In 1947 Galbreath
used the Pirates and Bing Crosby to get Vic Janowicz, who went on to win the
Heisman Trophy, for Ohio State. At the time, Galbreath had owned the Pirates
only a year. He knew Crosby was a sports enthusiast—Bing had once been
president of the Del Mar racetrack in California—so he talked Crosby into
buying a percentage of the Pittsburgh club. That was the beginning of a long
friendship. Galbreath and Crosby went fishing together, attended the Kentucky
Derby together, followed their baseball team together.
I had been up to
see Janowicz two or three times," Galbreath says. "God, he was being
rushed by everybody. He was a catcher in baseball as well, so I said, 'Vic,
would you like to drive over and see the Pirates' opening game?' You could do
that in those days. He said, 'Sure,' and he asked if he could bring along a
friend and their girls. I told Bing that if he'd help me, we'd see Janowicz in
the Rose Bowl someday.
Day we took them on the field and Bing put his arms around the girls and we
took their picture. The following day I went up to Vic's and met with his coach
and the superintendent of schools. They were all lined up like it was a prayer
meeting. I promised them that even if Vic broke his leg on the first play of
his first season he'd get his education. That convinced him. When Vic played
for us in the Rose Bowl I sent Bing a wire. All I said in it was, 'SEE?'
After he finished
at Ohio State, Janowicz was one of the bonus babies the Pirates signed in the
late '40s and early '50s in the "youth movement" initiated by Branch
Rickey and underwritten by Galbreath. It didn't work. The 1952 team, which
finished last, 54� games behind, was regarded as baseball's worst until the
1962 Mets came along. The Pirates began to turn the corner in 1955, after
drafting Roberto Clemente out of the Dodgers' farm system, and in 1960 won the
pennant and beat the mighty Yankees in a seven-game World Series on Bill
Mazeroski's two-out, last-inning homer.
locker room, I remember Mazeroski saying, 'They outhit us and out-scored us,
but they couldn't beat us,' " says Galbreath. "I liked that. You see,
we didn't give up. We kept building."
In the '60s, as
Clemente developed into a certain Hall-of-Famer, he also became a particular
favorite of Galbreath's. In the off-season Galbreath would invite him to Darby
Dan. Clemente showed such an interest in Galbreath's thoroughbreds that
Galbreath named a horse after him. Roberto proved to be a worthy namesake,
winning the Epsom Derby for Galbreath in 1972. Only six months later, Clemente
was killed in a plane crash off Puerto Rico.
he would ask me to sell him a couple of horses," Galbreath says. "We
finally gave him a yearling. He was delighted. I'll always cherish the last
letter I got from him. He told me that all Puerto Rico was in a contest to name
his horse, and he promised me that if he were ever traded he would never play
against the Pirates. The last thing he wrote was 'Stay with God.' He was a fine
man. He was married to a good woman, and they had a couple of sons who are
going to be ballplayers."
Much as he
admires the Pirates' current heroes, Galbreath is not as close to any of them
as he was to Clemente. A bust of Clemente is on display in the lodge at Darby
Dan, as well as Roberto's last Pirate uniform.
Galbreath sees a
dozen or so games each season, but he leaves the operation of the team to his
son and Pirate Vice-President Harding Peterson. Nevertheless, he still has the
final word when something big is afoot, like the attempt to sign free agent
Pete Rose last year. Knowing of Rose's love of horses, Galbreath made him an
offer. In addition to a big salary and a long-term contract, Galbreath would
sell Rose a couple of his well-bred broodmares and give him the right to breed
them to the best of his stallions—Graustark, Little Current, Roberto,
A breeding right
to Little Current, winner of the 1974 Preakness and Belmont, is worth at least
$30,000 on the open market, but those rights are reserved for Galbreath and the
select horsemen who joined the breeding syndicate when Little Current was
retired to stud.