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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 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 of the major leaguers. George Elder, 100, a 1949 St. Louis Browns outfielder, is the oldest.

Basinski, who had taken classical violin lessons since he was a child, performed with the University of Buffalo Symphony Orchestra before embarking on his major league career in 1944, at a time when baseball teams had been playing. lost many players in the service of WWII. (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 miners when Reese returned to Brooklyn in 1946. He joined the Pirates in 1947 and played in 56 games.

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

Basinski had another contact with the world of baseball when he was a member of some thirty major leagues of yesteryear whose names provided the lyrics to the song by jazz pianist and singer Dave Frishberg in 1969 “Van Lingle Mungo (His title is the name of the fastpitch pitcher with the New York Dodgers and Giants in the 1930s and 1940s). Basinski was the last survivor of this group.

The closing stanza goes:

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 seven children of Walter and Sophie Basinski. His father was a machinist. His mother, who played the piano, encouraged him to take violin lessons as a child. He tried for his high school baseball team, but he was a skinny boy who wore thick glasses, his eyesight was damaged by rheumatic fever when he was 4, and the coach decided that he did not 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 factory in Buffalo and played for semi-pro baseball teams, attracting the attention 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 Dodger’s teammates, whose knowledge of the musical world may have been limited to “Take me to the ball game”, criticized him for his skills as a violinist.

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

“He stopped and looked at me and said, ‘Well I’ll be a son of a bitch,’” Basinski said in a 2011 interview 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 0.244 career major league batting average.

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 that there is a relationship between playing the violin and throwing balls on the ground. “I had great speed because of the bowing and fingering, which just has to 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 had a tremendous ovation,” he said, “and I also had a good doubleheader.”

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