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Buzzie Bavasi was the first general manager of the San Diego Padres.
After steering his Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers clubs to six National League pennants and four World Championships between 1955 and 1966, and after two down seasons following the retirement of Sandy Koufax, Bavasi left L.A. for San Diego.
We’ll check in with Buzzie from time to time, and let you know what he thinks about San Diego baseball, the game in general, and anything else that pops up in conversation. We’ll never refer to him as “Bavasi” or “Mr. Bavasi.” Rather, it’ll always be “Buzzie” or “Buzz.”
Buzzie remembers Jack Murphy, for whom the stadium (now Qualcomm) was named, fondly:
“I considered Jack a good friend. Never met a finer person during my baseball days. Not only was Jack a great writer, but he was like his colleague, Phil Collier, one of the most knowledgeable I have ever known. Two others I would put in that category would be Dick Young of the New York Daily News and Ross Newhan of the L.A. Times.”
We asked him about his first manager, Preston Gomez:
“One of the best baseball men in the business. Made a change because we felt we needed someone that could meet the public and attend various functions. At that time, Preston was limited in his ability with the English language. He was with me for a long time. He is still active.”
Regarding the famous Clay Kirby game, July 21, 1970, in which Gomez pinch hit for Kirby, three outs from pitching, and losing, a no-hitter, Buzzie defends his man: “Preston did the correct thing. Winning is the object of the game.”
Did the Padres’ brass think the team had much of a chance in the early days?
“No, none of us thought we could win many games. In those days the leagues did not help the expansion clubs, but they learned a good lesson from football. The future expansion clubs got the first [pick] in the Rule 5 draft, got to draft from both leagues, and also got their proper share of the national TV money. We received none of these things. However, we did have some fine players come through during the early years. Fingers, McCovey, Winfield, Colbert, Ozzie Smith, Randy Jones, etc. But we had to sell a player a month to meet the payroll.”
About the Padres first Spring Training, in 1969: “Our training camp was a high school field in Yuma until the new stadium was ready. Always thought it was a great place to train. Good facilities, fine weather and very few places for players to get into trouble. [Don] Zimmer found them all.”
Remember, glove conquers all.
— HOWARD COLE