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Benjamin Raymond Geraghty (July 19, 1912June 18, 1963) was an Americanmarker infielder in Major League Baseball and one of the most successful and respected minor league managers of the 1950s.

A native of Jersey City, New Jerseymarker, Geraghty was a graduate of Villanova Universitymarker, where he received a degree in journalism. A right-handed batter and thrower, he appeared in only 70 major league games with the Brooklyn Dodgers (1936) and Boston Braves (1943-44), compiling a batting average of .199 in 146 at bats.

On June 24, , Geraghty survived one of the greatest tragedies in baseball history, when the bus carrying his minor league team, the Spokane Indians of the Class B Western International League, crashed while attempting to avert an oncoming car on a rain-slicked mountain pass. Nine players were killed; Geraghty was among the injured. He sustained a severe head wound when he was thrown through a window before the bus burst into flames, but was able to climb up the hillside and signal for help. The Indians team was decimated and could only continue the season with players loaned from other clubs and organizations.

Despite his head injury, Geraghty was able to return to Spokane to manage the Indians later in 1946 (the team's original manager, Mel Cole, had perished in the crash). Then, in 1947, he led Spokane to a second place finish and 87 victories. But his health would never be the same. He would manage in the minors for the next 16 seasons, but he was troubled by a heart condition and cardiovascular disease, and reportedly struggled with alcoholism.

In his 17-year managing career, Geraghty won 1,317 games and lost 1,021 (.563) and won five pennants in seven years (1953-59) while piloting Class A South Atlantic League and Class AAA American Association farm clubs of the Braves, then based in Milwaukeemarker. In the ten seasons of 1953 through 1962, a Geraghty-managed team never finished lower than second place. But his impact was felt beyond mere wins and losses. In 1953, Geraghty managed an integrated team in the Jim Crow South with the Jacksonville Braves, and one of his players was 19-year-old Henry Aaron.

Aaron, wrote author and former minor league pitcher Pat Jordan in his 1975 memoir A False Spring, "believed that Ben Geraghty was the greatest manager who ever lived, certainly the greatest manager he ever played for ..." In addition to his on-field strategic acumen and his ability to develop playing talent, Geraghty, a white man, regularly confronted the rigid racial segregation of the times, insisting that he and his African-American players be served as equals at the finest restaurants. "Invariably, they would be refused service," Jordan wrote. "While Aaron waited nervously outside, Geraghty complained loudly to the management ... They [would go] to the next best restaurant, and the next and the next, until Geraghty finally located one that would serve [them] ..."

But Geraghty would never be called to manage or coach in the major leagues. Ill health sidelined him for much of the 1960 season, while he was in the midst of a three-year run as skipper of Milwaukee's Louisville Colonels AAA farm club. In 1962, he left the Braves and joined the Cleveland Indians farm system as manager of their new AAA International League affiliate, the Jacksonville Suns. During the 1961-62 offseason, he also underwent a four-hour operation in a Jacksonville hospital to correct a circulatory condition. Recovering in time for spring training, he led his 1962 Suns to 94 victories and earned his second Minor League Manager of the Year Award and final pennant. The following June 18, in Jacksonville, in the middle of his second season in the new job, Geraghty was stricken with a fatal heart attack, one month shy of his 51st birthday. He is interred in Evergreen Cemetery, Jacksonville.

Before his 1946 injury from the Spokane bus accident, Geraghty also was a basketball coach, serving as an assistant with the varsity at Seton Hall Universitymarker.

References

  • Johnson, Lloyd, and Wolff, Miles, ed., Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, Third Edition. Durham, N.C.: Baseball America, 2007.
  • Johnson, Lloyd, ed., The Minor League Register. Durham, N.C.: Baseball America, 1994.
  • Jordan, Pat, A False Spring. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1975.


External links

  • http://www.baseballreference.com/bullpen/Ben_Geraghty



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