Eddie Basinski, a Brooklyn Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates midfielder from the 1940s who was also a concert violinist in an unusual combination of skills, died Saturday at a care facility in Gladstone, Oregon near Portland. He was 99.
His death was announced by his son Dave.
Basinski was the second oldest former champion of the league. George Elder, 100, outfielder 1949 St. Louis Browns, is the oldest.
Basinski, who attended classical violin lessons since childhood, played with the University of Buffalo Symphony Orchestra before embarking on his major league career in 1944, at a time when baseball rosters had lost many players to service in World War II. (He was suspended from military service because of poor eyesight.) In his rookie season, he played 39 Dodgers games, mostly at second base, and another 108 games in 1945, where he completed a shortstop for a future Hall of Fame member. Pee Wee Reese, who was in the Navy.
Basinski was sent to minors when Reese returned to Brooklyn in 1946. In 1947, he joined the Pirates and played 56 games.
He later played in the Pacific Coast League, mostly for the Portland Beavers, and serenade fans with his violin. He retired from baseball after the 1959 season.
Basinski reunited the baseball world when he was one of about three dozen old Premier League players whose names gave the lyrics to the 1969 jazz pianist and singer Dave Frishberg’s “Van Lingle Mungo” (the name of the Dodgers and New York Giants in the 1930s and 1940s). Basinski was the last survivor of this group.
The final verse reads:
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 as one of the seven children of Walter and Sophie Basinski. His father was an engineer. His mother, who played the piano, encouraged him to attend violin lessons when he was a child. He tried his high school baseball team, but he was a skinny boy who wore thick glasses, his eyesight was damaged by rheumatic fever at the age of 4, and the coach decided he didn’t fit the ball’s profile.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Buffalo (now the University at Buffalo), but did not have a baseball team. He worked at the Curtiss-Wright Aircraft Factory in Buffalo and played baseball teams for semi-professions, drawing the attention of scout Dodger. He received a $ 5,000 bonus for signing a contract with Brooklyn, and on May 20, 1944, he made his debut against the Cincinnati Reds.
Basinski’s Dodger teammates, whose acquaintance with the music world may have been limited to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, reprimanded him for his violin skills.
Soon after his arrival at Ebbets Field, Basinski was in the Dodger Clubhouse in uniform and playing Strauss’s waltzes when manager Leo Durocher came in. He was clearly skeptical of the news that Basinski was a professional violinist.
“He stopped, looked at me and said, ‘Well, I’ll be a son of a bitch,’ Basinski said in an 2011 interview with The New York Times.
“When he shaved, I was right next to him and handed it to him with his violin,” Basinski said.
Basinski had a batting average in the major league of 0.244.
After retiring from baseball, he worked for 31 years as an account manager at Consolidated Freightways of Portland.
In addition to Dave’s son, Basinski had two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Another son, Jeff, died in 2011.
Basinski told The Times that there was a relationship between playing the violin and playing ground balls. “I had a lot of speed thanks to the bows and fingering, which just has to be lightning,” he said. “There’s a big correlation.”
And he remembered a recital he performed on the home run between the Pacific Coast League doubles matches.
“I received a standing ovation,” he said, “and I also had a good two-headed one.”