Legendary Italian /American Baseball Executive: Buzzie Bavasi

Emil Joseph Bavasi was born on December 12, 1914 in Manhattan, New York City. He was the son of Italian immigrants, his father a newspaper distributor. He grew up in Scarsdale, New York & got the name Buzzie from his sister Iola, because he was always buzzing around. He attended Fordham Prep High School in the Bronx, with Fred Frick the son of Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick. In 1938 he landed a job with the Brooklyn Dodgers as a front office assistant under Larry Mcphail.

He then worked within the Dodgers minor leagues until being drafted into World War II in 1941. There he won a Bronze Star Medal in the Italian Campaign as machine-gunner for the US Army. When he returned he was hired by Branch Rickey to find a home for Brooklyn’s new minor league level club. He chose a small town in New Hampshire, named Nashua. Bavasi was a key figure in helping baseball & the Dodgers break the color barrier in the 1940’s. At this time there were racial tensions after the signing of Jackie Robinson, & Don Newcombe & Roy Campanella in the Dodger farm system. After one game against the Lynn Red Sox, Bavasi challenged the whole team to fight in the parking lot after they had shouted insults to his black players.

Bavasi eventually became the GM of the Montreal Royals, the Dodgers top farm club. In 1948 he founded Dodger Town in Vero Beach, Florida where the Dodgers could play without any racial tensions. The team would hold Spring Training there for fifty years before leaving for Arizona in 2008.

By 1951 he was promoted to the Brooklyn Dodgers General Managers position & would remain there for 18 years. He would win eight National League pennants, bringing Brooklyn thier first Championship in 1955. In 1958 he along with Walter O’Malley moved the Dodgers West to Los Angeles, breaking the hearts of Brooklyn fans but opening a new chapter in pro sports with California baseball. In L.A. he would win three more World Series titles, the first in 1959 when he also won the MLB Executive of the Year Award. During the sixties he would win two more titles in the Sandy Koufax era as the Dodgers became Hollywood’s baseball team.

In 1968 he left the Dodgers to become part owner & President of the expansion San Diego Padres, where he would remain until 1977. Money was tight in those days, he said in his auto biography. “Every time we got a player with any value we would sell him. In one short span in the early ’70s, I sold Al Santorini, Al Ferrara and Ed Spiezio. Then my phone rang. “‘Am I next?’ the voice on the other end asked before hanging up. “It was my mother calling from Florida. She was 81 at the time. “I immediately phoned her back. ‘What’s the matter?’ I said.“ ‘Well, you sold three Italians in a row. I figured I was next. ”

He was then hired by Gene Autry to run the California Angels & got them to two playoff berths, winning two AL West titles. His son Peter became a GM & President with Toronto, Cleveland & San Diego, while another son Bill was a GM in Seattle. Buzzie & Peter Bavasi were the first father & son combo to run baseball clubs at the same time.

Bavasi retired after the 1984 season, and lived until 93 years old, passing in La Jolla California.


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