Jack Olsen says they laughed when he sat down to do a four-part Buzzie Bavasi series. Although Bavasi had been an obvious choice for an inside baseball story for years, interviewing the hyper-locomotive Dodger general manager is a little like conversing with a merry-go-round operator—one question per revolution.
"Let's wait until spring training," Bavasi told Olsen last season. "I'll have all the time in the world then." His idea of infinite inactivity, Jack discovered, is breakfast at 9, hot-rodding around the training grounds in a golf cart from 10 until 3, golf from 3 to 6, cocktails till 7, dinner till 8, poker until midnight. Repeat daily, almost unvaryingly. If you want to see Bavasi you learn the schedule and fit in.
"the way i fat in," memoed Olsen, a 100-word-a-minute typist who usually memorializes in lower case, "was to take my trusty tape recorder out to the ball park every morning at 10 and dig out the story of buzzie's life as we whirled around in the golf cart. i did this for 18 straight days. it was very revealing. for one thing, i learned that major league ballplayers, for all their big salaries, are always broke and always coming to the gm for advances. i learned that major league ballplayers can break down and cry. i saw this twice, once with a young kid who was upset because he wasn't going to make the big club, and once because one of the ballplayers had gotten the news that his wife back home was running around with another man. buzzie handled both problems with the wisdom of a socrates, but i can't tell you how because i was sworn to secrecy."
Bavasi and Olsen, together in their golf cart, got along famously, but Olsen started to worry about what would happen when he put the story on paper and sent it to Bavasi to read and correct. Jack figured that "with me gone he would ignore the ms. because there'd be nobody to make him work on it." Just before leaving Vero Beach, Olsen "bought buzzie a kit that turned him into an instant editor: an attach� case for carrying the ms., 10 red pencils, a sharpener, a two-pound rubber eraser that said, 'i only make big misteaks,' a desk lamp and a lot of other stuff." In case you are wondering how Olsen managed to get a desk lamp into an attach� case, he used a folding Tensor.
Delighted, Bavasi soon gave back a well-penciled ms. and six baseballs. Three were signed by the Dodgers, Olsen says, "making me a big man with the kids on my block."
The inside baseball starts on page 78, extroverted. There—and in subsequent installments—we learn what will happen if the Dodger infield forms an ad hoc union � la Donald and Sanford, whether Chuck Connors signed his contracts in blood, why Mrs. O'Malley likes Leo Durocher more than Walter does and how Bavasi learned to spell P-e-r-r-a-n-o-s-k-i.
" Buzzie Bavasi's particular charm is his ability to stand around and spin stories about baseball," Olsen says, getting up to cases. "I have gone to some lengths to preserve this charm. So you will find a few 'whos' for 'whoms' and a few 'likes' for 'as.' I know better; so does Buzzie, but in his long association with ballplayers he has learned to talk Winston English. Buzzie sounds legit, like a general manager should."