The Oldest Living Dodger

If you were asked who is the oldest living Dodger, who would you guess? It is easy to guess Tommy Lasorda, Don Newcombe and Carl Erskine for us oldtimers and probably Tommy and Newk for the younger set. It turns out there are 18 players living who put on a Brooklyn Dodger uniform so most of us would be stumped in trying to pinpoint the oldest living Dodger. I decided it might be fitting to acknowledge them regardless of how many games they played as a Dodger. Each one of these men had a dream similar to the dreams of the young high school and college players today. That was, to play professional baseball at the MLB level. It might be said that their path as a professional baseball player was as difficult or even more difficult than the path of present day youngsters. They had to play through World War II, try to gain a roster spot on one of only 16 MLB teams in the pre-1961 expansion days, secure other employment during the off season to supplement their low pay and play through injuries or with injuries that shortened careers in the pre-sports medicine days. How long could left-hander Karl Spooner have played if he had been the beneficiary of the medical treatment afforded to today’s athletes? How long could Sandy Koufax have played? As mentioned, I am referring to players who put on a Brooklyn Dodger uniform even if it was only for a few at bats or innings pitched. They naturally would be the oldest Dodgers. However, just for information’s sake, 94-year-old former Yankee Irv Noren is the oldest living player of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was signed as a free agent on June 7, 1960 after being released by the Chicago Cubs. Noren played 26 games with the Dodgers hitting .200 while being used primarily as a pinch hitter. The group of 18 doesn’t quite give us a starting lineup. It is strong in the infield and especially on the mound but doesn’t feature any full time outfielders. On the mound we have Don Newcombe, Carl Erskine, Tommy Lasorda, Sandy Koufax, Roger Craig, Chris Haughey, Fred Kipp, Tommy Brown  and Glenn Mickens. Their catchers are Joe Pignatano and Tim Thompson. The infield contingent is Randy Jackson (INF), Wayne Terwilliger (2B), Bobby Morgan (3B), Eddie Basinski  (2B), Jim Gentile (1B), Don Demeter (1B), and Bob Aspromonte (3B). The ages of this all-star group are at the end of the article. Eddie Basinski is the oldest living Dodger and is a worthy representative of the group. He ranks tenth oldest among all living MLB players and at 96 is now the only living major leaguer mentioned in the Dave Frishberg song Van Lingle Mungo. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKzobTlF8fM Eddie Basinski was born on November 4, 1922 in Buffalo, NY.  He wore uniform #3 for the Dodgers, a number later worn by third baseman Billy Cox, second baseman Steve Sax and outfielder Willie Davis among others, with the latest being Dodger infielder/outfielder Chris Taylor. He grew up in a Polish family, a good family, but his father could not see much success coming for him as a baseball player. He was a skinny kid who had very poor eyesight  most likely as a result of surviving scarlet fever when he was four. He did try out for his high school baseball team, with his father’s permission,  but  was not really given a fair shot as his coach simply could not see a skinny, bespectacled kid like Eddie playing ball. Not one to give up, he began playing sandlot baseball which was not unusual at the time. He played in Buffalo with a strong core of players, including Warren Spahn who was one of his best friends. Spahn, in the HOF, won the most games as  a left-hander in baseball history. Basinski had a dream to play ball and worked hard when practicing with his teammates and harder when practicing alone – running, sliding, throwing. He knew with his abilities, not apparent to all, that baseball was his way out of Kaiser town in Buffalo. 
      “We lived in a rough Polish neighborhood in Buffalo and I took up baseball as self-defense.”
 He did not get to play high school baseball and following graduation he enrolled at the University of Buffalo which had a strong engineering program but did not have a baseball team. He did graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering and continued to play what baseball he could. He played for one season in Buffalo’s semipro league and after a game in which he had two three-run home runs  and a two-run triple, he was signed by Dodger president Branch Rickey. Basinski reported to the Dodgers in the spring of 1944 to decide where he should be posted. That is, at which level in the minor league system. Dodger manager, Leo Durocher, liked what he saw and on May 20, 1944 Eddie Basinski debuted as a shortstop with the Dodgers. He had a hot start to his season  but finally settled out at .257 and followed up with a .262 batting average in 1945. Pee Wee Reese returned from military duty for the 1946 campaign and Eddie Basinski was assigned to St. Paul of the American Association. He MLB career ended  following the 1947 season in which he hit .199 with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 56 games. Basinski, then 24, was acquired by the New York Yankees and sent to the Portland Beavers of the Pacific Coast League. He had an opportunity to return to the Yankees but worked out a plan to stay in Portland where he played for ten years. He perhaps later regretted not taking the opportunity with the Yankees who were knocking off World Championships but he had fallen in love with Portland. During his PCL career, Basinski compiled 1,544 hits, 109 homers, and 634 RBIs, all while batting .260. He led the PCL in games played in 1950 and in at-bats in 1951. At one point he played 558 consecutive games, interrupted only because of an errant slide by Walt Dropo that gashed open his shin. Among his awards are the induction into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame in 1987, the Brooklyn Dodgers Hall of Fame in 1996, and the Pacific Coast League Hall of Fame in 2006. In 1984, he was named to the all-time PCL All-Star team. Eddie Basinski earned a number of nicknames during his brief MLB career. One was “The Professor,” because he wore glasses, the first major-league infielder ever to do so. Another was “Bazooka”, given to him by Leo Durocher because of his arm strength and quick reflexes throwing runners out by several feet. A third was “Fiddler”, as he was a classical violinist who occupied a chair in the Buffalo Symphony Orchestra at a young age. Another first for Eddie Basinski is that he was – and still is – the only player in history to go directly from sandlot ball to the major leagues without any high school, college or minor-league experience. Basinski had moments in MLB that he would never forget. That is, encounters with major League players with Hall of Fame credentials such as Stan Musial.  He recalled a time when Durocher was “on my butt.” During batting practice Eddie’s baseball hero, Stan Musial, came up to him and said:
“You’re doing a fantastic job for his ballclub. Don’t let anyone tell you different. Keep up the good work.” Basinski was thrilled. “I thought that was superb.”
 Brooklyn Dodgers Only Living Players: Ÿ    Eddie Basinski (96): November 4, 1922Ÿ    Tim Thompson (94): March 1, 1924Ÿ    Wayne Terwilliger (93): June 27, 1925Ÿ    Chris Haughey (93): October 3, 1925Ÿ    Randy Jackson (92): February 10, 1926Ÿ    Don Newcombe (92): June 14, 1926Ÿ    Bobby Morgan (92) June 29, 1926Ÿ    Carl Erskine (92):December 13, 1926Ÿ    Tommy Lasorda (91): September 22, 1927Ÿ    Tommy Brown (91): December 6, 1927Ÿ    Joe Pignatano (89): August 4, 1929Ÿ    Roger Craig (88): February 17, 1930Ÿ    Glenn Mickens (88): July 26, 1930Ÿ    Fred Kipp (87): October 1, 1931Ÿ    Jim Gentile (84): June 3, 1934Ÿ    Don Demeter (83): June 25, 1935Ÿ    Sandy Koufax (83): December 30, 1935Ÿ    Bob Aspromonte (80): June 19, 1938

This article has 32 Comments

  1. Fun read. Thanks DC.
    .
    DC, you pointed out that this question regarding injuries that shortened careers in the pre-sports medicine days:
    “How long could left-hander Karl Spooner have played if he had been the beneficiary of the medical treatment afforded to today’s athletes? How long could Sandy Koufax have played?”
    .
    In comparing stats for players in the last 30 years with those who played before modern surgery procedures existed, does PED use have the same impact on stats when comparing stats with those before and after the PED era?

  2. Bum – I really don’t know but expect PED upped the number of home runs, turning doubles into home runs. That of course is part of the theory of launch angle. Raise the bat a couple of degrees and wall bangers clear the fence for the hitters. That is, for those that have the necessary power. I don’t think PED’s helped the batter hit better for average but did so with more power. Back then also, walks were not seen as some kind of scourge. Players took walks and detested the strikeout which also would have helped OBP.
    .
    It is really difficult to compare eras because of the variables in play. The mound was raised and lowered, fences brought in, etc. Another variable for the Golden Age of Baseball was that so many MLB players took time away from the game to serve in wartime thus limiting their number of years, at bats and innings pitched. Some were conscripted, others such as Ted Williams volunteered.
    .
    Playing in the pre-expansion era was also a factor in recording stats. Hitters faced the best pitchers from eight teams rather than 15 and played 154 games instead of 162. Shorter seasons and no postseason play prior to the WS also limited players time on the field. That in fact, may have been to their benefit.
    .
    Comparative Stats:
    1953 Dodgers: PA – 6138, .285/.366/.474, 685 K, 655 BB
    2018 Dodgers: PA – 6358, .250/.333.442, 1463 K, 647 BB

    1. Great post today, it helps put things in perspective. I started today with a smile instead of a head scratch over off season action or lack thereof.

          1. In 8 less games! 9 less last year. We’ll never see another player like DiMaggio who had less lifetime K’s than HR’s!

  3. All the strike outs today in baseball, are because of the All encompassing goal , to hit one out every time a hitter is up to bat.

    I wonder if singles were awarded 1.5 and walks their usual score of 1, and strike outs were awarded -1.5 and all other outs were awarded there usual -1, how would this change some of these players numbers?

    1. The numbers are irrelevant MJ. Fans just use them to help understand the game.
      `
      The reason HRs are encouraged and strikeouts not discouraged is because HRs are a clearer path to winning, and strikeouts not a clearer path to losing.

      1. Bluto

        That is not always true.

        Just the way this front office values strike out pitchers, over other pitchers, shows they value strike outs more then other outs, on defense.

        Because strike outs kill rallies, and I know double plays do too, but double plays are not at an all time high, like strike outs are.

        And I do know they value sinker ball pitchers too, but not as much as strike out pitchers.

        That is a big counter diction from defense to offense.

        If strike outs were really like other outs, this front office along with most front offices, would not value strike out pitchers, especially in the bullpen, much more, then other type of pitchers.

      2. Bluto

        Make strike outs be more then just giving up one at bat.

        Make a strike out be, giving up one at bat, and a half of an at bat.

        Those at bats would sure add up.

        And changing the score for singles and walks, would also change things too.

        Because that extra amount given to a single, will give the credit to the hitter more, because ultimately, a walk is always in the hands of a pitcher, not necessarily the hitter.

        1. Chris Taylor struck out 178 times, and that would add another 89 at bats, Chris gave away, if we give him another half at bat given away, for each of his strike outs.

          Those extra 89 at bats, will pull his overall numbers down, by quite a bit.

  4. DC, love hearing/reading old time Dodger stuff…
    When Blue moved to L.A., Carl Furrilo (sort of a putz) Joe “Piggy” Pignato rented a little apt. from… I went over there after the dust settled and Joe was kind enough to sit and talk to me about catching on several occasions… Very cool at the time.

      1. Great article DC. Thanks for posting the link.
        Funny about the Furillo-Puig comparison. Both had incredibly strong arms but their personalities were total opposites. Furillo wore #6 and Puig #66. And, of course, Furillo played his entire career with one team. We can’t say that about YP any longer.

      2. Thanks, D.C. I loved all the Dodgers and Carl was high on my list, and I am so happy that you chose to honor him. I still remember standing in high school cafeteria line talking to a classmate about how Carl was leading the N.L. in batting average while batting 8th in the lineup. That was a difficult lineup to stand out in. (I always wanted to end a sentence with two prepositions.)

  5. When I lived in Anderson, Indiana, Carl Erskine was my banker. I also bought a car from his son, Gary. Carl was a real gem.

    1. Carl was/is the quintessential gentleman. He retired at 32. Often pitched with what they called a sore arm back then.
      .
      HCIT to how him as your banker.

  6. Great read DC! That goes for both articles. Please bring more of these throughout the year. I would gladly sign you up for the Jelly of the Month club if you do! 🙂

    1. Thanks 2demeter2. I live in the past and the future. The present just happens. The past can’t be taken away from me and following the kids coming through is simply fun.

      1. Hear, hear to that! I understand perfectly well! You, however, articulate it much better than I ever could.

        By the way, you wouldn’t happen to have any stories on Johnny Klippstein would you? He was involved in one of the Dodger’s most iconic trades, Klippstein, Steve Bilko and Art Fowler from Cincinnati to the Dodgers for Don Newcombe. JK only pitched for the Dodgers a couple of years, but they were the first two years I really began to root for them.

  7. I really don’t have anything on Johnny Klippstein. I remember him but mostly with the Cubs and Reds.

  8. Carl Erskine is a legend in Anderson, IN; but not just for his baseball exploits. He has raised thousand and thousands of dollars for Special Olympics and the Center to prevent child abuse. He has been an Ambassador for the city for years and worked closely with the Chamber of Commerce and the GM abandoned the community.
    On a personal note, I first met Mr. Erskine when I was eight years old and he came to the Opening Day activities of the Little League group in Middletown, IN. Because my mom had arranged his attendance, I met him with my folks before he got to the ballfields and helped escort him to the activities of the day. It was on this day that I became a Dodger fan and have remained so for the last 57 years. The coolest thing is that he came back the next year and he spoke to me and called me by my name which always impressed me and my friends.

  9. Dylan Hernandez sums the current situation pretty well. I don’t always agree with him and Plaschke but he seems to get this right……………

    Because of their relative frugality last year, the Dodgers will be penalized as first-time offenders if their payroll for next season exceeds the luxury-tax threshold. And because they traded Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp to the Cincinnati Reds, they can take on another outfielder.

    So where’s Bryce Harper?

    The Dodgers would be a better team with Harper in their lineup. They would be a more interesting team. They would have the star attraction this star-driven city demands.

    So, again, where’s Bryce Harper?

    With five weeks or so left until the start of spring training, the former National League most valuable player remains a free agent. The free-agent market’s other prize, Manny Machado, is also unsigned.

    The reason is that the homogeneity of thought across front offices has created nearly an entire league of risk-averse teams that are reluctant to offer long-term contracts to even a couple of 26-year-old franchise cornerstones. The teams are counting on their fans to not notice the sport generates nearly $10 billion annually, almost three times as much as it did when Alex Rodriguez signed a then-record 10-year, $252-million contract with the Texas Rangers in 2000.

    Whereas teams such as the Washington Nationals, Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago White Sox have made public their interest in Harper, the Dodgers have remained secretive about their intentions. That has been their standard mode of operation in their four-plus years with Andrew Friedman as president of baseball operations.

    Anything less would be an insult the fans who have made the Dodgers the major league leaders in home attendance in each of the last six years. The fans have tolerated escalating ticket prices. Many of them can’t watch the team on television because of the broadcasting deal that guaranteed the franchise more than $8 billion. They accepted the team’s plan to reduce payroll last year, even if it resulted in the lack of firepower necessary to compete against the Boston Red Sox in the World Series. And they have responded to the trade of their beloved Puig by taking a wait-and-see approach.

    The Dodgers have rewarded their customers for their loyalty, first by taking on hundreds of millions of dollars in player salaries in the early stages of the Guggenheim Baseball Management’s ownership, then by reaching the World Series in each of the last two years. But if the fans are continuing to do their part, it’s crucial for the franchise to do so as well. A start would be to stop pretending the luxury-tax threshold is an impenetrable barrier that prevents the team from doing what it should. Anyways, didn’t they stay under the limit last year so they could go over it this year?

    The slow-moving markets for Harper and Machado are further evidence the teams are beating the players in the public relations arena. Teams have convinced their fans that players rarely live up to long-term contracts. Only this is a matter of perspective. The reality is that if star players were paid what they were really worth, they would earn considerably more on an annual basis. Contracts are lengthened as a means of deferring compensation.

    Of course, that’s not what the fans see. When they see a player in his mid- to late-30s being paid $25 million, they think he’s stealing money, when in reality he probably should have already collected that $25 million on top of whatever he made as a 30-year-old at the height of his powers. So if the Dodgers are looking for a shorter deal, that’s fine. But they should be prepared to pay accordingly.

    The degree to which the Dodgers pursue Harper will say a lot about where they are headed as a franchise. At the moment, they have a worse team than they had last year. Not making a serious effort to acquire Harper or some other frontline player will be an indication they are ceasing to be what they were in recent years, a team that combines financial might with the insights cultivated by its analytics department. That would be shameful. Their fans have behaved like fans in a major market. The franchise has to behave like it’s from one, too.

  10. Interesting that you mentioned Karl Spooner. For those who don’t remember he came up to the Dodgers in September of 1954, pitched two complete game shutouts striking out 15 in the first game and 12 in the second game giving up a total of 7 hits in the two games! Unfortunately he hurt his arm in early 1955 and was out of baseball shortly thereafter. Imagine what it would have been if he had not hurt that left arm.

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