Ned Garver remains a winner.
Before there was a Field of Dreams and a “Doc” Graham, there was Bobby Brown.
DOCTOR Bobby Brown.
The character who gave up baseball to serve others? The real-life Yankee did such a thing.
He walked away from the game to continue his medical career, with “if only…” being a regular refrain from Yankees fans. In an eloquent response, Brown wrote:
“I only played two months after being discharged from the Army — May and June. I retired June 30, 1954, to begin my residency in internal medicine. When I returned to the Yankees, I had not really played any baseball for two years. I was just starting to get my hitting stroke when I retired.”
He left with credentials any player would be proud of:
Five-Time World Champion
Yogi Berra’s roommate
More than a teammate, Brown knew the man behind the myth. I asked him what the smartest thing was that Yogi ever said or did, on the field or off. What reporter would bother quoting Berra sounding un-Yogi-like?
“Yogi’s brain has always worked extremely well. When you study his statements, they always make good sense.”
Lastly, I wondered if Brown knew what a potent bat he wielded in his abbreviated career. I found that future Hall of Famer Early Wynn was haunted by Brown: 12 hits (2 homers) and seven walks. I thought Brown was entitled to a bit of bragging. Nothing doing!
“I was unaware that I hit very well against Early Wynn. He was a tough pitcher and it was always a struggle when he pitched against us.”
Enjoy these well-chosen words about Brown from some devout Yankees fans at Bronx Baseball Daily!
Tomorrow: Billy Moran documents the “many ups and downs” of his career.
Ken Retzer caught John F. Kennedy at a ballpark in 1963.
Retzer, starting catcher for the Washington Senators, received the 1963 season’s ceremonial first pitch from JFK.
The Illinois-born receiver enjoyed another milestone that year. Behind the plate for baseball’s 100,000th-ever game, Retzer handled the historic ball that would be displayed in Cooperstown’s Hall of Fame.
I was fascinated to see Retzer’s success in hitting knuckleballers like Hall of Famer Early Wynn. He wrote me:
“I was a line drive hitter,few strikeouts. Just 31 in 1961. So that helps to hit all pitchers. Knuckleballers were hard to catch, almost like catching a butterfly.”
He seemed to wear a different uniform number yearly. Why?
“Any time I veteran player would join the team, I gave up my uniform. The last was #14 for Gil Hodges the manager.”
Twins fans should know that Retzer played a role in the team’s 1965 American League championship. When catchers Earl Battey and Jerry Zimmerman held out, owner Calvin Griffith called Retzer as a bargaining chip. Signing Retzer, who performed admirably throughout spring training, convinced the other two catchers to ink new contracts. Unfortunately, Retzer was cut a day before the season began.
Retzer deserved a World Series. He’s a World Champion autograph signer, giving all-star treatment to every fan who writes. Ask any Senators fan.