John Marzano

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  John Marzano, a former baseball star at Central High ('81) and Temple and
later an Olympian,
major leaguer and TV/radio commentator, passed away 4/19/08
at age 45.
  John was the DN City Player of the Year as a senior at Central while his fellow
award-winner, as Pitcher of the Year, was Penn Charter righthander Mark Gubicza.
We began picking All-City teams in '78. Only that one time have both honorees
advanced to the majors.
  John was fiercely proud of his South Philly roots, and the entire Delaware Valley
came to embrace him in his "second career" with the media.
  We welcome your comments about John, and they'll be posted below.
Please e-mail them to
  Also, we will gladly post pictures. Those may be sent to the same e-mail
address. Thank you very much.
  **Go to very bottom of page for a story written about John during his senior year
at Central. He was drafted by Minnesota, but instead attended Temple and was
drafted again by Boston in '84.

Contributions . . .

  When I think of John I will remember the three different aspects of his career. The first was before he made it which was a hot July afternoon when I was in High School and John was playing for Temple and through family connections he asked me to throw him some batting practice in return for some pointers. Batting practice lasted over an hour as he sprayed line drives all over Southern field as my father and a friend chased balls over the fence. I realized that day anyone with this conviction and drive was destined for the big leagues. The second memory was when he made the big time. I followed his career more than anyone and watched him represent our country in an exhibition game at the Vet with guys like Will Clark, Mark McGwire and Barry Larkin and he became the leading hitter on the 1984 Olympic team. My father and I would go down to Baltimore and see him play when he came in with the Sox and remember a game where he hit two doubles off the wall against the Orioles. Throughout his career he would be the first player I checked on when scanning the box scores. I would always get excited on those occasions when he did play living the life of a backup catcher and would see him the same lineup as A-Rod and Junior and catching Clemens and the Big Unit. What I most loved about John that he came back after his career was over and started giving back to the area. He helped many kids with his instruction and dedication. I loved his insight to the game and always felt vindicated when we agreed on something that I was arguing about with a friend or family member. I always stated that the key to a successful pitching staff is not through free agency but developing your own prospects through the farm system. He would always say the same thing on his show. He had a passion for baseball that I can relate. To me there is baseball and then there are the other sports. Baseball to me is a 12 month conviction which was shared by John. I saw John a week ago in Chickie & Pete's and told him that I listened to him on my computer almost every day. He thanked me and said that he was excited that the MLB network will be starting in 2009 and he was going to be a major player. The last thing he said was can you believe a guy from South Philly would be a major player on a network. After seeing his work ethic 25 years ago I had no doubt it would be him. I know every time when I watch the new MLB network I will think of John. There is no doubt up in heaven there is a pickup game with Ruth, DiMaggio, Mantle, Ashburn and Johnny Marz from South Philly.
-- Joe Messina
South Philadelphia
  I only knew John for about a year. John never forgot about his roots and helped out Central's baseball teams and helped improved their swing and fielding ability. I visited John Marzano's baseball clinic with the team for two years and in those two years I spent a lot time with John. He was a great guy who was very passionate for not only the game, but also to pass on his knowledge to future generations. I send my prayers out to John Marzano's family and friends and anyone else who was lucky enough to have known this great man.
-- Mike Braun - Central High Baseball
  What a shock !!!
  Me and my husband Jack remember when the Dept. of Rec in South Philly knew John could make it to the pros. Spanky and Steve Vetsofsky bought a pitching machine and pitched to John to develop that swing that he had.   Everyone knew he could make it and South Philly was proud of him and it was great watching him move up.   The crazy thing is how he came back to South Philly and GAVE BACK !!!!!
  People should be more like him.   When my son Mark was about 10 he was playing baseball for the Senators Traveling Team and John was a big input for that team.  John gave lessons in the garage on 10th and Catherine Sts. and he was so proud to help every kid on that team.   He made the kids feel important when they attended the session.   Later he opened the Marzano Academy on Spring Garden St. but the old garage was the place to see John put his arm around your son and show he everything he knew and was so sincere with his time. No matter when you ran into John at Chickie and Petes, he also made a point to come over to your table and ask how is your son doing? And he was real about it. Our family will miss seeing him and Chickie and Petes as well as him being and analyst on TV. 
Thanks John
-- Karen, Jack and Mark Hatty
  Johnny Marz was more than just a baseball coach for me; he was a
role-model, a teacher and a motivator. John worked with both my brother
and me at his baseball academy, as well as providing instructional
sessions for my Central High baseball team. He helped us all to make
tremendous strides to improve our skills. Three times a week we took out
time from the hustle-and-bustle of high school to focus on our common
bond and love, baseball. The times we shared in that old warehouse in
Northern Liberties, with its broken windows, cheaply carpeted floors,
repugnant bathrooms and obvious lack of heat, are some of the happiest
and most memorable times of my life. Though the surroundings were bare
we would leave after every practice with a feeling of exhaustion,
fulfillment and accomplishment, feelings bestowed upon us by the
lectures, stories and life lessons of Johnny Marz. I will never forget
his teachings about both baseball and life. He taught us more than
mechanics and technique. He taught us how to be men and good people. He
always pushed for that extra rep, crunch, push-up, swing, throw, drill,
step or whatever else he could think of, because that's just the kind of
guy he was.  It was apparent that John loved his life and everything in
it.  He would tell endless stories about baseball, family and his
beloved stomping ground, South Philadelphia. It seemed as if he was just
one of those guys who lived life the right way and lived it to the
fullest. His death is a tremendous loss to us all and I feel very
blessed to have spent every moment I did with him.
John, you are dearly missed,
-- Zach "Burger Boy" Magdovitz
  Though I didn't know John Marzano personally, I have to say that was very saddened with his passing. I'm a huge baseball fan and consider myself a student of the game. So, with that in mind, it was easy for me to pay attention when John talked baseball. Johnny Marz had the ability to capture an audience with an energy and passion like no other. I appreciated the fact that he was a Philadelphian like myself, so it was extremely easy to relate to him and welcome his style. No matter who the player, the coach, or the situation, John was always honest in his analysis. This was always refreshing and certainly one of the reasons why John was so respected by the fans. I'd just like to pass along my thoughts and prayers to all the friends and family of John Marzano. May he rest in peace!
-- Ed "Huck" Palmer
  Back in the early to mid 80's, I got to know John from some mutual friends. John was a good person, always had a smile on his face, always fun to be around, quick with a wisecrack. From a baseball perspective, from the 1981 City All-Star game, thru 3 years of college, I don't think I ever saw anything other than a line drive in a gap come off of John's bat. Great hitter, great catcher, great competitor. God bless his family, and rest in peace.
-- Dan Mostardi
  Man, I have so many memories of Johnny Marz. We played on Temple Baseball Team for three years. We
won three championships. We were traveling roommates. Man, this is hard I can't believe this. I just talked
to him about three weeks ago. I remember every time we would be on the road playing ball. We would
go out to dinner and for some reason we would always end up at an Italian restaurant. We would always
order pizza or spaghetti. I would yelled out "I'm from North Philly not South Philly". "I'm ordering a cheese
steak". Today my favorite foods are pizza and spaghetti. Some kind of way John will rub his South Philly
roots on you. He loved South Philly and he wanted everyone around him to love South Philly. He use to shout
out Rocky! Rocky! Rocky!  because he ran down the streets of the Italian markets. I remember when he
first met his lovely wife Terri. The three of us had the same class at Temple. I had to set him up with her
because he was too nervous to do it. Man those were the fun days. God bless you buddy. Make sure you
order enough pizza for you and God.
-- Cliff Carter
Temple Baseball 1981-1984

  John Marzano was simply an amazing person to be around.  He was my favorite baseball instructor by far.  I only worked with him from about October to January but every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I'd see good ole Johnny Marz with some smart comment, trying to get me to work harder whether it was taking more balls on the tee or working with the medicine ball, he would just make you want to be better.  Then while you're focused hard trying to have a good BP session he'd make a joke that would have you cracking up.  Not to mention the stories he would tell, with a kool aid smile on his face.  Going down to Marzano's was always fun but you knew that you would be working hard and John made sure of that.  About five hours before I heard of his tragic death I was discussing with my mom about playing in his Marzano league and I'm still hoping I play in that league and suggest any other high school player to look into that. 

      Today at the Central vs Gamp game we had a moment of silence for him and I dedicated the game to him.  We lost 7-6 which was pretty disappointing but I went 2-4 with two RBIs and I know John was watching me play smiling down on me.

Every game from here on out will be dedicated to him.  He was a truly great person and I send my prayers to his friends and family Rest In Peace Johnny Marz.
Ian Lewis
Yes, Saturday was a sad day with the shocking news that former Major League and South Philly product John Marzano was found dead at the bottom of his South Philadelphia apartment steps. When most people think of Johnny Marz, they think of his fine Major League career and the fact that he came from the “City Of Brotherly Love”.  However, when the name Marzano is mentioned to me, I immediately think of his late father, John Sr. Mister Marzano was the epitome of class. He played catch and threw baseballs to his son prior to his Little League playing days. When Johnny was old enough to play organized ball, his dad stepped aside and let the coaches take control of his son. He stood in the background, as far away as possible from his son and never said a word. This continued all through John’s High School, College and Professional playing career. Unfortunately, behavior such as this from parents of today’s players is few and far between. Come on folks. Let your kids play. Have some fun. Not only in baseball but any extra curricular activity involving young men or woman. There are only a small percentage of athletes who will advance to the professional level. If your kid is good, he will be discovered. There’s no need for an adult to interfere while a child is participating in an event. When a youngster signs up to play he immediately learns about, commitment, dedication and discipline.  These abstract traits are used in the Real World when an individual becomes an adult. Well, here’s hoping a lesson can be learned by both parents and their children from two people who made our city proud.  May they both “REST IN PEACE”!!!
-- Mark "Frog" Carfagno
"All-City Brother"
Johnny Marz, my All-City brother,
Class of '81, you were like no other.


You gave up your childhood to reach your dream,
An Olympian and professional, you were supreme.


South Philadelphia, your home sweet home,
Anybody had an issue, you made it known.


Before you make your trip to heaven,
You'll always be labeled a Philly legend.


An original guy, you were like no other,
You'll always be remember as my All-City brother!

-- Joe Allen, Mastbaum '81
Retired Philles ground crew member
'81 Daily News All-City teammate


  John Marzano was not just a baseball coach to me. He was an inspiration. He was a great role model for me and the entire Central Baseball team. As a team, we would visit John at his academy. I looked forward to going there everyday to practice and work on my baseball skills. He was always there, greeting us with smiles and jokes. He had nicknames for the entire team and always cracked jokes on us. He was a guy everyone loved to be around. Like Johnny Marz, I come from South Philly and play catcher for Central High. It is an honor to play his position and come from the same neighborhood. We had a moment of silence at our game the other day for John. Every game we play from now on is dedicated to John. He has inspired me as well as the entire team to work hard and go the extra mile. He will be sadly missed and my condolences go out to his family. Rest In Peace, John Marzano.
-- Tommy "Renz" Capewell
Johnny Marz was a great inspiration..  He never forgot where he came from and was very proud of his South Philly roots.  I had the honor to work with Johnny Marz.   He would tell me to never say the word I CAN'T and stride for what you wish for.  I will miss you John.  Gone but never forgotten.
-- Dominic Raia III
  I was very lucky to have the opportunity to be John's teammate even 
though I was 5 years older than him. After his sophomore year at 
Central H.S.(summer of 79) he came down to 5th & washington in South 
Philly to play with the Bisons of the Fairmount Park League. And boy 
am I glad he did! John also played with the bisons in 1980. And boy am 
I glad he did! When I moved on to join the Phila. Cubs of the 
Fairmount Park League in 1981, I talked John into joining me with the 
Cubs at 48th & Woodland. And he did after his senior year finished at 
Central H.S. And boy am I glad he did!! In all my days playing 
baseball at D.V.Y.A.A.(Dept. of Recreation League),Bishop Neumann 
H.S., Philadelphia Community College, Pen Del League, Delco League and 
the Alaska League, I had never had the chance to be on a championship 
winning baseball team on any level. But it took a future major leaguer 
from my home town to make that happen for me. When he joined the 
Phila. Cubs we were 2 and 9. We didn't have a catcher. They had me 
catching and believe me when I tell you, I did not want any part of 
that! When he came to his first game with the Cubs the guys could not 
believe what they were witnessing. As they say: THE REST IS HISTORY! 
The 1981 Philadelphia Cubs were champs of the Fairmount Park League. 
In all my years I never thought of that until tonight. As much as I 
enjoyed throwing BP to John as a pro, spending time with him when the 
Red Sox or Mariners came to the west coast where I lived for some time 
now and just following John's career like all of you, I will cherish 
the memories I had with John as his teammate and a FRIEND. It would be 
my hope and prayer for all of you out there to have at least one 
friend like the one I had in John Marzano.  He was something special 
on and off the field!!! Thanks for your friendship and thanks for that 
championship season! I will catch up with you one day!
-- Al "Sugar Bear" Barbieri
  I used to work at Columbus Square during the summers and I played for a couple of the local teams.  Mr. Marzano was a great guy and he was always with Johnny on the field.  I watched him grow up and develop into a great ballplayer and always knew he’d make it to the big league.  There was a banquet one year and Johnny had pitched 5 no hitters that season.  He was given a plaque with 5 baseballs on was awesome.  Another time, my team, that was an age group above Spanky’s team, played them in a game just for fun.  I was pitching that day and I’ll never forget that Mr. Marzano pulled me aside during the game and told me that Johnny said I was throwing hard on the mound.  The fact that Johnny noticed what I was doing was one of the best compliments I ever received and I’ll never forget it.  Spanky’s team beat us soundly that day, but I still hold that compliment near to my heart.  I also remember seeing Johnny on the news the day he was drafted by Boston.  It was such a great moment for South Philly that one of our own was making it to the Major League.  Not that it was a big surprise. I know that Johnny and Mr. Marzano are up in Heaven having a catch every day.  Here’s to eternally sunny days to play baseball up there. I know Johnny and his dad are two bright stars in Heaven.
-- Charlie DiPatri













  John Marzano Sr. attended South Philadelphia High and crawled into bed with

visions of big league baseball dancing inside his head. But he couldn't hit or

throw and, after a while, he couldn't bear to dream anymore.

  His son, John Jr., attends Central High and there's only one part of the

game he finds a wee bit troublesome - flat-out motoring.

  However, since his bat fires line drives to all fields and his arm guns down

runners at second base and his greatest desire in life is to work harder than

any other would-be major league catcher, the scouts view his games on a

regular basis and the phrase they keep uttering, often in hushed tones, is

"top-notch prospect."

  How top-notch, of course, no one will know until the first week of June when

the annual draft takes place. Whatever happens, John Marzano Jr. is having the

time of his life.

  "You hear so many things. You don't know what to believe," said John, a 5-

11, 185-pounder. "You can't pin down what the scouts are thinking. I could

get drafted high, I could get drafted low, I might not get drafted at all.

For me, it's a dream come true just to have the scouts come around, to have

them evaluating what you can do.

  "NOT MANY KIDS can say, 'I was scouted. ' Not many kids are experiencing the

extra excitement that I am."

  Although John says he has never been pushed by his father - "only helped"

- the two have long acted as one. 

  When John was only 9 or 10, his father would take him to Columbus

Playground, near his house at 11th and Wharton Sts., and the pair would work

on John's game for up to six hours. When John was in ninth grade, his father

spent $1,000 to purchase a pitching machine. When John was in 11th grade, his

father spoke with Phillies' officials and received permission to hold nightly

two-hour workouts in the tunnel under the left-field stands, where a batting

cage is located.

  "In all my years of coaching," said Central's Bob Cullman, "I've never

seen a father who's closer to his son and a son who's closer to his father."

  "We've always been that way and our common love has been baseball," John

said. "Since I was 8, we've worked out together. He'll come to me and say,

'Let's go to the field. 'I'll go to him and say, 'Let's go to the field.'

There's never any argument. We always go.

  "I was always the best hitter in my age group. That's because my father

gave me so much practice. He'd talk all the little kids into shagging the

balls in the outfield and pitch to me and pitch to me and pitch to me some

more. Laughing When I got too good for his pitching, he bought the


  "In the five months before this season, I worked out at the Vet for two or

2 1/2 hours a night. Seven days a week. We'd put the pitching machine up on

the mound and turn that baby up to 90 or 95 MPH. After that, my father would

walk inside the net and fire balls in the dirt to give me practice at blocking

bad pitches. Even now, we work hard."

  INDEED. ON SATURDAY, it was mentioned to Mr. Marzano that the scouts like

the strength of John's arm, but his throws to second have not yet reached the

point where they get to the exact spot consistently.

  "I knew it! I knew someone talked to him about that," John said, laughing.

  "He had me outside today, making millions of throws to second base. He kept

saying, 'Get it here. Get it here.' "

  Through 12 games, including eight in the Public League, John has 19 hits in

36 at-bats for a .527 average. His other key stats include 11 doubles, 3

triples, 2 homers, 27 RBI and the unheard-of slugging percentage of 1.167. He

has also drawn 15 walks, many of the semi-intentional variety.

  Bob Cullman has coached baseball for 14 years and one of his players has

never batted .500 over a three- year career. John Marzano, meanwhile, could

go hitless the rest of the season and he'd still boast a plus-.500


  Marzano spent his formative years at third base. After his soph season,

there were whispers his future would prove rosier at catcher and the switch

came to pass during the following winter.

  Contrary to popular belief, Mr. Marzano did not wake up in a cold sweat one

January morning and drag his son to the playground to throw him "wild

pitches" that bounced into snow instead of dirt. John became a catcher during

his week-long stay at a Florida-based baseball camp, which he attended again

this winter.

  "My father and I had discussed the possibility of switching with Mr.

Cullman, but nothing was definite," John said. "I went to camp as a third

baseman. Steve Boros (now coach with Expos) told me, 'You have good

quickness at third. But with your arm, you should get behind the plate. You'll

have a better shot at making fast progress.' "

  JOHN MADE MOST of his early progress with Columbus in the Dept. of

Recreation program. His coach, Gabe "Spanky" DiFeliciantonio, bursts with as

much pride as Mr. Marzano.

  "Spanky worked my butt off, too," John laughed. "When I played 14-to- 16,

he'd have me working with the 12- to-14 and 16-to-18 teams. He'd work me at

third, short and second to improve my mobility, sometimes for as much as 10

hours a day."

  Like most kids, John envisioned himself as a big league player about the

same time he first plopped down some change for bubblegum cards. The dream,

however, didn't zoom into focus until last year.

  "In 10th grade, I was just out there playing ball, trying to improve," John

said. " Then I moved to catcher in 11th grade and people started to talk about

me in terms of being a prospect. Now, it's all I can think about.

  "My father he doesn't say 'boo' at games and never acts like the typical

pushy pop is caught up in it, too. He says I should work at it more than

ever. He says, 'You've come so far, don't ease up now. ' I agree with him. You

never know, there might be someone out there working harder than I am."

  Doubtful. It's also quite doubtful that John Marzano will be prevented from

doing all that he wants to.