Bavasi leaves long legacy of respect

Bavasi leaves long legacy of respect

The best advice I ever received when I became the general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers came from a man who once held the same position, Buzzie Bavasi.

"Fred, the most important thing you want to keep in mind when you evaluate a player is the makeup of the player. Get to know the players and know the character of the men. Nothing will serve you better," said Bavasi.

Bavasi was right on target. He usually was when it came to matters related to baseball.

Bavasi knew his players during his days with the Dodgers. And they knew him. They not only knew him, they liked him and they respected him.

"I don't know where Roy Campanella and I would have been if Buzzie didn't give us a chance at Nashua in 1946," former Dodgers pitching great Don Newcombe told the Associated Press. "I didn't always do the right thing as a player, but Buzzie always gave me a chance to straighten myself out and get back on track."

The baseball world lost Emil J. (Buzzie) Bavasi last week, when he died in San Diego at the age of 93.

Few general managers in the history of the game have been more successful. He was the GM of eight Dodgers teams that reached the World Series, and four of them won titles. He later went on to run the baseball organizations of the San Diego Padres and the Angels.

His record and accomplishments are solid enough to earn him a place in the Hall of Fame, but it is an honor he has been denied to this point.

The ironic part is that Bavasi never complained about not gaining a spot in the Hall of Fame while fighting hard for others as a member of the Veterans Committee from 1978 to 1999.

When the news broke of Bavasi's passing, I received an e-mail from former Dodgers pitcher Carl Erskine, who was seeking information so that he could send a floral arrangement on behalf of the 1955 world champion Brooklyn Dodgers.

"The nine of us who are left from the 1955 World Series team want to have something floral at the funeral and as the former player representative for the team I would take care of it," wrote Erskine.

I passed along Erskine's message to Bavasi's son, Peter, who replied that "Buzzie would be delighted and humbled to know his boys from 1955 wanted to honor him in such a generous way," but explained that his father had left specific instructions related to his passing.

Funeral arrangements were to be private for the family only. In lieu of flowers, donations should be made to the Baseball Assistance Team (B.A.T.), 245 Park Ave., New York, N.Y., 10167 or Professional Baseball scouts Foundation, 9665 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 801, Beverly Hills, Calif., 90212.

"BAT and Scouts Foundation were two of Buzzie's favorite institutions, because one honored the old-timers who pioneered the modern game and the other acknowledged the continuing importance of scouting in this 'moneyball' era," said Peter Bavasi.

It is not surprising that Bavasi was in full control of how he wanted his services to be handled. In nearly every setting where I encountered Bavasi, he seemed to be the man who was the center of attention and the man in control.

In his later years, Bavasi stayed out of the public spotlight, but he enjoyed keeping in contact with friends through letters and e-mails. In any request I sent to Bavasi regarding a column for MLB.com, he always was quick to reply in a full and helpful manner. He always had a good story to tell, and it usually had a wonderful punchline. The only thing I missed was hearing Bavasi laugh at his own and always well-delivered line.

"He had a great run, a zillion laughs, a million friends," said his son, Peter. On what was to be his final evening, he watched the Seattle Mariners play on television and pulled hard for the team where his son, Bill, is the general manager. He also made a request to place a wager on the Kentucky Derby.

Buzzie Bavasi was true to his family, to the game he loved, and to himself until the very end.

Fred Claire was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1969-98, serving the team as executive vice president and general manager. His book -- Fred Claire: My 30 Years in Dodger Blue -- was published by SportsPublishingLLC. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.