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THE INSIDE TRACK | PAGE TWO

Former Dodger Bragan, 79, Knows His Place in History

September 04, 1997|RANDY HARVEY

While watching Dodger relievers Scott Radinsky and Todd Worrell serve up ninth-inning walks to the Rangers on Tuesday night, Bobby Bragan was reminded of a story. After six decades in organized baseball, everything reminds him of a story.

This one involved George Stallings, who had a heart attack after managing the Boston Braves to the 1914 World Series title.

Asked what caused his heart problems, Stallings said, "Bases on balls."

The night at Arlington Stadium was a particularly memorable one for Bragan, who will turn 80 in October.

The reason had nothing to do with the improbable 13-12 victory by the team that now employs him, the Rangers, because the Dodger blue that runs through his veins is almost as thick as in longtime friend Tom Lasorda's.

It had everything to do with the pregame tribute to Jackie Robinson.

When Robinson broke the color barrier 50 years ago with the Dodgers, Bragan was the team's catcher. A Southerner, from Birmingham, Ala., he was among the players Branch Rickey asked if they could play with a black man.

"I told him I'd just as soon be traded," Bragan said.

Before Rickey could accommodate him, Bragan got to know Robinson. They became close friends, so close that they sat together 18 years later at Rickey's funeral in St. Louis.

"Mr. Rickey is the greatest man to ever walk on the sports stage, and Jackie Robinson is second," said Bragan, who will be in Los Angeles on Sunday to help commemorate Gilmore Field, where he caught and managed for the Hollywood Stars from 1953 to '55.

"I don't know who's third."

Bragan said Robinson "turned me right around" on the race issue. Other than bringing Robinson to Brooklyn, Bragan said Rickey's best move was sending him down to Fort Worth in 1948 and calling up Roy Campanella.

"That was my biggest contribution to the Dodgers, making room for Campy," he said.

*

Super Saturday is expected to attract about 180,000 fans, which is a marvelous thing unless you're stuck that afternoon on the 110 Freeway. . . .

That afternoon's games involve UCLA and Tennessee at the Rose Bowl at 12:30, USC and Florida State at the Coliseum at 5 and the Dodgers and Florida Marlins at Dodger Stadium at 1. . . .

USC anticipates a crowd of 75,000, about 20,000 more than are expected to see UCLA. . . .

One factor could be that USC's students have returned to school and UCLA's haven't. . . .

Another could be that fans think they saw all the Bruins have to offer in last Saturday's loss at Washington State. . . .

Even so, UCLA Coach Bob Toledo says the Volunteers are worth the price of admission. . . .

"For people who don't come out and see them play Saturday, you're missing something very special," he says. . . .

That begins with quarterback Peyton Manning. . . .

"He can play for most teams in the NFL right now," Toledo says. . . .

Even if Manning has a long NFL career, this might be the last time we in L.A. have a chance to see him play in person. . . .

We're no closer to having a team than we were three years ago, which is frustrating parties who agreed to defer to the Coliseum. Don't expect that truce to hold much longer. . . .

State Sen. Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles) wants to see all their cards at a hearing that has been rescheduled for Sept. 18. . . .

Although he hasn't replaced Wayne Chrebet as Neil O'Donnell's favorite receiver, Keyshawn Johnson caught a team-high six passes for 88 yards Sunday. . . .

Then he forgot to bring his playbook to practice Monday. . . .

The Clippers weren't happy when their No. 1 draft choice, Maurice Taylor, didn't show for Pete Newell's Big Man Camp in Honolulu. . . .

Former Laker Larry Spriggs has become a Harlem Globetrotter. . . .

The Hollywood Stars played their last game at Gilmore Field 40 years ago Friday. Hugh Pepper no-hit the San Francisco Seals for 8 2/3 innings before Ed Sadowski singled. . . .

Besides Bragan, other former Stars expected to attend Sunday's 1 p.m. celebration are Chuck Stevens, George Genovese and Ben Wade. A plaque will be placed at the site of Gilmore Field, now CBS's Studio 46. . . .

At 4 p.m. Sunday, Lasorda and his wife, Jo, will dedicate the Tommy Lasorda Jr. Field House in Yorba Linda. . . .

Every serious major league realignment plan I've seen, radical or not, places the Dodgers and Angels in the same National League division.

*

While wondering if the Angels are finally spent, I was thinking: I'd like to see a U.S. Open final between Lindsay Davenport and Venus Williams, Michael Chang as the men's champion, the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.

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