Angelo Bartlett Giamatti (/dʒiːəˈmɑːti/; April 4, 1938 – September 1, 1989) was an American professor of English Renaissance literature, the president of Yale University, and the seventh Commissioner of Major League Baseball.
Giamatti served as Commissioner for only five months before dying suddenly of a heart attack. He is the shortest-tenured baseball commissioner in the sport’s history and the only holder of the office not to preside over a full Major League Baseball season. Giamatti negotiated the agreement resolving the Pete Rose betting scandal by permitting Rose to voluntarily withdraw from the sport to avoid further punishment.
Giamatti was born in Boston and grew up in South Hadley, Massachusetts, the son of Mary Claybaugh Walton (Smith College 1935) and Valentine John Giamatti. His father was professor and chairman of the Department of Italian Language and Literature at Mount Holyoke College. Giamatti’s paternal grandparents were Italian immigrants Angelo Giammattei and Maria Lavorgna his grandfather Angelo emigrated to the United States from Telese, near Benevento, Italy, around 1900. Giamatti’s maternal grandparents, from Wakefield, Massachusetts, were Helen Buffum (Davidson) and Bartlett Walton, who graduated from Phillips Academy Andover and Harvard College. Giamatti attended South Hadley High School, spent his junior year at the American Overseas School of Rome, and graduated from Phillips Academy in 1956. At Yale College, he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon (Phi chapter) and as a junior in 1960 was tapped by Scroll and Key, a senior secret society. He graduated magna cum laude in 1960.
In 1960, he married Toni Marilyn Smith, who taught English for more than 20 years at the Hopkins School in New Haven, Connecticut, until her death in 2004. Together the couple had three children: actors Paul and Marcus and jewelry designer Elena.
Giamatti had a lifelong interest in baseball and was a noted Boston Red Sox fan. In 1978, when he was first rumored to be a candidate for the presidency of Yale, he had deflected questions by observing that “The only thing I ever wanted to be president of was the American League.” His noteworthy baseball publications include “Tom Seaver’s Farewell”, published in Harper’s Magazine in September 1977, and “Baseball and the American Character,” published in that magazine in October 1986. Giamatti became president of the National League in 1986, and later commissioner of baseball in 1989. During his stint as National League president, Giamatti placed an emphasis on the need to improve the environment for the fan in the ballparks. He also decided to make umpires strictly enforce the balk rule and supported “social justice” as the only remedy for the lack of presence of minority managers, coaches, or executives at any level in Major League Baseball.
While still serving as National League president, Giamatti suspended Pete Rose for 30 games after Rose shoved umpire Dave Pallone on April 30, 1988. Later that year, Giamatti also suspended Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Jay Howell for three days, after Howell was caught using pine tar during the National League Championship Series.
Giamatti, whose tough dealing with Yale’s union favorably impressed Major League Baseball owners, was unanimously elected to succeed Peter Ueberroth as commissioner on September 8, 1988. He formally took office on April 1, 1989. Determined to maintain the integrity of the game, on August 24, 1989, Giamatti prevailed upon Pete Rose to agree voluntarily to remain permanently ineligible to play baseball.
While at his vacation home in Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard, Giamatti, a heavy smoker for many years, died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 51, eight days after banishing Pete Rose and 154 days into his tenure as commissioner. He was interred at Grove Street Cemetery in New Haven, Connecticut.
He became the second baseball commissioner to die in office, the first being Kenesaw Mountain Landis. Baseball’s owners soon selected Fay Vincent, Giamatti’s close friend and baseball’s first deputy commissioner, as the new commissioner. On October 14, 1989, before Game 1 at the World Series, Giamatti—to whom this World Series was dedicated—was memorialized with a moment of silence. Son Marcus Giamatti threw out the first pitch before the game. Also before Game One, the Yale Whiffenpoofs sang the national anthem, a blend of “The Star-Spangled Banner” with “America the Beautiful” that has been since repeated by other a cappella groups.