Tomatoes at the Diamond

The final game of the 112th World Series is tonight, so we thought we’d take a moment to reflect on how Italian gardeners have left their mark on baseball. Italian gardeners don’t let a good patch of dirt go to waste, so it’s no surprise they have a history of growing even at the diamond…

nyt-article-pignatano

A New York Times article from July, 1977  featuring Joe Pignatano and his garden.   All content and images are copyright The New York Times TM.

 
Joe Pignatano was famous for the lucky vegetable garden he grew in Shea Stadium’s bullpen during his 12 year tenure as a coach for the Mets.  He started his baseball garden in 1969 when he came across a stray tomato plant in the bullpen (for those not proficient in baseball lingo, the bullpen is where the pitchers warm up).  He took the stray tomato as a sign of good luck, and tended it for the rest of the season.  The Mets went on the win the World Series that year, and Pignatano never missed planting a garden the rest of his time with the Mets.

Check out this article, originally published in the New York Times for more about Pignatano’s garden.
We love that he staked his tomato plants with old baseball bats!

A Vegetable Garden Grew In Shea Stadium by Albin Krebs and Robert McG. Thomas
 
 
Pasquale “Pat” Santarone was the outspoken groundskeeper for the Baltimore Oriole’s at Memorial Stadium.  He and his good friend, team manager Earl Weaver, had a well-known, running feud over who grew the best tomatoes – a competition that received lots of attention from local news sources.  Santarone claimed to have taught Weaver how to garden, but he explained, he “didn’t teach him all my secrets. That’s what makes him so grouchy — sitting up all night trying to figure out what I haven’t told him yet.”

Santarone’s famous tomatoes grew in foul territory of left field where he said they benefited from the ballpark’s irrigation and bright lights, but not the popcorn bags and beer bottles fans sometimes threw on them. Despite the litter and the occasional foul ball, the tomatoes were well loved among Orioles fans, and Santarone received many requests for seeds each year.

Santarone was also a grounds-keeping consultant at Baltimore’s famous Pimlico Race Track, where the second of the Triple Crown horse races is run.  He joked that the best tomatoes he ever grew came the years he fertilized them with manure from famous racehorses Secretariat and Spectacular Bid.

Read more about Pat Santarone here:

Groundskeeper Mixed Baseball, Fertilizer and Tomato Growing  by Frederick N. Rasmussen

Baseball vegetable gardens aren’t just a thing of the past.  Five MLB stadiums boast gardens today, but it’s nothing new – Italian Americans were gardening at the diamond almost 50 years ago.

Read more about current MLB gardens here:

The Urban Farming Trend That’s Taking Over Major League Baseball by Natasha Geiling

and here

Growing Tomatoes at the Ballpark by Kevin Richard

 

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