Vic Roznovsky

This article was written by Dan Taylor

Vic RoznovskyVic Roznovsky’s path toward the major leagues began, in of all places, a rodeo ground. He survived being released from the lowest level of the minor leagues by one organization, not being wanted by his manager in another, before successfully ascending to the very pinnacle of the sport, as a catcher with the 1966 World Series champion Baltimore Orioles.

Victor Joseph Roznovsky was born in 1938 in Shiner, Texas. He was one of two children of Steven and Edna (Proschko) Roznovsky. Steven Roznovsky was a farmer and county commissioner. Though rare in professional baseball, the Roznovsky name was quite common in Shiner, where a great many residents of the South Texas town were of Czech descent. More than half of Shiner’s population was made up of Czechs, Germans, or Moldovans, attracted to the area by farming or employment in Spoetzl Brewery, whose diverse line of beers included a widely distributed German lager known as Shiner Beer.

Roznovsky, his first name commonly shortened to Vic, built a strong work ethic as a youth. He picked cotton in southeast Texas fields. In lieu of paying tuition to St. Ludmila’s Academy Catholic School, he swept floors at the school. When he was a child, baseball became a passion for Vic. But in a small rural town of less than 1,800 residents, opportunities to play organized baseball were limited. St. Ludmila’s Academy, a K-12 school, did not field a baseball team. This left Roznovsky to childhood games of catch or toss in the backyard or driveway. “I was all garage door one year,” he liked to joke.1  

Following high school, Roznovsky joined an area amateur team, the Shiner Clippers. One of his teammates was pitcher Carroll Sembera. In the fall of 1957, Roznovsky traveled north 130 miles to Fredericksburg, Texas, for a tryout camp staged by Ray Welch, a scout for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The camp was held in a rodeo arena. Because of the arena’s configuration and size, the players were not able to bat. They were judged only on their running and throwing skills. Roznovsky stood out. “I played long catch every day with a guy I went to school with,” Roznovsky explained. “I developed a tremendous arm. They saw that.”2 Welch issued Roznovsky an invitation to the Pirates’ minor-league spring-training camp in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. With the invitation came a conundrum. “They didn’t know what position I would play,” Roznovsky said.3

Through March and early April 1958, Roznovsky competed with 175 hopefuls for a chance to play with a Pittsburgh Pirates minor league club. When the final decisions were made, he was one of 22 players who received contracts4. Roznovsky was assigned to the San Angelo (Texas) Pirates, Pittsburgh’s Class D farm club in the Sophomore League. The manager, Al Kubski, made Roznovsky his right fielder. In the home opener Roznovsky, a left-handed hitter, became an instant hit with fans. He had three hits, one of which was a third-inning home run socked over the center-field fence at Guinn Field.5 Roznovsky finished the season among the team batting leaders. His 19 doubles led the team. He was second in hits with 124, and had the third-highest batting average, .291.

Roznovsky returned to San Angelo for the 1959 season, although the franchise relocated to Roswell, New Mexico during the year. Roznovsky became the subject of an experiment. Kubski, his manager, sought to turn Roznovsky into a catcher.6 Most of Roznovsky’s play that season was in the outfield. Kubski used him behind the plate in 28 games during which Roznovsky recorded 12 assists while committing seven errors and being charged with nine passed balls.

Following the 1959 season, Roznovsky enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. He signed up for a six-month tour of duty and was sent to San Diego for 11 weeks of basic training.7 While on leave, Roznovsky received a phone call from his mother with news that a registered letter from the Pittsburgh Pirates had arrived at the family home. Thinking it was his contract and spring-training assignment, Roznovsky downplayed the importance of the letter and told his mother he would open it when he got home in two weeks’ time. Once Roznovsky did, he was shocked to find it contained his release from the Pirates organization.

Three weeks later Roznovsky received a phone call from Johnny Hudson, a scout for the San Francisco Giants. Hudson extended a tryout offer, and Roznovsky hurried to the Giants’ minor-league camp in Sanford, Florida. In his first exhibition game, Roznovsky hit a home run. Charlie Fox, manager of the Giants’ AAA club, took a liking to Roznovsky and worked with him to further hone his catching skills. But during an exhibition game, misfortune struck. A foul tip left Roznovsky with a broken finger and out of action for two months.

In June Buddy Kerr, manager of the Giants’ Class C farm club in Fresno, California, made a call for help. His catcher, Bob Barton, had suffered a broken finger. Roznovsky was dispatched to fill the void. He drove across country and arrived at the ballpark in Fresno just as the team was boarding a bus for a road trip to Modesto. “Kerr seemed surprised to see me,” Roznovsky recalled. “He said, ‘Where ya’ been? I don’t need a catcher anymore. Barton’s fine.’”8 The manager went into his office, where he phoned the front office in San Francisco to discuss the situation. “When he came out, he said, ‘Put your stuff on the bus and let’s go,’” Roznovsky said.9

On his third day with the club, Roznovsky was in the starting lineup. Kerr played him at first base in the second game of a doubleheader in Modesto, and Roznovsky responded with three hits.10 Throughout the summer Kerr used Roznovsky in a variety of positions: catcher, first base, right field, and left field. He batted .296. During the summer, a young Fresno State student who attended games with her parents caught Roznovsky’s eye. He finally met Bernadette Spano one Sunday morning after attending Catholic mass. Four years later, following the 1964 season, the couple wed.

Roznovsky spent the 1961 season with the Giants’ Class A club in Springfield, Massachusetts, focusing primarily on catching. He hit .290. He was promoted to AA for 1962. Playing for the El Paso Sun Kings in the Texas League, he was tutored by brothers Syd and Andy Cohen. The former big leaguers owned a beer distributorship in the city and served as part-time coaches with the ballclub. Syd Cohen worked with Roznovsky on pitch calling. Andy Cohen helped Roznovsky improve his infield skills.

The following spring, however, Roznovsky’s enthusiasm for the game waned when he was again assigned to El Paso. As he scanned the roster, Roznovsky realized two highly touted catching prospects, Randy Hundley and Dick Dietz, would also be on the club. Roznovsky feared his playing opportunities would be limited. He went to the manager, George Genovese, and announced he was quitting. “All right, be my guest,” Genovese said. “But if you go back to Shiner, Texas, nobody will miss you.” The manager then made a promise. “I’ll get you in when scouts come around. You’ll catch a little, you’ll play some third, maybe a little at first base. I’ll talk to the scouts about you. I think you have value. I think you can play in the big leagues.”11 Roznovsky relented.

True to his word, Genovese worked Roznovsky into the lineup whenever he could. He caught 52 games, played 29 games at third base, and another 30 games in the outfield. Roznovsky hit 13 home runs, drove in 67 runs, and batted .286. After games, the manager held court in his office for scouts, where Roznovsky received frequent praise. The plan paid off. On December 2, 1963, the Chicago Cubs made Roznovsky the second pick in the minor league draft. When Roznovsky’s name was called out, Buzzie Bavasi, the Dodgers’ general manager, rose from his seat and headed for the door. “That’s the only one we wanted,” he said.12

During his first spring training with the Cubs, Roznovsky was quick to impress his new employer. Former Cubs standout Hank Sauer said, “Vic can out-catch and out-throw anybody on the Cubs right now.”13 Despite the praise, Roznovsky began the season in the minor leagues with the Cubs’ AAA affiliate, Salt Lake City, in the Pacific Coast League. On June 24, the Cubs starting catcher, Jimmie Schaeffer, suffered a broken hand. Roznovsky, who was hitting .284 in 44 games, was called up to replace him.

Roznovsky made his major-league debut four days later, on June 28, when he pinch-hit for Ernie Broglio in the eighth inning against Houston. Facing Don Nottebart, he grounded out to second base. When Roznovsky returned to his apartment, he was surprised to find a delivery waiting — a case of beer sent as congratulations by Syd and Andy Cohen in El Paso.

On July 8, Roznovsky received his first major-league start. It came in the second game of a doubleheader against the San Francisco Giants. In the second inning, Roznovsky threw out Jose Pagan, trying to steal third base. In the bottom of the sixth inning, Roznovsky rapped out his first major-league hit, a single to center field off Ron Herbel. Roznovsky remained with the Cubs for the remainder of the 1964 season and all of 1965 as an occasional starter.

His batting average rose to .313 after a 3-for-3 performance against Houston on July 24, and stood at .303 after a 2-for-4 outing against the Pirates on August 14. However, it was downhill thereafter as his 12 strikeouts over his last 20 games exceeded his five hits by a substantial margin, and his average plummeted to .197.

Roznovsky hit his first major-league home run on May 9, 1965, in a game at Wrigley Field against Houston. In the bottom of the sixth inning, Roznovsky sent a pitch from Ken Johnson into the right-field bleachers. The solo shot brought the Cubs to within a run of the lead, but that was a close as they got. Houston won the game, 11-5. The Mothers’ Day game was televised back to Texas where the home run was cheered by Roznovsky’s parents, sister Katheryn, and friends.

On May 26 versus the Mets, his three-run homer in the third inning against Jack Fisher gave the Cubs a three-run lead in a game they went on to win 8-6 at Shea Stadium. For the season, Roznovsky appeared in a career-high 71 games, batting .221 with three homers and 15 RBIs. He had his only career stolen base on August 20 against Houston’s Larry Dierker.

Roznovsky’s career changed direction the following season. In the early days of spring training in 1966, the Baltimore Orioles suffered a catching crisis. Their starting catcher, Dick Brown, was diagnosed with a brain tumor and scheduled for surgery. One of two backups, Charlie Lau suffered a right-elbow injury. On March 30, the Orioles traded outfielder Carl Warwick to the Chicago Cubs to acquire Roznovsky. “Vic catches well, throws well, and occasionally stings the ball pretty good,” said Orioles general manager, Harry Dalton.14

When the 1966 season began, Roznovsky’s role was as a backup to Baltimore’s starting catcher, Andy Etchebarren. NBC Broadcaster Joe Garagiola called the Orioles’ catching duo “an unfinished scrabble game. Etchebarren and Roznovsky – they must lead the league in letters. The names on their uniform are like an eye chart.”15 Roznovsky played sparingly over the first three months, usually in doubleheaders. In those starts he was productive. In the six games he started during that span, Roznovsky had three two-hit games.

The 1966 Baltimore Orioles proved to be a juggernaut. They won 11 of their 12 games in the month of April. In late June, the ball club went on another hot streak, winning 12 of 14 games to lead the American League standings by seven games. It was then that injuries struck key players. Boog Powell, Brooks Robinson, and Davey Johnson missed games due to a variety of ailments. Then, on July 18, Etchebarren was struck on the right hand by a pitch and suffered broken bones. Roznovsky was pressed into starting duty, but he too was ailing. Ten days earlier, in a game against the California Angels, Roznovsky was struck on the middle finger of his right hand by a foul tip off the bat of Jim Fregosi. It split the fingernail and left the second knuckle bruised. Roznovsky played in pain for two weeks until Etchebarren returned to the lineup. But that return was brief. In his first game back, Etchebarren tore a tendon in his right hand. Hank Bauer, the Orioles manager, adopted a platoon system with Roznovsky and Larry Haney to fill the void caused by Etchebarren’s injury.

Perhaps the biggest game of Roznovsky’s season came on August 26. Baltimore trailed Boston, 2-0, in the bottom of the ninth inning. Bauer called on Roznovsky to pinch-hit. With the count one ball and two strikes, Roznovsky lined Lee Stange’s pitch into the right-field seats for his first home run as a member of the Orioles. Next, Boog Powell pinch-hit. He hit a home run to tie the game and force extra innings. The home runs by Roznovsky and Powell represented an American League record – the first time that pinch-hitters had hit home runs in back-to-back at-bats. Roznovsky remained in the game, and in the bottom of the 12th inning with Paul Blair on first base, he laid down a sacrifice bunt that advanced Blair to second base. Powell, the next hitter, received an intentional walk. Russ Snyder singled Blair home with the winning run. The 3–2 victory pushed the Orioles to their biggest lead of the season, 12½ games atop the American League. The Orioles won 97 games and captured the pennant by nine games over the Minnesota Twins. In the World Series, Baltimore swept the Los Angeles Dodgers. Roznovsky, however, did not see any action in the series.

During the last two months of the 1966 season, Roznovsky played with considerable pain in his back and legs. He wore a back brace to try to alleviate the pain. In the offseason the source of the pain was discovered to be a ruptured disc in his back. On December 12, surgery was performed to remove the disc.16

Roznovsky spent the bulk of the 1967 season as an Orioles backup, with the exception of a 20-game stint in the minor leagues with Tacoma of the Pacific Coast League. Following the season, the acquisition of a promising young prospect would impact Roznovsky’s future with the Orioles. In the minor-league draft, Baltimore selected Elrod Hendricks from the California Angels organization. Under rules of the draft, the Orioles had to keep Hendricks on the major league club or be made to return him to the Angels. Hendricks was retained at the expense of Roznovsky.

Roznovsky spent the 1968 season in the minor leagues with the Orioles’ top farm club, Rochester, of the International League. He hit .238 with four home runs and 34 runs batted in. During spring training for the 1969 season, the Orioles had an abundance of catching talent in camp. Harry Dalton, the team’s general manager, let clubs know he was open to trading one or more. On April 12, 1969, Roznovsky was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for minor leaguer Anthony Giresi and catcher John Sullivan. He was primarily a pinch-hitter and got into only 13 games, compiling a .231 batting average. Upon the conclusion of the 1969 season, Roznovsky was given his release.

Playing in parts of five big-league seasons, Roznovsky got into 205 games and batted .218 with four home runs and 38 RBIs. As a catcher, he threw out 36 runners in 85 steal attempts (42%). Although he played in the era before big money, he cashed a World Series check in 1966 and went home with a World Series ring.

Following his baseball career, Roznovsky went to work for his father-in-law, a prominent home builder in central California. Roznovsky ascended to become president of the company during which time he also served as president of the Fresno area’s Building Industry Association. In 1975, he was honored in his home town of Shiner, Texas when he was inducted into their Old Timers Baseball Association.

Vic and Bernadette Roznovsky raised three children: daughters Stephanie and Kristen and son Brad. Brad Roznovsky played college baseball at Cal State Northridge. He is currently the head basketball coach at San Joaquin Memorial High School in Fresno. Houston Rockets guard Jalen Green is among his former players.

Vic Roznovsky died on January 18, 2022, of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. He was survived by his wife Bernadette and three children. Roznovsky is buried at Saints Cyril and Methodius Catholic Cemetery in Shiner, Texas.



The author extends thanks to Vic Roznovsky, a friend of many years, for his input.

This biography was reviewed by Darren Gibson and Bruce Harris and fact-checked by Rod Nelson.



Personal interviews

George Genovese, October 11, 2010; Arlo Engel, May 5, 2011; Jack Blehm, May 5, 2011; Anthony Genovese, November 21, 2015;


Sam Gazdziak, “Vic Roznovsky Obituary,” January 29, 2022, on RIP Baseball website, (


Baltimore Sun, El Paso Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, The Shiner Gazette, The Sporting News.



1 Gordon Beard, “Roznovsky, Former ‘All-Garage Door,’ Wins One for Birds,” The Evening Sun, August 27, 1966: 9.

2 Vic Roznovsky, telephone interview, September 4, 2010.

3 Beard: 9.

4 “Vic Roznovsky Signs Up with Pittsburgh Pirates,” Shiner (Texas) Gazette, April 10, 1958: 1.

5 “‘Vic’” Roznovsky Big Hit In Opener,” Shiner Gazette, May 15, 1958: 1.

6 Roznovsky, telephone interview.

7 “Victor Roznovsky Completes Basic at Marine Camp,” Shiner Gazette, December 10, 1959: 9.

8 Roznovsky, telephone interview.

9 Roznovsky, telephone interview.

10 “Fresno Drops Pair in Modesto; Loses Ground in CL Race,” The Fresno Bee, June 8, 1960: 15.

11 George Genovese and Dan Taylor, A Scout’s Report. My 70 Years in Baseball (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., Inc, 2015), 122.

12 Clifford Kachline, “Minors Draft Only 35 Players, Down From 60 Picks in 62,” The Sporting News, December 14, 1963: 10.

13 Edgar Munzel, “Roznovsky – A Name to Remember, Cubs Claim; He’s Catcher,” The Sporting News, April 11, 1964: 29.

14 Jim Elliott, “Birds’ Frank Robinson Missed by Reds’ Pinson,” The Sun, April 1, 1966: 21.

15 Doug Brown, “Handy Andy Pressure-Proof Bird Prize,” The Sporting News, October 8, 1966: 9.

16 Doug Brown, “Ruptured Disc Removed from Vic Roznovsky,” The Sporting News, January 7, 1967: 34.

Full Name

Victor Joseph Roznovsky


October 19, 1938 at Shiner, TX (USA)


January 18, 2022 at Fresno, CA (USA)

If you can help us improve this player’s biography, contact us.