Bobby Bragan

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Bobby Bragan
Bobby Bragan 1963.png
Bragan as manager of the Braves in 1963.
Shortstop/Catcher
Born: (1917-10-30)October 30, 1917
Birmingham, Alabama
Died: January 21, 2010(2010-01-21) (aged 92)
Fort Worth, Texas
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
April 16, 1940 for the Philadelphia Phillies
Last MLB appearance
June 27, 1948 for the Brooklyn Dodgers
Career statistics
Batting average .240
Home runs 15
Runs batted in 172
Teams

as Player

as Manager

Robert Randall Bragan (October 30, 1917 – January 21, 2010) was an American shortstop, catcher, manager, and coach in Major League Baseball. He also was an influential executive in minor league baseball. He was born in Birmingham, Alabama.

On August 16, 2005, Bragan came out of retirement to manage the independent Central League Fort Worth Cats for one game, making him — at 87 years, nine months, and 16 days old — the oldest manager in professional baseball annals (besting by one week Connie Mack, the manager and part-owner of the Philadelphia Athletics). Always known as an innovator with a sense of humor — and an umpire-baiter — Bragan was ejected in the third inning of his "comeback", thus also becoming the oldest person in any capacity to be ejected from a professional baseball game.

Bragan died on January 21, 2010 of a heart attack at his home in Fort Worth.[1][2][3]

Career as player and field manager[edit]

During his Major League career, Bragan never skippered a game past his 49th birthday. He managed the Pittsburgh Pirates (1956–57), Cleveland Indians (1958),[4] and Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves (1963–66),[5] each time getting fired in the mid-season of his final campaign. In Cleveland, he lasted a total of only 67 games of his maiden season before his dismissal — at the time of his firing, his was the shortest stint for a Cleveland Indians manager.[6] His career record in the major leagues was below .500: 443–478 (.481)[7] and he was the first manager of the Braves when they relocated to Atlanta.

But Bragan was highly respected as a minor league pilot, winning championships in 1948–49 at Fort Worth of the AA Texas League during a successful five-year run, and with the 1953 Hollywood Stars of the Open-Classification Pacific Coast League. A photograph of Bragan lying at the feet of an umpire who had ejected him, still arguing, was published in LIFE Magazine at the time. Bragan also was a Major League coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Colt .45s.

Bragan began his seven-year (1940–44; 1947–48) Major League playing career as a shortstop for the Philadelphia Phillies, but by 1943, his first season with the Brooklyn Dodgers, he had learned how to catch and was for the most part a backup receiver for the Dodgers for the remainder of his MLB playing days. A right-handed batter, Bragan hit .240 in 597 games, with 15 career home runs.

Bragan was a protégé of Branch Rickey, the Hall of Fame front office executive, who hired him as an unproven young manager at Fort Worth when both were with Brooklyn and then brought Bragan to Hollywood and the Pittsburgh organization, where Rickey was general manager from 1951 to 1955. Bragan started the 1948 season with Brooklyn, but Rickey wanted to bring up Roy Campanella from the minors. Rickey offered Bragan the managerial job with the Fort Worth Cats and he took over in July of ’48, remaining with the Cats for five years.

Ironically, Bragan had clashed with Rickey in 1947 over the Dodgers' breaking of the baseball color line after the big-league debut of Jackie Robinson. Bragan — the Dodgers' second-string catcher at the time — was one of a group of white players, largely from the American South, who signed a petition against Robinson's presence. He even asked Rickey to trade him. But Bragan quickly relented. "After just one road trip, I saw the quality of Jackie the man and the player," Bragan told mlb.com in 2005. "I told Mr. Rickey I had changed my mind and I was honored to be a teammate of Jackie Robinson." When Bragan attended Rickey's funeral in 1965, he stated that he decided to attend because, "Branch Rickey made me a better man." [8]

Furthermore, as a manager, Bragan earned a reputation for fairness and "color-blindedness." When he was the skipper of the Dodgers' Spokane Indians PCL farm club in 1959, Bragan played an influential role in helping Maury Wills, a speedy African-American shortstop whose baseball career had stalled until he learned to switch hit under Bragan. Said former Dodger general manager Buzzie Bavasi, "Bobby would call six times a day and tell me over again how Wills had learned to switch-hit and how he was a great team leader, off and on the field, and how I was absolutely nuts if I didn't bring him up right away."[9] Wills would fashion a 14-year MLB career, play on three world championship Dodger teams, and in 1962 set a new record for stolen bases in a season, with 104 thefts, breaking Ty Cobb's 47-year-old mark of 96.

President of Texas League and National Association[edit]

In 1969, Bragan, a Fort Worth resident, began a new career chapter when he became president of the Texas League.[10] He was so successful, in 1975 he was elected president of the minor leagues' governing body, the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues.

Upon completion of his three-year term as president of the minor leagues, Bobby and his wife, Gwenn, returned home to Fort Worth, where they had lived since Rickey assigned him to manage the Fort Worth Cats in 1948. Bragan joined the Texas Rangers' front office in 1979 and continued to make appearances and speaking engagements on behalf of the ballclub well into his 80s.

After Gwenn Bragan’s death in 1983, Bobby married Roberta Beckman. It was Roberta who suggested to Bobby that he establish a scholarship foundation to encourage youth to do well in school and go on to college. With the financial seed money provided by Roberta, the Bobby Bragan Youth Foundation [1] (BBYF) was established in 1991.

Roberta Beckman Bragan died in 1993. Bobby married Betty Bloxam in 1995 and the two stayed together until his death.

As he passed his 90th birthday, Bobby continued an active schedule, as the Chairman of the Bobby Bragan Youth Foundation and making numerous appearances for civic organizations and businesses, including his beloved Fort Worth Cats as well as in schools, where he enjoyed entertaining and motivating students.

Each year, the Bobby Bragan Youth Foundation honors outstanding athletes and executives for the achievements on and off of the playing field at the annual Bobby Bragan Gala to raise funds for the scholarships. Honorees have included Joe DiMaggio, Hank Aaron, Larry King, Tommy LaSorda, Bobby Valentine, Bud Selig, Willie Mays, Lou Brock and Brooks Robinson.

Bragan came from a baseball family. Five of the six Bragan boys played baseball professionally. His late brother Jimmy was a minor league player and longtime coach and scout in Major League Baseball who himself was president of the AA Southern League during the 1980s. His brother Peter has owned and operated the Jacksonville Suns of the Southern League for over 25 years, and his late son, Bobby Bragan, Jr., operated the Elmira ballclub in the New York-Penn League.

Honors[edit]

  • 1950 - Selected as Outstanding Young Man of Fort Worth
  • 1976 - Elected Outstanding Man of Florida by St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce
  • 1980 - Elected into Alabama Sports Hall of Fame
  • 1989 - Received the Wall of Fame from P.O.N.Y. Baseball, Washington, PA
  • 1994 - Number retired (# 10) by Fort Worth Cats
  • 1998 - Inducted into the Kinston Professional Baseball Hall of Fame
  • 2005 - Elected into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame [2]
  • 2006 - Inducted into the Legends of LaGrave

References[edit]

  1. ^ Wilonsky, Robert (January 22, 2010). "A Poignant Farewell to Bobby Bragan". Dallas Observer. 
  2. ^ Reeves, Jim (January 22, 2010). "Bragan was friend to all who knew himForth Worth icon, who died Thursday, will be missed by baseball world and beyond". ESPNDallas.com. 
  3. ^ Goldstein, Richard (January 26, 2010). "Bobby Bragan, Ex-Baseball Manager and Executive, Dies at 92". The New York Times. 
  4. ^ Creamer, Robert (May 12, 1958). "The World Turned Upside Down". Sports Illustrated. 
  5. ^ "Atlanta Braves". Sports Illustrated. April 18, 1966. 
  6. ^ Roger Maris: Baseball’s Reluctant Hero, p.97, Tom Clavin and Danny Peary, Touchstone Books, Published by Simon & Schuster, New York, 2010, ISBN 978-1-4165-8928-0
  7. ^ Sports Illustrated, February 1, 2010, p.18
  8. ^ Baseball (TV series) by Ken Burns
  9. ^ Bavasi, Buzzie; Jack Olsen (May 29, 1967). "They May Have Been A Headache But They Never Were A Bore". Sports Illustrated. 
  10. ^ "Scorecard: Bragan the Couturier". Sports Illustrated. May 12, 1969. 

External links[edit]