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WHERE THEY ARE NOW: BUDDY BRADFORD : They Put On a Professional Block Party : Baseball: Five pals from the same Pacoima neighborhood signed contracts, and two of them made it to the majors.


In bookmaking halls, the odds of five childhood friends from the same neighborhood block signing contracts to play professional baseball probably would be higher than Elvis going on tour.

But Charles (Buddy) Bradford and some of his old pals from Pacoima know that sometimes longshots defy all reasoning.

They know because many years ago, when the Valley was wide-open spaces interrupted here and there by fruit groves and small communities, it happened to them. It was amazing then and it's still incredible today, more than three decades later.

"Five of us from that little area made it to the pros," said Bradford, a major league outfielder for 11 seasons before retiring in 1977, after playing one season in Japan. "We all grew up basically on Judd Street, between Bradley (Avenue) and Pala (Avenue)."

That block, just north of Van Nuys Boulevard and east of San Fernando Road, was home and playground to Bradford, brothers Curtis and Claude Fontenot, Bobby Mitchell and Gary Matthews. All became baseball standouts at San Fernando High and then minor league players, although only Bradford, who broke in with the Chicago White Sox in 1966, and Matthews, who started with the San Francisco Giants in 1972, reached the majors.

And as unlikely as it would be to generally find that much talent in one place, Bradford was not surprised when pro scouts flocked to the neighborhood, pens and contracts in hand.

"We had some real good athletes around there," Bradford said.


That Bradford, who will turn 50 on July 25, knew what to do with some of the money he was paid for playing baseball is clear after one glance at his surroundings.

Now owner of C&P Investments, a company that acquires apartment buildings, Bradford lives with his wife, Patricia, and 16-year-old daughter, Tambry, in an elegant home in the Ladera Heights section of Los Angeles.

The house, which Bradford and his wife bought in 1974, three years after they were married, includes a playroom above the garage with a pool table and mementos from his major league career. The large room doubles as his office.

There's a grand piano by the fireplace in the living room so Tambry, a senior at an exclusive all-girls prep school in Westwood, can sharpen her musical skills.

In the den, with sliding glass doors that lead to the backyard pool, photo albums show stills of the family on vacations to Hawaii and cruises to the Caribbean.

"When I first came up with the White Sox, some of the players were always talking about the stock market and investments," Bradford said. "Guys like Ken Berry and Wilbur Wood and Bob Locker would be in the training room every day talking about it, and that's how I got interested."

But, by his own admission, perhaps a bit much for his own good on the field.

After signing with the White Sox the day after he graduated from high school in 1962, Bradford joined the club briefly in 1966 and '67 before staying for good in 1968.

However, he had a disappointing rookie season, hitting only .217 in 103 games. He got off to a flying start in 1969, leading both leagues in batting through the first month of the season with a .420 average, before fading and finishing at .256.

And although only 5 feet 11 and 170 pounds, Bradford hit a home run onto the roof at old Comiskey Park on April 25, 1969, becoming only the fourth White Sox player to achieve the feat.

Those outside interests, however, were already affecting Bradford, who by then owned a rest home in Arleta and co-owned, with teammate Tommy McCraw, a telephone answering service in Culver City.

He kept his eyes more on the businesses than the fastballs thrown to him by opposing pitchers.

"I got caught up in the investments and trying to survive outside of baseball," Bradford said. "I got distracted as a player. I wasn't focused on the game and I think that hurt me."

It did, to the point where the White Sox sent him to baseball purgatory--Cleveland--in June of 1970. He got word of the trade soon after completing a training stint with the National Guard at Twentynine Palms.

"I was in a platoon that was made up of athletes only. Rudy May, Clarence Williams, Tom Egan, Clyde Wright were in it," Bradford said. "I would have to go and train right in the middle of the season sometimes, but I thought it was a good break.

"I learned to appreciate what I had as a ballplayer by doing that. As a ballplayer, you get so pampered and spoiled because you think the world is going to cater to you all the time. It gave me a balance and perspective."

It didn't do anything for his hitting, however. One month into the 1971 season, Bradford was batting .158 for the Indians when the club figured he belonged elsewhere in Ohio, so they shipped him to Cincinnati.

That arrangement lasted until the end of the season and Bradford was back in Chicago the following year.

As he had five years before, Bradford started fast in 1974 but crashed into a fence chasing a fly ball and broke his collarbone. It was an injury that sidelined him for several weeks.

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