Angelo Dagres (TRADING CARD DB)

Angelo Dagres

This article was written by Malcolm Allen

Angelo Dagres (TRADING CARD DB)Angelo Dagres played the first eight games of his professional baseball career for the Baltimore Orioles at the end of the 1955 season. The speedy, lefty-hitting outfielder spent the next seven years in the minor leagues but developed a drinking problem and never returned to the majors.

Angelo George Dagres was born on August 22, 1934 in Newburyport, Massachusetts, a historic seaport town along the Merrimack River about 35 miles northeast of Boston. He was the only child of George and Sylvia (Davros) Dagres, children of Greek immigrants who worked at a shoe factory as a foreman and stitcher, respectively. According to George’s 1942 military registration card, his employer was Lunder Shoe, located about 30 miles north of Newburyport in Dover, New Hampshire.

Dagres was a precocious athlete. “I was always the best at what I did growing up,” he recalled.1 As a first baseman at Newburyport High School, he batted .434 as a freshman to lead the Clippers. Doug MacBurnie, the team’s senior captain that year, told the town’s Daily News in 2010, “All I can tell you is (Angelo) was the best there ever was coming out of Newburyport.”2 Dagres, nicknamed “Junior”, dabbled in football and track and field.3 He was a star in both baseball and basketball, though, earning All-Scholastic honors in both sports from 1951 to 1953.4 As a senior, he averaged 32 points per game in basketball and hit .679 for the baseball team in the spring.5 He worked out with the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.6

Following his 1953 graduation, Dagres accepted a basketball scholarship to attend the University of Rhode Island.7 He continued to play baseball as well, batting .515 as a freshman for a squad featuring future Washington Senators pitcher Dave Stenhouse. In 1954, Dagres played summer ball with the Presque Isle (Maine) Indians and made the Maine-New Brunswick League All-Star team.8 Playing the outfield, he batted .290 with seven home runs in the collegiate circuit.9 The New York Yankees wanted him to sign a Triple-A contract, with one scout telling Angelo’s dad, “The boy belongs with the Yankees – Don’t sign him for less than $60,000.”10

After Dagres batted .419 as a Rhode Island Rams sophomore in the spring of 1955, he decided to quit college.11 “The biggest decision that I had to make was whether to go pro in basketball rather than baseball,” the 5-foot-11, 175-pounder recalled. “The only thing that kept me from that [basketball] money was my size.”12 He declined an offer to sign with the Red Sox’s Triple-A Louisville Colonels affiliate. “I wanted a major-league contract,” he explained.13 When the Philadelphia Phillies offered Dagres a similar minor-league deal after a workout the first weekend in June, he reportedly considered it.14

As it happened, he returned to the Presque Isle Indians and increased his leverage with an MVP performance. Dagres batted .422 with 15 homers and 52 RBIs – all records for the 30-game Maine-New Brunswick League season, as were his totals for hits and runs scored. He also stole 26 bases.15 Of the 16 major-league franchises in existence at the time, only the Pirates, Reds, and Tigers didn’t attempt to sign him.16 “I just knew I was going to be playing in the majors for a long time,” Dagres recalled in 2011.17

A September 10 workout convinced the Baltimore Orioles to give Dagres a $4,000 bonus and the major-league contract that he desired.18 “They knew I could throw and hit,” he explained. “The next day after my tryout I signed at 10 in the morning.”19 Fellow Greek Gus Triandos welcomed him the clubhouse.20 Dagres was the second New Englander signed by Baltimore scout Joe Cusick that month.21 While 18-year-old Roger Marquis had to wait until the late innings of the season finale to see action, Dagres was shocked to discover that Orioles manager Paul Richards’ lineup had him starting in left field that afternoon in the second game of a doubleheader against the Kansas City Athletics. “My name wasn’t even in the scorecard,” the rookie recalled. “Nobody knew who I was.”22

During the National Anthem before the first pitch, Dagres said, “I couldn’t stop my knees from shaking. I trembled so bad that I thought the fans could actually see it.”23 With his parents among the 9,305 in attendance, he played five innings and went 0-for-2 before leaving on a double-switch. In his first-at-bat, with runners at the corners against righty Mike Kume, Dagres grounded back to the mound for a force at second but beat the return throw to first base to ruin a potential double play and notch his first big-league RBI. Dagres caught all three balls hit his way, including a drive by Héctor López that sent him bouncing off the left-field wall in the fourth inning.24 “I was so scared that day, I didn’t feel anything,” he told the Baltimore Sun in 2010.25

Dagres appeared in three of eight remaining games on the Orioles’ homestand and notched his first two hits. Starting the opener of a twin bill against the Washington Senators in right field on September 16, he legged out an infield safety against Ted Abernathy. In the nightcap, he delivered an opposite-field, pinch-hit single off Pedro Ramos during an eighth-inning rally as Baltimore came from behind to sweep. The 21-year-old Dagres didn’t lack confidence. “Once, Richards suggested I stop dropping my elbow at the plate,” he recalled. “I told him, ‘Please, sir, don’t tell me how to hit. I’ve never batted under .400, and you never hit over .250.’”26

When the Orioles traveled to Boston for a road trip, Richards arranged for the last major-leaguer to bat .400 to give tips to a trio of Baltimore rookies. “There we were, Wayne Causey, Tommy Gastall and myself, standing under the center-field stands with Ted] Williams, who had a golf club in his hands,” Dagres described.27 “I remember him telling us that Jesus Christ himself couldn’t throw a fastball by him…No one laughed.”28

Dagres started both ends of the September 20 doubleheader at Fenway Park in right field, going 1-for-3 in the first game against Frank Sullivan, who tied for the AL lead in victories that season. Baltimore tied the contest on Dagres’ eighth-inning sacrifice fly, and prevailed, 3-2, when he hit another one in the 10th. The Orioles trailed the second game, 1-0, until Dagres’ leadoff single off Ike Delock in the sixth sparked a four-run uprising. It was an impressive homecoming for the Massachusetts native, though he insisted the “glory was lost” because he’d also dropped a fly ball in the matinee for his first error and failed to hold onto a Jimmy Piersall double after a long run in the second contest. “I’ll be out early tomorrow to practice,” he promised. “I should have caught those balls.”29

Overall, Dagres played in eight games, batting .267 in 15 at-bats. Baltimore – seventh-place finishers with a 57-97 record – won every contest in which he appeared. “Send us some more New England boys like Angie Dagres, and maybe we’ll do all right sooner than fans expect,” Richards told the Boston Globe that offseason.30 On December 3, more than 3,000 people gathered at Newburyport’s Masonic auditorium to honor Dagres with a testimonial dinner. The Sporting News reported that Red Sox reliever Ellis Kinder was the principal speaker.31 In 2010, Dagres recalled Piersall telling him that night, “Remember this, Angie. If you can’t play in the big leagues right away, bear down wherever you play.”32

During 1956 spring training in Scottsdale, Arizona, Dagres homered twice in a four-hit, five-RBI performance in the first intra-squad game.33After he lined one ball over the 375-sign in right-center, Orioles coach Luman Harris remarked, “There’s a kid I wouldn’t take $150,000 for.” “He’s got everything a scout could look for,” Richards acknowledged. “He’s really a tiger…Dagres listens every minute, hustles from the time he steps on the field. You’ve got to like a kid with an attitude like that. He concedes nothing to anybody.”34

The Orioles intended to send Dagres to the minors to gain experience, but the terms of his contract mandated that he be optioned no lower than Class B.35 The manager of the organization’s top farm club, Lefty O’Doul of the Vancouver Mounties, spent a lot of time at the camp, and the Baltimore Sun reported that Dagres successfully campaigned to start there.36 Not that he was happy about it. “My first-ever disappointment was when I got sent down,” Dagres confessed in 2011. “That should not have been a disappointment. There I was bitching because they wanted me to go down to Triple A to get some more seasoning. Anyone else would have been thrilled.”37

Dagres started well with the open classification Pacific Coast League club. In April, he stroked 11 hits in a four-game series – all against lefthanded pitchers.38 His team-leading 14 stolen bases included a swipe of home on the front end of a triple steal on July 20.39 He even pitched a scoreless inning on August 29.40 Overall, though, he batted .232 with eight homers in 145 games, striking out 121 times. “For a while last spring, he was one of the hottest hitters on the West Coast,” remarked Athletics scout Babe Dahlgren. “What caused him to slump, I cannot say, but with a boy having his natural ability, I’d say it’s simply a matter of experience and confidence to bring him along.”41

“When the Orioles didn’t call me up, I started carousing and staying out late,” Dagres admitted later.42 “If I had been a regular, normal person, I would have gone to Vancouver and busted my [butt]. I would have been back in Baltimore shortly. Instead, I was brooding. My mind wasn’t right, I started drinking, and that got progressively worse.”43

The Orioles sent Dagres to Mexico’s Veracruz Winter League to play for coach Jim Adair’s Puebla Parrots, but he returned early in December after twisting his knee.44 In spring training 1957, Richards said, “[Dagres] simply needs a chance to improve his hitting by playing every day, and he may need a little polish on his fielding. I’d say he definitely has a chance to reach the majors.”45 Baltimore optioned him to the Nashville Volunteers, Cincinnati’s Double-A Southern Association affiliate. The rightfield fence at their home ballpark, Sulphur Dell, was only 262 feet from home plate. “Angie, you ought to hit 40 homers playing there,” said Joe Schultz when he learned where Dagres was going.46 Dagres only spent 20 games with the Vols, though he recalled one of them as the most interesting of his career.47 In Nashville’s 13-10, Ladies’ Night victory, he went deep twice, doubled, and drove in six runs. In defeat, 20-year-old Harmon Killebrew was 4-for-4 with two long balls for the Chattanooga Lookouts.48

On May 11, the Orioles sent Dagres to their Knoxville Smokies farm club for the remainder of 1957. In 124 games, he stole 31 bases to lead the Single-A South Atlantic League, and the circuit’s managers voted him the fastest runner to first base along Billy Springfield of the Augusta Tigers.49 Dagres’ season highlight came on July 28. After the Savannah Redlegs changed pitchers with the count two balls and no strikes, Dagres smacked a walk-off grand slam to deliver an 8-7 Smokies victory.50 Between two levels, he hit a dozen homers and drew 85 walks. After a dreadfully slow start with Knoxville, he finished with a .264 batting average.51

Dagres returned to Knoxville in 1958 and improved significantly. He launched a long home run off Augusta’s Bill Graham on June 11 that soared through the right-field light tower outside Knoxville Municipal Stadium.52 On August 21, the city’s News-Sentinel mentioned his “sensational fence-climbing grab in right-center.”53 In between, Dagres joined Jerry Walker and Leo Burke as the Smokies’ All-Star Game representatives.54 Overall, in 134 games, he led the league with 14 triples and ranked in the circuit’s top five in both runs scored (86) and batting (.311).

An avid record collector, Dagres sold insurance during the offseason and made plans to wed his high school sweetheart, Betty Henderson. He had nothing left to prove in Single-A but was disappointed to learn that he’d advance only one level in 1959 – to the Amarillo Gold Sox of the Texas League. “That’s what really killed me, they only called me up to Double A,” he recalled. “I told them I’d lead the league in hitting, and that they’d want me to come back [to Triple A], and I wasn’t going to come.”55 Dagres had a stubborn streak. His Mason membership card contains a note from March 1959 explaining that he’d been accepted for admission, but “refused to be initiated because his father had been rejected.”56

After Angelo and Betty married at Amarillo’s Buchanan Street Methodist Church on April 26, 1959, he went to work on keeping his other vow.57 Through June 17, he was leading the Texas League with a .369 average.58 Two weeks after his hitting streak was snapped at 21 games on June 27, Dagres traveled to Mexico City to meet the Mexican League’s best in the first ever Pan American Association All-Star Game.59 Dagres wound up batting .336 in 123 contests to finish second to teammate Al Nagel (.344) in the batting race after refusing a promotion to Triple-A. “You just don’t do that in baseball,” he lamented in 2010.60 Dagres had blown any chance to join the Orioles as well. “I wouldn’t have brought me up, either. I was spitting in their eye. They told me to do something, and I went on my own.”61

When Dagres reported to the Miami Marlins of the Triple-A International League in 1960, he battled other outfielders like Fred Valentine, Barry Shetrone, Nagel, and Burke for playing time. Dagres nearly eliminated himself from consideration. His indifferent left field play during a July 6 contest in Richmond, Virginia provoked Marlins manager Al Vincent to remove him in the third inning and fire him from the team. According to Vincent, the only reason Dagres was back in uniform the following day was because the Orioles’ front office ordered it so in light of an injury to recently demoted Albie Pearson.62 By season’s end, Dagres had appeared in 93 games and batted .266 with a lone homer and two steals in 192 at-bats.

Dagres returned to the International League in 1961 with the Cincinnati Reds’ Jersey City Jerseys affiliate. He was sent to Baltimore in the last week of May; not to play for the Orioles, but to have an arm injury diagnosed at Johns Hopkins Hospital.63 He returned to the field in mid-June after nearly three weeks on the disabled list. Dagres batted .230 with four home runs in 88 games before the roof caved in on his baseball future. On September 3, 1961, on a late-season road trip to Columbus, Ohio, Dagres and teammate Harry Anderson were playing gin rummy when the ceiling of their hotel room collapsed. Both players were taken to the hospital after large chunks of plaster fell on them because of a condensation buildup from a leaky air conditioner. “[Anderson] wasn’t hurt too bad, but they kept me there with my neck in traction for two weeks,” Dagres said. “After that, I never could get going again.”64

Dagres came back to the International League again in 1962 with Baltimore’s Rochester Red Wings club. “It was killing me, the cortisone shots. I was not built to be a pinch hitter…I could see the end coming,” he recalled. After collecting one hit in nine at-bats, he retired. “It broke my heart,” he said.65

Back in Newburyport, Dagres opened the Sportsman Lounge, followed by two other restaurants. He raised three children with his wife Betty: Todd, Troy, and Tara. Both of his sons played college baseball. Dagres coached Salem State College’s squad for a time and started Newburyport’s American Legion team in 1972. In addition to talking baseball and giving young players tips, he loved woodworking and animals, eventually becoming a part owner of Green Tree Dog Kennel in Salem. In 1994, Dagres began a chronic battle with lymphocytic leukemia.66

“Baseball was good to me, and I was not good to it,” Dagres reflected. “People said I made it look so easy, like I wasn’t even trying. But then I started drinking. That’s what I regret.”67 “I had it all – speed and a good arm – and I threw it away.”68 On December 23, 2017, Dagres passed away peacefully in Rowley, Massachusetts. He was 83. He is buried at Rowley Memorial Ground.

 

Acknowledgments

This biography was reviewed by Warren Corbett and Rory Costello and checked for accuracy by SABR’s fact-checking team.

 

Sources

In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted www.ancestry.com and www.baseball-reference.com.

 

Notes

1 Mike Carraggi, “Can’t Miss Kid Missed Out: Dagres’s Career Dreams Unrealized,” Boston Globe, July 14, 2011: C4.

2 Dan Guttenplan, “Reflections on What Might Have Been,” Daily News (Newburyport, Massachusetts), August 20, 2010, https://www.newburyportnews.com/sports/reflections-on-what-could-have-been/article_2ffdde29-8633-5cc4-ba60-2afe0855666d.html (last accessed February 17, 2021).

3 Angelo Dagres, Publicity Questionnaire for William J. Weiss, May 9, 1959.

4 Angelo Dagres, Publicity Questionnaire for William J. Weiss, January 10, 1956.

5 Guttenplan, “Reflections on What Might Have Been.”

6 Hy Hurwitz, “Rookie Dagres Helps Orioles Top Sox, 3-2, 7-4,” Boston Globe, September 21, 1955: 24.

7 Carraggi, “Can’t Miss Kid Missed Out: Dagres’s Career Dreams Unrealized.”

8 “Orioles Sign Dagres, Newburyport Star,” Boston Globe, September 12, 1955: 8.

9 Lou Hatter, “Marsh’s Homer Gives Birds 3-0 Lead,” Baltimore Sun, September 12, 1955: S15…

10 “Yanks Eye Dagres, Ex-Newburyport Star, Father Says,” Boston Globe, September 5, 1954: C18.

11 Hatter, “Marsh’s Homer Gives Birds 3-0 Lead.”

12 Carraggi, “Can’t Miss Kid Missed Out: Dagres’s Career Dreams Unrealized.”

13 Hurwitz, “Rookie Dagres Helps Orioles Top Sox, 3-2, 7-4.”

14 “Dagres Quits R.I. for Baseball Career,” Boston Globe, June 8, 1955: 10.

15 Carraggi, “Can’t Miss Kid Missed Out: Dagres’s Career Dreams Unrealized.”

16 “Orioles Sign Dagres, Newburyport Star.”

17 Carraggi, “Can’t Miss Kid Missed Out: Dagres’s Career Dreams Unrealized.”

18 “Orioles Vision Homer Fear for Dagres in Vols’ Bandbox,” The Sporting News, April 10, 1957: 22.

19 Carraggi, “Can’t Miss Kid Missed Out: Dagres’s Career Dreams Unrealized.”

20 Mike Klingaman, “‘I Threw it Away’: Catching Up With…Angelo Dagres,” Baltimore Sun, October 19, 2010: D1.

21 Hatter, “Marsh’s Homer Gives Birds 3-0 Lead.”

22 Klingaman, “‘I Threw it Away’: Catching Up With…Angelo Dagres.”

23 Klingaman, “‘I Threw it Away’: Catching Up With…Angelo Dagres.”

24 Hatter, “Marsh’s Homer Gives Birds 3-0 Lead.”

25 Klingaman, “‘I Threw it Away’: Catching Up With…Angelo Dagres.”

26 Klingaman, “‘I Threw it Away’: Catching Up With…Angelo Dagres.”

27 Klingaman, “‘I Threw it Away’: Catching Up With…Angelo Dagres.”

28 Carraggi, “Can’t Miss Kid Missed Out: Dagres’s Career Dreams Unrealized.”

29 Hurwitz, “Rookie Dagres Helps Orioles Top Sox, 3-2, 7-4.”

30 Guttenplan, “Reflections on What Might Have Been.”

31 “Knife & Fork League,” The Sporting News, December 7, 1955: 26.

32 Guttenplan, “Reflections on What Might Have Been.”

33 “Bunts and Boots,” The Sporting News, March 7, 1956: 27.

34 Bob Maisel, “Coach Harris Hails Dagres,” Baltimore Sun, February 25, 1956: S11.

35 Maisel, “Coach Harris Hails Dagres.”

36 Bob Maisel, “Birds Sign Dagres to 1957 Pact,” Baltimore Sun, January 29, 1957: 19.

37 Carraggi, “Can’t Miss Kid Missed Out: Dagres’s Career Dreams Unrealized.”

38 John B. Old, “Pacific Coast League,” The Sporting News, April 25, 1956: 23.

39 “Pacific Coast League,” The Sporting News, August 1, 1956: 32.

40 “Vancouver,” The Sporting News, September 12, 1956: 34.

41 Lou Hatter, “Dagres,” Baltimore Sun, March 26, 1957: S19.

42 Klingaman, “‘I Threw it Away’: Catching Up With…Angelo Dagres.”

43 Guttenplan, “Reflections on What Might Have Been.”

44 Maisel, “Birds Sign Dagres to 1957 Pact.”

45 Hatter, “Dagres.”

46 “Orioles Vision Homer Fear for Dagres in Vols’ Bandbox,” The Sporting News, April 10, 1957: 22.

47 Dagres, Publicity Questionnaire (1959).

48 F.M. Williams, “Killebrew Homers Twice, Doubles Singles in Loss,” Chattanooga Daily Times, April 20, 1957: 13.

49 Ed Harris, “Top of Mornin’,” Knoxville Journal, August 11, 1957: 19.

50 Harold Harris, “Dagres’ Grand Slam Elevates Smokies,” Knoxville News-Sentinel, July 29, 1957: 10.

51 Lou Hatter, “Dagres Picks Up,” Baltimore Sun, July 9, 1957: S19.

52 Ed Harris, “Tigers Tamed, 5-3, by Jerry Walker,” Knoxville Journal, June 12, 1958: 14.

53 Marvin West, “11-Inning Loss Halts Climb to 4th Place,” Knoxville News-Sentinel, August 22, 1958: 12.

54 Ed Harris, “Owners Talk Sally’s Fate,” Knoxville Journal, July 7, 1958: 7.

55 Carraggi, “Can’t Miss Kid Missed Out: Dagres’s Career Dreams Unrealized.”

56 Angelo Dagres’ Massachusetts Mason Membership Card on ancestry.com.

57 “John Goetz Misses Shutout,” The Sporting News, May 6, 1959: 33.

58 “League Leaders,” The Sporting News, June 24, 1959: 33.

59 “Six Rosebud All Stars,” The Sporting News, July 8, 1959: 48.

60 Carraggi, “Can’t Miss Kid Missed Out: Dagres’s Career Dreams Unrealized.”

61 Guttenplan, “Reflections on What Might Have Been.”

62 “Vees Edge Marlins in 10 Innings, 4-3,” Richmond Times-Dispatch, July 8, 1960: 24.

63 “Jersey City,” Post -Standard (Syracuse, New York), May 25, 1961: 40.

64 “Good Reason for Bad Year – The Roof Fell In,” Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, New York), April 1, 1962: 23.

65 Carraggi, “Can’t Miss Kid Missed Out: Dagres’s Career Dreams Unrealized.”

66 Guttenplan, “Reflections on What Might Have Been.”

67 Guttenplan, “Reflections on What Might Have Been.”

68 Klingaman, “‘I Threw it Away’: Catching Up With…Angelo Dagres.”

Full Name

Angelo George Dagres

Born

August 22, 1934 at Newburyport, MA (USA)

Died

December 23, 2017 at Rowley, MA (USA)

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