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Jack McCallum
May 02, 1983
Whom teams have joined together as roommates, no man shall put asunder—but sometimes it happens
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May 02, 1983

For Better, For Worse

Whom teams have joined together as roommates, no man shall put asunder—but sometimes it happens

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•The roommate-with-a-harelip story is most often told about the Red Sox, Indian and Pirate pitcher of the 1930s and '40s, Jim Bagby Jr., but any ballplayer with a speech impediment turns up in this one. It seems that one night, when Boston Manager Joe Cronin was conducting a room check by telephone, Bagby tried to cover for his hell-raising roommate, the late Jim Tabor.

"Everything O.K.?" asked Cronin. "Let me speak to Tabe."

Bagby laid down the phone, made some noises and picked it up again.

"Hello, Thkip," said Bagby. "Thith ith Tabe."

•Oft-told tale No. 3 develops this theme: Manager rooms steady, conservative veteran with screwball youngster in hopes of straightening out the latter, but it works the other way, with the vet adopting the youngster's bad habits. Howard Fox, the Minnesota Twins' executive vice-president, tells a version starring Infielder Frank Quilici as the veteran and Pitcher Dave Boswell as the kid, whom Fox matched up in the late '60s.

George Halas, when he coached the Bears, took the opposite approach. He occasionally roomed bons vivants together, reasoning that one of them was going to have to stay in the room and answer the knock on the door or the phone-call bed check after curfew. "This would cut down on night life by 50 percent," said Chuck Mather, a former Halas assistant. No wonder Papa Bear is in the Hall of Fame.

•In oft-told tale No. 4, two roommates of opposite intellectual capabilities are reading in bed. One finishes a comic book, slaps it down, and says to the other, "Well, how did yours come out?" The other, of course, is reading a medical textbook. The story is most frequently told about Bobby Brown, then a student at Tulane med school, and Yogi Berra, who roomed with Brown in 1946 on the Yankees' Newark farm team. Did it actually happen?

"Well, yes, it did," says Brown, who's now a doctor in Fort Worth.

The stories are not necessarily apocryphal, just oft-told.

Before the trainin' trip was over, Elliott had roomed with pretty near everybody in the club...They all said he was crazy and they was afraid he'd get violent some night and stick a knife in 'em.

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