Born on May 3, 1938, in Oakland, California, Christopher John Cannizzaro was raised in the neighboring city of San Leandro. The great-grandson of Italian immigrants Angelo and Antonina Cresci Cannizzaro, Chris and his two younger brothers also possessed a strong Spanish heritage from their mother Isabelle Carabello. Their father John was a San Leandro police officer and an accomplished semipro shortstop. Chris followed in his father’s baseball footsteps until his uncle-Boys Club manager, convinced the 11-year-old was too slow for the middle infield, persuaded the youngster to move to catcher. Chris thrived behind the plate and, in high school, earned all-state honors for the San Leandro Pirates. In the summers he continued play in both American Legion and semi-pro ball and soon began attracting major-league attention. Aggressively scouted by the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals, Cannizzaro leaned strongly toward the Cards. He reasoned he had a quicker path to the majors without being blocked by the likes of Yogi Berra or Roy Campanella. Shortly after his high school graduation in 1956, Cannizzaro inked with Cardinals scout and former minor-league outfielder Tony Governor for a $1,800 salary and a $2,200 bonus.
Throughout his career Cannizzaro participated in numerous charitable and reunion events. In 1965 he played in a benefit game on behalf of the widow of San Francisco’s clubhouse custodian where $8,000 was raised (that same year his wife participated in a charity fashion show in New York). Five years later he was recognized as “Big Brother of the Year” in San Diego. Cannizzaro travelled to New York in 1986 to engage in an Old Timers Game with many of his former 1962 Mets teammates. He even tried to come to the aide of the men in blue on one occasion. On April 21, 1965 home plate umpire Bill Williams, in a seeming act of desperation, pleaded with Cannizzaro to prevent manager Casey Stengel from continually coming out of the dugout. On this occasion Cannizzaro’s efforts proved fruitless when Stengel was thumbed from the game. Read More