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One of six children (three boys and three girls) raised in the athletic family2 of Philip Tsitouris and Verla Mae Rowell, John Philip Tsitouris was born on May 4, 1936, in Monroe, North Carolina, 35 miles southeast of Charlotte.John’s father emigrated from Greece as a young man.He soon attracted major-league scouts.3 In 1954 John was the first player signed by newly-anointed Detroit Tigers scout Rick Ferrell (a fellow-North Carolinian and later Hall of Fame inductee).Assigned to the Georgia-Florida League, Tsitouris remained with the Class D Valdosta (Georgia) Tigers through 1955, posting a 10-9 record.These efforts were often frustrated by Tsitouris’s own volatile nature.A record of suspensions and fines repeatedly landed the pitcher in the doghouse of his managers with resulting headaches for the front office.
He also excelled in American Legion play and semi-pro ball with the Monroe Blue Sox.
From manager Don Heffner’s perspective, hurler John Tsitouris drew favorable comparisons to Hall of Famer Red Ruffing because “when you sent him out to the mound, you knew he was going to give you a good job.”1 Splendid likeness for a pitcher with a lifetime 34-38 record.
Tsitouris’s tantalizing ability caused teams to continually try to corral the gifted right-hander over the course of his 11-year major-league career.
“Most of the restaurants in Augusta [were] owned by people of Greek descent,” Norman observed. Every time he pitched they would take him out to dinner, win or lose.”4 After joining the league in midstream the righty placed among the league leaders with 13 wins while establishing the lowest single-season ERA (1.51) in South Atlantic history.
He was the team’s only pitcher to advance to the major leagues.