Emil J. “Buzzie” Bavasi, a former GM with the Dodgers, Angels and Padres, as well as the father of current Mariners GM Bill Bavasi, passed away Thursday at the age of 92. The following excerpt comes from the LA Times’ Steve Henson :
One of the last of a midcentury generation of wisecracking wheeler-dealers of ballplayers, Bavasi joined the Dodgers organization in 1938 with a minor-league job and stepped down with the Angels in 1984, lamenting that the game had changed irreversibly when agents began representing players in contract negotiations.
Along the way he built Dodgers rosters that reached eight World Series and won four championships, beginning with the team’s only title in Brooklyn, in 1955, through the 1960s glory years in Los Angeles. He also led the Angels to their first two division titles, in 1979 and 1982.
In the years before baseball free agency, Bavasi kept players’ salaries low through a variety of inventive maneuvers. But he was less successful in his two most-publicized battles — the dual holdout of star Dodgers pitchers Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale in the spring of 1966 and the failed attempt to re-sign standout pitcher Nolan Ryan with the Angels after the 1979 season.
Bavasi didn’t want to set a precedent by paying Koufax or Drysdale $100,000 salaries, but Koufax ultimately signed for a then-unheard-of $125,000, and Drysdale got $110,000. The $1-million threshold was crossed 13 years later, when Ryan signed with the Houston Astros after the Angels and Bavasi refused to meet his price.