Johnny Logan: Endicott Gave Him His Name—“Yatcha”

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.

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Mr. Manfred, What Are You Thinking?

By Jeremy Donovan
When people ask me who my football (hockey or basketball) team is, I answer: The Mets. I always get a confused look and, “ummm, they’re not a football (hockey or basketball) team.” Yes. I’m aware. But for me, there is no other sport than baseball worth dedicating a significant of time to watch and follow on a regular basis. I love baseball. It’s poetry in motion. It’s art on a diamond. The game, at its core, is perfect. Why do I love baseball?
I love baseball in part, because I played it, in some form from three years old on. I love baseball because I grew up with the game. Since 1992, when I was four years old, my hometown of Binghamton has had the privilege of having the Double-A affiliate of the New York Mets. While I can’t put a number on how many games I’ve attended, it’s easily in the thousands. I always say I grew up in Section 12. I’ve met lifelong friends who I call my “summer uncles” and “summer aunts.” I’ve spent several summers working for the team in different capacities and even when I was a member of the local media I covered the team religiously throughout the summer. Even now, I’m at dozens of games each year taking pictures. I’ve seen the likes of David Wright, Jose Reyes, 2x Cy Young Winner Jacob deGrom, Rookie of the Year Pete Alonso, and hundreds of other Mets stars come through Binghamton. Those in the visiting dugout have been just as impressive: Madison Bumgarner, Mookie Betts, Aaron Judge, Torii Hunter, to name just a few.

Sweet Memories. David Wright signs autographs as a Binghamton Met in 2004. It turned out to be his last game in Binghamton, as, after wearing a camouflage jersey on the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend, he was promoted to Norfolk the next day!

The B-Mets/Rumble Ponies have often been the subject of relocation rumors. In 2011/2012 they were moving to Ottawa. In 2015/2016 they were moving to Wilmington, DE. Neither of those, obviously, happened. Neither of those really ever scared me. I knew, somehow, that they were nothing more than rumors. But, now, I’m starting to get worried.

Major League Baseball’s and Minor League Baseball’s agreement expires at the end of the 2020 season and MLB wants to eliminate 42 MILB teams. Binghamton’s has been mentioned as one of those.
Why would MLB want to do this?

THEY SAY it’s to make travel easier for players. THEY SAY it’s to be able to afford to pay minor league players more. THEY SAY it’s to be able to have higher quality facilities throughout minor league baseball.

I SAY… greed.

Major League Baseball teams are owned by multi-millionaires or billionaires. All 30 MLB teams are worth at least $1 billion, according to the StadiumTalk article published in October of 2019. Why look to small town America and the grassroots origins of the sport and its fan base to level the playing field, or should I say bank accounts, of the league? Instead, why not focus on how to level out the league itself?
Last off-season, three players (Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Manny Machado) signed contracts worth over a combined $1 billion. Are you kidding me? Of the four major North American sports leagues MLB is the only one that does not have a salary cap. The MLBPA is one of, if not the strongest labor union in the country and has fought a salary cap every time the CBA comes up. That’s their right. But I think the time has come to institute one. No one person is worth as much as some of these guys are making (players and owners alike). You want a level playing field? Force the $90 million payroll Rays to spend a set minimum and force the Yankees to spend under a set maximum.
The $400,000-$500,000 a year’s worth of salaries it takes for a full minor league roster are a drop in the bucket for these owners who pay some of their superstars that much for one base hit.
So, rather than try to fix the problem at the richest levels of the sport, the plan is to decimate communities that, for some, have had minor league teams for over a century.
Every year articles are written about how attendance numbers at major league games are in decline. “Baseball’s too slow.” “Baseball’s boring.” “Games take too long.” Do you want to know where games aren’t boring? In the minor leagues.
Between every inning there is no lack of entertainment. Between theme nights, games on the field, games on the video boards, crazy mascots, there’s something for everyone. The ballparks are smaller so no matter where you sit, you’re closer to the action. The players are young kids looking to make their marks. They aren’t spoiled, pampered celebrities. They’re willing to sign more autographs, take more selfies, and talk to the fans. Sometimes connections players make with fans in the minor leagues last them the rest of their lives regardless of if they never make it to the bigs or if they make it to the Hall of Fame.
It wasn’t until I was 10, 11 years old or so that I realized exactly what having a Double-A team in my hometown meant. “Hey, these guys that are playing for the New York Mets used to be B-Mets. I have to start watching the New York Mets more.” My mom grew up a Mets fan, so I came by it honestly, but having the B-Mets in town certainly didn’t hurt.

What would have happened to me if the B-Mets had never come to town in 1992? Would I have kept playing the game all through school, hoping, praying that I’d one day play in the big leagues at Shea Stadium? Would I get giddy with excitement every February when pitchers and catchers report to spring training and feel that excitement build up until it bursts with pure joy on Opening Day (both for MLB and in Binghamton)? Would I have even pursued a career in broadcasting with the original goal of eventually taking over for Gary Cohen calling Mets games on SNY? It may sound overly dramatic, but a large part of who I am today is because I grew up in a minor league baseball town. I liked the game as a young kid. I didn’t love the game until after I started regularly attending B-Mets games.
How many kids (or adults for that matter) will turn away from baseball after Commissioner Rob Manfred and the 30 MLB owners choose their wallets over the good of the sport and take a beloved team away from a passionate community? Worse yet, how many young kids will never be given the chance to fall in love with baseball because their local team disappeared before they even had the chance to discover it?
I applaud Minor League Baseball and its owners for its combined show of support and vow to fight this proposal.

I implore Rob Manfred and the MLB owners to look big picture at the long term ramifications of this plan and realize that in no way is this good for the sport. Stop thinking about your bottom line and think about the fans. Not your luxury box season ticket holders, the little guys. The ones that come to one, maybe two of your major league games a year, and it’s the highlight of their summer. The same fans that show up night in and night out to support players that some day might play for you in the bigs and others that will never even get a cup of coffee. Those fans sit through 30-degree April nights, 95-degree July afternoons. They sit through rain, snow, you name it. The minor leagues are the lifeblood of baseball. Don’t bleed yourself dry to save a few dollars.
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Annual Booster Club Picnic a Big Hit

The annual Binghamton Booster Club picnic with the Ponies took place from approximately 5:00 to 6:30 on June 2nd, after a first game loss of a scheduled doubleheader against Portland. Almost immediately after the first game, a heavy downpour caused postponement of the second game, allowing the boosters and players to enjoy a fabulous meal at a decent hour!

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Harol Gonzalez, who sports a 3-1 record with a 2.94 E.R.A., poses for the camera with NYSEG Stadium in the background. 

Booster Club President Kevin Healy was the master of ceremonies while Rumble Pony owner John Hughes also addressed the attendees. Kevin thanked the entire staff of the Rumble Ponies for putting on the picnic and had high praise for the players, reminding the players that they were following in the footsteps of Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, and Tim Tebow; all whom attended the picnic last year.

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Anthony Kay is all smiles as he holds his winning raffle ticket and the door prize of a Wegmans gift card. 

The food was plentiful including hot dogs, hamburgers, baked chicken, and make your own tacos. Plenty of salads and desserts also filled the buffet table!  Thanks to the Rumble Pony staff and the players for sharing a great afternoon with the boosters!

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Though the Ponies lost the game that preceded the picnic by a 6-5 score, the game was a good one, filled with many positive moments, including Ali Sanchez tagging out Tate Matheny. 

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