SABR

Pat Colgan

This article was written by Paul Browne.

For a man who spent much of his life on the road as a baseball scout, Patrick Francis “Pat” Colgan was well grounded in his adopted community, Carbondale, Pennsylvania. He served as vice president of Carbondale’s Columbia Hose Company No. 5 for more than a decade. He was also active in many other community organizations.

Colgan was born on October 9, 1914, in Brooklyn, New York, to Patrick Colgan Sr. and Mary (Dunnigan) Colgan. He had a sister, Helen, and a brother, Edward. Their father was a first-generation American, his parents having been born in Ireland. He operated a coal and ice truck in Brooklyn and served as a volunteer fireman in New York during World War I to help cover for the professionals who were in the service. Pat’s son Kevin remembered his visits to his Brooklyn relatives, particularly playing stickball with John Candelaria when he was about 10 years old.

Patrick married Anne Clare Mullen in 1943 while serving in the Navy. The marriage produced three children, Patrick Jr. (Pat’s father having died by this time), Ann Marie, and Kevin.

After graduation from Brooklyn Tech in the early 1930s, Colgan played for the semipro Brooklyn Daytons. The Boston Red Sox signed him as a catcher in 1936 for a bonus of about $250. His first assignment was with a different Dayton, the Dayton (Ohio) Ducks of the Class C Middle Atlantic League. Colgan batted left-handed and threw right. (He taught both of his sons to do the same.)

In 1938 Colgan had his first assignment in Pennsylvania with the Hazleton Red Sox of the Class A Eastern League. In spring training of 1939, Colgan played at times on the roster of the Red Sox regulars in intrasquad games against the “Yannigans.” On March 12 he had four hits, including a triple, leading the hitting for a regular squad that included Ted Williams. He started the season with Louisville of the American Association before being sent back down to the Red Sox Eastern League affiliate, now in Scranton, by June. He stayed with Scranton through the 1941 season. (During spring training in 1941, Colgan got word that his father was seriously ill and rushed home by train in time to see his father before he died.) During his time at Scranton, Colgan’s defensive play was frequently commented on, particularly his strength in blocking the plate.

During this period, Pat also played offseason games against barnstorming black teams that were excluded from major-league baseball. He felt good about managing three foul balls in three at-bats against Satchel Paige. He said Josh Gibson hit the longest home run he had ever seen in a game in which he was the opposing catcher.1

World War II interrupted Colgan’s baseball career. He volunteered for the Navy the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. When he and Anne were married in 1943, they honeymooned in Jacksonville, Florida, where he was then stationed. He was a member of the shore patrol at night while playing for a base team during the day. His final assignment was in Hawaii, where he repaired airplanes as a sheet-metal worker. He was discharged after four years in December 1945.

Returning from service, Colgan was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies organization and was named player-manager of the Carbondale Pioneer Blues in the Class D North Atlantic League for 1946. That started Colgan’s long association with Carbondale. He and Anne rented half of a double house, and the family resided in the house for 40 years before they bought it in 1986. It would remain Colgan’s home until he died on June 20, 1992.

The 31-year-old Colgan managed Carbondale to a fourth-place finish and a spot in the playoffs in 1946. After surviving the first round, the Pioneers lost to Peekskill, the league leader, in seven games in the championship round. Colgan inserted himself into the Carbondale lineup in 39 games and batted .369 in 95 at-bats, with a game-winning pinch-hit home run among his hits. He was “a big hit with the fans as he directed the first Carbondale team to a fine season,” wrote the Scranton Times.”2

Colgan managed Carbondale to second place and another trip to the playoffs in 1947, and this time they won the championship, knocking off Peekskill, 4 games to 1. He got himself 96 at-bats and batted .292. For 1948 he was assigned to manage Terre Haute of the Class B Three-I League, but when Toronto manager Eddie Sawyer was named manager of the Phillies and Utica manager Dick Porter replaced him at Toronto, Colgan took over as manager at Utica (Class A Eastern League) and guided the BlueSox to the playoffs. He stayed with Utica in 1949. In July of that season he was ejected by umpire Abe Solomon after an argument in a game at Utica. Solomon accused Colgan of pushing him several times, and Colgan was briefly suspended by league President Thomas H. Richardson.

In 1950 Colgan was the full-time supervisor of the Phillies Baseball Schools, traveling in the Eastern US and Canada to hold clinics for boys 16 to 22 years old. While not officially scouting at this point in his career, if he found a prospect, he would try to sign him. The school held 14 sessions in 1950. Dale Jones, a former Phillies pitcher and a pitching coach, assisted Colgan. In 1951 the school held sessions in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Tennessee, Vermont, New York, and New Jersey. Colgan ran the sessions through the 1954 season. He instructed catchers and infielders while Jones coached pitchers and outfielders, and Phillies scouts and other personnel also assisted.

In 1955 Colgan returned to managing with Bradford (Pennsylvania) of the Class D Pennsylvania-Ontario-New York League. Taking over for Lew Krausse after the season began, he led the team to a second-place finish, after which they lost to Corning in the playoffs. He returned to scouting for the Phillies in 1956.

During 1958 and 1959, Colgan scouted for the Los Angeles Dodgers. This stint ended when he was dropped by the Dodgers’ director of scouting, Al Campanis. In 1961 he was hired as a scout covering Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey for the Cleveland Indians. In 1962 the Indians moved their spring-training site from Daytona Beach to Tucson, and Colgan was among the scouts helping farm director Hoot Evers and the team’s minor-league managers in camp.

In 1963 Colgan again got a managing assignment, this time with the Burlington Indians of the Class A Carolina League. Among his young players were 22-year-old Luis Tiant and Lou Piniella. Colgan managed the West Division team in the league’s All-Star game. The Indians finished third in the West Division and missed the playoffs by a game. Still, Colgan was voted the Carolina League Manager of the Year.3

Colgan turned down a managing and scouting assignments from the Indians in 1964 and returned to scouting in 1964, going to work for the New York Mets covering Pennsylvania (except Philadelphia) and part of New York State. The difference in the salary of a minor-league manager and a scout was not significant and managers’ contracts tended to be one year. A married manager with children was frequently required to maintain a second residence in the city where he managed, an expense not required of a traveling scout, whose expenses were covered by the team. The Mets lost Colgan to the Yankees the next year. He scouted for the Yankees from 1965 until his retirement in 1973.

While with the Yankees, Colgan would start his scouting year in February, traveling to Texas. In the spring he covered high school and college championships. Summer would find him scouting the Carolina League. From mid-September through October he would be in Montreal, and he would wind up his season with trade meetings.

While off the road from November through January, Colgan rejoined his family in Carbondale. In addition to blue-collar offseason jobs, he spent time fighting fires as a volunteer with the Columbia Hose Company. From the late 1960s into the 1970s, Colgan was a lieutenant with the fire company. He was promoted to captain in the early 1980s after he had retired from scouting. In the late 1980s he was elected vice president of the fire company, a position he held until his death in 1992.

A scout’s pay was not lucrative and the most Colgan made in his career in that position was $9,000. He supplemented his family’s income in the offseason, first working for a company that stripped coal in the anthracite region of Northeast Pennsylvania, and later as a security guard at the regional retail giant Sugerman’s. He worked at Sugerman’s full-time after he left scouting until his retirement at 65.

Among the players Colgan signed was Larry Gowell of the New York Yankees, who in 1972 was the last pitcher in the American League to get a base hit until the introduction of interleague play. Pat signed Gowell in 1967 in Auburn, Maine. Colgan also signed Larry’s brother Richard, including a $500 signing bonus, or the father would not let either brother sign.

Pat Colgan came into baseball when it was a largely blue-collar profession. Most players were required to work offseason jobs and lived in working-class neighborhoods, not mansions on the hill. While the major-league players’ world changed during Colgan’s career, that of scouts and minor-league managers did not. Colgan was a baseball man when the love of the game far outweighed any material gain.

 

Sources

Carbondale (Pennsylvania) News

Cleveland Plain Dealer

New Orleans Times-Picayune

Scranton Times

Springfield (Massachusetts) Republican

http://Baseball-Reference.com

http://walteromalley.com

Interviews with Kevin Colgan 2013

 

Notes

1 Joseph X. Flannery, “Bits and Pieces,” Scranton Times, July 2, 1992.

2 Scranton Times, June 24, 1984.

3 Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 25, 1963.

Individual Memberships start at just $45/year

Become A Member Today

When you join SABR you are making a statement of support for baseball history. You are joining a worldwide community of people who love to read about, talk about and write about baseball.