According to the Rules for Election to the Hall of Fame, the Golden Era Committee voting is based upon the candidate’s:
Previous photo: October 1955, celebrating the Dodgers’ first World Series championship with Don Newcombe’s father James (L) and Roy Campanella.
Bavasi was uncommonly skilled in both the business and baseball sides of the front office. Operating at the highest levels of baseball, he successfully navigated the waves of change that came to the game—integration, expansion, and free agency. His 60-year career demonstrates his ability to creatively adapt in each of Major League Baseball’s economic eras.
Previous image: March 1966, with two of his top stars, Don Drysdale (L) and Sandy Koufax. Bavasi’s intervention ended one of the most dramatic holdouts of the reserve clause era. Until Bavasi met with the pitchers, they reportedly planned to sit out the season to star in Hollywood films.
Branch Rickey handpicked Bavasi for a key role in the integration of Major League Baseball. Early in 1946, as Jackie Robinson was preparing to begin the season in Canada, Rickey signed additional promising black players and charged Bavasi with establishing a new farm club in the United States. As business manager of the Nashua (N.H.) Dodgers (Class B, New England League) Bavasi had mere weeks to prepare for the arrival of catcher Roy Campanella and pitcher Don Newcombe.
Bavasi’s Nashua club thus became the first professional baseball team of the 20th century to field a racially integrated lineup in the U.S. The season proved a success. Campanella hit .291 with 13 home runs, and was voted MVP of both the team and the league; Newcombe went 14-4 with a 2.21 ERA; and the Nashua Dodgers won the New England League Governor’s Cup.
Previous image: 1956, with Don Newcombe. Bavasi’s friendship with the pitcher transcended baseball.
Bavasi worked as an at-will executive throughout his career, considering a handshake as good as a written contract. His legendary story telling built team spirit. “He made the game fun,” said Tom Villante, former Major League Baseball executive and longtime Dodgers associate. “Every ballplayer, scout, manager, coach or front office staffer who came in contact with him has a colorful Buzzie story.”
He was a very good baseball man who thoroughly knew the game and contributed a great deal to both the organizations he worked for, as well as the game itself,” said Hall of Fame first baseman Rod Carew, whom Bavasi brought to the Angels in 1979. “The organizations he worked for always came first in his mind, and he always tried to do the right thing for each of them.”
Throughout the Golden Era, Bavasi assembled a host of talent—from Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax, Ron Perranoski, Johnny Podres, and Don Sutton to Tommy Davis, Willie Davis, Ron Fairly, Jim Gilliam, Frank Howard, John Roseboro, and Maury Wills, including several Hall of Famers. He also encouraged countless players who went on to careers in other areas of baseball:
Bavasi’s four sons continue their father’s service to the game.
Previous image: 1962, announcing Walter Alston’s return for his 10th season as Dodger manager. The two paired as the club’s GM/field manager for 14 consecutive seasons.
A candidate’s record, ability, integrity, and sportsmanship add up over time to his contribution to the game. Character, though, is difficult to quantify. The most reliable index of character is how one treats people, particularly under adversity. During World War II, Bavasi’s character was profoundly tested. His citation for the Award of the Bronze Star reads, in part:
“Sergeant Bavasi has been an ever-inspiring influence to those with whom he worked, repeatedly distinguishing himself. During the counterattack of Mt. Battaglia (Italy), when the gun that he was operating had expended its ammunition, he voluntarily crawled fifty yards through fierce enemy mortar and small arms fire to another position where he secured the much needed ammunition and returned to his position in time to ward off another attack.
“On another occasion, he demonstrated his deep concern for his men when an enemy artillery barrage trapped the platoon. Sergeant Bavasi saw a seriously wounded man unable to move and boldly carried him through the deadly fire to safety. Sergeant Bavasi has won for himself the respect and admiration of all who know him.”
—James C. Fry, Colonel, Infantry, Commander
From Bavasi’s return to baseball in 1946 and throughout his career, he continued to demonstrate the character that was refined by his experiences on the battlefield. During their 14 seasons together, Bavasi’s confidence in Dodgers Manager Walter Alston never wavered, even when periodic calls for Alston’s dismissal reached fever pitch.
This was especially true in 1962, when the Dodgers blew a four-game lead to lose a playoff to the Giants. Bavasi so strongly believed in his field manager’s abilities that he stood behind him. Alston remained, went on to become one of baseball’s most successful managers, and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1983.
Previous image: Bavasi Sports Partners, a family of baseball people, was founded in 2001. Pictured with Buzzie are (clockwise) Margaret, Bill, Bob, Peter and Chris Bavasi.
CONTRIBUTION TO THE GAME
CONTRIBUTION TO THE GAME
Bavasi was profoundly involved with the evolution of organized baseball over the last half of the 20th century. He championed the integration of black players in Nashua, N.H., in 1946. He guided the Dodgers to their first four World Series championships and oversaw the club’s successful move to Los Angeles in 1958. He continued MLB’s expansion by establishing the Padres in San Diego in 1968.
Those entrusted with baseball’s past, present, and future hold Bavasi’s contributions in high regard.
“Buzzie was one of the game’s greatest front-office executives during a period that spanned parts of six different decades. In his years with the Dodgers, San Diego Padres and California Angels, Bavasi was enmeshed in enormous change. He championed the acceptance of black players in organized baseball, helped take Major League Baseball to California, put together an expansion team in San Diego and saw power shift from management to the players with the arrival of free agency. He loved the game and he loved talking about it. Buzzie was a wonderful friend. He always gave me good advice and had an excellent perspective on the issues of the day.”
—Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig
“His passion for and dedication to the game were unsurpassed, and I know he took great pride in seeing it prosper. He was an icon in Brooklyn as one of the architects of its only World Series title, and he took those winning ways west. He was a tremendous friend to the Hall of Fame on many levels, and I will personally miss our deep conversations about the game he loved so much.” —Baseball Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson
“Baseball,” Bavasi concluded at age 92, “is a game of friendships.” He never forgot that its people are why the game endures. His sense of family extended beyond blood ties.
“He was like a father to me. From the time I was 19 years old ... all my life, really. I can’t describe how much he meant to me.”
—Don Zimmer, senior advisor, Tampa Bay Rays.
“Buzzie was everything to Don and to me—a confidant, a friend, and a surrogate father. When I took the GM’s job with the Phoenix Mercury, Buzzie was there for me. To be able to go to someone like him, who had been through the wars—that was huge.”
—Don Drysdale’s widow, Basketball Hall of Famer and broadcaster Ann Meyers Drysdale.
Previous image: Buzzie and Evit at their home in La Jolla, Calif., 2006. They were married 68 years at the time of Buzzie’s death on May 1, 2008, at age 93. Evit died February 10, 2011. She was 94. (Photo
by Haley Bavasi, granddaughter)