Nov 30, 2014

The First Italian / American Mets Coach & Brooklyn World Series Hero: Cookie Lavagetto (1962-1963)

Harry Arthur Lavagetto was born on December 1, 1912 in Oakland, California. He attended technical school in Oakland where he graduated & played baseball.

The six foot right handed hitting Lavagetto, began his career in the Pacific Coast League playing with the famous Oakland Oaks.

It was there he got the nickname Cookie, coming from his manager. In 1933 he batted .312 at AA ball Oakland, getting called up to the Pittsburgh Pirates team the next season.

Lavagetto spent three seasons in Pittsburgh as a reserve infielder (1934-1936) batting a best .290 in 1935 while playing in 75 games. He was traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1937 and would play as the Dodgers regular second baseman that season before moving over to third base the next year.

Lavagetto became a star Brooklyn player, making four straight All Star teams from 1938-1941. In his Dodger years he played on two pennant winners, while driving in over 70 runs in each of his first three seasons. In his Dodger debut he batted .282 with 7 HRs 26 doubles 70 RBIs & a .375 on base %.

After another solid season where he hit .273 in 1938, he had a great 1939 season. Lavagetto batted .300 with career highs in hits (176) which was tenth in the NL. He also had personal bests in HRs (10) RBIs (87) which were 6th most in the NL & posted a .387 on base %. He had 78 walks ( 5th in the NL) 133 singles (6th in the NL) with 14 stolen bases (4th in the NL) making another All Star team.

At third base he posted the league's third best fielding % (.948%) with 278 assists (2nd in the NL) 136 put outs (3rd in the NL). That season the Dodgers finished third. In 1940 his average dropped to .257 but he walked 70 times posting a .361 on base %.

In the Dodgers 1941 Pennant season, he hit .277 with 24 doubles 7 triples 75 runs scored & 78 RBIs. That year he played in his first World Series, appearing in three games going 1-10 with three walks.

He served in the military during World War II, missing four full years, returning to the big leagues by 1946.

He was a back up third baseman to Spider Jorgenson in 1947 which would be his final playing season batting .261 in 41 games, getting to another World Series.

Post Season: His most famous moment as a player came in Game #4 of the 1947 World Series at Brooklyn's Ebbetts Field. Lavagetto came to bat as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the 9th inning facing pitcher Bev Bevan who was pitching a no hitter.

Although the no hitter was going, Bevan had walked ten batters in the game & there were two Dodger runners on base when Cookie came to the plate. Cookie blasted a double to the outfield wall, breaking up the no hitter and driving in the game winning runs for Brooklyn. It was his last major league hit, as the Dodgers released him at the end of the Series.

In his ten season career he was a Lifetime .269 hitter, with 946 hits 485 walks a .360 on base % 40 HRs 486 RBIs & 183 doubles in 1043 career games.

Retirement: After his playing days, he returned to the Brooklyn Dodgers as a coach when Charlie Dressen was named manager. In a famous photograph, Lavagetto is seen sitting next to Ralph Branca holding up his head with his cap in his hand, at the steps of the Polo Grounds locker room.

The photo was taken right after Ralph Branca gave up NY Giants Bobby Thomson’s famous Shot Heard Round the World HR.

Lavagetto followed Dressen to Washington D.C. coaching the Senators from 1955-1957. He then succeeded Dressen as manger of the team from 1957-1960. Lavagetto's best finish with the Senators was fifth place in 1960, which was the teams last season in the nation's Capitol. As the franchise moved to Minnesota and became the Twins, Lavagetto became the teams first manager. In June they were in ninth place & he was let go.

In 1962 he joined Casey Stengel in New York, as an original New York Mets coach in the team’s first two years of their history (1962-1963).

In a famous 1962 Mets story it was Cookie Lavagetto who had one of the best lines of the year. It came during a June game at the Polo Grounds, when Marvelous Marv Throneberry hit a run scoring triple but was called out for missing second base.

Manager Casey Stengel came out to argue with the umpire, as he returned to the dugout he began to argue with Lavagetto who had been coaching at first base. Stengel asked why he didn’t argue the call with him on the field as well. Lavagetto told Casey “forget it Casey, Marv missed first base too.”

After his stint as a coach in New York, he went home to the Bay area and coached the San Francisco Giants through 1967. He also sold therapy equipment in his wife's business. In his spare time his hobby was golf.

Passing: On August 10, 1990 he suffered a fatal heart attack, passing away in his sleep at age 77.

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