Hank Biasatti

Basketball player, Baseball player, coach

Henry Arcado “Hank” Biasatti was born in the Northern Italian town of Beano on January 14, 1922. A figure unknown to many sports fans, Biasatti has the rare distinction of being the only Canadian ever to play in the major leagues of professional basketball and baseball.

He grew up in East Windsor and attended Gordon McGregor Continuation School between grades 1 and 10, where he starred in basketball, softball, and soccer. He was a standout first baseman for the East Windsor Cubs. Reno Bertoia, another Windsorite who went on to play professional baseball, was a neighbour.

Biasatti went on to play basketball and football for Assumption; in 1940 and 1941 Biasatti was named to the All-City basketball team. His play at Assumption College was interrupted by a Canadian Army tour between 1943 and 1945; one noteworthy feat while at Assumption was his key shot making, which led his team in 1945 to an upset of the Harlem Globetrotters!

On November 1, 1946 the 5-foot-11 Biasatti would make history as the first “international” player (a guard, shooting left) to appear in the Basketball Association of America, forerunner of the National Basketball Association, playing at Maple Leaf Gardens as a member of the Toronto Huskies. A few weeks later, fellow Windsor Gino Sovran would join him. Both Biasatti and Sovran would last a total of six games in Toronto.

He would play 11 seasons of pro baseball with only 21 games in the show (his first game was April, 23, 1949 with the Philadelphia Athletics), while spending the rest of the time in the minors with stops in Buffalo, San Francisco, Savannah, Toronto, and Waterloo. His career batting mark was .277 while playing first base. Biasatti would also continue to play semi-pro basketball (1948-1953) in the American Basketball League; in 1949, he averaged 16 points per game during 40 appearances for the New York Gothams.

Biasatti returned to Assumption College to coach basketball between 1956 and 1962. In his first year coaching, he led the team to the Ontario-Quebec Senior Intercollegiate Basketball League championship (shared with Queen’s); they captured the championship again in 1958-1959.

In 1996, Biasatti died at the age of 74 in Dearborn, MI.  He was inducted into the Windsor/Essex County Sports Hall of Fame in 1982, the UW Alumni Sports Hall of Fame in 1986, and the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001.

Early career

Born in Beano, Italy, Biasatti grew up in Windsor, Ontario, where he was a star basketball player at Gordon McGregor Continuation School and Assumption College High School and played baseball for the East Windsor Cubs. He then played basketball at Windsor’s Assumption College and served in the Canadian Army in World War II. Biasatti was a farmhand of the Toronto Maple Leafs baseball team, playing for London Army during the war. The team won the Canadian Congress baseball championship and played in the Ontario Baseball Association championship series in 1943. The next season, playing for the London Majors of the Intercounty Baseball Association, he was ruled ineligible to play by the OBA because he would also play Sunday games in Detroit. The OBA ordered London to replay its semi-final series against Windsor because Biasatti had played for the Majors. Biasatti and the Majors won the OBA senior title in 1945. Biasatti played basketball for Assumption between the 1945 and 1946 baseball seasons.

Turns professional

In 1946, Biasatti began the baseball season as the starting first baseman for the Leafs in the International League. He was a good fielder but a poor hitter, and lost the starting job. He was assigned to the Savannah Indians of the South Atlantic League at the end of May but returned to the Leafs a few weeks later. He asked to be farmed out in July and was sent to the Sunbury Yankees of the Class B Interstate League.

Following the 1946 baseball season, Biasatti was invited to the inaugural training camp of the Toronto Huskies in preparation for the first season of the Basketball Association of America, which evolved into the NBA. He was one of six Canadians invited to camp, and the only one who made the team. (Former Assumption teammate Gino Sovran would join the Huskies a few weeks into the season. Biasatti and Sovran were the only Canadians ever to play for the team.) Biasatti played six games for the Huskies, including the BAA’s first game on November 1, 1946. The NBA cites Biasatti as the first international player in league history.[1] He was given an outright release by the Huskies in December after telling the team that baseball was his top priority and that he would be attending training camp for the Philadelphia Athletics. He was subsequently picked by the Boston Celtics in the 1947 BAA draft, but never joined the team.

In baseball, Biasatti played in Savannah in 1947, hitting .299 and finishing second in the league in home runs. He rejoined the Leafs in 1948, on loan from the Athletics, and led the team with 21 home runs. Biasatti made it to the major leagues in 1949, appearing in 21 games for the Athletics. He got some playing time in August, after an injury to starting first baseman Ferris Fain, but over 24 at-bats that season, Biasatti’s batting average was a very low .083. With eight walks, his on-base percentage was .312. He had just two hits in the major leagues, both of them doubles. After the season, he was purchased by the Buffalo Bisons of the International League and played there in 1950 and 1951.

– Played first base and pinch hit; bats and throws left;
– He is the only Canadian to play at the top professional level in both sports.
– He died in Dearborn, MI on April 20th, 1996.