Thursday, July 28, 2005

Beans Reardon

Beans Reardon
Given Name: John

One of baseball's most colorful umpires, Reardon acquired his nickname because he was raised in Boston. He was famous for heavy language and heavy beer drinking. In 1946 Anheuser-Busch awarded him a lucrative franchise in Los Angeles.

Book Excerpts» Fouled Away: The Baseball Tragedy of Hack Wilson by Clifton Blue Parker
One day Reardon ejected Frankie Frisch from a game in Pittsburgh and ran into him later that evening in a hotel pub. They had a few beers together, and Frisch told Reardon about his new Packard automobile. Beans asked if he could take it for a spin. Frisch reluctantly agreed. When Reardon got to the hotel garage, he found the Packard out of gas and had the attendant call Frisch to replenish the supply. Reardon remembered, "That day it cost him a $50 fine for the ejection, five rounds of beer, and a tank of gas."

Another of Reardon's friends was actress Mae West, and he appeared in many of her movies. Reardon worked many important and historic games. He was behind the plate when Babe Ruth hit his 714th and final home run.
Courtesy of

John Edward "Beans" Reardon (November 23, 1897 - July 31, 1984) was an American umpire in Major League Baseball who worked in the National League from 1926 to 1949. One of the best-liked and most respected umpires in the league, he was known for his colorful arguments with players and managers.

Born in Taunton, Massachusetts, Reardon's family moved to Los Angeles when he was 14, and he acquired his nickname as a youth due to his Boston-area origins. Having no chance at a career playing baseball due to a throwing arm ruined by overexertion in sandlot ball, he began umpiring amateur games as a teenager. He got his professional start with a copper miners' league in Arizona in 1919, but after arriving for duty and learning that his contract required him to work in the mines, he resigned after one day's work, followed by a doubleheader he umpired singlehandedly.

In 1920-21 he umpired in the Western Canada League, where he made his reputation in Edmonton by refusing a police escort out of a park after a particularly contentious game before a hostile crowd, saying "I didn't sneak in and I won't sneak out." He then worked in the Pacific Coast League for four seasons before reaching the major leagues.

He was known for his many arguments on the field, and for the fact that he relished the opportunity to match the players in his use of off-color language; he came to refer to himself as "the last of the cussin' umpires", and rarely ejected players from games, reportedly because he enjoyed trading insults. At one point in his career, NL president Ford Frick issued a memo to all field personnel requiring them to reduce their use of profanity, a thinly veiled move directed primarily at Reardon.

Reardon had a difficult relationship with longtime NL umpire Bill Klem, the dean of the league staff; the younger umpire insisted upon wearing the outside chest protector used by American League umpires, rather than the inside protector favored by Klem. Reardon also regularly conversed during games with spectators in the stands, another annoyance to Klem. Reardon would note that he perhaps stayed as long as he did in the league only because Klem was promoted to a non-field position in 1941. Ever outspoken, upon accepting an award named for Klem from Houston sportswriters in the 1960s, Reardon offhandedly remarked that he and Klem hated one another.

He officiated in 5 World Series: 1930, 1934, 1939, 1943 and 1949. He also umpired in 3 All-Star Games (1936, 1940, 1948), calling balls and strikes in all three contests; and he was one of the umpires for the 3-game series to determine the NL champion in 1946. He was the plate umpire when Babe Ruth hit his 714th and final home run in 1935.

He was notably the basis for the central figure, the home plate umpire, in Norman Rockwell's famous painting "Bottom of the Sixth", flanked by umpires Larry Goetz and Lou Jorda. Reardon is largely identifiable due to the fact that, despite the depicted game being in the National League, the umpire is using the outside chest protector.

Reardon retired following the 1949 World Series; although by the late 1940s he was the highest-paid umpire in the league, he was earning three times as much from his offseason business as an Anheuser-Busch beer distributor. He eventually sold the distributorship to Frank Sinatra for over half a million dollars in 1967, although he continued to do public relations work for the brewery.

Reardon suffered two strokes late in his life, and died at age 86 in Long Beach, California.

Courtesy of Dictionary of Athletes and Sports Figures

Monday, July 18, 2005

"The condemned jumped out of the chair and electrocuted the warden."

Mickey Owen
"The condemned jumped out of the chair and electrocuted the warden."

That's how one writer described the Yankees' ninth-inning comeback in Game Four of the 1941 World Series, after catcher Mickey Owen let the apparent game-ending third strike on Tommy Henrich get by. Had Owen held onto Hugh Casey's pitch, the Dodgers would have won, 4-3. Instead, the Yankees rallied to win, 7-4, and became World Champions the next day. Rumor had it that Casey had thrown a spitter; Leo Durocher said no, Pee Wee Reese called it "a little wet slider," and Billy Herman thought that Owen might have "nonchalanted" it.

Ironically, that season, Owen had set the National League catchers' record of 476 consecutive errorless chances accepted while setting a Dodger season record by fielding .995. A scrapper who batted as high as second in the order, Owen was blackballed after leaving the Dodgers in 1946 to be a player-manager in the Mexican League. He returned in 1949 with the Cubs, coached, scouted, ran a baseball camp, and was still playing in oldtimers' games in his seventies. (TG) (courtesy of

"(Mickey) Owen feared he would be a pariah for Brooklyn fans, but he was evidently forgiven. 'I got about 4,000 wires and letters,' he told W. C. Heinz in The Saturday Evening Post on the 25th anniversary of the passed ball. 'I had offers of jobs and proposals of marriage. Some girls sent their pictures in bathing suits, and my wife tore them up.'"
- Columnist Richard Goldstein in The New York Times (07/15/2005)

Mickey Owen Dies
MOUNT VERNON, Mo. - Mickey Owen, whose infamous dropped third strike proved costly to the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1941 World Series against the New York Yankees, died Wednesday after a long illness. He was 89.

He had Alzheimer's disease for a number of years.

In 1941, Brooklyn had a 4-3 lead in Game Four when Owen dropped a third strike on Tommy Henrich that would have been the final out. The Yankees went on to score four runs after the passed ball and won, 7-4, for a 3-1 lead in the World Series they eventually won in five games.
Owen had a .255 career batting average with 14 home runs and 378 RBIs in 13 seasons.
- From News Wire Services7/14/2005

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Preacher Roe

"Preacher" Elwin Charles Roe was born February 26, 1916 in Ash Flat, Arkansas, the son of Dr. C.E. and Elizabeth Ducker Roe.

Graduated from high school in Viola, Arkansas and attended Harding College in Searcy, Arkansas, where he averaged 18 strikeouts per game. He was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1938. Preacher's first and only major league game with the Cardinals was August 22, 1938.

Preacher Roe and Mozee Clay married on September 7, 1938 and they had two sons, Elwin C. Jr. and Tommy. Roe went on to play in the Cardinal minor league system through 1943. He was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1944 and was the opening day pitcher that year.

In 1945 he led the National League with 148 strikeouts. What followed then were several bad years with the Pirates after being knocked unconscious while coaching a girls high school basketball game for Hardy, Arkansas.

Monday, July 11, 2005

An Interview with Buzzie Bavasi

As with people, each interview is different. Some are difficult, some are easy. In the case of the interview with Buzzie Bavasi, it was difficult, not because of the way Bavasi responded to the questions (he was a joy to interview, for the record), but rather, the difficulty in this interview was the unbelievable breadth and width of his career: 60 years.

The problem is, how do you cover the life of someone that has seen some of the most critical turning points in baseball history?

Branch Rickey and the Dodgers signing of Jackie Robinson? You could do an entire interview.
The Dodgers move from Brooklyn to Los Angeles? There's another.
The near move of the Padres to Washington, DC? Another...

His time with the California Angels? Another...

It made for a difficult, yet nice problem to have... content overload.

Emil Joseph Bavasi was born Dec. 12, 1914 in New York City. His mother gave him the nickname "Buzzie" from the way he "buzzed" around the house. He went to DePauw University, which was fortuitous for Buzzie, as you will see in the interview.

Bavasi was part of organizations that won two divisional titles, nine league championships and four World Series over his more than a half-century in organized baseball. He started his career in 1939 in the minors, before spending time in the military. He was the long-time general manager for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers (1951-67), president of the San Diego Padres (1968-77), and executive vice president of the California Angels (1978-99). Under his tenure the Dodgers won eight NL pennants and four world championships in 17 years He was a two-time executive of the year, once with the Dodgers and once in the minor leagues with the Montreal Royals.

In this interview, Bavasi talks of his start in baseball and Larry MacPhail; the relationship of Branch Rickey and Walter O'Malley; he talks of Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, and Don Newcombe, as well as Nolan Ryan, Fresco Thompson, Al Campanis, and of course Walter Alston. He also talks of how he felt Robert Moses miscalculated on the Dodgers' willingness to move to Los Angeles, the near move of the Padres to Washington, DC, and much, much more. – Maury Brown

BizBall: Your baptism into the front office is really quite an interesting story. Can you retell us how you bumped into Ford Frick, and what your first days of reporting to Larry MacPhail were like?

Bavasi: Well I, and Fred Frick, Ford Frick’s son, were high school and college roommates and we both went to DePauw University, which is Ford’s alma mater. And when my dad died in 1933, Ford sort of became my other father and when I graduated from college my mother gave me a new car and a year to do anything I wanted to do. Well, the best thing I wanted to do was go to Florida and watch the ballgames.

And I was sitting in Clearwater Stadium and watching the Dodgers play when Ford came by and said “What are you doing here?” and I told him, and he said, “No longer. Be in my office tomorrow morning.” So, I went back to New York and went to his office and he took me to Brooklyn to meet Larry MacPhail. And Larry MacPhail said “So you want to get into baseball?” and I said “I certainly do” and he said, “What do you know about the game?” I said “Nothing. I played in college but that’s about it.” He said, “Good. Surprised you don’t know anything about the game but it will do you some good ‘cause we have too many people around here who know everything.”

And he gave me a job as a glorified office boy. And that was it.

BizBall: Can you describe how it was to work with MacPhail, and tell us anything that occurred behind closed doors that would be a good example of how he operated?
Bavasi: One thing about Larry is that money meant nothing to him, unlike Walter O’Malley, money meant nothing to Larry. As a matter of fact, I was there for 13 weeks before I got a check.
But I’ll never forget one story.
He invited me to a Saturday meeting with Andy High, Branch Rickey, Jr. and Larry MacPhail and we were discussing players we were about to sign; there’s no draft at that time. And they came across a fellow by the name of Brenner, I think his name was, from Purdue University. A pitcher -- a right hand pitcher. Andy said he wanted to offer him $3,000, he’s worth that much. Larry said “That’s a lot of money.” So, it’s near 5:00 and we stopped and he said we’ll continue tomorrow. Well, I was happy just to be in the room. Besides that, I happened to have a book I had and it had a box score and in the box score was a game at Purdue. Well, I was lucky enough to get three hits that day and one of them a home run against this Brenner. So the next morning we went into the meeting again and we were just about ready to give this fellow $3,000 and Larry said, “Anybody else know anything about him?” At that point I pulled out the box score and had no idea [what would happen] and he looked at it and said, “Oh, I’ll be a son of a bitch if I’m gonna give a guy $3,000 if Buzzie get three hits off him.” Never gave the kid a quarter. I felt guilty. Larry was all baseball and public relations.

You know, Bill Veeck is in the Hall of Fame, and rightfully so, and I was one of the voters for him. But most of his ideas were developed in Larry’s mind. Larry was the original Bill Veeck, really.

BizBall: In your book, Off the Record, you mention that Walter O’Malley didn’t get enough credit for the hiring of Jackie Robinson, and you added that Happy Chandler took too much…
Bavasi: Well, yes, it’s true. By that what I meant was, Walter was on the board of the Dodgers.--John Smith, Walter O’Malley, and Branch Rickey. The board had to vote for him. No one mentioned that the board of directors had to vote Jackie into the Big Leagues.
Happy Chandler had nothing whatsoever to do with it. Happy Chandler liked to say that the vote was 15-1 against bringing Jackie to the major leagues. Hogwash. At the meeting Horace [Stoneham] said he would vote for the move because his club was within a mile of Harlem. Mr. Wrigley said he would vote yes because 35% of his business throughout the world came from the black people. Bill Veeck said to the Dodgers. Hurry up and bring him up because I have an African-American that might be better than Jackie. Meaning Larry Doby. John Galbreath said it was a club matter not a league matter. No vote was ever taken.

BizBall: Branch Rickey has been viewed as one of, if not the most, influential executive in sports history because of the deal to sign Robinson and break the color barrier. Yet Rickey is also known for being visionary when it came to talent, and a miser when it came to spending money.
Do you think Mr. Rickey hired Robinson as a social statement, as a great player, as a way to tap into the African-American market, or was it kind of some of all of this?

Bavasi: Well, I happen to think that he was hired him because he was a great player. Secondly, Walter thought he would be a great draw at the gate if he was successful. It was a gamble, but he was a gamble to pull it off. Mr. Rickey was the greatest baseball mind in the history of the game. There will never be another one like him.

BizBall: Can you describe the Dodgers organizational philosophy regarding international scouting and how it was developed?

Bavasi: We -- the Dodgers -- and when I say we I mean the Dodgers, we trained… I had the Montreal club, and the Dodgers trained in the Dominican Republic. We were there for thirty days, so you know it’s real. This is about 1948. We saw how much these people enjoy the game of baseball, how well they played it. And I think that got all of baseball thinking about trade rules for salary purposes. That’s where we started. We never started in Havana, we never started in the Dominican Republic before, but after we got there and stayed for months with these people we realized they were lovers of the game.

BizBall: It’s been well documented that O’Malley and Rickey were quite different people. Some might say they were oil and water…

Bavasi: The best way to describe that is with Clemente. I had a deal with Mr. Rickey. Mr. Rickey asked me to go to Pittsburgh with him. And said, I’m sorry I was going to stay with the Dodger group, whom I knew. And he wrote me a letter saying if anytime he could help me, all I had to do was pick up the phone. So, we couldn’t bring Clemente up [from Montreal] because we had to keep him on the club under the old rules if he got more than a $4,000 bonus. And I know that Rickey had first [pick in the] draft, so I flew to Pittsburgh. And he agreed with me that he would take John Rutherford that would have let us keep Clemente. So I’m home free and I call Fresco and we were happy about it. And this was a Friday. The draft is on a Monday. Sunday evening Branch Rickey, Jr. called and said “Buzzie, the deal is off” and I said, “Why?” And he said, “My father and Walter had an argument and he called my father every obscene name in the book therefore he’s going to take Clemente” and that was it.

BizBall: During the negotiations in Brooklyn before the move, why do you think Robert Moses insisted on the Dodgers moving to Queens, and why do you think New York City mayor, Wagner didn’t step in when O'Malley refused to go for Moses' plan?

Bavasi: Well, number 1, Moses really didn’t believe that the Dodgers would move. He thought we would stay right where we were and that we would appreciate going to Flushing Meadows. Wagner didn’t think the Dodgers were that important. As a matter of fact, I remember Mayor Wagner proposed a tax -- an excise tax -- on baseball tickets. Not theater – just baseball – tickets. I had a dummy ticket made up with an extra stub which called it the Wagner Tax. This took care of matters immediately. Never heard another word about the proposed tax. But I think Moses just didn’t realize how attractive the Los Angeles situation was until it was too late.
BizBall: Your recommendation to Mr. O’Malley on Walter Alston proved to be very good. It was a gamble to recommend him at the time, but he had an immediate impact.

One area that is difficult to understand, is why Alston didn’t use Sandy Koufax early in Koufax’s career. I understand in ’55 and ’56 when the team was in contention and had a solid pitching staff, but after that, he sat much of the time on the bench.

Can you touch on why you feel he wasn’t used regularly? Did anything have to do with the perception that he was wild?

Bavasi: ’55 , ’56 and ’57…
Sandy was a local boy. Talking about Alston now, Alston didn’t want to pitch him because he wasn’t ready. He was too wild. He just couldn’t come close to home plate. And [Alston] didn’t want him to pitch in front of the home folks because he was a Brooklyn boy. He got to California and he still didn’t pitch him in ’58 and Sandy wanted to quit, as a matter of fact. We talked -- I talked him out of it, but Walter Alston was the only one who had a great deal of faith in Sandy Koufax. Al Campanis and Fresco Thompson thought we made a mistake. I didn’t have an opinion because I hadn’t seen Sandy pitch before he signed. If it hadn’t been for Walter Alston, our friend Sandy Koufax would not have made it in the major leagues. He had a great deal of faith in him. Both he and pitching coach Joe Becker deserve all the credit in the world for their patience with Sandy. And their belief in him.

BizBall: Let me throw out some names, and if you could, give me some thoughts on each one of them:

Fresco Thompson – Fresco Thompson was a fine baseball man. Good baseball man. Knew the game well. Knew how to play the game. Played the game the hard way. He didn’t have great deal of ability but made himself a good player. And I think he realized that because he wasn’t an established player and became a big leaguer, he knew what it took to become a good player. And if you didn’t like Fresco you didn’t like anyone.

Al Campanis – Al was a Rickey man. In other words, he believed that Mr. Rickey could do no wrong. He tried to emulate Mr. Rickey, but he didn’t have Mr. Rickey’s style. Al was a great … in my day he was the best in the business. The Dodgers started down hill when Al was named GM. Not that he couldn't do the job, but he was the best damned scouting director in the business and it was too much to ask him to handle both jobs. He loved scouting.

Roy Campanella – Campanella was with me through his entire career. I think I knew Campy better than anyone else. He was a manager's delight. I venture to say had he not been injured he would have been in line to manage the Dodgers. He would have been a good one. He knew his own limitations and would apply this practice to his players. On the other hand when Jackie asked me if I thought he would make a good manager, I said NO. Jackie, I said, you are a perfectionist and would want all your players to play the game the way you did. If I had nine Robinsons playing for me I wouldn't need a manager. Jack understood and agreed with me.

Jackie Robinson - As I have said many times, Jackie was not the greatest player to play our game, but he was the greatest competitor I ever saw. He could beat you with his glove, his legs, his bat and his desire to win. I can't say enough about his value to the Dodgers over the years.
Marvin Miller - I am sorry to say Marvin Miller belongs in the Hall of Fame. This might sound strange, but… for the players. But he never did anything to hurt the game. Marvin was very honest and square with the baseball people. Tell them what he wanted and where he was going to get it. But Marvin Miller never did one thing to hurt the game of baseball.Walter Alston – Well, he was my buddy. He made a name many places: Nashua, Montreal, Brooklyn, Los Angeles. He was with them wherever he went. I always saw to it that he made $5,000.00 a year more than I made.

BizBall: On the Padres… There seems to have been an overwhelming sense of the Dodger influence on the team. You were recommended by Bob Carpenter for president, and there was a long line of Dodger managers that worked for the Padres organization in the days you were involved.

Considering all that, was the Padres influenced by the “Dodger way”?
Bavasi: First of all, let me set something straight. Walter didn’t have anything to do with my getting the job down here. Baseball decided at that time that if and when they were going to expand again, that baseball people should have the first opportunity…. You know what I’m talking about. As a matter of fact, we were in contention and the bidding took place for the franchise and the price was to be $6 million. And who do you think said it needed to be $10 million? Walter O’Malley. And we had to make $10 million rather than $6 million. But baseball itself decided that in the future baseball people should be offered the first opportunity, provided they have the proper financial backing.

BizBall: Let’s talk about C. Arnholt Smith and the selling of the Padres. What was your reaction to him trying to sell the Padres to Joe Dansansky, without the League’s permission, with the idea of moving the franchise to DC the year after DC had lost the Senators?

Bavasi: It was tough to make some of those people understand. He thought that if he owned it he could sell the team. Didn’t realize he had to get permission, and I told him when he called and he said he sold the club for $12.5 million and I said, “You can’t do that without permission from the league.” He couldn’t understand that. Found out that he had to have permission. He just didn’t understand the rules and regulations of baseball. But he was a good owner. He really was at the time. I think he favored the club, I think he favored the operation. But of course he didn’t know what he was doing.

BizBall: What did you make of Ray Kroc when he was mentioned as a possible owner candidate for the Padres?

Bavasi: He was a good one. I loved that about Ray. To know Ray is to love him. He was a great guy. Great man. You wouldn’t know Ray had fifteen cents if you were around him all the time. But Ray Kroc loved the game of baseball as Gene Autry did. Loved the game. Loved the players. As a matter of fact, sometimes he loved them too much. But I’ll never forget, Don Lubin called me and told me he had a buyer for the club and I said, “Who?” And he said, “Ray Kroc” and I said, “Who’s he?” and he said, “Well, he owns 6,000 shares of McDonald’s.” To myself, I said, “McDonald’s is selling for $2.” But that was McDonnell-Douglas. I made a mistake. It was selling for $50. But when he took over this club, it was the greatest thing in the history of the town because he saved the club from being shipped out.

BizBall: When Peter Seitz ruled in favor of the players’ union in 1974, and revoked the Reserve Clause, it set in motion a drastic change in how the business of the game was conducted between the players, and those that worked with the players, such as yourself. Did the somewhat paternal relationship that was involved between those, such as yourself, and the players disappear from that time on?

Bavasi: Absolutely, absolutely. As for Peter Seitz, I don't believe his decision changed the way the game was played, but it did bring to light the agents. I have nothing against agents, but when one agent represents 8 or 9 players on one club we are asking for trouble. Think some thought should be given to limiting the number of players an agent or his firm can represent from one club. Just think of the money agents take out of the game every year without putting any of it back. If the player wants to share his income with an agent, so be it.

BizBall: In 1978 you came onboard with the California Angels, a franchise you called, at the time, a “country club” under owner, Gene Autry. At the same time, there was your relationship with Nolan Ryan. Looking back on 1979, would you have negotiated the contract with Ryan in the same way given his performance in 1978 when he went just 10-13?

Bavasi: Let me tell you what happened there. I like Nolan. To me, Sandy Koufax was the greatest pitcher I ever saw. But I liked Nolan. Nolan and his agent had sent me a three-page letter. (His agent was uh…. He worked with the association for a while. I forget his name, but he sent me a three-page letter.) In it, he stipulated that we had to take out an insurance policy, and it was going to cost us $135,000. This is it. Gene [Autry] who loved, loved Nolan couldn’t go along with it. He said it would set a precedent, we’d have to take out – on every player – an insurance policy. We can’t do that. This was a life insurance policy; had nothing to do with baseball. But so we said the contract is valid, except for the insurance policy. With that, the agent said, “Get lost.” Never gave us a chance to negotiate.

BizBall: On Ryan’s contact negotiation… Ryan had always negotiated his own contacts before the ’78 season, but opted to hire Dick Moss…

Bavasi: Dick Moss! That’s [who the agent was!]
BizBall: …for his negotiations after ’79. Can you recall how those negotiations with Moss and how it went?

Bavasi: There was no negotiation whatsoever. He just sent me a letter – a three-page letter – saying yes or no. We had to answer by March 12. I got the letter March 9. I was surprised that Gene didn’t… He had two great favorites – he had Nolan Ryan and Jim Fregosi. I was surprised that he didn’t go for the $135,000.

BizBall: What types of challenges faced your son, Peter, and now your son, Bill, that you never had to deal with?

Bavasi: You know, money-wise, in my 1955 club – the only championship club in Brooklyn – their total payroll was $495,000. They (Peter and Bill) came along when the agents were really running the game. Players are now motivated by money rather than pride. The average salary today is just about what I received during my entire 30 years with the Dodgers. BizBall: I want to throw out a quote from former commissioner Bowie Kuhn’s book, Hardball, and if you would, comment on it: "Buzzie was one of baseball's free spirits. He had a catlike ability to spring over, around and under the rules. He knew where all the bodies were buried, and more often than not, who had put them there.”

Bavasi: Well, I think he’s right. He’s a good man. I like Bowie. I think he was great for the game. Bowie took over in 1969. I was already in baseball for some 30 years. Knew what was going on and warned Bowie as much as I could. I like him. Still do. Think he did a fine job. Guess he made a mistake in fining Gussie Busch and Ted Turner for a rule infraction.
At the Stadium, Branch Rickey, Jr. and I would study the Blue Book every day. It used to be called the Blue Book. The only way to understand the rules is to find out how to beat the rules. Plus to beat a rule you need a rule – and look, it wasn’t underhanded, I just thought that if there was a way to get things done, I did it. And it seemed to work. And Bowie’s right.

BizBall: What do you miss about how baseball was during your time, and what is good and bad about baseball today?

Bavasi: I enjoy it immensely. If the Cubs are at home I get to watch three games a day. The game hasn't changed the people have changed. Think we need more people like George Steinbrenner. Sure he spends a lot of money, but spends it wisely. Others spend a lot of money, but not very wisely.

But, I enjoy the games; I’ll watch two games in a day. But I don’t enjoy the fact that there’s more than one winner. Now you’ve got, what, four winners? I hate tournaments. There should be one champion; … there was no other winner… there was no second place prize. To win a championship in the old days, it was tough. It was tough to win a championship.

BizBall: Finally, do you have any regrets, and what are your greatest accomplishments, do you think?

Bavasi: Of course, in baseball the accomplishment is getting to the World Series. And, my Clubs in 60 years finished first or tied for first ten times, which isn’t bad. But I’d say my biggest disappointment was 1962. If you remember that, we lost the playoffs to the Giants. I think Sandy Koufax opened up and they scored five runs off of him in the first inning if I remember correctly. But not winning in ‘62 is my disappointment because Walter -- I'm talking about O' Malley -- that’s what he wanted. I couldn’t do that… I couldn’t do that. ‘62 was my biggest disappointment.

Interview conducted by Maury Brown on 4/23/05.
Transcribed by Andy Gefen, Maury Brown, Cameron Doolittle, John Hagemann, Don Ward and Steven Charnick.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Ty Cobb Day - Saturday, August 27, 2005

"Ty Cobb Day" in Royston, Georgia
Saturday, August 27, 2005


On Saturday, August 27, 2005, The Ty Cobb Museum will host a special day celebrating this 100 year old event in the life of Tyrus Raymond Cobb. A Vintage Baseball Game will take place on a ball field adjacent to the original Cobb farm - Ty himself may have played on this field as a budding teenager.
This Game will be complete with a traditional refreshment stand, a Bass Band, vintage costumes and horse drawn wagons as transportation to field from the Museum. A Silent Auction of Sports Memorabilia at the Museum, and the official release of the annual Ty Cobb Collectors Baseball Card will also held.
Admission to Event is FREE, with donations accepted. Refreshments will be provided by the Royston/Franklin Springs Rotary Club as a fund-raiser. Proceeds from Silent Auction, Baseball Card and admission donations will benefit the operation and further development of the Ty Cobb Museum.
For further details call 706-245-1825 or 706-245-1832, or check online at

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Dietz Known for Controversial HBP Call vs. Drysdale

Associated press, June 29, 2005

CLAYTON, Ga. -- Former All-Star catcher Dick Dietz, involved with Don Drysdale in one of baseball's most disputed plays in the 1960s, has died. He was 63.

Dietz died Tuesday [June 28th] from a heart attack, the Hunter Funeral Home said. He will be buried in Greenville, S.C.

Dietz hit .261 with 66 home runs and 301 RBI from 1966-73, mostly with the San Francisco Giants. He finished his career with Los Angeles and Atlanta.

His best season was 1970, when he hit .300 with 36 doubles, 22 home runs and 107 RBI, along with 109 walks. He was an All-Star that season, and his leadoff homer in the ninth inning against Catfish Hunter started a three-run rally that tied it -- the NL won in the 12th when Pete Rose ran over catcher Ray Fosse to score the winning run.

Dietz probably was better known, however, for what happened at Dodger Stadium on May 31, 1968. Drysdale was in the midst of setting a major league record of 58 2/3 scoreless innings and bidding for his fifth straight shutout when the Giants loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth inning.

Dietz came up, and was hit in the elbow by a 2-2 pitch from the future Los Angeles Hall of Famer. But before Dietz could take his base and force home a run that would break Drysdale's streak, plate umpire Harry Wendelstedt ruled that Dietz did not try to get out of the way of the ball.

"He stood there like a post," former Giants teammate Ron Hunt recalled Wednesday. "It was a high slider, and he didn't make an attempt."

The Giants loudly argued the call, but Dietz returned to the plate with a full count and hit a shallow fly ball that was not deep enough to score a run. Drysdale retired the next two batters to finish off the shutout and extend his string to 45 scoreless innings.

Hunt, who once held the hit-by-pitch record, remembered that Wendelstedt made his call right away. That didn't stop the Giants from complaining.

"We'd seen a lot of those things where it was or wasn't called, when it wasn't such a big deal," Hunt said.

Courtesy of ESPN

Monday, July 04, 2005

The Harmonica Incident: August 20, 1964

by Harvey Frommer

Despite a string of four straight pennants, the Bronx Bombers were a bust throughout much of the 1964 season. Yogi Berra had succeeded Ralph Houk as skipper; there were reports that he got more laughs than lauds from his players.

It was getting to be late August; the Yankees were in third place behind Baltimore and Chicago. The Yankees were on the team bus heading to O'Hare Airport, losers of four straight to the White Sox, winless in 10 of their last 15 games. A 5-0 shutout at the hands of Chicago's John Buzhardt had totally demoralized them.

Phil Linz, #34, reserve infielder, a career .235 hitter, was a tough, aggressive player who loved being a Yankee. But he was regarded by some to be un-Yankeelike along with teammates Joe Pepitone and Jim Bouton.

"I sat in the back of the bus," Linz recalled. The bus was stuck in heavy traffic. It was August 20, 1964 -- a sticky humid Chicago summer day. "I was bored. I pulled out my harmonica. I had the Learner's Sheet for 'Mary Had a Little Lamb.' So I started fiddling. You blow in. You blow out."

An angry Berra snapped from the front of the bus: "Knock it off!" But Linz barely heard him. When asked what their manager had said, Mickey Mantle said, "Play it louder." Linz played louder. Berra stormed to the back of the bus and told Linz to "shove that thing."

"I told Yogi that I didn't lose that game," Linz related." Berra smacked the harmonica out of Linz's hands. The harmonica flew into Joe Pepitone's knee and Pepitone jokingly winced in pain. Soon the entire bus -- except for Berra -- was in stitches.

Another version has it that Linz flipped the harmonica at the angered Berra and screamed: "What are you getting on me for? I give a hundred per cent. Why don't you get on some of the guys who don't hustle?"

Linz was fined $200 -- but as the story goes received $20,000 for an endorsement from a harmonica company. "The next day," Linz gives his version, "the Hohner Company called and I got a contract for $5,000 to endorse their harmonica. The whole thing became a big joke."
Actually, the whole thing changed things around for the Yankees. The summer of 1964 was Linz's most productive season. Injuries to Tony Kubek made the "supersub" a regular: Linz started the majority of the games down the stretch, and every World Series game at short.
New respect for Yogi propelled the Yanks to a 22-6 record in September and a win in a close pennant race over the White Sox. A loss in the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games cost Berra his job. But there were those who said he was on his way out the day of the "Harmonica Incident."

Harvey Frommer is the author of 30 sports books, including "The New York Yankee Encyclopedia" and "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball,"and "Growing Up Baseball" with Frederic J. Frommer. His latest A YANKEE CENTURY will be published by Berkley in October 2002.

Courtesy of

Friday, July 01, 2005

1925 World Series: A great story worth retelling

One of the franchise's most illustrious moments, diminished by time, is relived as Pirates visit D.C. again
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
By Dejan Kovacevic,
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

1925 World Series Revisited:
Facts & Figures
When the Pirates take the field tonight in Washington's RFK Stadium, the speakers will not blare "We are Family," as happened when they met the Baltimore Orioles. Nor will Bill Mazeroski be on hand for a good-luck sendoff, as happened before they embarked for Yankee Stadium. Nor will the crowd receive illustrated history lessons, as happened at Fenway Park.
There will be no pomp, no pilgrimage of fans.
And that, perhaps, is fitting.

The Pirates' appearance in the nation's capital will be their first since the 1925 World Series, since defeating one of the game's greatest pitchers in one of the game's greatest Game 7 finishes, since sparking chaos on the streets from Oakland to Downtown.

But the memory is as faded and frayed as the century-old books and yellowing newspapers that are all that is left to tell their spectacular tale.

Pittsburgh has won 11 major sports championships: The Pirates have won five World Series, the Steelers four Super Bowls and the Penguins two Stanley Cups. And there is none less celebrated than the second of those, according to two men who have written several books each about the city's sporting history.

"Is the 1925 squad the least appreciated of the World Series champions? Not by the fans of Pittsburgh in that era," John McCollister said. "If you mean today, quite possibly. Some might argue that the 1909 team is the least appreciated because of the time factor. However, even some modern-day fans have heard the story of the battle between two superstars, Honus Wagner and Ty Cobb, that was featured in that series."

Senators manager Bucky Harris and Pirates manager Bill McKechnie are presented bouquets by Rosetta Duncan at Forbes Field.Click photo for larger image.
"People talk to me every day about the Pirates and their history, and I can tell you no one ever, ever asks about the 1925 team," Jim O'Brien said. "It's amazing how they're forgotten. And it's a shame, I think, because it was a great team with a great story to tell."
One worth retelling ...

Breaking from history

Barney Dreyfuss, the Pirates' owner and the man who made personnel moves, was furious after losing the 1924 pennant to the New York Giants. In particular, he was perturbed by some of his players' partying ways, which is why he traded three popular regulars -- Rabbit Maranville, Charley Grimm and Wilbur Cooper -- to the Chicago Cubs for three players who were not their equals but brought more serious attitudes.

As Dreyfuss famously put it, "I got rid of my banjo players."
He also got rid of much of his experience. The Pirates left spring training with the youngest team in Major League Baseball.

Dreyfuss' thinking was that his talented team needed toughness, and he continued to push buttons into the season. He brought back Fred Clarke, the player-manager who starred for the Pirates in their glory days to start the century, to serve as right-hand man for manager Bill McKechnie. He claimed first baseman Stuffy McInnis, a veteran of four World Series who would hit .368 in his 59 games, off waivers. And he traded for two veteran relievers.

The Pirates were 6-14 in early May, but they finished 95-58 and a comfortable 8 1/2 games ahead of the National League pack. They had shaken their tag as mischievous underachievers and joined the baseball elite.

Three resources to find out more about the Pirates' 1925 World Series championship team:
Frederick G. Lieb's book, "The Pittsburgh Pirates," originally published in 1948 and still in print, offers a firsthand account of much of the franchise's first half-century, including rich detail and numerous interviews.

The Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum in the Strip District has an elaborate display on Pirates history in its baseball hall, including third baseman Pie Traynor's 1925 World Series pin.
Several historical groups will dedicate a marker to Barney Dreyfuss, owner of the Pirates in 1900-32, at 3 p.m. Thursday at the Forbes Quad on the University of Pittsburgh campus in Oakland. Speakers will include Forbes Field historian Dan Bonk and Honus Wagner biographer Dennis DeValeria.

And they had done it with offense.
Right fielder Kiki Cuyler hit .357, third in the league, with an incredible 26 triples and 41 stolen bases. Center fielder Max Carey had his finest season at age 35, hitting .343 with 46 steals. Pie Traynor, the game's preeminent third baseman, hit .320.
Seven of the eight regulars hit .308 or better, and the lone exception hit .298. Four of them topped 100 RBIs. As a group, they led the league in runs, hits, doubles, triples, walks, RBIs, stolen bases, batting average and slugging percentage. They scored 84 runs more than the next-highest team, St. Louis.

The pitching, too, was exceptional, with the no-star staff producing an earned run average of 3.87 that was second-lowest in the league.
Despite it all, they would be decided underdogs against the defending World Series champion Washington Senators and their indomitable, imposing staff ace.

A date with history
Walter "Big Train" Johnson was 37 when he was preparing to face baseball's youngest team, but he had just gone 20-7 with a 3.07 ERA in a league where an average of four runs was scored each game.

The experts had forecast the Pirates would struggle with Johnson, and they were right.
He shut out the Pirates in Game 1 at Forbes Field with flea-swatting ease, striking out 10 in a 4-1 Washington victory.

He also sent a clear signal he would be in charge by twice beaning Carey.
"Don't you think he likes me?" Carey would ask reporters later.
The Pirates took Game 2, winning, 3-1, on Cuyler's two-run home run in the eighth. But Washington took the next two games, 4-3 and 4-0, in the capital at old Griffith Stadium. Johnson starred again in Game 4, going the distance and allowing six hits.
The Series seemed all but over. No team at that time had overcome a 3-1 deficit in a seven-game series. More ominous by far, Johnson still was available to start one more game.
But the Pirates took Game 5 in Washington, 6-3, and railroaded the Series back to Forbes Field for a 3-2 victory in Game 6.

It was cold and rainy Oct. 15, 1925, in Oakland, the day of Game 7, setting up a funereal atmosphere for what reasonably should have been the day the Pirates' rally would be ended. Johnson was starting for the Senators with one more day of rest than usual, and the Pirates, in a curious decision, went with curveballer Vic Aldridge to return on two days' rest.

The crowd of 42,856, boosted by numerous temporary seats Dreyfuss had erected to satisfy demand, would be disappointed early. Aldridge had nothing from the outset. He retired only one batter while allowing two hits, three walks and a wild pitch before he was yanked. Washington had staked the mighty Johnson a 4-0 lead before he took the mound.

The Pirates finally broke through against him in the third by scoring three times. Carey, the man Johnson beaned twice in Game 1, was the catalyst. He delivered a run-scoring single, took second on a grounder, stole third and scored on a blooper.

Washington increased its lead to 6-3 in its next at-bat, but the Pirates persisted against Johnson. Carey doubled and came across in the fifth, and two more runs in the seventh tied the score.
The Senators were just as stubborn and reclaimed the lead, 7-6, in the eighth when Roger Peckinpaugh, the Series goat to that point with seven errors at shortstop, homered.

The rain increased as the Pirates batted into the bottom of that inning, still with Johnson on the mound. Glenn Wright fouled out. McInnis flied out.

All looked gloomy until Earl Smith doubled to right, and Carson Bigbee doubled to left to tie the score. Moore walked, bringing up Carey looking for his fifth hit.

Carey bounced softly to Peckinpaugh, and the inning appeared over. But Peckinpaugh committed error No. 8 with a high throw to first, and bases were loaded.
By this point, Johnson clearly was tired and frustrated. He called out the grounds crew again to spread sawdust on the muddy mound.

Cuyler, the Pirates' best hitter, was up. It was evident he was sitting on Johnson's stuff from several hard-hit foul balls he had pulled. Finally, he lashed a drive toward deep right field that resulted in a ground-rule double and the Pirates' first lead, 9-7.
Red Oldham pitched a 1-2-3 ninth, and the Pirates were champions.

Buried in history

By nightfall, a massive, spontaneous parade of revelers streamed along Fifth Avenue, from Oakland to Downtown, where confetti was dropped from the tallest buildings.
To this day, it is one of only two championships clinched on Pittsburgh soil, the other coming 35 years later with a swing of Mazeroski's bat.

It also was one of the great teams in Pirates history, perhaps the greatest when it is considered that Traynor, Carey and Cuyler would be enshrined in the Hall of Fame, a remarkable representation from one team regardless of era.

And it was all topped by beating a living legend in a game that is ranked No. 2 in franchise history by "The Pittsburgh Pirates Encyclopedia" behind only Game 7 in 1960.
How is it that those Pirates have come to be so forgotten?

The obvious explanation, the historians say, is time.
"To compare these celebrations with those of the Pirates and Steelers in the 1970s or the Penguins' two Cups is, in a sense, unfair," McCollister said. "How many fans are still around who can recall the 1925 team and explain in detail why Pie Traynor was the greatest third baseman of all time?"

Another is that the 1960 team, which produced one of the most memorable moments in sports history, has had a dwarfing effect.

"That still is what people want to talk about in our area," O'Brien said. "As great as it was, what Max Carey and company did, it's tough to top what Maz did. And with the time difference, it's even harder. For someone to claim they saw the 1925 team, that person's 105. You don't meet those people anymore."
(Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at 412-263-1938 or
for more Major League Baseball news. )

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