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Historical Hot Stove
by Bruce Markusen
Previous Columns

Cooperstown Confidential - 12/24/2002

Composite Candidates: While the Commissioner’s Office grapples with the issue of Pete Rose and whether he should be reinstated to baseball, thereby making him eligible for Hall of Fame consideration, the Hall’s newly restructured Veterans Committee must deal with a more immediate concern: whom to elect in 2003. Here are some not-so-well-known notes on each of the 15 men who appear on the Composite Ballot, which consists of former major league executives, managers, and umpires… The oldest living candidate being considered by the Veterans Committee, Buzzie Bavasi is best remembered for his successful tenure as general manager of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers. Yet, he also deserves credit for building the expansion San Diego Padres from the bottom up. As part-owner of the Padres at the franchise’s inception, he also served as the team’s first president. He oversaw the expansion draft during the winter of 1968 and helped sign many of the young players that made up the franchise’s farm system in its early years. After resigning from the Padres in 1977, Bavasi joined the California Angels, where the celebrated Gene Autry employed him as the team’s vice president… August Busch Jr. , owner of the St. Louis Cardinals, was perhaps the most militant of all the major league lords in 1972, when the players went on strike for the first time, causing the cancellation of several regular season games. Some historians have cited Busch’s hawkish posture as one of the leading factors in creating the atmosphere for the union walkout at the beginning of the ’72 season… During his 36 years as a general manager, Harry Dalton made numerous trades for the Baltimore Orioles, California Angels, and Milwaukee Brewers. His best trade? On December 12, 1980, he engineered the famed deal that brought Ted Simmons, Pete Vuckovich, and Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers to Milwaukee for the quartet of Sixto Lezcano, David Green, Lary Sorenson, and Dave LaPoint. As one of the greatest trades in baseball history, Dalton’s deal laid the foundation for the Brewers’ pennant-winning season in 1982… During his years as owner of the Kansas City A’s, Charlie Finley arranged for his players to ride in on mules as part of Opening Day ceremonies at Municipal Stadium. One of the mules—named “Charlie O” in his honor—served as the team’s mascot. After Finley moved the A’s to Oakland, he originated several promotions, including “Hot Pants Day,” which featured a pre-game parade of women staging a kind of combination beauty-fashion show, and “Mustache Day,” in which all mustache-bearing fans received free admission to the Oakland Coliseum… Doug Harvey was the last National League umpire not to attend an accredited umpiring school. The lack of formal training didn’t hurt the legendary Harvey, who became the first major league umpire to earn as much as $100,000 in a single season… Although best known as a highly successful manager with the Kansas City Royals and St. Louis Cardinals, Dorrel Norman Elvert Herzog—AKA Whitey Herzog—received his managerial start with the Texas Rangers. He replaced Hall of Famer Ted Williams, taking over a misfit team that was virtually barren of legitimate big league talent. As the always humorous Herzog remarked shortly after assuming the reins in Texas, “We need just two players to be a contender…Babe Ruth and Sandy Koufax will do it.”… As a young baseball fan growing up in the Washington D.C. area, former commissioner Bowie Kuhn worked as a scoreboard operator at old Griffith Stadium, home of the Senators. Calling it the best job of his life, Kuhn manually changed the numbers on the scoreboard at both Senators and Negro Leagues games… The fiery Billy Martin succeeded Whitey Herzog as manager of the Rangers in 1974, eventually leading an overachieving team to a second-place finish in the American League West. The number of teams that Martin managed—the Minnesota Twins, Detroit Tigers, Rangers, New York Yankees, and Oakland A’s—practically matched the number of fights he found himself embroiled in during his tempestuous career. Martin’s “sparring partners” included Chicago Cubs pitcher Jim Brewer, Twins starter Dave Boswell (one of Martin’s own players), Rangers traveling secretary Burt Hawkins (who was 64 years old at the time), marshmallow salesman Joseph Cooper, and Yankees pitcher Eddie Whitson (also one of his own players). Martin was also involved in the famed Copacabana incident, in which he and several other Yankee players allegedly brawled with some of the nightclub’s customers. Yankee management blamed Martin for the episode and soon punished him by trading him to the lowly Kansas City A’s… Brilliant in labor law and filled with foresight, Marvin Miller served as the executive director of the Players Association from 1965 to 1984. Like his arch-rival Bowie Kuhn, Miller grew up as a baseball fan, avidly following the fortunes of the old Brooklyn Dodgers. Miller later turned down a job with Harvard University to become the head of the players union… As the leader of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Walter O’Malley may have been the most powerful owner in baseball during the 1950s and sixties. In 1969, O’Malley played a huge behind-the-scenes role in making Bowie Kuhn the game’s commissioner; without O’Malley’s influence, Kuhn probably would not have become baseball’s czar… As the first true general manager to work for George Steinbrenner in the early 1970s, Gabe Paul earned the nickname “Dial-A-Deal” for the many trades that he engineered in the front office of the New York Yankees. While most of Paul’s deals worked out well for the Yankees, one he elected not to make aided the team’s fortunes immensely. In 1977, Steinbrenner wanted to include young pitcher Ron Guidry as part of a deal for Chicago White Sox shortstop Bucky Dent. Paul refused to give up Guidry, instead offering outfielder Oscar Gamble, two minor league prospects, and cash to the White Sox. A year later, Guidry went 25-3 in leading the Yankees to their second straight World Championship. Dent also helped out a bit that season… One of the game’s great innovators, Paul Richards made his mark as a baseball revolutionary. Although most remember him for inventing the “Big Bertha” mitt used to catch the knuckleballs thrown by Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm, Richards also introduced a practice that has become a baseball obsession in the new century: pitch counts. As manager of the Baltimore Orioles, Richards came up with the idea to limit young right-hander Milt Pappas to only 70 pitches per start. If only Richards could see how his idea has been carried to such extremes in today’s game… The versatile Bill White, who enjoyed a career as a player, broadcaster, and National League president, was once offered the chance to become the general manager of the New York Yankees. White turned down the position because he felt he lacked the proper experience for the job. At another time, while he was broadcasting games for the Yankees along with Frank Messer and Phil Rizzuto, White was rumored to be a leading candidate for the team’s ever-changing managerial post, but that hiring never came to fruition. White later became the first African-American league president in baseball history… As manager of the Boston Red Sox in 1967, Dick Williams stripped Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski of the team’s captaincy and then watched the All-Star left fielder put up Triple Crown numbers during the Sox’ “Impossible Dream” pennant run. Four years later, after being named the manager of the Oakland A’s by Charlie Finley, Williams decided to reverse course and allowed Sal Bando to remain the club’s captain. The change in strategy didn’t hurt the A’s; in three years as Oakland skipper, the A’s won three division titles and two World Championships… Unlike the penurious Finley, Phil Wrigley was one of the most generous major league owners the game has ever seen. When one of his former star players, Hall of Famer Hack Wilson, passed away nearly penniless, Wrigley stepped forward to pay for the funeral arrangements. The Commissioner’s Office offered to finance half of the funeral’s costs, but Wrigley refused the donation and even paid for a monument to be built in Wilson’s memory.

Remembering Dr. Strangeglove: Few players exemplified the color of baseball better than Dick Stuart, who died last week at the age of 70. Stuart was nicknamed “Dr. Strangeglove” for glaringly obvious reasons, given his chronically poor defensive performance—first as an outfielder and then as a first baseman. In the seven seasons that Stuart played regularly at first base, he led the league in errors each time, topping out with a remarkable 29 in one season. One of his teammates with the Boston Red Sox, reliever Dick Radatz, offered perhaps the most succinct and biting capsules of Stuart’s defensive pratfalls. “Stuart’s car should have one of those low-number license plates,” Radatz told a reporter. “It should be E-3.” … Still, Stuart lasted 10 seasons in the major leagues because of his ability to hit home runs—including a few of the tape-measure variety. Unfortunately, the right-handed slugger had to spend much of his career handcuffed by the dimensions of a pitcher’s park. Playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates in cavernous Forbes Field in 1961, Stuart blasted 35 home runs, sacrificing another 20 home runs to the deep left-field wall. Two years later, he reached a career high with 43 homers, thanks in part to the friendly fence at Fenway Park. (If only he had played his entire career in Boston.) Few players could match the strength of Stuart in the 1950s and sixties. At 6’4” and nearly 220 pounds, Stuart looked more like one of today’s weightlifting major leaguers than the average-sized player of his day… Off the field, Stuart’s behavior was just as memorable as his behemoth size and lack of fielding prowess. A notorious cheapskate, he hated having to respond to written correspondence whenever it required return postage. He also liked to spend down time in bars, where he bragged about his abilities with the bat. Yet, he never tried to fool himself—or others—about the iron-like qualities of his glove. “One night in Pittsburgh,” Stuart recalled, “30,000 fans gave me a standing ovation when I caught a hot dog wrapper on the fly.” The Hall And The Holidays: And courtesy of the Hall of Fame’s staff, with particular thanks to the research and public relations departments, let’s present our 2002 All-Christmas team.

First Base: 	J.T. Snow (the only active member of the team)
Second Base:    Bobby Klaus
Shortstop:      Ed Holly
Third Base:     Joseph Ebenezer Graves
Outfield:       George “Partridge” Adams
Outfield:       Gus Bell
Outfield:       Rob Deer
Pitcher:        Wayne Garland
Reliever:       Clay Carroll
Catcher:        Steve Christmas (the only player with the actual 
                holiday as a surname)

Bruce Markusen is the author of A Baseball Dynasty: Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s, now available from St. Johann Press. The book can be special ordered at www.amazon.com and is also available through www.barnesandnoble.com. To order directly from the publisher, write to St. Johann Press, PO Box 241, Haworth, NJ, 07641.


by Bruce Markusen

 

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