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Bragan had positive impact on MiLB01/22/2010 5:04 PM ET
By Benjamin Hill / MLB.com
It's hard to overstate the impact that Bobby Bragan had on the game of baseball.
Bragan, who passed away on Thursday night at the age of 92, spent more than seven decades working within the sport he loved.
"I don't know what part of the game he didn't touch, either by working in it or exerting influence over it," stated Minor League Baseball president Pat O'Conner.
Indeed, Bragan logged time as a player, coach, manager and executive, and he spent a good portion of his later years raising money for his charitable foundation while serving as one of the game's premier goodwill ambassadors. In short, the long-time Texas native truly earned his nickname of "Mr. Baseball."
While Bragan spent ample time in the Major Leagues (as both a player and manager), his influence was also deeply felt in the world of Minor League Baseball. He managed the Texas League's Fort Worth Cats from 1948 through 1952, and then moved on to the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League. Both jobs were offered to him by Branch Rickey, who cut Bragan from the 1948 Brooklyn Dodgers in order to make room for Roy Campanella.
In 1969, Bragan returned to the Texas League in a far different capacity: that of league president.
"Bobby was very competitive, but he was also a showman and had a real outgoing personality," said current Texas League president Tom Kayser, who has filled that role since 1992. "I think that's why he was able to transition so well to the business side of the game.
"I certainly appreciated the challenges he went through," added Kayser. "He had to cancel the 1975 league championship because there was no let-up with the rain, and in one instance, where an umpire was assaulted, he meted out a very stiff penalty to those who were involved. These are the sort of things that someone like me can look back on and learn from. Bobby left a big footprint, and always had the best interests of the league in mind."
In 1976, after seven years as Texas League president, Bragan was elected to a three-year term as president of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues.
"Minor League Baseball was very different at that time ... still the Wild, Wild West in a lot of ways," said O'Conner, who began his presidency in 2008. "The strength and stability and overall health was not what it is now. Co-ops [teams consisting of players from multiple organizations] were still in the realm of possibility, and it was always a struggle to make sure there were enough players and PDCs [player development contracts].
"Bobby was a visionary of sorts, in that under his watch our promo corporation was formed, and the [Baseball Winter Meetings] trade show really got going in earnest," added O'Conner. "He was a cutting edge guy for his time."
In a previous interview with MiLB.com, Bragan elaborated on his time as Minor League Baseball's top executive.
"Major League expansion had taken many of our cities, and it was up to us to find new cities for our teams," said Bragan. "It was a matter of holding our own, not expanding ourselves ... I really enjoyed the responsibility of working with the umpires, keeping discipline and traveling to see the league presidents and talking about their problems. But I didn't like all the administrative work. So when my three years were up, I was ready to go back to Texas and turn this over to somebody else."
Bragan remained involved in professional baseball, of course, serving as director of public relations for the Texas Rangers. Meanwhile, the Bragan name remains one that is well known in the world of the Minor Leagues. Peter, Bobby's younger brother, is chairman of the Southern League's Jacksonville Suns, while his nephew Peter, Jr. serves as team president (two other Bragan brothers, Jim and Frank, also played and coached in the professional ranks).
"Those Bragan boys are cut from the same cloth, you certainly knew when they were in the room" said O'Conner. "Bobby was always ready with a great story, always colorful and charismatic."
Details for Bragan's memorial service have not yet been announced, but one thing's for certain.
"The funeral is going to be a jam-packed affair, standing room only in the best baseball tradition," said Kayser. "Nobody could be more deserving of such an honor."