Thursday, April 18, 2013

Berardino's face insured in Indians' contract


Uncommon commons: In more than 30 years in sportscards publishing I have thrown hundreds of notes into files about the players – usually non-star players – who made up the majority of the baseball and football cards I collected as a kid. Today, I keep adding to those files as I peruse microfilms of The Sporting News from the 1880s through the 1960s. I found these tidbits brought some life to the player pictures on those cards. I figure that if I enjoyed them, you might too.

While it was likely done more for the publicity than in a serious vein, when Cleveland Indians owner Bill Veeck acquired John Berardino from the St. Louis Browns in the 1948 pre-season, Berardino’s contract called for Veeck to pay for a $100,000 insurance policy protecting the player in the event of significant facial injury as a result of playing baseball.

Berardino had played for St. Louis in the 1947 season, then been traded to the Washington Senators for Gerry Priddy. That deal fell through when Berardino announced that he was retiring from pro ball to concentrate on his movie career.

At the time he was filming the horse racing movie Winner’s Circle.

Working in concert with producer Richard F. Polimer, who held Berardino’s Hollywood contract, Veeck arranged a deal whereby Berardino would play for the Indians from spring training through the end of the season and any post-season in which Cleveland was involved (the Indians won the Word Series in 1948).

After the baseball season, Berardino was free to work in the movies.

Berardino, a handsome leading-man type, juggled baseball and movie careers until he retired from ballplaying after the 1952 season. He'd come to the majors in 1939 and spent the 1943-45 seasons in the military. 

While he appeared in dozens of motion pictures over the decades, Berardino is best remembered for having played Dr. Steve Hardy on the TV soap opera General Hospital from its debut in 1963 until his death in 1996. He is credited in that role as John Beradino, having dropped the second "r” from his surname.

Despite having played in the major leagues for 11 seasons (Browns 1939-42, 1946-47, 1951; Indians 1948-50, 1952); Pirates (1950-52), Berardino appears on only two mainstream baseball cards, 1951 Bowman and 1952 Topps. His first card was in the scarce 1941 St. Louis Browns team-issued set. Also widely available are several Cleveland Indians team-issued photo pack pictures.

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