Perhaps the most remarkable thing in Bob Carmo’s life isn’t his six seasons in Minor League Baseball or his missed chance in the NFL.
When Carmo’s playing days were over, the Blairsville native found an enviable level of professional success that likely surpasses much of what he’s done in the sport. He is one of the designers of the power strip, an essential piece of equipment we all have in our homes, apartments and offices, as well as those metal shelves in grocery stores that hold plastic bags in place, and several other inventions . he holds patents for.
Yet it is for his time on the baseball field six decades ago that Carmo will be honored May 22 when he is inducted into the Indiana County Sports Hall of Fame.
“I’m really excited about this,” said Carmo, now 83 and battling Parkinson’s disease, through his 59-year-old wife, Rose Ann. “It’s been a long time since I played baseball.”
Carmo, who graduated from Blairsville High School in 1957, played in the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago White Sox organizations from 1958 to 1963. Primarily an outfielder, Carmo was a career .262 hitter in 592 minor league games, with 56 home runs and 354 RBIs. . He’s played all over the country, from Class D Elmira (NY) to Class A Eugene (Oregon), and a few outposts in between.
Carmo grew up on Point Street in the city’s Walnut Hill neighborhood. He and his friends played Little League in the summer and any other sport they could play the rest of the year. By the time he got to high school, Carmo was an excellent all-around athlete. As a senior, Carmo started late for the football team, averaged 14 points per game for the basketball team, and finished third in the state in the 880-yard rush and the javelin in the athletics team.
But those things were diminished by Carmo’s exploits on the diamond. The high school did not sponsor a baseball team at the time, so in 10th grade Carmo linked up with the Brenizer Miners of the Derry-Unity League. In three seasons with the Miners, Carmo hit .385 and played outfield and first base, and occasionally threw.
Carmo was hitting .388 the summer after graduation when he was scouted by a Phillies scout at a tryout in Johnstown and signed to a $1,000 contract. He began his professional career in the spring of 1958 with a posting to Tennessee with Johnson City of the Class D Appalachian League. Halfway through the season, he was sent to another Class D team, this one in the Georgia-Florida league, in Brunswick, Georgia.
He struggled that first year in the minors, batting just .192 in 82 games. But he bounced back the following season with the Class D Elmira Pioneers of the New York-Pennsylvania League, hitting .279 with 10 home runs and 82 RBIs in 117 games.
Over the next three years, Carmo was promoted to the Bakersfield Bears of the California League, the Magic Valley (Idaho) Cowboys of the Pioneer League, and the Des Moines Demons of the Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League. He spent 1962 at Magic Valley and started the 1963 season there before the Phillies released him 17 games into the season. Carmo had become a fan favorite for the Cowboys, but he was not progressing as fast as he would have liked.
“It doesn’t bother me too much,” he told the Twin Falls (Idaho) Times-News on the day of his release. “I actually felt better after (they) told me that than before. The first two seasons I worked really hard. But I never thought I had a good chance of winning. ‘go higher.
On May 25, Carmo signed with the Chicago White Sox, who sent him to the Eugene (Ore.) Emeralds of the Class A Northwest League. But after a Sunday double against Yakima on June 9, Carmo was again released.
Rather than chase after another opportunity, Carmo decided to move on with his life.
“I know it was hard for him,” Rose Ann said. “But we got married and we had to find jobs. It was time.”
That doesn’t mean Carmo didn’t enjoy his run in the minors. Among the many highlights he remembers are lunch with two of his childhood heroes, Bob Feller and Paul Waner, as well as his two-hit night against Stockton’s flamethrower Steve Dalkowski in 1960.
Dalkowski is something of a mythical figure in baseball lore. He reportedly had a fastball that some scouts said was between 105 and 110 mph. Dalkowski, the inspiration for the character “Nuke” LaLoosh from the 1988 baseball movie “Bull Durham,” had a dodgy season the year Carmo faced him: he finished 7-15 with a 5.14 ERA , but with 262 strikeouts… and 262 walks.
In one game, Carmo hit a single and a double in back-to-back plate appearances against Dalkowski.
“He talked a lot about playing baseball,” Rose Anne said. “He always liked to tell stories about some of his games. He really enjoyed that.
After baseball, Carmo attended an open tryout for the NFL’s Cleveland Browns in 1964 and was nearly signed as a punter. Soon after, he enrolled at Case Western Reserve University and left sports in his rearview mirror, except for recreational golf and a travel softball team he played with for many seasons. .
Carmo began working as a design engineer and he helped create products, some of which have had a marked impact on society, ranging from hospital electronics to a device that helps open the lids of screw-top jars.
But on May 22, Carmo’s career on the baseball field will be featured. Although he cannot attend the banquet – his nephew, Mike Carmo, will represent him – Carmo is delighted to join some of his childhood friends in the Hall of Fame.
“It’s a privilege,” he said. “It really is a great honour. My friends and family are really happy for me and I’m really excited.