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Emil Joseph "Buzzie" Bavasi ( //; December 12, 1914 – May 1, 2008) was an American executive in Major League Baseball who played a major role in the operation of three franchises from the late 1940s through the mid-1980s.
He was best known as the general manager of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers from 1951 to 1968, during which time the team captured eight National League pennants and its first four World Series titles. He was previously a key figure in the integration of minor league baseball in the late 1940s while working for the Dodgers organization. He went on to become the first general manager of the San Diego Padres, and assembled the California Angels teams which made that franchise's first two postseason appearances. His sons Peter Bavasi and Bill Bavasi have also served as major league general managers.
Born Emil Joseph Bavasi in Manhattan, New York City, New York, his sister Iola ("Lolly") nicknamed him Buzzie because his mother said he was "always buzzing around." Bavasi was raised in Scarsdale, New York by Joseph and Sue Bavasi. Joseph, his immigrant father, was a newspaper distributor. He went to high school at Fordham Preparatory School, in the Bronx, with Fred Frick, the son of Ford Frick, president of the National League.
He attended DePauw University, in Greencastle, Indiana, where he was a catcher. At DePauw he roomed with Fred Frick, and Ford Frick recommended Bavasi for office boy position for the Dodgers to Larry MacPhail.
Bavasi was hired by Larry MacPhail in 1938, for $35 a week, to become a front office assistant with the Brooklyn Dodgers, and after one year was named the business manager of the Dodgers' Class D minor league team in Americus, Georgia, were he spent three seasons. In 1941 he moved to Durham, North Carolina Class B team of the Dodgers and married his wife, Evit.
In late 1945, after serving 18 months, Staff Sargent Bavasi returned to Georgia to rest with his family. While there, Dodgers president Branch Rickey telephoned and asked Bavasi to become business manager of a new minor-league baseball team in the New England League, and to find a suitable city in which to place the club.
Although Bavasi did not know for certain, he suspected that Rickey, who had started to integrate the Dodgers' farm system with the signing of Jackie Robinson the previous October, might be planning to sign more African Americans to contracts. If that was the case, the Dodgers needed a low-level minor-league team outside the American South to which to assign these players. Ultimately, Bavasi chose Nashua, New Hampshire. With fewer than 35,000 people, Nashua would be the smallest market in the New England League, and fewer than fifty African Americans resided in the community. However, the Nashua Dodgers were assured of a predominantly French Canadian fan base, a fact which both Rickey and Bavasi believed would help in the integration of African Americans into minor league baseball. Additionally, Nashua was home to the relatively new Holman Stadium, which Bavasi was able to lease from the city.
In March 1946, Bavasi received word that Brooklyn had signed former Negro League ballplayers Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe, and that they would be sent to Nashua for the season. Bavasi spent nearly a month planning for their arrival, naming Nashua Telegraph publisher Fred Dobens to the position of President of the Nashua Dodgers to ensure the newspaper's support for the integration project; Dobens's newspaper did not release any word of the signings until April. Bavasi also publicly linked the team to Clyde Sukeforth, who had scouted Campanella, Newcombe, and Jackie Robinson for Rickey and who had played minor-league baseball in Nashua in the mid-1920s. He promoted the team's French Canadian connection through his team's Quebec-born players, and even attempted to hire Frenchy Bordagaray to manage the team (eventually he settled on Walter Alston).
The 1946 season was a successful one. The Nashua Dodgers placed second in the league and won the Governor's Cup, defeating the Lynn Red Sox. In terms of attendance, Nashua also proved successful, in part because of Bavasi's imaginative promotional skills. The league saw few racially motivated incidents, with two exceptions. Campanella has claimed that Manchester Giants catcher Sal Yvars threw dirt in his face during a game at Manchester Athletic Field (Gill Stadium), but the incident was resolved on the field (though Yvars has denied that the incident took place). More seriously, players and the manager of the Lynn Red Sox hurled racial slurs and insults at Campanella and Newcombe, particularly late in the season when the two clubs were locked in a tight pennant race. On one occasion, Bavasi was so enraged by the comments of the Red Sox that he met Lynn's manager and players in the Holman Stadium parking lot and challenged them to a fight. Players restrained Bavasi and the Lynn manager, and the Lynn team boarded their bus without further incident.
As a result of their success in Nashua, Bavasi, Campanella, and Alston all were promoted to teams in higher-level leagues in 1947, and Newcombe followed in 1948.
By 1948, Bavasi had become general manager of the Montreal Royals, the Dodgers' top farm team. Around that time, as a result of continued prejudice against Brooklyn's African American ballplayers during spring training, Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley sent Bavasi to find property at which to establish a permanent spring training facility. Bavasi chose a site outside Vero Beach, Florida, at which to establish Dodgertown, anchored by the newly constructed Holman Stadium. The Dodgers continued to train there virtually without interruption through 2008 before moving to a new facility in Glendale, Arizona.
He was promoted to the position of Dodgers general manager before the 1951 season. In his nearly 18 years as the Dodgers' GM, the team won 8 National League pennants – including the first four World Series titles in franchise history, three of them after the team's move to Los Angeles in 1958 (A move that Bavasi was not in favor of.). After the team won the Series in 1959, in only their second year in Los Angeles, The Sporting News named Bavasi the Major League Executive of the Year.
In 1968, Bavasi resigned from the Dodgers to become president and part owner of the expansion San Diego Padres, serving until 1977; his son Peter was then running the Toronto Blue Jays, making the Bavasis the first father and son to run two different major league teams at the same time. After the 1977 season, Gene Autry hired him to be executive vice president and general manager of the California Angels. Bavasi retired in 1984 after the Angels reached the playoffs twice during his tenure.
His son Bill is the former general manager of the Seattle Mariners and California Angels; son Peter held president or general manager positions with the Padres, Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians during the 1970s and 1980s; and another son, Chris, formerly served as mayor of Flagstaff, Arizona, and with his wife, Evit, the couple had a fourth son Bob.
In November 2011, Bavasi was placed onto the Golden Era Veterans Committee list for consideration into the Hall of Fame. The voting will take place by a 16 member committee on December 4–5 in Dallas, Texas.
|Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers General Manager
First general manager
|San Diego Padres General Manager
|San Diego Padres President
|California Angels General Manager
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