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MEET BOBBY BRAGAN
Something drastic had to happen in Pittsburgh, and it has. A sometime Sunday-school teacher named Bobby Bragan, prot�g� of another former Sunday-school teacher named Branch Rickey, is the new manager of the Pirates. Onetime light-hitting catcher for Rickey in Brooklyn (1943-44, 1947-48), Bragan, at the age of 37, is moving up from Hollywood of the Pacific Coast League where he would have won no gold stars for good conduct if umpires awarded them as Sunday-school teachers do.
As a matter of fact, as manager of the Hollywood Stars, Bragan was a chronic pain in the neck to umpires. Once he sent eight pinch hitters up to bat for the same man in protest over a call. Another time, he sent his batboy out to coach at third base. Two years ago, thumbed out of a game he was catching, Bragan did a strip tease on the way to the bench, dropping his mitt, his shin guards, his mask and his chest protector as provocatively as a Minsky ecdysiast.
In a game in 1954, Bragan became so irritated at an umpire's ruling that he lay down in the middle of the infield, crossed his legs and gazed serenely into the sky. As Umpire Al Mutart leaned over him, one arm extended toward the showers, a photographer was at hand and the scene later appeared in LIFE as Picture of the Week. When, a few weeks later, Mutart again threw Bragan out of a game, Bobby protested: "Is this the thanks I get after I get you a full page in LIFE?"
Such shenanigans are lumped by Branch Rickey under the general heading of aggressiveness, a quality he has admired in ballplayers ever since he assembled the celebrated Gas House Gang for the St. Louis Cardinals. "One cannot say," says Rickey, "that Bobby lacks aggressiveness. Perhaps he has too much. But a manager must be unafraid. He must know his rights, but not be offensive in exercising them. Perhaps Bobby sometimes says things to umpires. Our game must have umpires, and we must respect their integrity. But I always know that Bobby is honest in his dealings with umpires. He believes he is right."
Rickey gave Bragan his first chance as manager at Fort Worth (it was there that Bobby taught Sunday school) and his prot�g� showed his appreciation by winning two Texas League pennants, twice finishing second and once ending up fifth.
This brought him promotion to Hollywood where, as at Pittsburgh, he succeeded Fred Haney. Bragan won the Pacific Coast League pennant his first year, finished in a tie in 1954, then lost to San Diego in the playoff. This year, Bragan's club dropped to third.
Although Rickey-trained, Bragan is the official managerial choice of Joe L. Brown, who became general manager of the Pirates when Rickey retired to his newly created role of "advisor." But no one doubts that the Rickey influence will be strong at Forbes Field next season which means, quite incidentally, that Bobby Bragan will not be so foolish as to imagine that National League umpires will hold still for the guff that got by in California. Bragan will still be Bragan, but probably a little more refined—say, a sort of early Leo Durocher.
FOOTBALL AND VEBLEN
The CBS-radio program Invitation to Learning took up Thorstein Veblen's The Theory of the Leisure Class on a recent Sunday and made brief reference to that derisive economist's views of sport. Eric Larrabee, an associate editor of Harper's, remarked that while driving back from a vacation trip he had observed hunters everywhere, "out in full force."