Harry Arthur “Cookie” Lavagetto
Harry Arthur “Cookie” Lavagetto was born December 1, 1912 in Oakland, California and died in his sleep on August 10, 1990 in Orinda, California at the age of 77. He acquired his nickname from his Oakland Oaks teammates, who called him “Cookie’s boy,” because he had been hired by Oaks’ president Victor “Cookie” Devincenzi. Lavagetto played 3B and 2B in the major leagues for 10 seasons and played for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1934-1936 and was a four-time All-Star while with the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1937 -1947. Cookie did not play ball in the majors from 1942-1945 due to serving his country in the military during World War II. Cookie enlisted in the US Navy in February 1942 even though he was classified 3-A and was sworn in as Aviation Machinist Mate 1st class. He is most widely known as the pinch hitter whose double with two on and two out in the bottom of the ninth inning ruined Bill Bevens’ bid for the first World Series no-hitter in Game 4 of the 1947 World Series and gave his Brooklyn Dodgers a breathtaking victory over the New York Yankees, a game known as The Cookie Game. You can listen to a broadcast clip of that play here. The Dodgers went on to lose the 1947 World Series to the New York Yankees 4 games to 3.
After being released by the Dodgers following the 1947 Series, Lavagetto returned to Oakland to finish his playing career with the Oaks (1948–50). When Oakland manager Chuck Dressen was named leader of the Dodgers in 1951, Lavagetto accompanied him as one of his coaches. He was a loyal aide to Dressen with Brooklyn (1951–53) and the PCL Oaks (1954) and followed him to the Washington Senators when Dressen became their manager in 1955.
But on May 7, 1957, with the Senators languishing in last place, Dressen was fired and Lavagetto was named his successor. Little changed under Lavagetto’s reign and the Senators finished last in 1957, 1958 and 1959. Finally, in 1960, Lavagetto’s Senators rose to fifth place in the eight-team American League, but the Senators’ promising 1960 season was too little and too late to keep the franchise in Washington; owner Calvin Griffith moved the club to Minnesota where it became the Minnesota Twins in 1961.
Lavagetto was the first manager in Twins’ history, but he did not finish the 1961 season. With the Twins mired in ninth place having lost 11 in a row and 16 out of their last 17 games in the new ten-team AL, owner Calvin Griffith asked Lavagetto to take a vacation and go fishing to get away from the everyday pressure of major league baseball. Cookie took a seven-game leave of absence starting on June 6th while coach Sam Mele took over as the Twins skipper and then returned to the helm on June 13th but he was fired June 23 with the club still in ninth place. He was replaced by Sam Mele, under whom the Twins became pennant contenders the following season. Lavagetto’s major league managing record was 271 wins and 384 defeats (.414) and he was 25-41 as the Twins first skipper.
Cookie Lavagetto then returned to the coaching ranks with the New York Mets form 1962-1963 and then back home in the Bay area with the San Francisco Giants from 1964-1967 before stepping away from baseball.
There are some nice photo’s of Lavagetto at this New York Mets blog called Centerfield Maz.
Tom Verducci wrote a piece called A Game for Unlikely Heroes for Sports Illustrated back on November 29, 1999 that you might enjoy reading.
Lavagetto made the cover of Sports Illustrated as the Twins skipper on May 15, 1961 and Walter Bingham did a nice article about Cookie in that issue he called “Not Such a Tough Cookie.”