A Dozen Things You Should Know About Bobby Bragan

Bragan in catching gear

Bragan in catching gear

1. He was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1917. He was born Robert Downs, but his father died when he was young. He was  adopted by a step-father, thus changing his last name to Bragan.

2. He spent one semester in Howard (now Samford) College, then signed with the Class D Panama City Pelicans for $65 a month.

3.In 1940 he became the Phillies regular shortstop, a position he held the job into 1942. Late in the season he became the Phils backup catcher.

4. In 1943 he was traded to Brooklyn. He spent both 1943 and 1944 as a backup infielder and catcher. He later credited his manager, Leo Durocher, with instilling in him the desire to be a big league manager.

5. He spent all of 1945 and 1946 in the military.

6. On his return to baseball, he was one of the Dodgers players who signed the petition to keep Jackie Robinson off the team. He demanded a trade if Robinson was brought onto the team. As the 1947 season wore on, he saw the abuse Robinson received, saw Robinson’s reaction to it and changed his mind. He rescinded his trade request and became one of Robinson’s best friends on the team. They remained friends until Robinson’s death.

7. He batted one time in the 1947 World Series, driving in the winning run in game six.

8. After playing only nine games in 1948, Bragan was offered a chance to manage the Dodgers’ Fort Worth minor league team. Fort Worth won the Texas League championship in 1948, then won the Dixie Series (a postseason series pitting the Texas League champion against the Southern Association champ). He remained in Fort Worth through 1953. In 1953 he moved to California to manage the Hollywood Stars, a Pirates minor league club. His team finished first in 1954. It got him the chance to manage the Pirates in 1956.

9. He was unsuccessful, although he did help Roberto Clemente ease his way into the Majors. In 1958 he got the Indians managerial job but lasted only three months.

10. He later coached third for the Dodgers, was director of the Houston farm system, managed the Braves, became President of the Texas League, and was for three seasons President of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues.

11. In 1991, he formed the Bobby Bragan Youth Foundation which promotes scholarships for high school students to attend college.

12. Prior to his death in 2010 he was elected to both the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame and Texas Sports Hall of Fame.

Bragan is a hero of mine. He rose above his prejudices, made attempts to mend the racial system in the US, and became devoted to helping others through education. That’s a heck of a legacy and it makes Bragan a much greater man than a ballplayer. I think he’d like that epitaph.

Bragan's grave

Bragan’s grave

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3 Responses to “A Dozen Things You Should Know About Bobby Bragan”

  1. William Miller Says:

    A man can’t do any better than to admit when he’s wrong, and learn from his mistakes. Good choice for a personal hero.
    Nice post,
    Bill

  2. Glen Russell Slater Says:

    It’s kind of moving to see that a great deal of people from the South—– Bragan and Pee Wee Reese come readily to mind, of course—– overcome their racist upbringing and become stand-up guys and stand up for blacks.

    Glen

  3. Glen Russell Slater Says:

    Let me add that in all fairness to Southerners, there are a great many racists here in the North, including (maybe even ESPECIALLY) here in so-called “liberal” New York City. (I’ve known quite a few of them.)

    A lot of Yankees are hypocrites.

    Glen

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