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Thursday, March 20, 2003
Buzas operated about 60 minor league teams
SALT LAKE CITY -- Former New York Yankees shortstop and longtime minor league team owner Joe Buzas has died at 84.
Buzas, who died Wednesday, owned the Salt Lake Stingers of the Pacific Coast League -- the AAA franchise for the Anaheim Angels. He had been ill for several years, the team said.
Buzas began his playing career in 1941. He was the Yankees' opening-day shortstop in 1945, but played only 30 games in the major leagues and batted .262.
After a shoulder injury cut short his playing career, Buzas spent a decade as a manager in Puerto Rico before moving up to ownership.
He bought his first team, the Allentown (Pa.) Red Sox, for $25,000 in 1956, and later moved it to Bristol, Conn. He moved the team to New Britain in 1983, and it won the Eastern League title that year behind the pitching of Roger Clemens.
The parent Boston Red Sox pressured Buzas to move the team to Springfield, Mass., in 1994. But an emotional outpouring from New Britain fans convinced him to keep the club there, according to The Herald of New Britain.
Buzas dumped the Red Sox and turned New Britain into a Minnesota Twins affiliate in 1995. He sold the team in 2000 to ownership group headed by Coleman B. Levy and William F. Dowling.
Buzas' commitment to baseball in New Britain is noted on a plaque outside New Britain Stadium.
"We're obviously saddened to hear of the death of the benefactor of baseball in New Britain," Dowling said. "He did everything he could to keep baseball here. We built what we have here on the shoulders of a giant."
Buzas operated about 60 minor league teams over four decades. He moved his PCL team from Portland, Ore., to Salt Lake City in 1994.
In Salt Lake City, his franchise led the PCL in attendance its first six years. In 1996, he was awarded the John. J. Johnson President's Trophy as "Owner of the Year."
"Joe was a legend in this sport, the last of the old school of owner-operators who lived and breathed baseball," said Dorsena Picknell, assistant general manager of the Stingers.
Buzas is survived by his wife of 58 years, Helen; a son, Jason; a daughter, Hilary Drammis, and two grandchildren.
A funeral mass will be held at St. Vincent's Catholic Church in Salt Lake City on Monday.