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Praising the Paesans: Top 10 Italian-Americans in Sports

Al Capone was great, but could he hit a jump shot?

In wake of Rocco Baldelli’s retirement, having viewed Rocky IV for the 270th time, and with St. Joseph’s Day vastly approaching, I thought it was only fitting to acknowledge and celebrate Italian-Americans in sports.

From a stereotypical stand point, most Italians are well known for their Mob ties or their acting in movies about their connection to the mob.  Also, their love of macaroni, lasagna, and deep dish pizza often overshadows the success Italians have had in the world of sports.  For every Al Capone and Robert DeNiro, there’s also a Rocky Balboa and Mickey Morandini.

Without further ado, The Sports Minion brings you the Top 10 Italian-Americans in Sports History.

10. Yogi Berra, baseball, catcher, manager

  • .285/.348/.482, 358 HR, 1,430 RBI
  • 18x All Star
  • 13x World Series Champion (10-4 as a player)
  • A cartoon may have been named after him

9. Tony LaRussa, baseball, manager

  • 2x World Series Champion
  • 4x Manager of the Year
  • 2,638 wins, .535 win%

8. Joe Torre, baseball, catcher, manager

  • 4x World Series Champion
  • 2x Manager of the Year
  • 9x All Star, 1971 MVP
  • 4,329 wins, .538 win%

7. Joe Paterno, football, coach

  • 2x National Champions
  • 401-135-3 (most wins all time)
  • 24-12-1 in bowl games (most wins all time)
  • 5x AFCA Coach of the Year
  • Hall of Fame

6. Vince Lombardi, football, coach

  • 5x NFL Champion
  • 2x Super Bowl Winner
  • 96-34-6, .738 win%
  • 9-1 playoff record
  • Hall of Fame

5. Jim Valvano, basketball, head coach

  • 1983 National Championship
  • 336-197, .630 win%
  • 1993 inspirational ESPY speech
  • Created the V Foundation “Don’t Give Up…Don’t Ever Give Up”
  • “Take time every day to laugh, to think, to cry.”

4. Rocky Marciano, boxer

  • 49-0 (43 KO’s)
  • Only fighter to retire undefeated
  • One of the greatest punchers of all time
  • Ranked #14 Boxer of All Time on ESPN Top 100

3. Dan Marino, football, quarterback

  • 1984 MVP
  • 3x First-team All-pro selection
  • 9x Pro Bowl selection
  • Hall of Fame
  • Threw for over 5,000 yds in one season
  • 61,361 yds, 420 TDs

2. Joe Montana, football, quarterback

  • 2x MVP
  • 4x Super Bowl Champion
  • 3x First-team All-pro selection
  • 8x Pro Bowl selection
  • Rated #4 NFL Player of all-time by NFL.com http://top100.nfl.com/
  • Hall of Fame
  • 40,551 yds, 273 TDs

1. Joe DiMaggio, baseball, centerfield

  • 9x World Series Champion
  • 3x MVP
  • 13 X All Star in 13 seasons
  • 56-game hit streak (#1 all time)
  • .325/.398/.579, 261 HR, 1,537 RBI
  • Hall of Fame

Honorable Mentions:

Baseball:  Roy Campanella (3x MVP, HOF), Mike Piazza (12x All Star), Tommy Lasorda (2x WS Champ, HOF)

Football:  Franco Harris (HOF, 9x Pro-Bowler)

College Basketball:  Rick Pitino (521–191*, ‘96 Natl Champ), John Calipari (476–143*, 2x Naismith)

Women’s College Basketball:  Geno Auriemma (7x Natl Champ, 6x Naismith)

Hockey:  Tony Esposito (HOF, 3x Vezina Trophy), Phil Esposito (HOF, 2x Hart Trophy)

Boxing:  Jake LaMotta (83-19-4, 30KO’s), Willie Pep (229-11-1, 65 KO’s)

Racing:  Mario Andretti (HOF, 4x Indycar titles)

Olympics:  Matt Biondi (swimmer) (11 medal winner, 8 gold)

Special Mentions:

Baseball:  Craig Biggio, Terry Francona, Phil Rizzuto, Jason Giambi, Joe Girardi, Andy Pettitte, Mike Scioscia

Football:  Adam Vinatieri, Vinny Testaverde, Tedy Bruschi

Basketball:  Tom Izzo, Dick Vitale

Hockey:  Mike Modano

Boxing:  Angelo Dundee (trainer), Tony Canzoneri

Golf:  Mark Calcavecchia

Pro Wrestling:  Bruno Sammartino, Randy Savage

Body Builders:  Lou Ferrigno, Franco Columbu, Rich Gaspari

There you have it, the complete shout out to the sporting world’s best Italy descendants.

  1. Dennis Giannotti
    October 22, 2016 at 6:57 pm

    What about phil esposito?

  2. professor59
    February 16, 2018 at 2:43 pm

    Tony Lazzeri, Rocky Graziano

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