams.

In 1958 he played only with the San Francisco Giants; he did not play in the minors. This was the first Giants season in San Francisco after leaving New York. Testa's one and only game in 1958:

Wednesday, April 23, 1958, Seals Stadium
Attendance: 14,715, Time of Game: 3:01
Giants 8, Cardinals 7
Hall of Famers: Musial, Mays, Cepeda.

Nick Testa must have been the number three catcher for the Giants. In the bottom of the fourth the Giants trailed 5-0. They scored a run and with two outs had a runner on third with Valmy Thomas coming up. Whitey Lockman pinch hit for Thomas and flied out to center. Lockman was replaced by Bob Schmidt.

In the bottom of the eighth trailing 6-2 the first two Giants made outs. Then single, single, walk. The Cardinals replaced starting pitcher Sam Jones with Phil Paine and the Giants had Ray Jablonski pinch hit for their second catcher of the day Bob Schmidt. Jablonski singled to left driving in two runs. Andre Rodgers pinch hit for pitcher Ray Crone and Nick Testa pinch ran for Jablonski. Rodgers struck out ending the 8th inning: Cardinals 6, Giants 4.

In the top of the 9th inning Marv Grissom came on to pitch for the Giants and pinch runner Nick Testa stayed in the game as the Giants catcher. Del Ennis was the fourth Cardinal batter and Testa dropped his foul pop for an error. However, Ennis flied out to right, so no damage was caused by Testa's error. It was his only fielding chance. The Cardinals scored a run and led 7-4.

In the bottom of the 9th the Giants rallied for 4 runs to win 8-7. the final two batters:
- Orlando Cepeda tripled to drive in two runs
- Daryl Spencer homered to drive in Cepeda with the tieing run and then Spencer scored the winning run.

Nick Testa was two spots below Spencer in the lineup. Had Spencer and the next batter walked, Testa could have had a chance to be the hero with a single.

Why didn't Testa play in any other games in 1958, even in the minor leagues? Maybe he was injured. But at least Nick Testa had that one opportunity to play in a major league game, no matter how briefly, no matter how inconsequential. It was more than Maury Lerner, who wound up doing very hard time for nearly two decades.

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