Meet Tony Morante: Local Bronx historian and educator inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame

Yankee Stadium is seen from the 161st Street subway station during opening weekend on Saturday, April 1, 2023.
Yankee Stadium is seen from the 161st Street subway station during opening weekend on Saturday, April 1, 2023.
Photo Camille Botello

Tony Morante started his career with the New York Yankees when he was just 6 years old. 

Morante’s father, a former usher at Yankee Stadium from 1949 to 1988, took him to his first game in 1949. Then, he said, ushers were allowed to take one or two of their kids to the games for free. 

But Morante didn’t just sit in his seat to watch the game. 

“What I did was I ran out into the right field area while batting practice was going on, and when the guys were hitting the balls into the stands I was scurrying around the right field stands, picking up baseballs,” he said. “So I became the popular kid in the neighborhood for about 10 years.” 

Morante, who just turned 80 earlier this year, was born and raised in the Bronx — spending the majority of his childhood in the Belmont area. Most of his family has now relocated farther north to Westchester County, but not Morante. 

“They keep asking me when I’m coming up and you know what? I love the Bronx,” he said. He now lives in Pelham Gardens.   

His professional life has always revolved around the pinstripes — from shagging balls during batting practice in the ‘40s and ‘50s to becoming an usher himself, giving educational tours of the stadium, and eventually becoming the head of the tours department.  

But one of his most recent career highlights happened last year, when he was inducted into the 2022 New York State Baseball Hall of Fame for authoring the book “Baseball, the New York Game: How the national pastime paralleled US history” — which supplemented his work as an educator and historian.  

Tony Morante is a local Bronx historian and educator who was inducted into the New York State Baseball Hall of Fame in 2022.
Tony Morante is a local Bronx historian and educator who was inducted into the New York State Baseball Hall of Fame in 2022. Photo courtesy Tony Morante

MLB, U.S. history intertwined

In Morante’s eyes, Major League Baseball (MLB) and the country’s history are interconnected: one isn’t separate from the other.

But even though Morante is a historian now, it hasn’t always been his strong suit. He said he struggled with it while he was a student at Bishop Dubois High School in Upper Manhattan.

“I was not a history major at all,” he said. “I failed history in my junior year and I had to go to high school for the summer. It was brutal and I failed it again in the summer.”

After high school he enrolled at Fordham University in 1971, where he picked up a Bronx historical touring class with two history professors. It was there that his fondness grew for the subject. 

“This was the tour that was going to be a formal tour of the stadium, the dugout clubhouse, Monument Park, press box, and in the warning track,” Morante said. “I started to really wrap my head around history and I got more and more involved with it.” 

Eventually he started giving different children and teen groups tours of the stadium, all while teaching them about the site, structure and team. 

In the mid 2010s, Morante said he was shocked by a study that found that less than 20% of eighth grade students were proficient in social studies. He said he began to think about his knowledge as it pertained to the Yankees and MLB, as well as relevant connections to U.S. history. 

That’s what led him to design his history program, which sought to combine both baseball and history. He introduced it first to middle school classes in the city, and was later asked to bring his MLB history course to his alma mater — Fordham University — which he did from 2013 to 2018.

In his personal life, his passion for baseball actually stemmed from his love of Yankee Stadium itself. He played pony league and little league baseball as a kid, but was never overly enthralled with just the sport. 

“I got into baseball because of my love of the stadium and the history,” Morante said. 

He has been a part of the New York Yankees ecosystem and environment for decades. In his earlier working days, from 1973 to 2010, he was a season ticket holder while he was employed at the stadium. 

“So after 5:30 instead of going home, I’m staying at the stadium and waiting for the games to start because I had two seats,” Morante said. “I just wanted to be there.” 

Now, a published author and New York State Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, the 80 year old has retired from his full-time work at Yankee Stadium, but continues to work with students and educators. He also gives walking tours of the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, and goes to Yankee games when he can.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Tony Morante took a Yankee Stadium touring class at Fordham University. It was a Bronx borough historical touring class. The story was also updated to further specify the percentage of eight grade students who weren’t proficient in social studies.  

Reach Camille Botello at [email protected]. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes