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Allow me to clean out my notebook from my recent interview with Peter Bavasi about his father, the legendary Buzzie Bavasi, from my Tuesday column.
This anecdote didn’t really fit my story about what Buzzie — the Padres’ first president and general manager — might think about today’s Padres, but it’s too good of a story to pass on.
I made the point in my story that Buzzie was breaking down baseball games until his dying breaths. I meant that literally.
Buzzie died on May 1, but on April 30, Buzzie and Peter watched a game on TV with the Seattle Mariners playing at the Cleveland Indians.
They had a special interest in the game because Billy Bavasi was the Mariners’ general manager at the time. He had followed in the footsteps of his father and Peter, who previously had served as general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays and president of the Cleveland Indians.
As the game unfolded, Mariners’ star outfielder Ichiro Suzuki was retired on one of his at bats on a night he went 0-for-4. He was struggling at that point in the season, hitting only .252 (he finished the year at .310).
“Buzzie could hardly speak, but he motioned me over to him,” Peter said. “He watched Ichiro and said, ‘He’s feeling sorry for himself. He’s sulking and he’s going to take his glove to the field with him.’”
By that Buzzie meant Ichiro, normally a good fielder, wouldn’t shift his focus to playing defense.
“Sure enough, Ichiro butchered a ball and let in three runs,” Peter said. “Buzzie said, ‘He’s killing Billy and he’s killing me.’”
Buzzie went to sleep that night and passed away a few hours later.
Peter, making phone calls to inform the family, included the Ichiro story when he spoke with Billy.
“The next day Billy told Ichiro in the clubhouse, ‘You killed my Dad,’” Peter said with a chuckle.
The Bavasi brothers’ respect for their father, who loved a funny baseball story, was so great that even in death they saw the irony of Buzzie watching a baseball game and analyzing it until his dying breaths.
About six weeks later, Billy Bavasi was dismissed as the Mariners’ continued to struggle all year.
Ichiro did recover to find his swing, finishing the year with a .310 average. But for the season, he committed five errors, which was two more than any other season in his career.