The Twins First Manager

November 18, 2008 – Harry Arthur “Cookie” Lavagetto was born December 1, 1912 in Oakland, California. The tall, dark, and handsome Lavagetto was signed by the Oakland Oaks after a high school all-star game. He acquired his nick name from his Oakland teammates, who called him “Cookie’s boy,” because he had been hired by Oaks’ president Victor “Cookie” Devincenzi. Cookie played pro ball for 10 seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates (1934-1936) and the Brooklyn Dodgers (1937-1941) and again from 1946-1947. Cookie missed four full seasons while he served in the military during WW II from 1942 to 1945. After being released by the Dodgers after the 1947 season, Cookie returned to play with the Oaks from 1948-1950.

Cookie played in 1,043 major league games, primarily at 3B although he also played 2B and made a couple of appearances at SS and 1B. Cookie threw and batted right handed and during his major league career he batted .269 with 40 home runs, 486 RBI’s while stealing 63 bases. Cookie was named to the National league All-Star team between 1938 and 1941 although he did not play in the 1938 and 1939 games. Cookie played in the 1941 World Series for the Brooklyn Dodgers against the New York Yankees in a losing cause and again in 1947 when the Dodgers again played the New York Yankees. But it was game 4 at Ebbets Field of the 1947 World Series that brought Cookie Lavagetto to the pinnacle of the baseball world. On October 3 the Yankees and pitcher Bill Bevens were ahead 2-1 going into the bottom of the ninth inning with two out. Bevans had surrendered no hits, an unprecedented World Series feat at the time but two runners were on base from Bevens’ ninth and tenth walks of the game. Lavagetto was summoned by Dodger manager Burt Shotton to hit for Eddie Stanky and he cracked an opposite-field double to break up the no-hitter and score the two Dodger runners for a 3-2 Brooklyn win. It was Lavagetto’s only hit of the series (won by the Yankees in seven games) and his last as a big leaguer. An excellent write-up of this famous event can be found at http://www.users.qwest.net/~yarnspnr/baseball/bevans/bevans.htm .

After being released by the Dodgers, Cookie went back and played for the Oaks from 1948 to 1950. When Oakland manager Chuck Dressen was named to manage the Dodgers in 1951, Cookie was named as one of Dressen’s coaches and Lavagetto stayed with Dressen in Brooklyn (1951-53) and the PCL Oaks (1954) and followed him to the Washington Senators when Dressen became their skipper in 1955. On May 7, 1957, with the Senators floundering in last place, Dressen was fired and Lavagetto was named his successor. The team improved slightly, but finished last in 1957, 1958, and again 1959. In 1960 the Senators rose to fifth place in the eight team American League but it was too late as Senators owner Calvin Griffith had decided that he had had enough of Washington and received permission from the American League to move the team to greener pastures in Minnesota where they became the Minnesota Twins. Cookie Lavagetto was the first manager in Twins’ history, but he did not even get a chance to finish the 1961 season. With the Twins mired in ninth place in the new ten team American league, Calvin Griffith told Cookie to take a short fishing vacation to clear his head. Lavagetto took a seven-game leave of absence in early June, then returned to the helm. But he was fired June 23 with the club still in ninth place and replaced by coach Sam Mele. Cookie Lavagetto wore number 51 during his short tenure as the Twins manager. Cookie’s career as the Twins manager ended after only 66 games and a 25-41 record. Lavagetto’s major league managing record was 271 wins and 384 defeats (.414). Lavagetto rejoined the coaching ranks the next season with the New York Mets where he stayed from 1962-1963. He then joined the San Francisco Giants as a coach from 1964 through 1967 before retiring. Harry Arthur “Cookie” Lavagetto died in his sleep at his home in Orinda, California on August 10, 1990 at the age of 77.

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