Saturday, April 6, 2013

Natrone stripped uniform, left pro ball

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.  I figure that if I found them interesting, you might too.

In its Sunday, March 31, issue, The Post-Crescent, published in Appleton, Wis., had a typical minor league season preview feature.

There were several features of historical note, back to 1891, when the city was first represented in organized baseball.

One of the stories detailed the short, but memorable career of former Appleton Foxes outfielder Phil Nerone.

Written by sports staffer Mike Woods, the story quoted former team executive Milt Drier and his recollection of Nerone.

"It was at spring training in 1976," said Milt Drier, a former team president of the Foxes, "All of a sudden one day, while he was in the outfield, he took off all his baseball clothes."

The hat hat, the glove, the pants, the shirt, the socks, cleats and the underwear -- ALL his baseball clothes.

"Then he shouted, 'I don't need this baseball stuff anymore,'" said Drier. "'I'm going to Hollywood to be a movie star. Bye, bye.' And that was the end of Phil Nerone.

No wonder his nickname was "Orbit."

I believe, based on Nerone's record at, that Drier may have hjad the year wrong, as Nerone played the 1976 season with Appleton.

Nerone had been a multi-sport hogh school star in Pittsburgh. The White Sox drafted him in the seventh round in 1972, but he elected to go to school at Miami-Dade College. He signed with Chicago in 1974 when they made his a first-round pick in the June secondary draft.

The White Sox assigned Nerone to Appleton in the Class A Midwest League and he played his entire professional career there in 1975 and 1976. He hit .196 with no power in those two seasons.

Surprisingly, Nerone appears on two baseball cards. He was playing at Appleton when TCMA began to expand its production of minor league team sets. He's in both the 1975 (shown here) and 1976 sets. 

That's fortunate for collectors of oddball ballplayers.

It doesn't look like Nerone made it big in Hollywood . . . I didn't find his name anywhere on the Internet Movie Database website.

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