05/01/2008 8:04 PM ET
Dodgers mourn the passing of longtime general manager Buzzie Bavasi
Buzzie Bavasi, the executive vice president and General Manager of the Dodgers from 1950-68, passed away today at the age of 93.
"The Dodgers, and the baseball world, lost a true pioneer today," said Dodgers owner Frank McCourt. "Buzzie's contributions to the Dodgers are immeasurable. His passion for the game and loyalty to baseball was surpassed only by his devotion to family and a willingness to stand up for what he believed in."
"Buzzie is a key reason the Dodgers first earned the reputation of being an agent for social change," said Dodgers President Jamie McCourt. "The sympathies of our family are extended to his family."
During Bavasi's tenure as general manager, the Dodgers won eight National League pennants and four of the franchise's six World Series titles ('55, '59, '63 and '65). The New York City native was named the 1959 Major League Executive of the Year by "The Sporting News" after the Dodgers' second season in Los Angeles. Bavasi spent 44 years that spanned six decades in professional baseball, including 34 in the Major Leagues.
Born Emil Joseph Bavasi, "Buzzie" worked in the Brooklyn Dodgers' Minor League system from 1939-43 and '46-49, having served as an Army infantry machine gunner three years in between, for which he earned the Bronze Star.
"Buzzie had a knack about him," said Ralph Branca, who pitched for the Dodgers from 1944-53 and in '56. "He was good with the players, a very warm individual who worked his way up the ladder of the Dodgers Minor League system."
In 1946, the DePauw graduate was instrumental in helping Dodgers executive Branch Rickey implement their Class-B New England team in Nashua, N.H. Bavasi personally chose the location and actively assisted Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe in their difficult integration into professional baseball. Bavasi, Robinson, Campanella, and later Newcombe were all subsequently promoted to the Dodgers' top farm team, the Montreal Royals.
"I don't know where Roy Campanella and I would've been if Buzzie didn't give us a chance at Nashua in 1946," said Newcombe, now Dodgers director of community relations. "I didn't always do the right thing as a player, but Buzzie always gave me a chance to straighten myself out and get back on track. He was always in my corner, and I'm very sorry to hear he has passed away. He and his wife, Evit, were the perfect couple, and together they raised a beautiful family. Without Buzzie, Don Newcombe would not have been able to enjoy any success in professional baseball. He meant the world to me."
In late 1947, Bavasi ventured to Florida, in charge of finding a new Spring Training home for the Dodgers. After meeting local businessman Bud Holman, Bavasi chose Vero Beach, Fla., and the Dodgers would train there each winter from 1948-2008.
After the 1949 season, Bavasi was named the Minor League Executive of the Year at Montreal and was promoted to the Dodgers in 1950. Bavasi's first season as general manager was 1951, when the Giants defeated the Dodgers to win the pennant on the final day of the season.
He is also credited with recommending the late Walter Alston to Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley as a managerial candidate in 1954. Alston would pilot the Dodgers to four World Series championships from 1954-76.
"I always felt grateful to Buzzie for bringing me up from Triple-A Spokane," said Maury Wills, who was called up by Bavasi to play shortstop for the Dodgers in the middle of the 1959 season. "I remember walking into Buzzie's office after the 1962 season when I was the MVP, stole 104 bases and was the professional athlete of the year. I thought I was going to get a big raise, but after 10 minutes in Buzzie's office, I was still happy I was on the team. He told me, 'Keep hustling, and you'll be all right.' Every time I got to see him for years after that, I reminded him of that moment and we both got a big laugh."
Bavasi left the Dodgers in 1968 to become the founding president of the expansion San Diego Padres. Following his time in San Diego, Bavasi finished his career as the general manager of the California Angels from 1978-84.
He is survived by his wife of 68 years, Evit; four sons, Peter, Chris, Bob and Bill; and nine grandchildren. Bill is the general manager of the Seattle Mariners, and Peter succeeded his father as the Padres' GM in 1973.
Funeral arrangements will be private to the family only. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Baseball Assistance Team (B.A.T.), 245 Park Ave., New York, N.Y., 10167 (212-931-7822) or the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation, 9665 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 801, Beverly Hills, Calif. 90212 (310-385-4628, www.probaseballscouts.com).