Gallatin native goes to bat for Donora Historical Society program
Much has been said and written about Ron Necciai's unmatched professional baseball performance 62 years ago in Bristol, Va.
Come June 7, baseball fans will have the opportunity to hear Necciai's first-hand account of that memorable night when he appears at a 1:30 p.m. Donora Historical Society program at the Smog Museum at Sixth Street and McKean Avenue in Donora.
“We are very pleased to have Ron as our featured speaker,” said Mark Pawelec of the historical society. “He is such an integral part of the history of baseball, and we are looking forward to hearing about that game as well as Ron's professional career. You can read myriad accounts of the game in Bristol, but Ron lived it. We are fortunate that he will be here to recount everything in his own words.”
Necciai, a native of Gallatin and a standout athlete at Monongahela High School, wrote his name into baseball history by striking out 27 batters in a nine-inning game in the Class D Appalachian League on May 13, 1952. He is the only pitcher to accomplish that feat in a nine-inning game on any level of professional baseball.
That standard came in a 7-0 no-hitter while pitching for the Bristol Twins against the Welch (W.Va.) Miners at Shah Stadium in Bristol.
Four Welch batters did reach base, one each on a walk, an error, a hit batsman and a passed ball that got by Bristol catcher Harry Dunlop on a swinging third strike. This resulted in a four-strikeout ninth inning. Only two Welch batters actually put the ball in play, one on a groundout to first base and the other getting on base on an error.
“Yes, I still get inquiries about that game,” said Necciai, who makes his home in Rostraver Township. “People send baseball cards, baseballs, newspaper articles and other items for me to sign and I get calls to do radio talk shows. There have been newspaper and magazine articles over the years, of course, and stories on the Internet create a lot of interest. That one night so many years ago certainly has had an impact on my life.”
It also earned for him recognition some 425 miles north of the Mon Valley. A ball Necciai used in the 27-strikeout no-hitter is on permanent display in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum at Cooperstown, N.Y.
In his next start after the no-hitter, Necciai threw a two-hitter in which he struck out 24 batters.
He was called up to the majors by the Pirates in August 1952 and pitched for them through Sept. 28, posting a 1-6 record in his only stint with the parent club.
Necciai served in the U.S. Army in 1953 but was given a medical discharge because of lingering problems from an ulcer. He returned to the Pirates' farm system but strained his arm and was forced to give up aspirations for a career in professional baseball. In addition to playing for the Pirates in 1952 and at Bristol, his resume includes assignments at Salisbury, N.C, New Orleans and Hollywood, Calif.
He played for Van Voorhis in the Mon Valley League in 1955. That marked his return to the area, where he also played while still in high school for the Local 210 team managed by Harry Sickles.
Also taking part in the June 7 program will be Ken Barbao, a member of a well-known Donora athletic family.
Like Necciai, Barbao also pitched in the Pittsburgh Pirates' farm system for several years.
A 1949 graduate of Donora High School, where he played baseball and was a standout guard on the Dragons' 1948 football team that posted a 9-2-0 record, Barbao, a hard-throwing pitcher, signed with the Pirates in 1951. A year earlier, he was a pitcher with the Monongahela team that won the Pennsylvania Junior American Legion championship.
Barbao made his debut pitching against a major league team on March 3, 1952, against the St. Louis Browns in an exhibition game at San Bernadino, Calif. He toiled with Pittsburgh affiliates in Salisbury, N.C., Waco, Texas, Charleston, S.C., Williamsport, Pa., and Kinston, N.C., before returning home in 1957 to join the Donora CIO team in the Mon Valley League.
Barbao became player-manager of the CIO crew in 1960. In 1962 he helped Wyano win its third straight Westmoreland County League championship and in 1963 was part of the Wyano team that won the Mon Valley League title.
“Ken and I roomed together in the minors and had some great experiences there,” Necciai said. ”In fact, if it wasn't for him there would not have been my time in baseball.”
In addition to hearing Necciai and Barbao, visitors to the museum on June 7 will have the opportunity to view exhibits featuring Stan Musial and Ken Griffey Sr., Donora natives who enjoyed long and successful careers in the major leagues, as well as Donora's first major leaguer, Bob Coulson.
Those displays, said Brian Charlton, curator for the Donora Historical Society, are part of a large collection of sports memorabilia at the spacious site.
“Athletes and athletics hold a very special place in the heritage of Donora and the Mon Valley,” Charlton said. “We are always pleased to share this history. The program with Ron Necciai and Ken Barbao will added another chapter to everything.”
Ron Paglia is a contributing writer to Trib Total Media.