Eddie Basinski, who played both infield and fiddle, dies at 99

Eddie Basinski, a 1940s Brooklyn Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates infielder who, in an unusual combination of abilities, was also a concer...


Eddie Basinski, a 1940s Brooklyn Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates infielder who, in an unusual combination of abilities, was also a concert violinist, died Saturday in Gladstone, Oregon, near Portland. He was 99 years old.

His death, in a care facility, was announced by his son Dave.

Basinski was the second-oldest former major league player. George Elder, 100, outfielder for the St. Louis Browns in 1949, is the oldest.

Basinski, who had taken classical violin lessons since childhood, played with the University at Buffalo Symphony Orchestra before embarking on his major league career in 1944, a time when baseball teams were losing many players serving in World War II. (He was discharged from military service because he had poor eyesight.) He played in 39 games for the Dodgers in his rookie season, mostly at second base, and in another 108 games in 1945, filling in at the shortstop for the future Hall of Fame. Pee Wee Reese, who was in the Navy.

Basinski was sent to the minors when Reese returned to Brooklyn in 1946. He joined the Pirates in 1947 and played in 56 games.

He later played in the Pacific Coast League, mostly for the Portland Beavers, and serenaded fans there with his fiddle. He retired from baseball after the 1959 season.

Basinski had another contact with the world of baseball when he was part of some thirty old-time major leaguers whose names provided the lyrics of the pianist and jazz singer. Dave Frishbergthe 1969 song Van Lingle Mungo (His title is the name of the fastball pitcher with the New York Dodgers and Giants in the 1930s and 40s). Basinski was the last survivor of this group.

The final stanza says:

John Antonelli, Ferris Fain
Frankie Crosetti, Johnny Sain
Harry Brecheen and Lou Boudreau
Frankie Gustine and Claude Passeau
Eddie Basinski, Ernie Lombardi, Hughie Mulcahy,
Van Lingle … Van Lingle Mungo.

Edwin Frank Basinski was born in Buffalo on November 4, 1922, one of Walter and Sophie Basinski’s seven children. His father was a machinist. His mother, who played the piano, encouraged him to take violin lessons as a child. He tried out for his baseball team in high school, but he was a skinny boy who wore thick glasses, his eyesight damaged by rheumatic fever when he was 4, and the coach decided that he didn’t fit the profile of a baseball player.

He earned a degree in mechanical engineering from the University at Buffalo (now the University at Buffalo), but there was no baseball team. He worked at the Curtiss-Wright Aircraft Plant in Buffalo and played for semi-pro baseball teams, catching the eye of a Dodger scout. He received a $5,000 bonus for signing with Brooklyn and made his debut against the Cincinnati Reds on May 20, 1944.

Basinski’s Dodger bandmates, whose knowledge of the musical world may have been limited to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, criticized him for his violin skills.

Shortly after arriving at Ebbets Field, Basinski was at the Dodger clubhouse, in uniform, playing Strauss waltzes, when manager Leo Durocher, who was obviously skeptical of reports that Basinski was a professional violinist, walked in. .

“He stopped and looked at me and said, ‘Well, I’ll be a son of a bitch,'” Basinski said. said in an interview in 2011 with the New York Times.

“While he was shaving, I was right next to him, giving it to him with my violin,” Basinski said.

Basinski had a career batting average of .244 in the major leagues.

After leaving baseball, he worked as an account manager at Consolidated Freightways of Portland for 31 years.

In addition to his son Dave, Basinski is survived by two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Another son, Jeff, died in 2011.

Basinski told The Times there was a relationship between playing the fiddle and lining up balls on the ground. “I had great speed because of the bowing and fingering, which must be lightning fast,” he said. “There is a great correlation.”

And he recalled a recital he gave at home plate between games of a Pacific Coast League doubleheader.

“I got a tremendous ovation,” he said, “and I also had a good doubleheader.”

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