The incredible, never-before-told story of Augie Donatelli—a man fellow umpires consider a legend.
Coalmines … Bombers … and Baseball …
Emmy Award-winning sportswriter/producer John Bacchia shares the incredible, never-before-told story of Augie Donatelli—one of Major League Baseball’s unsung men in blue. A coal miner from Bakerton, Pennsylvania, Donatelli served his country as a tail gunner aboard a B-17 and found his life’s calling in the bleak confines of a Nazi prison camp.
When Army Air Corps Sta? Sergeant Donatelli umpired softball games to boost morale for his fellow airmen at Stalag Luft VI, little did he know he was taking ?edgling steps towards becoming one of the most respected umpires in baseball history. However, prior to the end of the war, he would be subjected to a brutal “black march” across war-torn Europe before orchestrating a daring escape.
Less than a decade after serving his country, Donatelli found himself at the pinnacle of his profession—umpiring in the 1955 World Series between the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees. Hardened by his war experiences and his years of working in the coal mines, Donatelli hustled on the baseball diamond as if his life depended on it. He gave his heart and soul to the game he loved. Yet despite finding his dream occupation, Donatelli voluntarily put his career and livelihood in jeopardy, as he and his fellow umpires, Shag Crawford, Jocko Conlan, Al Barlick, and others, spearheaded the formation of the first umpires’ union, the Major League Umpires Association.
Cover Photo: Yankee manager Casey Stengel and Augie Donatelli standing toe-to-toe during an exhibition game, April 13th, 1951. Copyright Bettman/CORBIS