As 1967 spring training approached, a Globe column under the byline of Bud Collins appeared. It was entitled “Will the Sox have More Buddins?” The reference is to Don Buddin, who played shortstop for the team in the late 50’s and early 60’s. Buddin, who died last year at age 77, was one of the symbols of the underachieving, uncaring Sox players. He was a constant boo-bird target, not only because of his inept play but his apparent lack of desire to improve.
Collins, who later became a tennis guru both in print and on TV, occasionally covered baseball. A literate man, he was known for his subtle and ironic criticism of the Red Sox. Unlike the sometimes boring harshness of many writers today, Collins’ method was understated. He gained the enmity of the Sox organization by referring to them as the Old Town Team, implying that they belonged to another era.
Like many fans and writers, Collins apparently expected little change in 1967, despite the presence of a new manager. “Another endless summer for Uncle Tom’s Townies begins Saturday morning when recreation director Dick Williams asks them to try to touch their toes a few times….He won’t ask them to do anything hard right away, like catching the baseball. They will have trouble doing that in August, and to ask that of them now would only break their spirits before the season has begun.”
Soon Collins went back in time to the year 1960, his first spring training covering the team. “In that year, the Sox were solid contenders for seventh place-and they made it….It is exciting to look back at that club, led by Hall of Fame shortstop Donald T. Buddin and managed by Billy Jurges.”
A word about Jurges, one of the forgotten names in Sox managerial history. He had been hired the previous July and somehow moved the team from eighth to fifth place by September. A scrappy, hustling infielder with the Cubs and Giants in the 30’s and 40’s, Jurges tried without success to change the team’s attitude. The atmosphere simply became too much for him and with his team mired in the cellar he was canned in mid-1960 after showing symptoms of a physical and mental breakdown. It is interesting to note that though Jurges lived into his late 80’s and did some scouting, he never managed again. With the Sox, he was both preceded and succeeded as manager by Mike Higgins.
One of Collins’ interesting “stories”-told in his ironic style-concerns Higgins. “Mike’s beautiful line was ‘Aaaarghhck-we’ll get ’em tomorrow!’. The first word of that inspirational sentence was a poignant Russian word from one of Boris Pasternak’s poems. Thereafter most of the correspondents were awed in Higgins’ scholarly presence.” There are probably many sportswriters today who think that Pasternak must be a Russian goalie who played for the Capitols.
One final comment concerning Buddin is typical Collins. He tells of an “incident” when Buddin, removed from a game at Fenway for a pinch hitter, left the park in uniform, crossed the street and entered a cafe. “The bartender, recognizing the customer, hesitated to serve him, realizing that the shortstop had a tendency to drop everything that came his way.”
Sorry you retired from the Globe, Bud. You are definitely missed.