Calderone was more than just a baseball hero
By JOE MASON
Sam Calderone will be remembered by many as one of Burlington County's best baseball players ever. But for Angie Calderone, his wife of 53 years, Sam will always be remembered as so much more.
Sam Calderone passed away on Nov. 28, the same day he celebrated his 53rd wedding anniversary. The 80-year-old had been battling Parkinson's disease.
He was sick for a while, but he never complained, Angie Calderone said. He was diagnosed with the disease in 1994 when he was playing golf. He said he was going to give up the game because he was having trouble with his balance, so we took him to the doctors and they said he had Parkinson's.
Born in Beverly and a lifelong area resident, Sam Calderone was an accomplished golfer and football player during his days at Burlington City High School, but his passion was baseball.
After playing for the Burls, Calderone went on to play baseball professionally and was linked to some of the biggest names in the game's history.
Calderone broke into the major leagues with the New York Giants on April 19, 1950 and was a catcher for the team from 1950 to 1953. One of his biggest highlights as a pro came on Aug. 17, 1950 when he hit an inside-the-park home run against the Brooklyn Dodgers the same game in which Dodgers' great Pee Wee Reese also hit an inside-the-park homer.
Calderone was traded along with Giants legend Bobby Thomson to the Milwaukee Braves in 1954.
Primarily a backup, Calderone was known for being a defensive wiz behind the plate.
I remember he used to always catch Hoyt Wilhelm and I'd always wonder why he had to get behind the plate when there was a knuckleballer out there, Angie Calderone said with a laugh. But he loved to play. He once went 33 consecutive games catching that knuckleball without making an error.
Upon his retirement from baseball, Sam Calderone stayed around the game. He coached various teams in Burlington County and could often be found having a simple game of catch with the neighborhood children.
He'd say he was going out to cut the grass, but I'd see him out there, having a catch with the neighborhood children, Angie said. Sometimes the grass wouldn't be cut until dusk, but the kids would all have a great time and so would Sam.
He also used to fix some of the children's gloves. And if he wasn't able to fix them, he'd tell them to leave the gloves overnight and then he'd go out and buy them a new one. He loved children and he loved baseball.
Sam and Angie Calderone had two sons Sam Jr. and the late Kevin Calderone.
He always let us know how special we were to him, I loved him so much, Angie Calderone said. When he was sick, he'd sit in his chair and thank me for taking care of him.
I'd tell him "you'd do the same for me.' Then he would just look at me, smile and say how much he loved me and then we would kiss.
I'm going to miss him. We're all going to miss him.