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Remebering Yatcha: The Passing of Endicott's Baseball Legend

School ends, summer begins.  The North Side of Endicott is full of wonderful noises: carousel music, creaky swings, splashing at the "Z Pool," children laughing, and of course the familiar ping of an aluminum bat on a baseball.  For generations of Endicott children, no summer was complete without playing a Little League game at Logan Field. 

Late Friday night, the man they called "Yatcha," who the field in his hometown was named for, passed away.  Johnny Logan was 86.

Given the number of recent Union Endicott Tigers that have found their way into professional sports like the Jones Brothers, Jim Johnson, and Isaiah Kacyvenski, it should be of little surprise that long before any of them were born, there was a Tiger in the big leagues (and I don't mean the Detroit ones).

According to the monument that was unveiled at Logan Field last June, Johnny graduated from U-E High School in 1945 where he lettered in five sports: Baseball, Football, Basketball, Track, and Golf. 

He played Major League Ball for 13 years, nine years with the Milwaukee Braves.  He was the National League's number one shortstop in his first three years: 1952, 1953, 1954.

Johnny helped the Milwaukee Braves win the 1957 World Series by setting a baseball World Record in Game 4 - the only shortstop in history to make 10 assists in one World Series Game.

His teammates that year: Hank Aaron, Eddie Matthews, Warren Spahn, and Red Schoendienst. 

The last line pretty much says it all: "Yatcha is Endicott's #1 Baseball Hero."

Jim Johnson, the ball's in your bullpen now.

Logan was honored by the Milwaukee Brewers in June with a star on their walk of fame, and shortly after his passing issued this statement:

"Johnny Logan was a longtime friend to Milwaukee baseball. His connection to both the Brewers and the Braves and the Milwaukee community was very strong. Virtually every person associated with the Milwaukee Brewers has been touched by Johnny through his many visits to the ballpark and terrific stories about his time in the game. We will miss Johnny deeply and will never forget his colorful character and personality."

The Brewers website has the whole article from the Brewers, including comments from Hall of Fame Broadcaster Bob Uecker, a close friend of Logan.

The monument at Logan Field is now more a memorial of Johnny, standing as a reminder to all those who walk across the foul line and onto the diamond that hard work and dedication may one day allow them to follow in Johnny's footsteps. 

Last summer when the monument was unveiled, I had the pleasure of attending the ceremony.  Johnny, accompanied by members of his family, rode into the park on a convertible, and immediately was the life of the party.  As soon as he got out of the car he began telling stories, sharing jokes, and laughing with some old friends.  Not to mention making news ones; dozens of kids rushed towards him with balls, pictures, gloves, bats, anything they could find in hopes of getting an autograph.

As a rookie reporter, I was just hoping he'd give me a few seconds of his time for an interview.  He did.  Although, I wouldn't exactly classify it as an interview.  It may not surprise anyone that knew him and his character to hear that before I could even get a question out, he grabbed the microphone and just started talking.  He talked about his career, he talked about growing up in Endicott, everything you could think of.  I've done hundreds of interviews since, none, yet, stand out in my mind as entertaining as Johnny's.  The video attached to this article has one of my favorite sound bites I've had the privilege of pulling, so far.  Every time you watch it, you can't help but smile. 

After the interview, Johnny took the field to throw out the ceremonial first pitch to kick off that day's Little League schedule.  One of the Endicott Youth Baseball players caught the strike.  I only imagine the battle that took place behind the scenes to decide who would catch for Johnny Logan.  As is custom, after a ceremonial first pitch, the catcher jogs out to the mound, and presents the person who threw it, with the ball.  When the young man tried to give Johnny the ball, Johnny simply asked someone else for a pen so he could sign it, and give it back to the kid.

Having only met Johnny this one time, I can't say from experience that this is how he was all the time.  But from everything I've heard and read, I can't picture him being any other way.

For a boy from a little town in Upstate New York, he had a tremendous impact on the world's biggest stage.

His career in the bigs began in 1951 and lasted until 1963.  In that time he accumulated 1,163 hits, 88 home runs, and 554 runs.  According to his plaque on Milwaukee's Wall of Honor: "while spending the majority of his 13 Major League seasons in Milwaukee [he] led the National League in doubles and games played in 1955.  [He] played in all but one inning of the 1957 and 1958 World Series.  Hits keyed Braves victories in Game Two and Game Four of the 1957 World Series.  Four-time All Star: 1955, 1957, 1958, 1959."

Johnny Logan

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