Luigi Cameroni (Gigi)
Luigi Cameroni was a top catcher and manager in Italy.
Cameroni got involved in baseball in 1947, in the early days of Italian baseball. He joined the Milano club in 1955, coaching them in softball and playing for their baseball team. He played for the Italian national team for the first time in the 1956 European Championship, going 4 for 11 with 4 RBI and 5 steals (in 5 tries) in 3 games as a utility infielder. Italy won the Bronze Medal. He was 1 for 9 with an error as a SS-3B in the 1957 European Championship, when Italy again placed third. He became player-manager for Milano's baseball team in 1958 and guided them to the title that year. In the 1958 European Championship, he was player-manager for the Italians. He hit poorly, going 1 for 15 but drew 6 walks, stole 5 bases in 5 tries and scored 5 runs in 5 games while playing error-free ball. That overall work won him honors as the tourney's All-Star catcher. Italy finished second to the Netherlands.
In 1960, the first year for which Serie A stats are available online, Cameroni hit .149/.329/.149 with 16 walks, 23 steals (in 24 tries) and 20 runs in 18 games. He was 0-1 with a 11.57 ERA as a pitcher. He guided Milano to a second title. He went 0 for 10 with 4 walks, 2 steals and a run as Italy's backstop in the 1960 European Championship as Italy repeated with a Silver Medal. In 1961, the 28-year-old batted .158/.333/.171 for Milano with 19 walks, 20 runs and 20 steals (caught 3 times) in 18 games. Milano repeated as champions.
During the 1962 campaign, he hit .261/.411/.290 with 27 runs and 27 steals (1 time caught) in 17 games as Milano won a third straight championship. In the 1962 European Championship, he was player-manager for the Italians for a second time. He went 4 for 10 with 9 walks, 5 RBI, 6 runs and 3 steals (in 4 tries) in four games as the starting catcher while Italy won the Silver Medal. He was named the tournament's top catcher. In '63, he batted .226/.368/.226 with 18 steals in 23 attempts over 18 games and also had a 4.05 ERA as a little-used hurler. In 1964, Cameroni produced at a .203/.447/.226 clip with 23 walks, 15 steals (caught 7 times) and 16 runs in 17 contests while having a 1.59 ERA. He caught and managed for the Italians in the 1964 European Championship as they again won the Silver. He went 3 for 12 with a walk, 4 steals and two errors in four games as Italy's starting backstop.
Luigi batted .221/.338/.235 for Milano in '65. In the 1965 European Championship, he made his final appearance for the Italians on the international stage. He won yet another Silver Medal as the player-manager; Italy did not appear in the 1967 European Championship and Giorgio Castelli was the catcher by the 1969 European Championship. In the 1965 tournament, Cameroni was just 1 for 12 with 2 walks, a steal and two runs. During 1966, he led Milano to its 5th title, hitting .172/.411/.203 with 23 walks, 15 steals (in 16 attempts) and 22 runs in 23 contests.
In 1967, he published a book "Gigi Cameroni vi insegna il baseball". The veteran saw reduced action, going 5 for 36 with 14 walks and 12 runs in 12 games at age 34. Milano won it all. He was only 2 for 10 with a walk in 1968, while posting a 5.40 ERA on the mound, as Milano won its third straight title. He went 8 for 42 with a double, 12 walks and 6 steals without being caught in 1969. He had his busiest year yet as a pitcher, though, going 3-0 with a 1.63 ERA. Milano did not win the Serie A title but did win the 1969 European Cup. Cameroni was 8 for 34 with 7 walks in 1970, with a 4-1, 2.63 record on the hill. Milano won its 8th and final title under his management as well as the 1970 European Cup. He ended his career in 1971 on a high note, posting a 4-1, 1.59 record as a pitcher for Milano and going 11 for 29 with 6 walks and 7 steals. Milano won the 1971 European Cup, its last title of any kind for the 20th Century.
From 1960-1971, Cameroni hit .205/.384/.218 with 159 runs, 162 walks and 154 steals (in 177 tries) over 204 games and was 11-3 as a pitcher. As of 2011, he was still among Italy's top 25 in career steals despite lengthened seasons and complete records after his career ended.
In 2005, Cameroni was part of the inaugural Italian Baseball Hall of Fame class.