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Sal Maglie

Baseball's Demon Barber

Judith Testa


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To the batters who faced him, pitcher Sal Maglie looked like the hurler from hell. Tall and sinister in appearance, with glowering dark eyes and a formidable five-o’clock shadow, the famed righthander earned the nickname “Sal the Barber” for his high-inside fastball that cut dangerously close to the batter’s chin. But Maglie was much more than his intimidating image.

This biography provides a colorful, detailed, occasionally shocking, and often moving narrative about the son of poor Italian immigrants who rose far beyond his family’s and his own early dreams and became a star pitcher for the New York Giants. He then, at the apex of his career in the mid-1950s, joined the Brooklyn Dodgers. This is the story of a man whose early mediocrity and failures in the minor leagues in no way prefigured his later success and fame.

Maglie’s major league career shines with baseball drama. He was a key player in some of the most dramatic pennant races in baseball history and a participant in several of the sport’s most famous games. Women found him irresistible, and his first marriage was at times severely strained by his infidelities. Despite his success in baseball, he endured pain, disappointment, and personal tragedy.

Through wide-ranging research that includes interviews with Maglie’s relatives, friends, former teammates, and team officials, as well as newspaper reports, books, and magazines, Judith Testa creates an insightful and compelling portrait of one of baseball’s most intriguing figures. Baseball fans and people interested in baseball history and in the Italian American experience will discover new insights and a wealth of information in Sal Maglie.

Praise For Sal Maglie: Baseball's Demon Barber

"The book reveals as few others have the dual personality of the professional athlete. Testa's achievement lies in depicting this man as a complete, full-dimensional human being. This book transcends its genre and is a first-rate work of literature."—Donald Honig, author of Baseball When the Grass Was Real and Baseball America

“There are few baseball books that delve into the complexity of a man's life in the way that Testa has done with this biography.”—Elysian Fields Quarterly

“A very enjoyable read. Testa writes well—at times with brilliance. The real value of this biography is its foray into social history. Few baseball biographies have dared to discuss the sexual or psychological aspects of players’ marriages in the manner this work does.”—William J. Marshall, author of Baseball’s Pivotal Era, 1945–1951

To the batters who faced him, pitcher Sal Maglie looked like the hurler from hell. Tall and sinister in appearance, with glowering dark eyes and a

Northern Illinois University Press, 9780875803678, 486pp.

Publication Date: December 15, 2006

About the Author

Judith Testa is professor emerita at Northern Illinois University and author of Rome is Love Spelled Backward: Enjoying Art and Architecture in the Eternal City.