Author’s Note: Here is an excerpt from “Celebrating 100 Years of Baseball in Greater Binghamton: Tales from the Binghamton Baseball Shrine,” which is available on such online retailers as amazon.com and bn.com.
Johnny Logan played in 1,503 major league games and that number gives him the distinction of playing in the most major league baseball games by a Broome County native. Johnny would often return to his native Endicott stomping ground to visit with his mother and friends. Endicott was proud to claim him as a native son, as the Little League complex on the north side of Endicott was named after him in the 1950s.
Logan was a star athlete at Union-Endicott High School during most of World War II, graduating in January 1945 after excelling in football, baseball, basketball and track for the U-E Tigers. He signed with the Boston Braves in 1947, but not before both the Yankees and Dodgers passed on him in his teenage years.
During Logan’s high school years, Eddie Sawyer, fellow Shrine inductee and future big league manager of the 1950 Phillies, got Logan a tryout with the Binghamton Triplets, as Sawyer was managing the Triplets in 1942 and 1943. While growing up in Endicott, Logan’s childhood dream was to play for the Triplets as, with most other youths of the day, the Yankees were his favorite team. Unfortunately, Sawyer could not convince the Yankees to sign Logan; the Yankees felt Logan, at 160 or so pounds, could not withstand the daily grind of professional baseball.
Perhaps the Yankees might have thought differently if they had known that in May of 1938 Logan walked from Endicott to Johnson City to catch a glimpse of his hero, Joe DiMaggio, play center field against the Triplets in an exhibition game. Logan didn’t have the nerve to tell his parents he wanted to skip school to see a baseball game, so instead of going a few blocks to school he walked approximately 11 miles to Johnson Field. He did not have a ticket to the game, so he watched the game from a hole in the outfield fence (a true member of the “knot hole” gang). He was not disappointed, as DiMaggio hit a homer as the Yanks beat the Triplets.
Amazingly, the Brooklyn Dodgers also had a chance to sign Logan as he was invited to work out for them at Bear Mountain, where the Dodgers conducted spring training in the early 1940s due to the war. Jake Pitler, Binghamton Shrine Class of 2005, was a minor league manager in the Dodgers organization during the early 1940s and arranged for Logan to work out with the Dodgers, but he too could not convince the Dodgers to sign Logan.
As was the case with so many high school graduates of his era, Logan grew up in a hurry; he and joined the army immediately after his graduation in January of ‘45. After his stint in the army, Logan was signed to a minor league contract to play baseball in the Boston Braves organization. He was signed by Braves scout Dewey Griggs, who would later sign such other stars as Hank Aaron and Wes Covington.
Logan was the starting shortstop for the Braves throughout the 1950s, with the highlight of his career coming in 1957 when the Braves won the World Series and Logan hit the first home run in the series. Logan accomplished many feats during his 13-year major league career, including being named to the National League All Star team four times (1955, and 1957-59), playing in another World Series in 1958, and never striking out more than 59 times in a season, despite displaying enough power to hit 93 home runs and knock in 547 runs in his career. He also still holds the World Series record for most assists by a shortstop in one game—ten.
A fiery and scrappy competitor, Logan was always looking for a playing edge, and was known for doing things that did not necessarily show up in the box score. Five times he finished in the top ten of National League batters for being hit by a pitch and was in the top 10 for sacrifice hits seven times.
Bob Uecker, a longtime announcer for the Milwaukee Brewers, was good friends with Logan and marked Logan’s passing in August of 2013 with praise. “He was one of the toughest players I’ve ever been around. And a really good shortstop, too. He had a guy alongside him in Eddie Mathews, who was another fireball, you know what I mean? A guy who wouldn’t take anything from anybody, and Johnny was the same way. Johnny has been such a great friend and I can think of hundreds of things that have happened with him.”
Logan and Eddie Mathews spent a lot of time together off the field during their playing days and were known to get into a scrape or two both between and outside the white lines. Logan explains how even Joe Louis, one of the greatest boxing champions of all time, was familiar with the exploits of Logan and Mathews:
“After winning the World Series in 1957, I met Joe in Las Vegas, where he was a host at Caesar’s Palace. He told me, `I’ve done a lot of reading about you. I hear you and Mathews like to fight. I could beat you two guys one on one, but if you two ganged up on me, I wouldn’t stand a chance.’”
Logan was always popular with the fans and throughout his career would receive requests for autographs in the mail. He was happy to oblige and was thrilled that fans remembered the Braves from Milwaukee. He was instrumental in forming the Milwaukee Braves Historical Association, which still preserves the history of the Milwaukee Braves today.
Logan’s Milwaukee legacy includes a star on the Walk of Fame at Miller Park. When the star was unveiled, his good friend, Bob Uecker, served as the master of ceremonies. In Endicott, people still refer to Logan as “Yatcha.” It is a nickname his Russian mother gave him; Logan elaborated in an interview with Bob Buege:
“I must have been very active, and in the Russian language, to settle a young kid, they’d say “Yah-shoo, yah-shoo. Just be quiet.’ The word is a combination of Russian and Croatian. A guy on my street took that and gave me the name ‘Yatcha,’ or ‘Yatch.’ The name became very popular in Endicott.”
Today Endicott has a little league baseball field named after Logan and a five-foot stone marker serves as a sentinel to the field. The stone marker is engraved with the following:
• Johnny Logan # 23, SS
• Nickname: Yatcha.
• Born and raised in Endicott, NY.
• Graduated from U.E.H.S.in 1945.
• Lettered in Baseball, Football, Basketball, Track, Golf.
• Played ML Ball 13 Years.
• 9 years with Milwaukee Braves.
• N.L.’s # 1 shortstop first three years-52, 53, 54.