Bobby Bragan:

Major League Shortstop, Catcher, Manager, Coach









From Wikipedia, the free internet encyclopedia (2007)

Robert Randall Bragan (born October 30, 1917, at Birmingham, Alabama) is a former shortstop, catcher, manager, and coach in American Major League Baseball. He also was an influential executive in minor league baseball. On August 16, 2005, Bragan came out of retirement to manage the independent Central League Fort Worth Cats for one game, making him — at 87 years, nine months and 16 days old — the oldest manager in professional baseball annals (besting by one week Connie Mack, the manager and part owner of the Philadelphia Athletics). Always known as an innovator with a sense of humor — and a world-class umpire-baiter — Bragan was ejected in the third inning of his "comeback", thus also becoming the oldest person in any capacity to be ejected from a professional baseball game. Bragan enjoyed the rest of the Cats' 11-10 victory from a more comfortable vantage point.

During his major league career, Bragan never skippered a game past his 49th birthday. He managed the Pittsburgh Pirates (1956-57), Cleveland Indians (1958) and Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves (1963-66), each time getting fired in the mid-season of his final campaign (in Cleveland, he lasted a total of only 67 games of his maiden season before his dismissal). His career record in the major leagues was below .500: 443-478 (.481).


But Bragan was highly respected as a minor league pilot, winning championships in 1948-49 at Fort Worth of the AA Texas League during a successful five-year run, and with the 1953 Hollywood Stars of the Open-Classification Pacific Coast League. A photograph of Bragan lying at the feet of an umpire who had ejected him, still arguing, was published in LIFE Magazine at the time. Bragan also was a major league coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Colt .45s.


Bragan was a protégé of Branch Rickey, the Hall of Fame front office executive, who hired him as an unproven young manager at Fort Worth when both were with the Brooklyn Dodgers and then brought Bragan to Hollywood and the Pittsburgh organization, where Rickey was general manager from 1951-55. Bragan started the 1948 season with Brooklyn, but Rickey wanted to bring up Roy Campanella from the minors. Rickey offered Bragan the managerial job with the Fort Worth Cats and he took over in July of ’48, remaining with the Cats for five years.


Ironically, Bragan had clashed with Rickey in 1947 over the Dodgers' breaking of the baseball color line after the major-league debut of Jackie Robinson. Bragan — the Dodgers' second-string catcher at the time — was one of a group of white players, largely from the American South, who signed a petition against Robinson's presence. He even asked Rickey to trade him. But Bragan quickly relented. "After just one road trip, I saw the quality of Jackie the man and the player," Bragan told in 2005. "I told Mr. Rickey I had changed my mind and I was honored to be a teammate of Jackie Robinson." And as a manager, Bragan earned a reputation for fairness and "color-blindedness." When he was the skipper of the Dodgers' Spokane Indians PCL farm club in 1959, Bragan played an influential role in helping Maury Wills, a speedy shortstop whose baseball career had stalled until he learned to switch hit under Bragan. Said former Dodger general manager Buzzie Bavasi, "Bobby would call six times a day and tell me over again how Wills had learned to switch-hit and how he was a great team leader, off and on the field, and how I was absolutely nuts if I didn't bring him up right away."  Wills would fashion a 14-year MLB career and in 1962 set a new record for stolen bases in a season, with 104 thefts, breaking Ty Cobb's 47-year-old mark of 96.


Bragan began his seven-year (1940-44; 1947-48) major league playing career as a shortstop for the Philadelphia Phillies, but by 1943, his first season with Brooklyn, he had learned how to catch and was for the most part a backup receiver for the Dodgers for the remainder of his MLB playing days. A right-handed batter, Bragan hit .240 in 597 games, with 15 career home runs.


In 1969, Bragan, a Fort Worth resident, began a new career chapter when he became president of the Texas League. He was so successful, in 1975 he was elected president of the minor leagues' governing body, the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues.


Upon his retirement, Bobby and his wife, Gwen, made their permanent home in Fort Worth, Texas.  After Gwen Bragan’s death, Bobby married Betty Bloxom. It was Betty who suggested to Bobby that he establish a scholarship foundation to encourage youth to do well in school and go on to college. The Bobby Bragan Youth Foundation (BBYF) was established in 1991.


At 90 years old, Bobby continues an active schedule, as the Executive Director of the Bobby Bragan Youth Foundation  and making numerous appearances for civic organizations and businesses, as well as in schools, where he enjoys entertaining and motivating students. Each year the Bobby Bragan Youth Foundation honors outstanding athletes for the achievements on and off of the playing field, honorees have included Willie Mays, Lou Brock and Brooks Robinson.


Bragan comes from a baseball family. Five of the six Bragan boys played baseball professionally. His late brother Jimmy was a minor league player and longtime coach and scout in major league baseball who himself was president of the AA Southern League during the 1980s, and the younger generations of the Bragan family have owned and operated numerous minor league teams


Bobby Bragan, Tech 1936 
    ...Bobby Bragan, Today