Romano, whose nickname of “Honey” was apparently bestowed upon him in his youth by an uncle, was born in 1934 in Hoboken, New Jersey. He came up in the farm system of the Chicago White Sox, and made his major league debut with that team in September of 1958. Romano spent the 1959 season with the White Sox as the backup to Sherm Lollar, an ex-Indian. In December of 1959, the Indians obtained Romano in a multi-player trade with the White Sox.
By May of the 1960 season, Romano had edged out three-year veteran Russ Nixon as the team’s number-one catcher, playing in 108 games and batting .272 with 16 home runs.
Romano broke camp with the 1961 Indians as the clear choice for everyday catcher. He caught 141 games for the Tribe that year, leading the American League in games at the position. He seemed to welcome the extra playing time, as all his offensive numbers went up: he batted .299 with 21 homers and a slugging percentage of .483. As he would be the following season, Romano was chosen for the All-Star team.
Oddly, Romano sat out the final two games of the 1961 season. You’d think he would have wanted to appear in one more game, hoping to get a hit in his first three at-bats in order to bring his batting average up to above .300. Tribe left fielder Tito Francona, father of current Indians manager Terry Francona, did just that. He entered the final game of the season with a .298 batting average, then got two hits in his first three at-bats, and was taken out of the game with a batting average of .301.
In 1962, under new manager Mel McGaha, Romano’s batting average slipped to .261, but he hit 25 homers in 135 games, and the Indians once again finished fifth in the ten-team American League. The trigger-happy Indians management replaced McGaha with Birdie Tebbetts before the 1963 season, and for whatever reason, Tebbetts and Romano never got along. Romano found himself sharing the catching duties with Joe Azcue. who did have a much better offensive 1963 than Romano did, hitting .284 to Romano’s .216. In 1964, Romano improved somewhat behind the plate, batting .241, but Azcue hit .276.
Having fallen out of favor with the team manager, Romano’s days with the Indians were numbered. In December of 1964, Romano was part of a three-team trade with the White Sox and the Kansas City Royals, a trade which saw the return of fan favorite Rocky Colavito to an Indians uniform for the first time since 1959. After the trade was announced, Romano told a reporter that he and Tebbetts “never saw eye to eye.” Tebbetts was far less diplomatic, having been quoted as saying “he [Romano] never showed me any great talent—maybe he can in Chicago. I’m not accustomed to having .240 hitters trying to tell me where they should stand on my ball club.” Tebbetts also faulted Romano’s work behind the plate, saying “I always rate a catcher by the number of pitchers he developed,” and went on to blame Romano for failing to help pitchers Jim Perry, Jim “Mudcat” Grant, and Gary Bell.
Romano played for the White Sox in 1965 and 1966. He finished his career with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1967. In 2001, when the Indians organization selected the best 100 players in Indians history, Romano made the list, as well he should have.