Born: April 22, 1938
Died: November 1, 2016
Town: Fort Lee
John Joseph Orsino was born April 22, 1938 in Teaneck. He starred in a number of sports, including baseball and football, earning the nickname “Horse” for his raw-boned physique. Johnny drew the attention of local scouts at Fort Lee High School, but was not offered a pro contract or college scholarship. He decided to play a year of baseball at the University of Bridgeport, where he impressed the New York Giants enough to earn a free agent contract. At 19, he was a professional ball player.
Johnny played catcher and worked his way up the Giants system and earned late-season call-ups in 1961 and 1962. The 1962 Giants won the pennant and Johnny saw action in Game 1 of the World Series. He pinch-hit for Don Larsen in the 9th inning of a 6–2 loss to the Yankees and grounded into a double play.
That winter, Johnny was part of a trade between the Giants and Orioles. He went to Baltimore along with pitchers Stu Miller and Mike McCormick in exchange for catcher Jimmy Coker and pitchers Billy Hoeft and Jack Fisher. Johnny made a historic splash when he joined his new team in Spring Training. Playing against the Dodgers and Reds, Johnny swatted home runs in his first 5 official at bats as an Oriole. That year, he became a starting catcher for the first time in the big leagues, logging 430 at bats and hitting .272 with 19 homers and 63 RBIs. A bad back cut into his playing time after that. After two more seasons with the O’s, he was traded to the Washington Senators for Woody Held.
Johnny spent most of 1968 in the minors before the Senators released him. Johnny’s last hurrah came in 1969, when he was invited to try out for the Yankees. The AL decided to experiment with the Designated Hitter that March, and Johnny was inserted into the New York lineup with the letters DH next to his name. He went into the history books as the first DH to get a hit. He played in the minors for the Yankees and Indians before calling it a career at age 31.
After baseball, Johnny took his smooth swing to the links and began making a living as a pro golfer. He became the assistant pro at the Foxcroft Country Club in Miramar, Florida. In 1980, he returned to New Jersey to become head pro at the Emerson Country Club. In 1983, he moved to Indian Spring CC in Boynton Beach, where he became head pro and director of golf and recreation. The innovation and management skill Johnny brought to this position led to a consulting business, which in turn led to the position of golf director at The Diplomat Resort in Hollywood.
In 2004, Johnny was named head golf coach at Florida Atlantic University. He passed away in the fall of 2016 in Florida.