The recent posts about Favorite Commons sparked my interest in contributing to this blog.
My favorite common is just about any card of Steve Nicosia in a Pirates uniform.
However, if I had to pick just one it would be his 1982 Fleer card pictured below.
In this Spring Training shot, the photographer pressed the shutter button at just the right time to capture Steve blowing a bubble that covers the lower half of his face. Steve is also wearing the – I luv em – you hate em – black and yellow uniforms complete with the Pill Box ball cap.
In the 1973 amateur draft, Pittsburgh selected Steve in the first round and he went straight from North Miami Beach High School to A ball with the Charleston Pirates.
1979 was Steve’s official rookie year and he was a key member of the World Champs batting .288 primarily against left-handed pitchers in 70 regular season games while sharing the starting catcher duties with Ed Ott.
Steve started 4 games in the 1979 World Series. He was only 1 for 16 at the plate but made some key defensive plays and was masterful at calling pitches in Game 5. He was behind the plate for the last out of Game 7 and can be seen at the end of the game throwing some hay makers at a fan who tried to steal his face mask.
During his additional time with the Pirates (1980 -August of 1983) he platooned with Ott and then was a backup to Tony Pena who was brought up in 1981.
He was traded to the Giants late in the season in 1983 and played another year in San Francisco before finishing his career with the Expos and then the Blue Jays in 1985.
Being a diehard Pirates fan, a card of Steve in another uniform just doesn’t look right to me.
A Fam-A-Lee Connection
During Steve’s time at North Miami Beach High School my uncle was his baseball coach (my uncle was also a biology teacher). It was a nugget of information that stuck in my head from a conversation over a few beers with my uncle back in the late 1970’s.
In 2009 I was spectator at the Pirates Fantasy Camp in Bradenton, Florida and noticed that Steve was one of the alumni Pirates who was coaching and playing against the campers. I waited for the right moment and leaned over the fence and told him that my uncle, Sam Viviano, was his baseball coach in high school. He immediately smiled and asked me how my uncle was doing. He mentioned that he had not spoken to him in a long time. I told him that I would be back to tomorrow and put him in touch with my uncle on a cell phone call.
I arrived early the next day and got my uncle on the phone first and then called out to Steve. He came over and I handed the cell phone to him and told him my uncle was on the line. Steve shouted, “Coach Viv” and then proceeded to walk around the field for the next 20 minutes smiling as he conversed with my uncle.
I called my uncle back after the call and he told me how great it was to catch up with Steve and how surprised he was that I remembered that he coached Steve in high school.
Steve Nicosia owned Hall of Fame pitcher Steve Carlton hitting .339 against him in 60 at bats. My uncle was Steve Carlton’s biology teacher in high school (my uncle was not the baseball coach at the time).