'Pete' Cera, 86; worked for PhilliesInquirer Staff WriterPasquale "Pete" Cera, 86, the beloved
Phillies clubhouse assistant who one manager said "should be
remembered in Philadelphia as the greatest guy in baseball history,"
died Tuesday at Hazleton (Pa.) General Hospital.
To many, Mr. Cera was the Phillies. From 1974 until he retired
in 1998, he was a trainer, traveling secretary, clubhouse man,
manager's helper, players' friend - and a combination mother, father
and favorite uncle. And for 36 years before coming to the majors, he
was was a hero to hundreds of ballplayers in the minors, primarily
with Phillies farm teams.
Former Phillies manager Frank
Lucchesi was a big fan of Mr. Cera's. The men he most admires are
"Frank Sinatra, Joe DiMaggio and Pete Cera," Lucchesi said
In 1998, the year he retired, Mr.
Cera was the first recipient of the Richie Ashburn Special
Achievement Award, which is given annually to the Phillies employee
who shows the most loyalty, dedication and passion for the
Mr. Cera's six decades in
professional baseball began after he graduated from Hazleton High
School in 1938. He worked as a batboy, groundskeeper and equipment
manager for the Boston Red Sox' farm club in Hazleton. He earned $5
a week. When that team moved to Scranton in 1938, Mr. Cera moved
The only three years of his adult
life he ever spent away from baseball were during World War II, from
1942 to 1945, when he was with the Army building bridges in the
When his hitch was up, he returned to
the minors, working in Scranton in the Washington Senators
Mr. Cera, who completed trainers'
school in Barto, Fla., on the GI Bill, joined the Phillies
organization in 1953.
He worked in Williamsport, Pa.,
Reading and Little Rock, getting to know the players and managers he
would see in the majors.
He became lifelong friends with Dick
Allen, whom Mr. Cera met in 1960, when Allen was a youngster playing
in Clearwater, Fla., in the Phillies organization. That was before
the civil-rights movement, and Allen, who was right out of high
school and one of the few African Americans in the Phillies
organization, needed a friend.
Throughout his career, Allen said, he
would head straight to Mr. Cera whenever he came to the
"He was my best friend," Allen said.
"He washed your socks... . He shined your shoes. He checked on
curfew. He did everything."
"I thank God that Pete walked through
my life. He was a great influence on me through tough segregated
times. He was there for all of us, no matter what color. He stands
among the tallest men in my career," Allen said.
Lucchesi, who started working with
Mr. Cera in the minors in the 1950s and managed the Phillies in the
early 1970s, said: "Pete should be remembered in Philadelphia as the
greatest guy in baseball history."
A devout Catholic, Mr. Cera greeted
the players each Sunday by asking if they went to church. "You
better go or we aren't going to win," he said.
Mr. Cera saw managers come and go,
and in his later days he was in charge of keeping the uniforms
Mr. Cera, who never married, lived in
Hazleton with his two bachelor brothers during off-season. During
the season, he lived with a family near Veterans Stadium, behind
left field on Juniper Street. Mr. Cera, who never got his driver's
license, walked to work. On game days, he arrived at the stadium at
6:30 a.m. and stayed until midnight.
Mr. Cera is survived by brothers
Frank, Agustus and Anthony.
Friends my visit at 6 p.m. today and
at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow at Moran Funeral Home, 229 W. 12th St.,
Hazleton, Pa. A Funeral Mass will be said at 11 a.m. tomorrow at
Most Precious Blood Church in Hazleton. Burial will be in the church