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John Zulberti

 

Date and Place of Birth: 1913 Solvay, NY
Date and Place of Death:    January 21, 1944 Italy
Baseball Experience: Minor League
Position: Infield
Rank: Second Lieutenant
Military Unit: Company I, 141st Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division US Army
Area Served: Mediterranean Theater of Operations

One of Syracuse's best known athletes of the last 12 or 14 years, has been killed in action in Italy.
Syracuse Herald-Journal February 23, 1944

Like many places across the United States in the 1930s, Solvay, a village just west of Syracuse, New York, was sports crazy. John J. Zulberti, son of Anthony and Regina Zulberti, was born in Solvay in 1913, and attended Solvay High School where he played baseball and basketball and helped both teams to a record 30 consecutive victories. After graduation, he played shortstop with the Solvay Tigers and helped them win the suburban league championship. He was playing in the Journal-American League with Oswego in 1933. He later made the switch to second base when he joined the Markson semi-pro team coached by former major league players Ben Egan and Jim Walsh. By 1935, Zulberti was playing for the Oswego Netherlands and the Fulton Fusileers in the Central New York League. He even made an appearance with the International League's Syracuse Chiefs in a game against the Cortland Cobakcos semi-pro club.

In August 1937, Zulberti signed with the Class C Ogdensburg Colts of the Canadian-American League and batted .253 in 27 games. The following year he played 124 games with the Colts and batted an excellent .320 with 14 home runs. Zulberti was sold to the Montgomery Rebels of the Class B Southeastern League in 1939 and hit .254 in 68 games, then played for the Miami Beach Tigers of the Class D Florida East Coast League in 1940, hitting .275 with nine home runs in 105 games.

Zulberti quit Organized Baseball after the 1940 season and returned to the Syracuse area where he worked for the Halcomb division of the Crucible Steel Company, and played for the powerful Cortland Moose team of the Syracuse Herald-Journal Semi-Pro League. He entered military service on April 16, 1942, and was assigned to the 1206th Service Unit at Fort Niagara, New York, where he played third base under the post baseball team manager and former New York Giant Andy Cohen.

Zulberti quickly attained the rank of sergeant and attended Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia, where he was commissioned a second lieutenant on December 31, 1942. The following October, Zulberti was sent overseas. In January 1944, he was with the 141st Infantry Regiment of the 36th "Texas" Infantry Division in Italy. The Allies' hard slog up the Italian peninsula was into its fourth month and during the night of January 20, and the following morning, the division attempted to establish a secure bridgehead across the Rapido River. Using assault boats and catwalks laid over pontoons, the troops were met with a savage onslaught of German mortars, artillery and machine gun fire. Boats were destroyed, others capsized and some were lost in the swift river current. The operation, which became known as the Battle of Bloody River, was a disaster and 143 Americans were killed, including Second Lieutenant Zulberti. Zulberti was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for gallantry. [1]

"One of Syracuse's best-known athletes of the last 12 or 14 years, has been killed in action in Italy," declared the Syracuse Herald Journal when the news reached home. [1] He was survived by his wife, Teresa Capucilli Zulberti (also a graduate of Solvay High School. They had married on January 4, 1943), and his young son, John Jr., whom he had never seen. In September 1948, Zulberti's body was returned to Syracuse. Following services at St. Cecilia's Church, Solvay, on September 21, he was buried at the St. Agnes Cemetery.

In more recent years, Syracuse University's four-time All-American lacrosse player, who is recognized as the best attackman to ever play the game, is John Zulberti's namesake and great nephew.

 

Team

League

Class

G

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

AVG

1937 Ogdenburg Canadian-American C 27 83 20 21 5 0 4 16 .253
1938 Ogdensburg Canadian-American C 124 453 110 145 33 9 14 104 .320
1939 Montgomery Southeastern B 68 232 39 59 12 2 0 16 .254
1940 Miami Beach Florida E. Coast D 105 386 72 106 18 6 9 73 .275

 

Notes
1. Oswego Palladium-Times, July 20, 1944
2. Syracuse Herald Journal, February 23, 1944
Ogdensburg Journal, July 24, 1944

Thanks to Regina Zulbert Painter for help with this biography.

Date Added June 3, 2012 Updated June 15, 2014

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