Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Vintage Dodger Correspondence from Head Trainer Doc Wendler

I came across this neatly typed letter the other day while perusing eBay, and found myself immediately drawn to it.  Not because it's from a superstar we all had heard of, or even a ballplayer who once wore Blue.  Instead, it's a bit of correspondence from someone behind the scenes - an important cog that helped keep the players healthy and in tip top condition.

Featured above is a letter written by Dodger trainer Harold W. Wendler, or Doc Wendler.  Check out the auction here.  Wendler joined the club prior to the 1943 season after spending 26 years as the head athletic trainer at Mississippi State College.  Then for the next 17 years, the golden years as they say, he became a mainstay in the Dodger clubhouse.  Doc assessed injuries, mended broken bodies and massaged aching muscles.  He saw everything from Pete Reiser crashing into the outfield wall to Jackie Robinson being spiked by passing runners.

(pic via Brooklyn Library)
In the letter, dated December 14, 1957 and addressed to Buzzie Bavasi, Doc Wendler tackled a rumor heard in the Dodger front office about his status with the club.  Apparently, gossip spread that Doc would be retiring and not join the franchise out west.  Of course, that couldn't be further from the truth.  Doc was indeed interested in staying, but had some financial concerns that needed to be addressed.  He writes:
Your letter of Dec. 10th arrived just a few hours ago.  The contents surprised me very much.  And I am extremely sorry you heard of my hypothetical retirement plans "second-hand".  I believe you know how impossible retirement is for me also.  Let me assure you of one thing, Buzzie, when I do decide to leave the Dodgers, you will be the first to hear of it, and the news will come direct from me -- not via grapevine.

I must admit there were times over the past four years, and especially last year, when my ulcers hurt to the extent I felt I could not keep going.  During such periods I did remark to John, Jake, Herman, Lee Scott, and others too I'm sure, that "if I didn't feel better, this was going to be my last year."  Pain often makes you say and do things you would not say or do under normal circumstances.  However, for the past two months I have never felt better, and believe the stomach condition has entirely cleared up -- so no problem there.

Going to LA does create problems though -- main one financial for me.  As you no doubt know, I have never signed a contract during my fifteen year affiliation with the Dodgers -- not even a one year one.  When spring training time came I would receive a letter from whoever was road secretary telling me when to report.  It was as simple as that, and I hope no change is necessary.  However, for the past few years, had it not been for World Series help, I would have been operating in the red.  Therefore, I prefer we reach some kind of financial understanding before spring practice begins at Vero. 
Obviously something was worked out between Wendler and Buzzie.  Doc continued as the Dodger trainer until 1959 - receiving one more World Series check.

For Dodger autograph collectors, something signed by personnel can be extremely tough to come by.  So, I suspect the $695 asking price on ths eBay auction might not be entirely out of line.  Also, there is only one known memorabilia item (not including press photos) on the market, that I know of, featuring Doc Wendler doing what he does.  Check out the 1955 Gold Stamp below.  It shows Doc doing something to Carl Furrillo's head.  What exactly, I do not know.
(1955 Golden Stamps)

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