Reno Bertoia was the first product of Windsor’s Mic Mac League to reach Major League Baseball. To date, no Essex County athlete has appeared is as many MLB games. Bertoia, an Italian immigrant, enjoyed a decade-long career as an infielder at baseball’s highest level during the 1950s and ‘60s. He was signed directly out of amateur baseball by the Detroit Tigers. Bertoia was born in St. Vito, Italy on January 8, 1935, but moved to Windsor in time to attend Gordon McGregor Elementary School. Bertoia completed high school at Assumption College before attending the University of Windsor.While he made a career as a baseball player, Bertoia also played on Assumption’s 1950 WSSA Champion Junior Basketball team. In 1952, he was named WSSA Second Team All-City.
Bertoia entered organized baseball as a 13-year-old second baseman in 1948. He lined up for Othmar Grotto in the Mic Mac League and Assumption in the Detroit Class “E” League.
Two years later, Bertoia was beginning to develop a substantial reputation. He was a regular player for several amateur clubs on both sides of the border, and a fill-in player for Trumbull Chevrolet in the Detroit Federation League. Bertoia quickly won over Trumbull’s management, who decided to bring him aboard as a full-time roster member. With Bertoia’s help, Trumbull Chevrolet won the National Amateur Baseball Federation title in Louisville, Kentucky.
Bertoia continued to play for Trumbull while also turning out for the City Champion Windsor Sterlings in 1952 and Detroit’s Class “D” R. G. Moeller club in 1953. He drew significant attention in that same year as he represented Michigan in the Times-Hearst All-Star Game at Polo Grounds in New York City.
On August 31, 1953, the Detroit Tigers signed Bertoia as a “Bonus Baby” (meaning he was allowed to bypass the conventional Minor League Baseball farm system) for a reported $25,000.
A versatile infielder, Bertoia played second base, shortstop, and most frequently third base at various points in his ten-year American League career. He played for the Tigers between in 1953 and 1958.
In 1957, Bertoia enjoyed the strongest year of his career while competing against all-timers like Ted Williams. He hit .275 in 97 games with the Tigers after carrying a Majors-leading .398 average into May.
All in all, Bertoia played 612 games in the Majors, totaling 425 hits across 1745 total at-bats. He finished his career with a .244 batting average, 27 homeruns, and 171 runs batted in.
In 1964, Bertoia played briefly with the Hanshin Tigers in Japan’s professional baseball league.
Upon his retirement from baseball, Bertoia embarked on a second career as a high school teacher with the Windsor Separate School Board. Bertoia, who had taught on a part-time basis during the baseball offseason in 1958 and 1959, worked for Assumption, Brennan, and Holy Names.
Bertoia is an honoured member of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and the University of Windsor Alumni Sports Hall of Fame.
Reno Bertoia was honoured at the 2011 WECSHOF Induction Ceremony with the following special “In Memoriam” tribute:
Born in San Vito, Italy on January 8, 1935.
Died in Windsor on April 15, 2011.
Teacher, baseball player, director of the Windsor/Essex County Sports Hall of Fame.
- Inducted 1982 into the Windsor/Essex County Sports Hall of Fame
- Inducted 1988 into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame
- Inducted 1988 into the University of Windsor Alumni Sports Hall of Fame
Reno played 612 Major League games, more than any other athlete from Essex County. The first pitcher Reno faced in the Major Leagues was legendary Leroy “Satchel” Paige with the St. Louis Browns.
“His legacy was teaching. He only played baseball for 10 years; he was a teacher for 30. He always said baseball was just a small part of who he was.” – His daughter Ruth Bertoia
“Reno was a special person and one of the nicest people to be around. Reno and I were close friends and roommates when we broke into the big leagues our first couple of years. We remained friends through the years.” – MLB Hall of Famer Al Kaline
“Reno was a Canadian pioneer in the game. The guy led the Major Leagues in hitting in the month of May. He was a well respected history teacher.” – Tom Valke, a former student of Bertoia’s at Assumption and CEO of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame
“He became a childhood hero of mine.” – Marty Gervais, retired Windsor Star columnist and author of a book about Bertoia’s baseball career
“He’s the greatest baseball player that Windsor has ever produced. It’s that simple.” – Windsor Star sports columnist Bob Duff
“It’s one thing to get to the major leagues, but to stay there for 10 years is extremely difficult.” – WECSHOF inductee Joe Siddall
“I have such a great respect for his career and what he accomplished, and that was when there were only 16 Major League teams.” – Fellow high school teacher Steve Vorkapich
“What a great Windsorite. He helped me when I was a rookie director.” – Fellow WECSHOF director Jerry Brumpton.
We extend our condolences to family and friends of Reno Bertoia.