Thursday, May 30, 2019

Dodger Correspondence - From Garagiola to Buzzie on Sandy Amoros

It's been awhile since I've put together a post like this. I, like many collectors, enjoying viewing eBay auctions -- not just to add to the collection, but also to window shop. After all, there's always a bunch of fantastic and unique memorabilia to stare at, and oftentimes they tell a story that you likely never heard before. The letter above is a clear example of this (eBay auction link).

Featured is a circa May 1967 letter written by former big league catcher and broadcaster Joe Garagiola to Dodger executive Buzzie Bavasi. In it, Joe express joy at seeing the Baseball fraternity taking care of one of its own. He wrote:
Dear Buzzie:  
Just a note to offer my congratulations for the Amoros gesture. It made a guy feel good to be a part of baseball when he read it. Thanks  
Sincerely, Joe Garagiola.  
P.S --- It didn't surprise me that you would do a thing like that. Great! Buzz!" 
So, what is this "Amoros gesture" he speaks of?

Sandy Amoros, a hero with the World Champion 1955 Dodgers, had seen his playing days end by 1962, so it might not be a surprise that he experienced some economic tough times thereafter. Although, it's not because of any sort of mismanagement or bad behavior. Instead, he made a certain Cuban dictator mad at him. Per a fantastic biography by Rory Costello at SABR:
“Castro decided to form an entire professional summer league in Cuba. He asked Amorós, who, as usual, was spending his offseason in Cuba, to stay home and manage one of the teams instead of returning to Mexico that summer. ‘I told Castro I didn't know how to manage,’ says Amorós. ‘I could play, why would I want to manage?’ Privately, Amorós had qualms about working for the government. Castro did not take Amorós’s refusal lightly. He stripped Amorós of his ranch, car, all his assets and cash.” 
Sandy worked for himself as a mechanic, repairman, or whatever he could find. His reduced circumstances led to other problems, notes Roberto González Echevarría: 
“For many players, the collapse of the Cuban League had tragic consequences. The diaspora began. Amorós, for instance . . . could not leave for many years, during which he became an alcoholic and eventually a diabetic. When he did leave, the Dodgers put him on their roster for the few days he needed for his pension.”
He was seven days short of getting that pension. Unfortunately, the rest of the biography is disheartening. Amoros' slide continued after finally making it back to the states. He experienced a divorce, lost several jobs and his leg was amputated due to diabetes. Then in 1992 he passed away due to pneumonia.

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