August 16, 2005

File this under the "Who Knew He Was Still Alive" category: Tonight, Bobby Bragan became the oldest manager in professional baseball history when he helmed the Fort Worth Cats of the independent Central League to an 11-10 victory. Bragan, who is just three months shy of his 88th birthday, previously managed several major league teams, as well as the legendary Hollywood Stars of the PCL in the mid-50's.

I'm sorry, but this just blows me away. My father, who died seven years ago at the age of 61, used to tell me anecdotes about his beloved Stars, and their manager during his boyhood years, Bobby Bragan. Bragan used to pal around with a young actor and baseball fanatic named Jack Webb, who according to an apocryphal tale, later decided to playfully wink at his buddy by giving a character he created, Joe Friday, a badge number that referenced a certain legendary baseball statistic. For a few seasons, the Stars decided to play a few games each summer in shorts, drawing the derision of much of the sports media in the country; Bragan was their manager.

In terms of having celebrity backing, the Stars made the Lakers seem like the Clippers. Besides the aforementioned Webb, Jack Benny, Gary Cooper, George Raft, Humphrey Bogart and Laurel & Hardy were regular fans; Elizabeth Taylor was even a batgirl one season. And of course, Raft wouldn't have been caught dead at Gilmore Field (next door to Farmer's Market and CBS-Television City) without his "associates", Bugsy Siegel and Mickey Cohen.

Jeez, the guy managed Carlos Bernier. He managed against the late Gene Mauch, when Mauch was still a minor league player (with the L.A. Angels).

It's like finding out Al Lopez is still alive....

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