Buzzie and the Bull chronicles a baseball year in the lives of two lifelong friends who couldn’t be more different: Buzzie Bavasi, the legendary general manager of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers, and Al “the Bull” Ferrara, bon vivant, fountain of joy, and bench player. Their 1965 baseball journey encompassed a thrilling pennant race settled on the final day of the season, a city engulfed in flames, a perfect game, and a GM who extolled his friend the Bull as a hero in May and then banished him from the team to the depths of public purgatory in July.
The partnership of these two characters—the general manager who valued fearlessness above all else and the crazy player who loved living on the edge—became the embodiment of champions who never choked in the clutch. Over seventeen years, Bavasi’s teams won eight pennants and four World Series titles. His approach deserves review, and his friendship with Ferrara illustrates the ground on which he staked his baseball career. The summer of 1965 proved Bavasi’s thesis that champions are built on players with one core characteristic: nerves of steel.
Buzzie and the Bull offers a counterpoint to today’s focus on advanced statistical analysis that may be crowding out the important work of discovering a player’s unique human qualities: the intangibles. Gauge those intangibles correctly and you get an edge—and edges help win championships
Ken LaZebnik is a writer best known for his work in television, film, and theater. Among his many credits are writing and producing the television series Touched by an Angel and co-writing (with Garrison Keillor) the screenplay for the film A Prairie Home Companion. A lifelong baseball fan, LaZebnik co-founded (with Steve Lehman) the Minneapolis Review of Baseball, which later became Elysian Fields Quarterly. Bob Bavasi is an attorney, longtime Minor League club owner, and principal with Bavasi Sports Partners.
“Buzzie’s ability to see intangibles gave him extraordinary insight into a player’s makeup, as evidenced in this delightful read of Al Ferrara, who played eight years in the big leagues.”—Mike Port, former vice president and general manager of the California Angels and the Boston Red Sox
“To memorable duos in baseball history—Ruth and Gehrig, Spahn and Sain, and Abbott and Costello—now add Buzzie and the Bull. In Ken LaZebnik’s masterful hands this unlikely pairing of canny executive and rambunctious player comes alive with flair and fluency.”—Lee Lowenfish, author of the award-winning biography Branch Rickey: Baseball’s Ferocious Gentleman
“Buzzie Bavasi was an unparalleled practitioner in the increasingly lost art of finding player talent that statistics fail to disclose, which helped win a pennant when he found it in Al Ferrara.”—Bob Fontaine Jr., scouting director for the Toronto Blue Jays and former scout for the San Diego Padres, California Angels, and Seattle Mariners
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations Foreword by Bob Bavasi Acknowledgments Introduction 1. The Winter of 1964 2. Spring Training 3. April 4. May 5. June 6. July 7. August 8. September 9. October 10. Winter 11. 1966 and Beyond Epilogue: Two Lives, One Team Sources