Bill, Bob, and Peter Bavasi, Plus Author Ken LaZebnik Talkin’ Baseball and “The Bull” on “Chatter Up!”
While a lot of names are legendary in Major League Baseball (MLB), one stands apart in the executive community: Bavasi. For example, Buzzie Bavasi was a legendary executive for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Angels, and in addition to winning four World Series with the Dodgers, helped lay the foundations for major change in MLB, creating environments for further integration in the sport in Dodgertown and Nashua.
His sons, Bill, Peter and Bob, are also legendary, as the former two took leading positions with five MLB teams combined, and the latter founded our very own JapanBall and the minor league Everett AquaSox. Now, years after their exploits, the three joined JapanBall’s “Chatter Up!” to discuss their father’s and their accomplishments in the sport.
The brothers, also joined by author Ken LaZebnik, originally joined to discuss LaZebnik’s latest book: “Buzzie and the Bull,” which details their father’s relationship with Dodgers’ role player Al Ferrara and the part Ferrara played both on the ‘65 Dodgers’ championship team and in the city of Los Angeles that year.
“You know, when the project started off, it looked like it was something ‘for fun,’ and it was going to be about Al (the Bull), and then Bob and Ken really kind of took it to another level, [seeing] that this mixes with the telling of the story of our father, and that became really important to us,” Bill Bavasi said about the book. “But it might have been Ken or Bob or whoever figured out that focusing on the ‘65 season, with the Vietnam War, and the Watts riots and everything that went on in ‘65, it’s just genius. Maybe we were too close to it, it’s really emotional reading this book. And at the start, if you grew up in LA and you can get through the first paragraph without at least shedding one tear, you’ve got ice in your veins, you’re not human.”
Like any good baseball talk, however, focus did not stay on the book long, as the Bavasis also spoke on their experience working with their father with both the Dodgers and the Padres. Peter, who was a teenager at the time of Dodgertown’s creation, spoke about the different Brooklyn characters the team brought with them to Los Angeles and anecdotes about them. Bob Bavasi also spoke about his young baseball experience, including how, while at the annual Winter Meetings in the early 70s, he designed one of the Padres’ most memorable uniforms and hats:
“So Mom and I are at a General Manager’s meeting and walking through some room and there’s the uniform guy,” Bob said. “I see the New Era guy, and they have a black and white sort of hat with a triangle in front. And I said, ‘Hey, could you make that in brown and gold?’ And the guy says, ‘Sure.’ So I said, ‘Well, can I borrow that?’ And I said later in the day, ‘Hey, Dad, can this be our hat?’ He goes, ‘Yeah, sure. Go ahead.’ So then I figure I’m on a roll, and you know, it’s the 70s, everything’s very cool; Oakland’s got these crazy uniforms. So then I come up with, ‘hey, well, maybe we should make our uniform kind of hip and cool.’ And so in my mind, hip and cool was this mustard colored uniform, that I’m just so totally embarrassed by. But he said, ‘Yeah, sure. Go ahead,’ and so you have a high school kid designing uniforms.”
Bill also made note of the uniforms, noting how some opponents were flabbergasted by them and that the hats were some of the most expensive in MLB at the time. He also took the time to discuss his time as General Manager of the Seattle Mariners, including his interactions with the legendary Ichiro Suzuki, mentioning how once Ichiro asked that the team masseuse give him a massage so intense that the masseuse cracked his rib applying the requested pressure, and how his desire to get hits sometimes interfered with traditional baseball logic.
“So I got there in November of ‘03, and I talked to the manager, Bob Melvin,” Bill said. “I met him in Arizona and he said, ‘You know, this guy can hit .400. And there’s no doubt in my mind. He really should get .400 but you watch what he does this year.’ And so I watched him and he said that he had talked to Ichiro about it, and the most important thing to Ichiro was that he felt he could help his team the most if he got 200 hits every year, and he felt he had to get 200 hits every year. And so if you ever can, I don’t know what the resources are, but if you can look at video of him, you’ll see him foul off ball four a lot, because he wants to. And he could do that. And he’s one of the only guys you’ll ever see do that. But for some of his teammates, it annoyed them, because for them, if he can get on first, if you watched him in ‘04, nobody ran better than this guy in the American League. So I mean, he could do it all. He had the best arm. He ran the best. He was the best hitter and if you ever wanted to, he’d be the best power hitter too.”
Also discussed was the time the Padres almost moved to Washington, how one Dodgers scout sometimes took prospects’ mothers on dancing dates to convince them to allow their sons to sign with the Dodgers, and how “benchjockeying” is now frowned upon in today’s MLB. If you’d like to check out these discussions for yourself, you can read the full transcript linked here, or watch the discussion in full on our YouTube channel. We also highly recommend LaZebnik’s book, “Buzzie and the Bull!”
With over 100 combined years of baseball experience, the Bavasi family is one the best to chatter with, and we, along with the cities of Los Angeles and San Diego, thank them for their work.