BU’s first major leaguer

In its short time as a Division I school, Binghamton University has produced a few exemplary athletes who later went on to pursue their dreams as professional performers.

Former graduate student Rory Quiller became the America East’s first Division I NCAA champion and is now working toward appearing in the 2012 London Olympics. Former BU pitcher Scott Diamond was named Pitcher of the Year at Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach in the Atlanta Braves organization and hopes to enter major league baseball. But he wouldn’t be the first Bearcat to make it to the big leagues.

Johnny Logan was the trailblazer.

His short time at Binghamton University lies buried far under more than 60 years of history. The only record the registrar’s office has of the 82-year-old is an old high school transcript from Union-Endicott. Back then he came to Harpur College fresh from the Army and was waiting for his chance in the minor leagues while playing on the Colonials basketball team. He would later play alongside greats like Hank Aaron and play against legends like Mickey Mantle, eventually to become a four-time All-Star and even winning a World Series.

Still Logan will never forget Harpur College, a place which gave him education and friendship.

Logan grew up in Endicott, living and breathing in the world of sports.

“I was a [5-foot-11] man in Union Endicott High School,” Logan joked. “I played baseball, football, basketball, track and golf, but I didn’t learn anything in school. I didn’t have the time to study after school because I had to get all my stuff done fast. I would be working out from 3:30 till 7 o’clock. Then [I] would eat a sandwich and go to bed.”

He remembers the time the New York Yankees came to Binghamton to play against their former farm team, the Binghamton Triplets.

“That day I skipped school and I ran [about 8 miles] from Endicott to Johnson City to see Joe DiMaggio play,” Logan said. “I was about 12 years old at the time and when I got to the field, I realized I had no money to get in. I went to go in and the guy asked me ‘Where’s your ticket?’ and I asked, ‘Oh, you need to pay?’ Since I couldn’t get in, I went around the green fences [that surrounded the field] and there was a knothole in one of the fences. I leaned in and I happened to look through the hole only to see number 5, Joe DiMaggio.”

Logan’s baseball career took flight very early toward the end of high school. He would take a bus from Binghamton to Cortland every Sunday to play baseball with other colleges including Cortland, Elmira and Syracuse. There he was discovered by the late Dewey Briggs, a scout for the Boston Braves responsible for signing Hank Aaron.

“Dewey Briggs saw me play baseball and he asked me to try out for the semi-pro ball team,” Logan said. “On my first tryout, I took a bus from Binghamton to Homer, N.Y. When I got there he told me we were going to have workout and he wanted to see how good I was.”

“So I was putting on my uniform when I noticed that I had two right-footed shoes. I ran a half an hour workout in those shoes and after I sat on the bench in the dugout. He came over and looked at my shoes and said ‘Hey, what the hell’s wrong with your shoes?’”

“I said, ‘Nothing why?’ He said, ‘Well they’re two right-footed shoes!’ and I said, ‘God, damnit I didn’t even know that.’ I was so embarrassed I didn’t even wanna tell him I knew it. Nevertheless I still made the team.”

Logan joined the U.S. armed forces in 1945 during World War II. Even then he did not allow sports to escape his life and joined one of the Army baseball teams.

“When we were in Japan, we played baseball against all the Marine, Navy and Army guys,” he said. “I was on special duty at the time.”

Leaving the Army, Logan enrolled at Binghamton University in 1948, then known as Triple Cities College, an affiliate of Syracuse University. He used the GI Bill to pay for his tuition and played on the basketball team under former TCC coach Gene Welborn. There were no buildings during Logan’s time at Harpur. He recalls living in the “army barracks” or the pre-fab buildings, which were the homes to scores of veterans returning from the war to attend college.

“After I left the Army, it was nice associating with other people at Harpur College,” Logan said. “I played basketball there and I had a good time. I was already under a contract with the Boston Braves at the time, so therefore my next year I made my move to Milwaukee. My mind was always on professional baseball. ”

Logan played in the minor leagues for two years and broke into the majors in 1951 under the Boston Braves as the shortstop. He was more than ecstatic about playing, but the pay was mediocre.

“I started in Boston making about a $1,000 a month,” Logan said. “It was only a $150 difference from my time in the minor leagues. My first contract was $5,000. When I was in the minors I ate more hot dogs and French fries, and when I got to Boston I had baked bean soup. It isn’t like how it is today with lobsters and shrimp. You used to walk in for food like you were walking into a barbershop.”

The Braves moved to Milwaukee in 1953. It was then that the Logan and his team had their best years.

“Wow, beating the Yankees, being the World Champs … the best thing I could tell you was that it was a Champagne Party,” Logan said.

In 1957 the Braves celebrated their first pennant in nine years against the St. Louis Cardinals. The team then went on to win its first World Series in 43 years, defeating the New York Yankees, a team that included Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford. Logan set the World Series record for the most assists by a shortstop.

“For four years, we played great,” Logan said. “It was an exciting time with exciting players, and it was great to be a part of it.”

Logan led the league in 1957 with 37 doubles and reached a career high RBI of 83 and a .297 batting average.

Logan was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1961 and in 1964 went to Osaka Japan to play for the Nankai Hawks. He was one of the first baseball players from America to play in the World Series of Japan. That same year, Logan decided finally hang up the spikes.

“After Japan, I was 38 years old,” Logan explained. “And back in that day, baseball players went to only about 38-40 years old. Baseball is a young guy’s sport and I was ready to hang everything up after that time.”

Just like his times playing sports while he was young, Logan tried a variety new things once he was done playing in the major leagues. He tried his chance as a sports broadcaster and a radio show host but found that he did not have the “finesse” to do it. He then traveled up to Anchorage, Alaska to work on pipelines for three years, sometimes working under minus 40 degree weather. He even tried running for sheriff in Milwaukee, where he currently resides. Although Logan has explored the world in his long and rich life, he still believes that there is so much to see out the

“I have tried everything, you know. I just don’t stop,” Logan joked. “I’m alert and … above ground.”

Today Logan is a part-time scout for the Milwaukee Brewers and has held the position for eight years. He scouts primarily Wisconsin student athletes.

Looking back at his career at 83, Logan misses the friendships he forged with his comrades.

“The association with your teammates and all that,” Logan said. “That’s what you miss.”

Logan, however, still keeps in touch with his team through the Milwaukee Braves Historical Association, of which he is the president.

With his years of experience, Logan offers some advice to athletes pursuing a professional career:

“The first thing is to get your coach to [respect] you and [respect] the coach back,” Logan said. “Then, once he gives you the opportunity to perform, you’ve got to produce. Give it the best you’ve got and you will go far. Finally, you have got to get along with your teammates. Everyday you’re not going to be a hero, so let you teammates perform and become the heroes. This way you have an entire team of heroes.”