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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.

July 02, 1994|FERNANDO DOMINGUEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

He returned but tore a hamstring that put him out again and finished with a .333 average in 39 games. The bad breaks came when Bradford thought things were finally looking up.

"I was really coming back that season," Bradford said. "I was a little older and more focused. If I hadn't gotten injured, I think that it would have been the beginning of me putting a solid career together."

It became more like the beginning of the end. Bradford split time between the White Sox and St. Louis in 1975, returned to Chicago the following year and played with the Kintetsu Buffaloes in Japan in 1977 until he tried to steal a base and tore the same hamstring he injured three years before.

Bradford returned to Los Angeles, sensing his playing days were over.

*

Once back, and with a newborn daughter in the house, Bradford decided to get a job closer to home. His wife, a Superior Court reporter, suggested he become a U.S. marshal and Bradford agreed, working for a year as a bail officer in an arraignment court in West Los Angeles.

He left that position for personal reasons, became a minor league batting, running and outfield roving instructor for the Chicago Cubs, and then worked in a few other jobs--mostly in the security industry--before starting his real estate investment company with collateral from stocks he owned.

The modest success he found in baseball then parlayed into a comfortable living are far removed from his humble childhood.

Born in Mobile, Ala., Bradford moved with his family to Pacoima soon after his father died. Bradford was about 4.

An older brother had settled in the area after college and persuaded his mother to gather Buddy and his three sisters and head west. Bradford said the family loved the Valley.

"It was nice to be a kid growing up there," he said. "You could sleep on your own lawn when it was hot and nobody would bother you."

The block was filled with kids who passed their free time playing ball in the street or in empty lots, going to movies or swimming at the park.

Through those years, Bradford developed a bond with the guys who dared dream of becoming professional ballplayers and later would realize their ambition, some to a greater degree than the others. Mitchell remembers his friendship with Bradford.

"We were pretty inseparable for a long time," recalled Bobby Mitchell, who went as high as triple-A ball with the Angels. "We used to double date, we worked out together. Sometimes, we would sit in a car for hours and just talk about life. He was always a pretty level-headed guy."

And an excellent athlete. At San Fernando High, Bradford played varsity baseball two seasons, was on the varsity track team two seasons and played halfback on the varsity football team his senior year. For him, they were memorable years.

"San Fernando High at the time was such a great school," Bradford said. "Those were some of the best years of my life. Those were unforgettable years. I'm sure glad I had them."

Bradford, who preferred football to baseball, says he didn't have an overwhelming senior season and was a little surprised the White Sox, Dodgers and Minnesota Twins pursued him so actively.

"My senior season I hit only about .333, but I could throw real well and I could run real well, and I guess they thought I had a lot of raw talent," he said.

Which for the scouts back then were good enough odds.

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