The first major-league ballplayer to play on championship teams in both the United States and Japan was John Logan Jr., known to the baseball world as Johnny. For 14 straight years (1948-1961) he was Milwaukee's shortstop, the first five with the American Association Brewers, the last nine with the National League Braves. A four-time All-Star, Johnny helped the Braves win back-to-back pennants in 1957 and 1958 and a World Series in 1957.
Johnny Logan was born in Endicott, New York, on March 23, 1926. (All of the standard references say he was born in 1927, but like many actresses and ballplayers, Johnny fibbed to make himself a bit younger.) He was the youngest of three children, who included brother Michael, now deceased, and sister Mary, still living in 2008.
Their father, John Logan Sr., was a native of Russia. "Stalingrad," Johnny says. "He was a guard in the Empire." The city would have been called Tsaritsyn back then. Johnny's mother, nee Helen Senko, was born in Croatia but also lived in the borderland of Poland. Both parents' families emigrated to America.
"Their families came from Europe and somehow landed in Pennsylvania when they were teenagers," Johnny says. "When they found out that Pennsylvania was kind of depressed, they packed up and went into Endicott, New York, north of the Pennsylvania line. My parents met in Endicott. They started working for the Endicott-Johnson Shoe Company." After marrying and building a small nest egg, John and Helen Logan started their own business.
"They ran a grocery store," Johnny says, "a neighborhood store. When the people didn't have the money, they'd come up to Logan to take the credit. When they had the money, they went to the IGA. But that's where I got to know my neighborhood people. Things were rough then."
The family store did offer one benefit to young Johnny. "I was the most popular kid because every day when I went to school, I had bubblegum," he remembers. "Everybody hung around with me because they always knew I had my dad's free bubblegum. Bubblegum was like a Hershey bar."
As a young boy, Logan acquired a nickname by which he would be known as long as he lived in Endicott. "I must have been very active," Johnny says, "and in the Russian language, to settle a young kid, they'd say 'Yah-shoo, yah-shoo. Just be quiet.' The word is a combination of Russian and Croatian. A guy on my street took that and gave me the name Yatcha, or Yatch. The name became very popular in Endicott." To anyone who followed high school athletics in Endicott, in fact, it became a household word.
Johnny said he learned about major-league baseball by reading the New York Daily News and the New York Times. "I was not a true Yankee fan," he insisted, "but New York state is Yankee country. Everybody loves a winner. They had the famous guys. Joe DiMaggio. Lou Gehrig. They were the contenders, the champs. I used to listen to Whitlow Wyatt on the radio, pitching for the Brooklyn Dodgers against the St. Louis Cardinals. Walker Cooper and Mort Cooper. These are baseball players. And naturally, Joe DiMaggio.
"My hometown is triple cities--Binghamton, Endicott, and Johnson City. They had a Class A Yankee farm team named the Triple Cities Triplets. When I was 12, I skipped school because the Yankees came in to play the Triplets. I ran nine miles to the ballpark, which was in Johnson City, with no money in my pocket. I go to the entrance of the ballpark and the gate man asks, 'Where is your ticket?' I said, 'You have to pay to watch baseball?' I didn't know it was professional and you've got to pay.
"I backed away and went down to this green fence. Usually in them days the old ballparks had a green painted fence. There happened to be a knothole in that fence. I looked through that knothole and admired my great ballplayer of the New York Yankees, Joe DiMaggio. He was my big hero."
The date was Friday, May 27, 1938. The Yanks were leading, 10-2, but the game ended after seven innings because hundreds of kids swarmed onto the field seeking autographs from Gehrig and DiMaggio. Logan said he was not one of them. Asked what he remembered from that game, he said, "Number 5, pinstripes. All I saw was Number 5. It was an imagination dream. I didn't see no part of the game. I wasn't interested in no one but Joe DiMaggio."
After the game, Logan recalled, "I had to run nine miles back home to be asked by my mother, 'How was school?' I said, 'Excellent.' Meanwhile I did exactly what I wanted to do, to see my big hero, Number 5 of the New York Yankees. I had the dream of someday playing for my hometown, for the Triplets, to play professional ball. If I could make the Triplets ball team, maybe I could possibly advance to a higher classification."
Seventy years after that game, Logan still felt a twinge of conscience for not telling his parents the whole truth about that day. "I didn't lie to them, but I didn't tell them. ...My parents never knew what sports was. I had a brother that taught me baseball, taught me football, taught me the finer points. I was a batboy for his semipro team. They played every week. Then he played for his factory team, Endicott-Johnson Shoe Company. Anytime they had practice, I was there instead of hitting the books. I was playing with older guys. What happened is, I learned sports is a way of surviving. Back in them days, you could get scholarships."
Not surprisingly, Logan did receive scholarship offers. Dewey Griggs, the baseball scout who ultimately signed Logan for the Boston Braves organization, said, "I knew Johnny was a natural the first time I laid eyes on him. Take a look at his hands. They're big and quick paws, ideal for a shortstop. But then Johnny excelled in any sport. I remember watching him perform at halfback one year during the New York all-state playoffs. That kid was a wonder at football." (Milwaukee Sentinel, October 25, 1953)
As a junior at Union-Endicott High School, Logan became one of the few members of the Orange Tornado, as the school's teams were called, to earn major letters in four sports: football, basketball, baseball, and track. He did more than that, though, as related by Dewey Griggs.
"One time the high school's golf team lost its number one golfer for its biggest match of the year," Griggs recalled. "Someone suggested Johnny as being a natural golfer. Well, to make a long story short, the coach pitted Johnny against the rival team's top man--and Logan beat him. What an athlete he was." (Ibid.)
In Logan's senior year, the start of the high school football season was delayed four weeks by a polio outbreak in the New York-Pennsylvania region. The season opener was canceled, but when the games finally began, against Binghamton North, Johnny gained 295 yards rushing and scored four touchdowns. The headline in the sports section of the Endicott Daily Bulletin told the story: "John (Yatcha) Logan Shines in Great Broken Field Display."
Binghamton North's coach in baseball and football was Eddie Sawyer, former outfielder and manager of the Triple Cities Triplets, who later managed the Phillies Whiz Kids to the National League pennant in 1950. Logan said, "I had a tryout with the Triplets. He (Sawyer) liked me, but he just couldn't convince the front office of the Yankees to take me. They said I was too small."
In an undefeated football season shortened to seven games, Logan scored 18 touchdowns, three times scoring four in one game, and passed for four others. In their only close game, a 6-0 battle in the mud in the season finale, Johnny scored the only touchdown and protected his team's victory with two pass interceptions. After the game the team celebrated, as was their custom, by eating spaghetti and meatballs at a restaurant owned by the family of one of his teammates.
Logan's gridiron heroics attracted college scholarship offers. "I was pretty good," Johnny said, not boastfully but without false modesty. "I had scholarships (offers) to Syracuse, Colgate, Duke, Notre Dame. We had an assistant coach named Johnny Murphy, from Notre Dame. He was the spark plug of coaching. Ty Cobb (Harold Vernon Cobb) was the head coach, but to learn football, it was Johnny Murphy. As young kids our dream was the possibility of getting a football scholarship to Notre Dame at the recommendation of Johnny Murphy.
"But I think Ty Cobb convinced him that I could be a lot better baseball player than football player because of injuries. (Cobb also coached the baseball team.) I only weighed about 160 pounds then. I'd get crushed by some of them bullies. I never liked football. To me it was an animal game. 'Let's break this guy's leg,' you know. Baseball had more finesse, double plays, you know? A lot smoother. Really, truly, my motive was to get into professional baseball."
Logan summarized his high school career. "I played basketball, football, baseball, golf, and I ran track. Five-letter man. But you know what I did wrong? I didn't have enough time to look at my schoolwork. After school all I did was go out and play sports with my teammates."
His dad never attended any of Johnny's games, but his mom once did. "My mother saw me play football against Binghamton Central," he remembered. "I was taking the ball around end a lot. My mother said to my sister, 'Jeez, Johnny is running and everybody's chasing him.' My sister said, 'He's got the ball.' She said to my sister, 'Why don't he throw it away and give it to somebody else?' She was worried that I'd get hurt."
During the summer, young Logan played softball for a team sponsored by Endicott Lodge 1065, Loyal Order of Moose. "It was just another activity," Johnny explained. "You played to keep busy." Playing third base, he led his team to consecutive Broome County championships and, in 1943, a trip to the state championship tournament in Rochester. In 1944 he played only part of the time, and in his absence, as the Endicott newspaper (August 29, 1944) described, "The Moose defense has suffered." The same article went on to say, "Yatcha has a preference for hard ball, which is understandable, inasmuch as he has all the makings of a future minor leaguer."
"Also, we caddied at En-Joie Golf Course," Johnny recalled. "That's where I learned my golf. That's where they have a PGA golf tournament. A guy got in touch with the PGA and got them to play there. That's where the softball field was too--En-Joie Park."
Johnny's main sport, though, was always baseball. "When I was 15 or 16," he said, "every Sunday I'd take a Greyhound bus 40 miles to Homer, New York, to play semipro ball against college boys from Cortland State Teachers College. I was supposed to get five bucks a game, but they must have put it on the installment plan because if they paid me five bucks, then I'd have been a professional."
The manager and GM of Logan's semipro ballclub was Dewey Griggs, who in 1947 would become the New York state and Canada scout of the Boston Braves. "He was a mailman," Johnny said of Griggs, "kind of a hunchbacked individual.
"This is the honest truth. The first workout in Homer, New York--I took a bus ride there--I meet Dewey Griggs. He approached me and said, 'Logan, I've been hearing a lot of things about you, and we're gonna have a workout.' I said, 'Fine.' I went in the dugout--a pretty nice little ballpark there in Homer. I put my little jersey on. I looked in my satchel--two left-footed shoes! So I laced my left foot good, then put my other left shoe on my right foot. He said, 'Logan, you ready to work out?' I said, 'Yep, let's go.'
"He said, 'What position?' I said, 'Shortstop.' So there I am, working out, being a shortstop for about 15 minutes. He hits me groundballs to my left, to my right. About 15 or 20 minutes, and I handled it. Finally we sat in the dugout, and I'm all puffed out, sweating. He said, 'What's with your shoes?' I said, 'What's wrong with them?' He said, 'You've got two left-footed shoes.' I said, 'Oh, I can't believe that.' So finally he said, 'God.'
"The next time I showed up for a ballgame, there was a brand-new pair of shoes sitting there. So that's one way I got a brand-new pair of shoes without no money. By making a mistake."
Logan graduated in midyear from Union-Endicott High School, in January 1945. His athletic career was put on hold immediately. "I went in the Army right out of high school," he explained. "I was drafted. I went to Camp Wheeler, Georgia. If you're a good athlete in the Army, you could try out for baseball or football. You could get special duty. I met a great man named Bobby Bragan. He was the manager of the Camp Wheeler baseball team. He's the guy that taught me how to play baseball. I got the early fundamentals of baseball from Bobby Bragan. He was an ex-Brooklyn Dodger infielder, and then he converted into a catcher.
"We had a great Army ball team. We had Carl Scheib from the Philadelphia Athletics pitching for us. I was a young kid, and Bobby Bragan liked me. He set his team up, and we were champs of Camp Wheeler, Georgia. We played against Joe Dobson, a Red Sox pitcher. Outstanding curveball. That's where I learned to hit the curveball."
Not long after arriving at Camp Wheeler, Johnny wrote a letter to Fred Gianakouros, the owner of an Endicott diner called The Sandwich Shop. "He made the greatest hamburgers and hot dogs and hot chocolate," Johnny remembered. "We used to hang around there. He had a son that was a football player too, so he was one of the backers of U-E."
In his letter, Logan said he was adjusting well to Army life. He concluded by telling the restaurateur to "Keep 'em Frying." He enclosed a clipping from the Camp Wheeler Spoke, the official camp publication, from which the Endicott Daily News printed excerpts. In an article beginning, "From one of our boys, Johnny (Yatcha) Logan," the newspaper quoted:
"Sparked by John Logan, former semipro shortstop from Endicott, N.Y., the Third Regiment won their first start in the IRTC Regimental Baseball League Sunday at the expense of the Specialists by a score of 3-2. Logan, who has had several major league teams interested in his services, started the fireworks in the second inning. ..."
With his letter, Johnny also enclosed a photograph, along with the statement, "I'll smile next time--they're going to put my teeth in." It seems that Johnny's front choppers had been knocked out in a high school sports accident and not replaced until Uncle Sam did the job.
Logan served in the Army in 1945 and 1946, which included duty in Osaka, Japan. "When we were in Japan," Johnny recalled, "we played ball against the Marine and Navy guys. I was on special duty at that time." After 18 months he was honorably discharged. That made him eligible for benefits under the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, better known as the G.I. Bill. Like more than two million other former soldiers, Johnny used those benefits to further his education.
"I went to college for a year and a half," he said. "I was a veteran, an Army boy, with no money. I had the privilege of receiving the G.I. Bill of Rights and going to college and getting $75 a month. I went to an extension college in Endicott, an extension of Syracuse University, the one that became Harpur College." The college had been created to accommodate returning veterans. It was housed in tin Quonset huts and a mansion called the Colonial Building.
What did he major in? "Sports," he answered with a grin. "I played college basketball and baseball. When I was going to school, I'd take a course where I'd find out the teacher was sports-minded. He got to know me and I got to know him, and we had some easy communication. I remember taking a speech course from this guy, and I was very shy. I didn't know what I was going to say and do. I made a speech--I can't remember what it was about--and he gave me an A for that course because he liked me."
Johnny's excursion into the halls of academe ended in early 1947 when his old friend Dewey Griggs, recently hired as a scout by the Boston Braves, signed him to a minor-league contract. That surprised many people who knew Johnny.
"I was a New York boy," Johnny said. "Everybody thought I might be playing for the Yankees or the Giants, or maybe the Dodgers because of Jake Pitler." Pitler lived in nearby Binghamton and managed in the Dodgers farm system. "I always associated with him when the high school season was over. He was in charge of baseball schools and tryout camps. I always attended, and he liked me. When I was 17 years old, he asked me to go to Bear Mountain." During World War II, the Brooklyn Dodgers had their training camp at Bear Mountain about 45 miles north of New York city.
"I happened to be invited by Jake Pitler to get the feel of professional baseball," Logan recalled. "They weren't going to sign me. They just wanted to have one of the superscouts look me over. They took young kids they thought might be successful. I worked out there, then went back to high school. I remember Jake Pitler being a great influence with the Brooklyn Dodgers. I went to one session where one of our speakers was Branch Rickey, and what an outstanding speaker he was. He had a baseball in his hand, and he talked about it for an hour and a half."
Dewey Griggs' signing of Logan was the first of the scout's four important contributions to the Milwaukee Braves' 1957 World Series championship ballclub. The others were, in order, Bob Trowbridge, Wes Covington, and Henry Aaron.
Johnny remembered, "I signed my contract for $2,500. In them days it was big money. The first thing I did was I gave my mother $1,500 and I kept a thousand. My family was conservative. They were poor in them days. A thousand dollars was like a million.
"I was supposed to jump from semipro into A ball. That's a pretty good jump for a young kid. But Dewey Griggs told me, 'John, you got ability. Two or three years you'll be up in the majors.' And I believed him."
Johnny's excitement about joining the Braves organization went beyond money. "My first contract was with the Hartford Chiefs," he remembered, "to play against my hometown Binghamton Triplets. And what happened now, I had a bonus, and they said, 'If you make the Eastern League (Hartford), we'll give you $2,500 for bonus.' And then Charlie Blossfield, the general manager of the Hartford Chiefs, called me in his office and he said, 'Logan, we've got another ballplayer that we're contemplating playing shortstop for Hartford. Unfortunately, we're gonna really degrade you to B ball.'
"I said, 'Where is that?' He said, 'It's Evansville, Indiana.' I said, 'Where the hell is that?' He said, 'You've got a good manager named Bob Coleman. If he recommends you, someday you'll be in the big leagues.'"
The shortstop who kept Logan from starting out his career with Hartford was Paul Rambone. "I think he beat me out because he had a pretty good year in Class D," Johnny says. (Rambone had batted .336 for the Richmond Roses of the Ohio State League in 1946. He was a teammate of Ed Musial, younger brother of Stan. Ed Musial, like Rambone, never made it to the big leagues.) "But I was kind of disappointed for not playing against the Binghamton Triplets. That was my hometown.
"The first conversation I had with Bob Coleman, I said, 'Hey, the organization happened to tell me I was going to play against Binghamton, New York, and here I am. I think they lied to me.'
"He said to me, 'If you make my ballclub, we'll get you into the Braves organization. Your goal is not in Hartford, Connecticut. Your goal is to play for the Boston Braves.' So therefore he convinced me with his conversation. Bob Coleman got me 2,500 bucks. He always had a German police dog. That was his buddy. When he went to the ballpark, that dog was always there."
Playing in Bosse Field in Evansville, in the Three-I League, Logan wasted no time in making his mark. He tripled in his first game, smashed an inside-the-park homer in his third game, and quickly earned the Evansville Courier's description as "Evansville's brilliant shortstop." (July 22, 1947) He was chosen to the league's All-Star team and finished the season with a .331 batting average.
Johnny recalled, "When I was playing for Evansville, we had an exhibition ballgame against the St. Louis Browns. The Browns weren't very good, but they had a great shortstop named Vern Stephens. I happened to meet him. It was a delight to meet him and talk to him. The first thing he did was look at my glove. He said, 'Wow, kid, you better get a better glove.' He was with Rawlings. He said, 'I'll send you one.'
"I thanked him real much, and about three weeks later I get a package from Rawlings. It was a brand-new glove. This is how I picked up a Rawlings glove for nothing from a major leaguer. After that I always used a Rawlings glove. A few years later Rawlings wanted to sign me up. I said, as a young man, 'Perfect! What are you going to give me?' The guy said, 'We'll give you one glove a year.' I had four years of experience with the Milwaukee Brewers, and so I refused to sign. I bought my glove for $23 and used their glove. It was a good glove. But I signed a contract with a company in New York for $500. Back in them days, for a minor leaguer, $500 was a lot of money."
His performance in Evansville earned Johnny an invitation to spring training in Bradenton, Florida, with the Braves in 1948. "I thought I had a good chance of making the Boston Braves," he said. To do so, he had to beat out a sensational young shortstop of the 1947 Milwaukee Brewers, Alvin Dark.
Johnny remembered, "Seeing Dark and seeing myself, I thought I had a good chance. Unfortunately, Dark was a good hitter. He could hit that ball to right field. I could beat him on defense, but back in the '40s and '50s, everybody was a good defense man." Dark became the Boston shortstop in 1948, earned Rookie of the Year, and helped the Braves win the National League pennant. Logan replaced Dark in Milwaukee, in the American Association, earning $400 a month.
Johnny said, "I was told, 'You're gonna love Milwaukee. It's the capital of beer.' I can remember coming to Milwaukee in 1948, living at the Wisconsin Hotel for five dollars a day. A beer was ten cents a glass. I remember Fazio's, on Jackson Street. The reason why I got to know Frankie (Fazio) is, after a ballgame, we'd have a big dish of spaghetti, all the Italian bread, butter, and a salad. Frankie would always send us ballplayers a bottle of beer. I think I must have a little Italian in me. We ate spaghetti almost every day for a buck and a quarter."
The jump from Class B Evansville to Triple-A Milwaukee was a large one. Logan gave early indications of being ready for the move, getting five base hits in the season-opening three-game series. A month later, though, the Milwaukee Sentinel (May 25, 1948) bluntly reported, "Johnny is again playing bad ball at short. Logan made only four hits in the last 27 at-bats, and that isn't good enough for this league."
The Brewers' manager in 1948 was Nick "Ol' Tomato Face" Cullop. "He was a good baseball man," Logan said, "but somehow he liked experienced ballplayers. They had Heinz Becker, the outstanding first baseman, who never made the major leagues. [Johnny meant that Becker never became a regular--he had previously played in 152 games in four seasons in the big leagues.] They had Skippy Roberge and Nanny Fernandez and Damon Phillips. They were older and more experienced. The major-league rosters are only 25, so they were shipped down to Triple-A, hoping to make the majors some day. Unfortunately, that's where I ran into trouble--experienced ballplayers coming down, and I was an inexperienced rookie, not knowing the game, not knowing a lot of things."
If Ol' Tomato Face didn't want Logan, someone else did. "They shipped me down to Dallas, Texas," Johnny recalled. "Mr. (Dick) Burnett, the owner, wanted a good shortstop. They had a bad shortstop there." [For the record, he was the late Bill Serena, who moved over to third base after Logan joined the club.]
The Dallas Daily Times Herald (June 24, 1948) reported: "GM Bobby Goff announced that the Dallas club had finally acquired Johnny Logan, young shortstop from Milwaukee. Goff has been working on this deal for nearly a month."
With Dallas, Logan enjoyed immediate success. After his third game, the Times Herald (June 29) wrote, "Johnny Logan, playing short, roamed that side of the infield like a major leaguer."
A week later the newspaper printed a photo of Logan with the caption, "Looks like best in league, but won't be in All-Star lineup." The paper went on to explain that "Logan, new Dallas shortstop, has impressed baseball men who have seen him in action as the best shortstopper in the circuit, but he hasn't been in the league long enough to justify his selection on the All-Star team."
Logan batted .283 in his five weeks as a Dallas Eagle. "We missed the playoffs by maybe a game or two," Johnny said. "They released me and I had to go to Pawtucket, Rhode Island." Playing for the Pawtucket Slaters, in the Class B New England League, Logan and teammate Jim Paules pulled off a triple play against the Nashua Dodgers. In 45 games Johnny batted .324 and helped the Slaters make it into the league playoffs, where they were defeated.
The New England League "was a good league," Johnny said. "That's where Roy Campanella started before he went to the Dodgers. It kind of educated me that the Braves organization was a good organization."
In 1949 and 1950 Logan played every game as the Milwaukee Brewers' shortstop in the American Association. After a good spring training in 1951, he earned a place in the Opening Day lineup of the Boston Braves. "My first major-league ballgame was against the New York Giants," he remembered, "against Larry Jansen and Bobby Thomson and Don Mueller and Alvin Dark. I recall myself getting one-for-three and playing errorless ball. Boy, was I happy!"
Logan's elation was short-lived. Two days later, in the third game of the season, still against the Giants, "I'm in the on-deck circle," Johnny recalled. "I hear from the dugout, 'Hey, Logan, come back to the dugout.' So I was thinking, maybe they're going to tell me what this pitcher's throwing." The pitcher was Jim Hearn, it was the fourth inning, and runners were on second and third with two out.
"Billy Southworth, who was the manager then, came over and put his arm around me," Logan explains. "He said, 'We're taking you out for a pinch-hitter.' And there I am, waiting for an opportunity. Two on, two out, my third game in the big leagues. I'm very pepped up, and then--I was shocked for being taken out. When you're taken out of the fourth inning of your third game in the big leagues, you don't understand. It doesn't build up a rookie's confidence.
"Sure, I don't know if I'd ground out, base hit, maybe get a base on balls. I remember the guy who pinch-hit for me, Willard Marshall, and he grounded out. There you are on the bench, third game of your rookie year, being taken out for a pinch-hitter.
"See, Billy Southworth was an experienced manager with the St. Louis Cardinals. He believed in experienced ballplayers. He didn't believe in building up rookies." On May 12th Southworth sent Logan down to Milwaukee. On June 20 Tommy Holmes replaced Southworth as manager. Two weeks later, Logan was recalled by the Braves, but even though he was back in the big leagues, he played sparingly the rest of the season.
When Johnny returned to the Braves on the Fourth of July, the Milwaukee Journal wrote, "Logan had an amazing fielding record with the Brewers. He had only one error in 57 games this season and handled 264 chances."
Always a fiery competitor, on the second to last day of the 1951 season, Johnny literally gave the shirt off his back to help his ballclub. Boston's ace lefthander, Warren Spahn, was on the mound seeking a career-high 23rd victory. Following a superstition borrowed from Mort Cooper of the 1942 St. Louis Cardinals, Spahn, whose uniform number was 21, had worn teammate George Estock's jersey number 22 on September 25 while seeking victory number 22. Spahn won the game, so on September 29 he wore Logan's number 23. Unfortunately for Spahn, the Braves lost the game. Logan entered the game in the ninth inning in place of shortstop Buddy Kerr. What uniform number Logan wore seems to have been lost to antiquity. Johnny himself had no recollection of the event.
There is an axiom among general managers that sometimes the best trade is the one you don't make. On December 5, 1951, Logan was part of a perfect example. The Milwaukee Journal reported that the Boston Braves had reached agreement with the Phillies on a deal to send Logan and Spahn to Philadelphia in exchange for shortstop Granny Hamner and pitcher Bubba Church. Fortunately for the Braves, the trade fell through.
Opening Day 1952 found Logan back in Borchert Field playing shortstop for the Milwaukee Brewers. "I never played for Tommy Holmes (in '52)," Johnny asserted. "They had just traded (with the Cubs) for Jack Cusick. That knocked me out with Holmes."
Holmes himself got knocked out, though, on Memorial Day weekend. The Braves had won just 13 of 35 games when Holmes was replaced by Charlie Grimm. Jolly Cholly's first managerial move was to send down Buzz Clarkson and call up Logan and insert him in the shortstop position.
"You might be a ballplayer or a doctor or lawyer or schoolteacher if somebody likes you," Johnny says. "Charlie Grimm liked me. I played for him in the minor leagues in Milwaukee. He saw me inexperienced but he could see me fully developing. He was a great first baseman with the Cubbies, so he knew the youth movement. If you give a kid a little time, he'll fully develop as he gets more experience. Charlie Grimm gave me my chance there in Boston."
Logan started the rest of the games that season and rewarded Grimm's confidence in him by batting .283 and leading National League shortstops in fielding for the first of three consecutive seasons. Logan was happy to be playing in the big leagues, but the grass is always greener...
"Playing in Braves Field, the wind was always blowing off the Charles River," he recalled. "I only weighed 160 pounds. Boy, I would have loved to play for the New York Giants in the Polo Grounds, with that short fence in left field. [Note: In 1952 Logan hit four homers with the Braves, all in the Polo Grounds.] Or Fenway Park. When I was a rookie, I always went to Fenway to look at the Green Monster. I wasn't worried about hitting home runs. I was worrying about hitting doubles. I was more conscious of contacting the ball than hitting home runs."
In 1953 Logan and the rest of the Braves made the historic shift to Milwaukee. "I spent five years trying to get out of Milwaukee," Johnny jokingly told a reporter. "I finally get out, so what happens? I'm going back again." (Milwaukee Sentinel, March 31, 1953) When he finished in Beertown, Johnny had been Milwaukee's shortstop for 14 consecutive seasons.
Logan had a well-earned reputation as a battler, a fighter who never backed down from anyone. Among his fistic rivals during his years as a Brave were Jim Greengrass, Johnny Temple, Hal Jeffcoat, and Don Drysdale. All except Temple were considerably larger than Logan. Fortunately for Johnny, he had teammate Eddie Mathews to back him up. "I'd start the fight; Eddie would finish it," Johnny said. "I'm a lover, not a fighter."
Johnny would challenge anyone. Probably his most notorious dust-up was with teammate Vern Bickford. On Saturday afternoon, July 25, 1953, the Braves lost a ballgame to the Dodgers in Ebbets Field, 7-0. In the fourth inning, Roy Campanella had hit a line drive toward Logan. "The ball knuckled on me," Johnny said, "and I couldn't handle it."
That night Johnny and a few other Braves were drowning their sorrows. "We were at this restaurant called Scopa," Johnny remembered. "Bickford sits down at the bar and says, 'If I had been pitching when you missed that line drive, I'd kick your butt.'
"I just ignored him," Johnny continues, "so he says it again. I just wanted to antagonize him, so I asked him, 'Who was pitching?'"
Bickford and Logan proceeded to debate whether Jim Wilson or Ernie Johnson had thrown the pitch to Campanella. The Braves had used five pitchers in the game, the last of them being Bickford. Finally, Logan said, "I pulled a $100 bill out of my wallet and laid it on the bar. We made a bet about who was pitching." Then they called the Associated Press to find out who was right. Logan was, so Bickford paid him.
"I gave him his $100 back," Logan said, "and then he said I was gutless, and a few other names. He threw down the money and said, 'Let's take it out in the alley.'"
They did. Eddie Mathews witnessed the fight and described what happened. "It didn't last very long, and it was very one-sided," Mathews said. "Logan was handy. Later that night Burdette and I were sneaking into the hotel, and we saw Bickford again. He looked like he had been in a stick fight without a stick. Logan really worked him over." (Eddie Mathews and the National Pastime, 1994)
Logan recalled, "I chipped his tooth and cut his lip, and I hurt my hand. It was all swollen. My roommate, Sibby Sisti, asked me what happened. I said, 'I fell down and injured it.' The next day I rode the team bus to the ballpark, but Bickford didn't make it. We had a doubleheader against Brooklyn. I think I went 0-for-9." [Actually, he was 1-for 8.]
Sportswriter Lou Chapman related a story of Logan encountering former heavyweight champ Joe Louis. "I met Joe in Las Vegas," Johnny recalled, "where he was a host at Caesars Palace. He told me, 'I've done a lot of reading about you. I hear you and Mathews like to fight. I could beat you two guys one on one, but if you ganged up on me, I wouldn't stand a chance.'" (Baseball Digest, May 2001)
After the 1953 season, Logan took a bride. On October 24, in Milwaukee's St. Thomas Aquinas Church, Johnny exchanged vows with Dorothy Ahlmeyer, a beautiful young model from St. Louis. "I met her at a party," Johnny said. "I happened to run into her. I was a major leaguer, you understand?"
Among those attending the ceremony were the bride's five-year-old son, Bruce, from her previous marriage; Dewey Griggs; numerous Braves officials and teammates; and the best man, Vincent Vetrano, a boyhood friend from Endicott. About a month after the wedding, the happy couple's new home was completed in a working-class neighborhood on Milwaukee's south side. The Logans lived together in that house until Dottie died of cancer in 1989. Johnny still lived there in 2008.
From 1954 through 1960, Logan anchored the infield for baseball's exciting new team, the Milwaukee Braves. He earned All-Star honors four times: 1955, 1957, 1958, and 1959. He helped the Braves win their only World Series, in 1957. The Braves had fallen short of the 1956 pennant by one game. On June 15, 1957, however, Johnny acquired a new double-play partner who helped put Milwaukee over the top.
"When Red Schoendienst joined our ball team," Johnny said, "I went to his locker and hand-shaked him and I said, 'I'm Logan, the shortstop. You're the captain of the infield. You call the steals, who's covering second base. Let me worry about my excellent third baseman, Eddie Mathews.'"
Mathews had acquired a certain renown for enjoying a fermented beverage now and again. Logan positioned himself on the left side of the infield according to Eddie's social behavior. Johnny explained, "I had to find out every day if he went out having a beer with Warren Spahn, Lew Burdette, and Bob Buhl. My conversation with Eddie every day was, 'Did you get your sleep?' If he said, 'Them son-of-a-guns,' that meant he went out and drank. The only guy the next day that was gonna be playing--Spahn wasn't gonna pitch, Burdette wasn't, and so on--was Eddie Mathews. After a while I got to know Eddie. Just ask him a question. If he was very cooperative, got his sleep, I played toward the middle. If he bitched a little bit, I moved toward third. That's the honest truth right there."
On September 23, 1957, Logan scored the pennant-winning run for the Braves, and in the World Series that followed, featuring Hank Aaron, Mathews, Mickey Mantle, and Yogi Berra, Logan belted the first home run. In Game Four he set a World Series record for shortstops with 10 assists.
Logan and the Braves repeated as NL champs in 1958 but dropped the World Series to the Yanks, four games to three. The following year Milwaukee tied the Los Angeles Dodgers for the league crown, necessitating a two-out-of-three playoff. In the deciding second game, Logan was knocked unconscious at second base by a football-style block thrown by Norm Larker trying to prevent a double play. When Johnny awoke, his first words were, "Did we get the guy at first?" (Yes, they did.)
Like many ballplayers, Logan was involved in his share of unusual or notable events on the diamond. For example, on June 2, 1954, in a game against the Dodgers at County Stadium, Johnny came to bat in the fourth inning with men on first and second. He took a strike, fouled off a pitch, took ball one, hit another foul, took ball two, fouled again, and took ball three. After ball three he stepped out of the batter's box, picked up a rosin bag, rubbed it on his bat, and returned to the plate. Umpire Lee Ballanfant, who obviously had lost track of the count, signaled Logan to first base. The Dodgers protested vigorously that it was only ball three, but the arbiter in blue overruled them. The Dodgers went absolutely berserk when the next batter, Eddie Mathews, connected for a grand slam.
On one occasion Johnny was part of a play that caused a change in the rulebook. In the fourth game of the 1957 season, the Cincinnati Redlegs had runners on first and second with one out when Wally Post hit a perfect double-play grounder toward Logan. The lead runner, Don Hoak, decided to break up the double play. He fielded the ball barehanded, then tossed the ball to Logan. Hoak was out for making contact with a batted ball, but the other two runners were safe. Baseball rules at the time did not prohibit such an action, but the league presidents recognized the flaw and soon rectified Rule 7.09f on interference to make this type of deliberate interference an automatic double play.
Because ballplayers in the 1950s did not earn astronomical salaries, most of them, including Logan, needed to find employment during the offseason. Johnny recalls, "Miller Brewery hired guys to do public relations. They hired Andy Pafko, Billy Bruton, Lew Burdette, clubhouse man Joe Taylor, and some other guys. I went to their employment office. The man there, Bob something, said, 'Fill out an application. We're kind of filled up.' I went over to Blatz and applied for a job over there. Blatz was a great beer back in them days. Meantime, I met the president of Blatz. I told him I was looking for a public-relations job, going out to taverns and going out and making speeches. I told him Miller was close to hiring me but that I wanted to be the only one working for Blatz. I must have convinced him.
"Believe me, I was a shy individual even though I was a good ballplayer. They gave me so many appearances that I got a little more confidence at getting in front of a group of people. I went to these dinners and smokers and banquets and made my little presentation. After five minutes I told them that after my speech I'd start signing autographs, and they all applauded. That's all they wanted was my autograph. But it gave me enough confidence to get in there."
Johnny soon found an additional line of work. "I got associated with the builder of my house, Paul Zimmerman. He liked me. He wanted me to get into his field. He asked me what I'm gonna do. I said, 'I've got a job at Blatz, going out and making speeches to all these churches in Milwaukee. If you realize how many churches there are, Lutheran and Jewish and Catholic. ...'
"He said, 'John, there's no future in that. Why don't you get into the building business and get into the tile field?' He wanted me to be his tile man. I did that for about three or four years. I was contacting all these builders in October, November, December, January. After the season was over. They all accepted me because I was a ballplayer with the Braves, but they said, 'Business is very slow now. Contact me in March and April.' Well, I'm down in Florida in February and March. Finally I got disgusted, just trying to please this Paul Zimmerman. I said to myself, 'I'm getting sick and tired of glorifying lavatories,' and I gave it up."
In December 1960, the Braves traded two good young pitchers, Joey Jay and Juan Pizarro, to Cincinnati to obtain Roy McMillan, the classic good-field, no-hit shortstop. Logan's days in Milwaukee were obviously numbered. On June 15 he became a Pirate, traded for outfielder Gino Cimoli.
"Pittsburgh was fine," Johnny said. "When you get traded from a good organization like the Braves to a team like Pittsburgh--it was a big honor to join the Pirates the year after they won the World Series. See, when you join an organization, you have to know the manager. The Pirates had Danny Murtaugh. He played with the Brewers with Alvin Dark in 1947. Murtaugh persuaded Joe Brown to get rid of Gino Cimoli and bring in Logan to take care of third base and shortstop. He knew baseball. Without him liking me--he's the guy that convinced Joe Brown to get me in a trade."
The Pirates released Logan after the 1963 season. "I called Birdie Tebbetts," Johnny remembered. "He was managing Cleveland. I asked him if they needed a good utility man. You don't say, 'Do you want a shortstop?' You start as a utility man, then go for the regular job. He said to me, at 36 [Logan was actually 37], I'm too goddam old. 'We're rebuilding in Cleveland,' he says. I thanked him. From there, I got a job in Japan.
"After three years with Pittsburgh, I went to Japan in 1964, with the Nankai Hawks. I liked Japan. They were paying me good money. But it was very difficult to communicate. We only had two minor-league ballplayers, Joe Stanka and another kid. I was the only major leaguer. They thought they had a superstar, but unfortunately, at 36 [actually 38] ... I was a pretty good ballplayer yet, but what they did to me was, they said, 'Logan, you're not a shortstop,' and I was always a shortstop. They said, 'You're going to play second base.' That fouled me up.
"I tried to be a nice guy over there. I tried to be an average ballplayer. But I had a lot of fun there. These Japanese were hard-working son-of-a-guns. Reminded me of when I was young, dedicated to the game. Supervised by a manager that was like a dictator to the Japanese, but never to us Americans, you know. All they wanted to do was use us for an example. Let them know they could play as good as the Americans.
"Like I said, they screwed me up. Second base. But I enjoyed it. I got to know Japan a little bit--Osaka, Kobe, Tokyo. It was an experience. I took my family there. I have three kids--my Jimmy, the youngest; John (called Danny) is the oldest; and Jeffrey's in the middle. Jimmy happened to be born on March 24, a day after my birthday. I told my wife, 'I want him to be born in America.' Because if you're born overseas you can never become president of the United States. I told my wife, 'When you feel good, you fly over.' Then they flew over about a month later.
"My kids went to school, American school, in Japan." Danny was in the third grade at the time. "We had a house shee-a-gow-a, which means 'in the hills' in Japan. The kids had to take a train every day to go to school. My wife liked Japan. She was friendly to the Japanese. She had a nice personality. Everybody liked her. She was a palm reader. She'd hold a conversation with you, and then she'd read your palm."
The Nankai Hawks won the Japanese equivalent of the World Series on October 10, 1964, seven years to the day after the Milwaukee Braves won their version of the "world championship." Logan's batting average for the year, though, was below the Mendoza Line. Johnny decided to end his baseball career.
"I met Ralph Barnes, the manager of radio station WOKY. It was the main station in Milwaukee back in them days. I had a sports show, getting interviews from all the big celebrities, like Vince Lombardi and Pat Harder, the referee. He played with the Chicago Cardinals. And I sold advertising to Selig Ford. They were one of our sponsors. I had met Bud long before that. Bud was kind of a young, enthusiastic sports fan."
In 1973 Logan provided color commentary for Milwaukee Brewers game telecasts. After being appointed to that position, Johnny said, "I'm very, very speechless." (Los Angeles Times, February 4, 1973)
After his brief broadcasting career, Johnny set his course on a surprising vocational path. As the old Johnny Horton song said, Logan headed "North to Alaska." The Trans-Alaska Pipeline, the largest privately funded project in US history, had just been started. It was designed to carry crude oil from the North Slope to Valdez, the northernmost ice-free port. Johnny wanted to be part of the project.
"It was frontier terrain," Johnny explained, "but it's not going to stay frontier terrain. I didn't want somebody telling me how Alaska used to look." On April 27, 1976, he took off to see for himself. He had told his wife he was going, but she didn't believe him. He arrived in Anchorage, age 50, without a job and without experience. After a week of searching, he landed employment.
"I had never done welding," Johnny said with a chuckle. "I was a welder's helper. It was hard work, rough and tough. We lived in barracks in the wilderness. I was with dope addicts, whiskey men, beer drinkers, hard-working men. I never gambled there, never had a drink while I was there. I was like a saint. I'd see these guys in these poker games, a thousand, two thousand dollars. Some guy was gonna work all week for nothing."
Johnny earned $11.60 an hour, time and a half after 40 hours. He worked from 6 in the morning until 6 at night, seven days a week. "They furnished your food, and they gave you your lodging," he recalled. "I sent all my money home, my checks. My kid said, 'Mommy, how come he's sending so much money home? What's he doing there?' It was tough work, but I didn't go there for the money. All I did was work, eat, sleep, and write postcards home. For a while I read three-day-old newspapers until I realized, what the hell did I care what was going on?"
In 1978 Logan ran for sheriff of Milwaukee County for the third time. In 1966 he had finished a close second in the Democratic primary in a heavily Democratic county. In 1968 he ran unopposed in the Republican primary, then lost by two to one in the general election. On his third attempt, he reverted to the Democratic Party but was defeated in a landslide by the eight-term incumbent.
Johnny continued to maintain his ties to Milwaukee and to the sport he loves. In the early '90s he operated the radar gun at County Stadium. He did scouting for the Milwaukee Brewers and could be seen at most home games at Miller Park.
In 2000, with the impending demolition of Milwaukee County Stadium, Johnny felt motivated to help preserve the memory of his old Braves ballclub. He organized the Milwaukee Braves Historical Association, which raised funds to erect and, on May 22, 2002, unveil a monument near the site of County Stadium. The granite monument lists the names of the 192 men who wore the uniform of the Milwaukee Braves.
Johnny received numerous awards and honors for his athletic prowess. His hometown of Endicott named a street for him following the Milwaukee Braves victory in the 1957 World Series. Then the town named a local ballpark for him. On August 26, 2005, the Milwaukee Brewers inducted Logan to their Milwaukee Braves Honor Roll in the concourse of Miller Park. In a pregame ceremony, Brewers radio announcer Jim Powell highlighted Johnny's baseball and civic achievements. He also described Johnny, with tongue firmly in cheek, as a "superb conversationalist," comparing him favorably to such language stylists as Dizzy Dean and Yogi Berra. Following are just a few oft-quoted Loganisms:
"Rome wasn't born in a day."
"I will perish this trophy forever."
Ordering dessert in a restaurant, Johnny requested pie a la mode, then added, "And put some ice cream on it."
After watching a television version of Macbeth, Johnny said, "They've got this new Shakespearean play, McBride. It's got a lot of suspension."
At a banquet, Johnny introduced "one of the all-time greats in baseball, Stan Musial. He's immoral."
When a teammate referred to a mutual acquaintance, Johnny said, "I know the name, but I can't replace the face."
And nobody will replace Johnny Logan.
Johnny Logan died on Friday, August 9, 2013, at Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center in Milwaukee. He was 87.
Personal interviews with Johnny Logan, 2005-2008
Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin
Buege, Bob. The Milwaukee Braves: A Baseball Eulogy. Milwaukee: Douglas American Sports Publications, 1988.
Chapman, Lou. "Johnny Logan Recalls Old Days at County Stadium," Baseball Digest, May 2001.
Dallas Daily Times Herald
Endicott Daily Bulletin
Los Angeles Times
Mathews, Eddie, and Bob Buege. Eddie Mathews and the National Pastime. Milwaukee: Douglas American Sports Publications, 1994.