Showing posts with label President George H.W. Bush. Show all posts
Showing posts with label President George H.W. Bush. Show all posts

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Art Mazmanian | USC College World Series hero and legendary baseball coach, dies at 91

Art Mazmanian, the star second baseman from the University of Southern California’s 1948 College World Series championship team, died March 22, 2019, in San Dimas, California. He was 91.


Mazmanian’s USC squad faced off with future President George H.W. Bush’s Yale team during the 1948 College World Series. Six decades later, he eagerly shared the details of their legendary match up.

“In 1948, we won the first national title for USC,” Mazmanian told Baseball Happenings during a 2009 phone interview from his California home. “We beat George Bush’s Yale team. He was their first baseman and captain. I remember everything. I have a good memory; it was just like yesterday. He got two hits in the three games. He batted seventh in the lineup, and both of hits were doubles.”

The New York Yankees signed Mazmanian in 1949. He marveled at the thought of a 120-pound college freshman becoming a pro prospect.

“I shouldn’t have been signed,” he said in 2009. “You don’t know how blessed I’ve been. You know how much I weighed? When I played at USC, I went there when I was 17 years old; my first year I weighed 121 lbs.”

As unbelievable as it sounds that a slight infielder would fill out in a few short years to attract the New York Yankees, even more amazing was how he earned a full baseball scholarship without USC coach Rod Dedeaux ever seeing him play.

“[Rod] Dedeaux gave me a full scholarship and never saw me play,” he said. “I introduced him at a banquet for our letterman’s club as a senior in high school. … My high school coach got Rod Dedeaux to come and speak. That was the first time I met him. At the banquet, my high school coach talked to him. I weighed 119 lbs and I didn’t make all-city, I made all-league. I didn’t hit over .260, [but] the principal talked to him, and a week later, he gave me a full scholarship. Of course, the war was on, because without the war, I wouldn’t have been noticed. I was the only civilian in classes because I was [just] 17.”

The reliable infielder played from 1949-1954 in the Yankees farm system, reaching the Triple-A level for three of those seasons. While the spray-hitting Mazmanian never made the major leagues, he had a brief taste of the major league life when Casey Stengel invited him to spring training with the parent club in 1952.

“In 1952 I was there for only two weeks, but I really enjoyed it,” he said. “I really liked Casey Stengel. I didn’t deserve to be there, and I knew that, but I loved it. I was tickled to death to be in the organization. I had been playing second base throughout the minors and when I got to Triple-A, they moved me to shortstop. They thought [Phil] Rizzuto was retiring. I didn’t have a shortstop's arm, but I did all right there.”

Mazmanian returned to his alma mater, Dorsey High School in Los Angeles where he coached football and baseball for 13 years. He took the reins at Mt. San Antonio College in 1968, holding the position for 31 years, amassing 731 wins in the process.

During the summers, Mazmanian moonlighted as a minor league coach, taking on rookie ball teams for 17 years, as the short-season fit in with his teaching and coaching duties. His prized prospects included Jack Clark, who he converted from a pitcher to outfielder, and a nubile Don Mattingly in Oneonta.

“I hit it lucky with Mattingly, he was 17,” Mazmanian recalled. “He hit two home runs that year in Oneonta, but we had a tough park. I wrote on the report that I projected him to hit 15-20 in the majors. I saw that Mattingly hit .349 in that league. You don’t know how hard it is for a high school kid to hit in that league. Eddie Williams the number one pick in the draft; he hit about .220 in that league.”

Even after Mazmanian stepped down from his position at Mt. San Antonio College to care for his ailing wife, he could not stay away from the field. He volunteered at South Hills High School from 2011-2015 and finished his coaching career as an assistant at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps College in 2016.

“Money-wise, I’m right back where I started,” Mazmanian said in 2011. “I started as a volunteer at Dorsey and now am a volunteer helping out Coach (Kevin) Smith at South Hills.”

Sunday, December 2, 2018

How President George H.W. Bush was set to play hero in the 1948 College World Series

President George H. W. Bush’s leadership can be traced back to his days as the captain of Yale University’s baseball team. The first baseman led Yale to the 1948 College World Series against the University of Southern California. His diamond presence was evident even as a young man, demonstrated by how one opponent clearly remembered the President’s role in deciding the 1948 College World Series more than six decades later.

“In 1948, we won the first national title for USC,” Art Mazmanian recalled during a 2009 phone interview from his California home. “We beat George Bush’s Yale team. He was their first baseman and captain. I remember everything. I have a good memory; it was just like yesterday. He got two hits in the three games. He batted seventh in the lineup and both of hits were doubles.”

President George H.W. Bush receiving Babe Ruth's manuscript at Yale / US National Archives
In the first game of the series, Yale had USC pinned down with a narrow one-run lead when Bush scored on an early error. Mazmanian described how USC thwarted Yale’s attempts to advance their margin.

“They had us beat 1-0,” he said. “Bush scored a run on our shortstop’s error in the third inning. In the sixth inning, they tried to double steal and we threw the guy out at the plate. In the eighth inning, [it was] the same thing and we threw the guy out at the plate.”

USC entered the top of the ninth with their backs to the wall as Yale looked to close out the game. The Trojans showed their fighting spirit by scoring three runs in the top of the inning to set up a drama filled final frame.

“In the top of the ninth we scored three runs, so we’re up 3-1,” he said. “They come up, and the first guy singled. The next guy walked, and then the next guy hit a shot off of our third baseman who was a very good fielder. He managed to knock it down, but everyone was safe. It was now bases loaded and nobody out.

“They put in a redheaded guy to pinch hit, his last name was Breen. He hit the first pitch back to the pitcher. Wally [Hood] threw home for one out and then [the catcher] threw to first base for a double play. The guy on second base rounded too far and [our] first baseman threw the ball across the diamond, but he threw it in the dirt. If the ball gets by [him], two runs score and they tie the game. Our third baseman Bill Lilly came up with the ball, tagged the guy, and the game was over.”

The Yale base-running gaffe may have ultimately cost the Bulldogs the National Championship, as the Bulldogs won the second game 8-3, before dropping the deciding contest 9-2. Mazmanian, who led the series in hitting (6-11), revealed that the future President was left stranded on-deck during that wild ninth inning of Game 1.

“You know who the next batter was?” Mazmanian asked. “George Bush! And Bush has never forgotten that play. I have an article and a picture of him on the wall, and he calls it, ‘The Play.’ And he’s never forgotten it; he would have been the next hitter.”