Obituaries

Buzzie Bavasi; Dodgers GM Aided Baseball Integration

Buzzie Bavasi, left, with Brooklyn Dodgers star players Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella at the Hotel Lexington in New York. The Dodgers won four World Series under Bavasi's leadership.
Buzzie Bavasi, left, with Brooklyn Dodgers star players Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella at the Hotel Lexington in New York. The Dodgers won four World Series under Bavasi's leadership. (1953 Photo By The Associated Press)
By Matt Schudel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 3, 2008

Buzzie Bavasi, a baseball executive with the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers who helped guide his team to four World Series championships and who had a role in the integration of major-league baseball in 1947, died May 1 at his home in La Jolla, Calif. He was 93. No cause of death was reported.

Mr. Bavasi began working with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1938 and became the team's general manager in 1951. He ran the franchise that won Brooklyn's only World Series in 1955.

After the club's move to Los Angeles, the Dodgers won championships in 1959, 1963 and 1965. Mr. Bavasi was instrumental in bringing big-league baseball to San Diego in 1969 as the Padres' first president and general manager. He closed out his career as general manager of the California Angels from 1978 through 1984.

Throughout the 1940s, Mr. Bavasi worked his way up the chain of the Dodgers' 27-team minor-league system. In 1946 and 1947, he was general manager of a Dodger minor-league club in Nashua, N.H., where his team included black players Don Newcombe and Roy Campanella, both future big-league stars.

"I'll never forget one night in Lynn, Mass.," Campanella said in 1983. "We were all dressed and sitting in the bus. . . . All of a sudden, we heard Buzzie and their manager fighting. We went in and broke it up. We found out later that their manager said, 'Without those two [black players], you wouldn't have won.' Buzzie went after him."

In 1946, when Brooklyn's general manager, Branch Rickey, was contemplating bringing Jackie Robinson to the Dodgers as the major leagues' first African American player, he asked Mr. Bavasi to learn more about Robinson's character.

Among other things, Mr. Bavasi traveled to Montreal, where Robinson was playing with the Dodgers' Triple-A franchise. He sat behind the wives' section and was as impressed by Robinson's wife, Rachel, as by anything he saw on the baseball diamond.

"I told Mr. Rickey that if Jackie is good enough for Rachel, he's good enough for the Dodgers," Mr. Bavasi said years later.

Emil Joseph Bavasi was born in New York City on Dec. 12, 1914, and grew up in suburban Scarsdale, N.Y. He was a catcher at DePauw University in Indiana, where his roommate was the son of Ford Frick, who was then president of the National League (and later commissioner of baseball). Mr. Bavasi skipped law school to work with the Dodgers.

During World War II, he was a staff sergeant in an Army machine-gun unit in Italy and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal.

In 1951, when he became the Dodgers' GM, Mr. Bavasi inherited the legendary "Boys of Summer" team of Robinson, Campanella, Newcombe, Gil Hodges, Duke Snider and Pee Wee Reese. After losing a heartbreaking playoff to the New York Giants in 1951, the Dodgers won four National League championships between 1952 and 1956. In 1954, Mr. Bavasi hired Manager Walter Alston, who led the Dodgers to victory over the New York Yankees in the 1955 World Series.

After the 1957 season, team owner Walter O'Malley abruptly moved the team to Los Angeles, over the objections of everyone in the Dodger organization.


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