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Ernie DeFazio

Ballplayers Wounded in Combat


Date and Place of Birth: April 16, 1925 Haverhill, MA
Date and Place of Death:    July 15, 2008 Haverhill, MA
Baseball Experience: Minor League
Position: Second Base
Rank: Sergeant
Military Unit: 350th Infantry Regiment, 88th Infantry Division US Army
Area Served: Mediterranean Theater of Operations

Ernest J. “Ernie” DeFazio, the last of nine children born to Annibale and Pasqualina DeFazio, was born on April 16, 1925, in Haverhill, Massachusetts. He graduated from Haverhill High School in 1943, where he was a three-year starter on the football team and played four years of varsity baseball, earning All-State shortstop honors, and acting as captain of the team his junior year.  

DeFazio entered military service in 1943 and served as a heavy machine gunner with the 350th Infantry Regiment, 88th Infantry Division. As a corporal, he was wounded in action in Italy in July 1944, as the Division advanced north.  

He returned to Haverhill after being honourably discharged with the rank of sergeant in 1946, and was playing semi-pro baseball when he signed with the New York Yankees organization in August of that year. In his rookie season with the Easton Yankees of the Class D Eastern Shore League in 1947, DeFazio played 113 games and batted .261. While playing at Easton, Ernie met his wife-to-be, Virginia Stoops.  

He hit .322 with six home runs in 100 games with Easton in 1948, but earned himself a reputation as a hothead in the process. He was ejected from a game for fighting with Tex Warfield, first baseman of the Federalsburg A’s, and suspended seven days and fined $25 for a fight with the Cambridge Dodgers.  

“The 1948 Eastern Shore League season will go down into the books as the year that ‘Terrible Ernie’ chewed up umpires like caviar,” wrote Ed Nichols in the Salisbury Daily Times in September 1948. “His snarls and growls have echoed in every park, and the fans have quacked like dutiful ducks…exercising their lungs at DeFazio. He usually snaps back with a sneer of contempt, and tells some heckler, ‘go home and beat your grandmother.’ No question about it, the swaggering Ernie has swashbuckled his way through the current season like the toughest, orneriest pirate that ever sailed the seven seas.”  

The 24-year-old second baseman advanced to the Amsterdam Rugmakers of the Class C Canadian-American League in 1949, where he batted .382 in 20 games, before being traded to a team more than 1,200 miles from his home, the Cedar Rapids Rockets of the Class C Central Association.  DeFazio refused to report and abandoned his professional baseball career.  

He returned to Haverhill and helped run the family business, DeFazio Market. He also coached Little League, but had lost little of that fiery temper and was ejected from the first game of the season in 1952.   DeFazio also worked for Regan Ford and the DeLuca car dealerships, and coached the Haverhill High School varsity baseball team from 1962 to 1969, and again in 1984 and 1985. He worked for the Haverhill Public School System from the late 1970s until his retirement in 1989.    

Ernie DeFazio passed away on July 15, 2008, at his home in Haverhill. He was 83 years old. His wife, Virginia, had passed away in 1992, aged just 62.  

Following services at All Saints Church, Ernie DeFazio was buried at St. Patrick Cemetery in Haverhill. In lieu of flowers, contributions were asked for the DeFazio Memorial Baseball Scholarship, offered to a Haverhill High School baseball player continuing onto college.

Ernest J DeFazio of Haverhill, MA

Date Added December 18, 2019

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