First-generation Italian-American Frank ‘Ping Bodie’ Pezzolo, born Francesco Stefano Pezzolo on October 8, 1887 in San Francisco, was a center fielder in Major League Baseball who played for the Chicago White Sox, Philadelphia Athletics, and New York Yankees.
One of the most feared sluggers in the 1910s, Bodie was a .275 hitter with 43 home runs and 516 RBIs in 1050 games.
You will read that Frank was nicknamed "Ping" for the way the ball sounded when he hit it with his 52-ounce bat, and “Bodie” for a town in California where he once lived. Not true.
He explained it in a 1918 interview: “My folks bought a house when I was a youngster from a man named Dwyer. The Dwyers had a boy, Jack, about my age, whose nickname was Ping. When we moved into the house and Jack moved out, he left the Ping behind him and the neighbors hung it on me. As for the Bodie, I don't know. Some bloke must have wished it on me when I began playing ball. Anyway, by this time it's mine. I couldn't get rid of it if I wanted to."
His father, Giuseppe Pezzolo, was born in June 1852 in Favale di Malvaro, near Genova, and when he came to America he lived in New York where his first son was born. With his wife and child, he moved to Nevada to look for work as a miner. Ping’s mother, Rose Marie De Martini, was born in February 1850 in Lorsica, only five miles from Favale. It isn’t clear if they met in New York, in Italy, or on the boat coming here. We know they had 8 children: David, born in New York in 1874; John, born in California in 1876; Rosa, Malta, Lizzie, and Paul all born in Nevada; George and Francesco ‘Ping Bodie’ born in California. Keep in mind that California and Nevada’s mining towns were the Wild Wild West in those years.
Francesco-Frank-Ping Bodie started playing baseball in local teams. In 1910, playing for the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League, Bodie hit the then fantastic total of 30 home runs, and quickly broke into the big leagues with the Chicago White Sox in 1911. After a poor season and some clashes with manager Jimmy Callahan in 1914, he was sold back to the San Francisco Seals.
In 1917 Bodie was back in the major leagues with the Philadelphia Athletics. In that season he ranked among the American League top 10 in eight offensive categories while hitting seven home runs (3rd) with 74 RBIs (6th), 233 total bases (5th), 46 extra-base hits (5th), 11 triples (8th), 28 doubles (9th), a .418 slugging percentage (6th), and a .774 OPS (10th). He also led AL outfielders with 32 assists.
In 1918, the New York Yankees purchased first baseman George Burns from the Detroit Tigers and immediately trade him to the Athletics for Ping Bodie. With the Yankees he batted .256, .278 and .295 in three full seasons.
It was during this time that Bodie became Babe Ruth's first Yankee roommate. When asked about rooming with Babe Ruth, Bodie denied it, saying "That isn't so. I room with his suitcase!"
Bodie was traded to the Boston Red Sox in August 1921. New York went on to win the American League pennant that year. When Bodie asked for a half share of the 1921 World Series money, the Yankees turned him down. After the season was over he refused to go back to the Red Sox and returned home.
After his retirement from baseball, Bodie was an electrician for 32 years on Hollywood movie lots and a bit actor, mostly with Universal Studios. He is given credit for inspiring other West Coast Italian American ballplayers who followed him – Tony Lazzeri, Frank Crosetti, and the brothers Joe, Dom and Vince DiMaggio, between others.
Bodie died of cancer in San Francisco, California, on December 17, 1961, at the age of 74. He is a member of the Italian American Sports Hall of Fame.
New-York Tribune, May 12, 1918
New-York Tribune, May 12, 1918
New-York tribune, April 14, 1918