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  • Don Bessent

    Though I never saw him pitch, and had a relatively short career, here's a guy who made a real difference to 2 pennant winners, won a series, and provided a real spark when the team needed it. What are your memories? I understand he was injured in 1958 but disappears off the radar afterwards. Can anyone fill me in on Don's departure and his life after Brooklyn?

  • #2
    Originally posted by Robb Schwartz
    Though I never saw him pitch, and had a relatively short career, here's a guy who made a real difference to 2 pennant winners, won a series, and provided a real spark when the team needed it. What are your memories? I understand he was injured in 1958 but disappears off the radar afterwards. Can anyone fill me in on Don's departure and his life after Brooklyn?
    Don had a most unfortunate life, after he left baseball. He became an alcoholic and died from the disease in the early 90's.

    c.
    Last edited by DODGER DEB; 03-10-2006, 07:00 PM.

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    • #3
      I remember I had an article that provided some more behind the strange circumstances of Don's fatal alcohol poisoning in his car, but I can't find it now. Perhaps as well not to dwell on it.

      What I'd like to know -- calling tonypug! -- is where his great nickname came from: The Weasel.

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      • #4
        I knew WE had discussed Don about a year ago. Check out this post for information on this death in 1990.....

        http://www.baseball-fever.com/showpo...0&postcount=12

        c.

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        • #5
          I met Bessent in the late 70s, early 80s when he was working for the Pepsi bottler in Jacksonville. He was very proud of his World Series ring and his years with the Dodgers. He was a very personable guy and told some great stories about his years in Brooklyn.

          We were scheduled to do a story with him for inclusion in the national Pepsi Cola "house organ" but he never showed up for a 4:00 PM interview. I later asked the bottler what happened and he said, "You have to get Don before noon." Nice guy. Big talent. Sad story.
          After 1957, it seemed like we would never laugh again. Of course, we did. Its just that we were never young again.

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          • #6
            Here's DON...


            From an eBay listing.

            c.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by VIBaseball
              What I'd like to know -- calling tonypug! -- is where his great nickname came from: The Weasel.
              I'm answering my own question. I looked it up, and it's a simple physical description. Bessent was slender, and as you can see from the card Deb posted, he had "rather sharp features and flashing brown eyes," as the Times put it on 10/6/56.

              The article notes how the Dodgers claimed him from the Yankees (!) for $4,500. The Yankees had left him unprotected in the minor-league draft after Bessent lost the whole 1952 season to a spinal fusion operation that left him in casts and braces. Scout Leon Hamilton, who'd jumped from the Bronx to Brooklyn, made the recommendation.

              The Washington Post wrote about Don's passing on 7/12/90. He had developed arm trouble in '59 and was out of the game after four more seasons in the minors. When he passed away in his car in the parking lot of a Wendy's, his blood alcohol was 0.35. Earlier that afternoon, he'd told employees that he was OK, but then when he later asked for help, the assistant manager threatened to fire the workers if they did. Two of them still approached an off-duty cop, who summoned a paramedic, but it was too late. Rightly, that assistant manager was fired.

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              • #8
                Don Bessent

                That's quite a story....I'm so amazed at what has happened to so many of the players post baseball. Sometimes they make it (Jackie for example was successful in business) and other times they don't.

                The fortunate ones knew that baseball life was short and invested in the future. I think the Duke had his avocado farms in Escondido CA, Oisk went into banking. What are your other favorite after baseball stories? Maybe we should post a special thread along these lines...

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Robb Schwartz
                  That's quite a story....I'm so amazed at what has happened to so many of the players post baseball. Sometimes they make it (Jackie for example was successful in business) and other times they don't.

                  The fortunate ones knew that baseball life was short and invested in the future. I think the Duke had his avocado farms in Escondido CA, Oisk went into banking. What are your other favorite after baseball stories? Maybe we should post a special thread along these lines...
                  I always get a warm feeling when I think about what Don Newcombe has accomplished in his life after baseball. I think about the courage it took to crawl out of the nightmarish pit of alcoholism and how he dedicated his life to helping others overcome their addictions. Funny too because some writers used to imply he lacked courage. I guess they know better now. In 1978 Newcombe convinced Peter O'Malley of the need to establish an alcohol-abuse assistance program for the Dodgers. That program has since been copied by numerous sports franchises and through his public speaking, counseling and outreach work, Newcombe has helped to save countless lives. God bless him.

                  "I'm glad to be anywhere when I think about my life back then," said Newcombe, who placed his hands on his young son's head 39 years ago and swore he would never have another drink after alcoholism derailed a brilliant pitching career with the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers. "What I have done after my baseball career and being able to help people with their lives and getting their lives back on track and they become human beings again -- means more to me than all the things I did in baseball."

                  (Don Newcombe)
                  Last edited by zman; 03-16-2006, 01:42 PM.

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                  • #10
                    I do remember Bessent as he game up as I was becoming a Bums fan. We had a lot of hope for him, but he just didn't pan out. In retrospect he had two fine seasons as a reliefer.
                    Buck O'Neil: The Monarch of Baseball

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                    • #11
                      the real stuff

                      Memories of Don Bessent and Don Newcombe...what an interesting and compelling contrast in what could have been versus what is and what will be.

                      As posted earlier, I cherish the few minutes I spent with Don Newcombe 4 years ago...he's still a big man with a heart as big as he is. He spoke about attitude to the 200 Boeing managers and just as zman says above, how what he's been doing the last 20 years far surpasses what he did on the diamond. Imagine if Don had a chance with Bessent...so ironic that they were both into the bottle at the same time and their careers both went south in the same era. One made it out and the other didn't. And what a lesson for all of us...how we cherish our heros while they are in front of us on the diamond but rarely do we really hear about them after baseball. Perhaps that's why I'm here because all of you care about these guys as much as I do.

                      Don described his work with Bobby Welch and others too. I respect and admire him for understanding how his pain could help others learn the lessons and maybe avoid some of the mistakes he made himself. He is bigger than life to me now and is an example of a real winner in life...knowing how to adapt and learn and move on...a lesson for us all.

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                      • #12
                        Newk's story is both inspiring and comforting to me. It makes me feel like no matter how far we've fallen from grace, it's always possible for us to regain our humanity. By the grace of God, we all have the possibility of redemption. I'm grateful for that and humbled by it at the same time.
                        Last edited by zman; 03-17-2006, 03:17 PM.

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                        • #13
                          One of the sad things from our Brooklyn Dodgers of the fifties was a drinking problem some of the players had. Newcombe , Bessent and Podres were three who had major problems. Here is what Newcombe had to say about drinking in the book " We Played The Game". "In this era, you didn't hear about players being alcoholics. But thats what I was. There were some Dodgers who didn't drink- Erskine, Pee Wee, Roy, Gil- but we had other players who drank too much. Ed Roebuck and I were drinking buddies, Johnny Podres, Duke Snider, it almost killed Podres, it almost killed me."
                          Lets get Eddie Basinski elected to the Polish Sports Hall of Fame.
                          www.brooklyndodgermemories.com

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by tonypug
                            One of the sad things from our Brooklyn Dodgers of the fifties was a drinking problem some of the players had. Newcombe , Bessent and Podres were three who had major problems. Here is what Newcombe had to say about drinking in the book " We Played The Game". "In this era, you didn't hear about players being alcoholics. But thats what I was. There were some Dodgers who didn't drink- Erskine, Pee Wee, Roy, Gil- but we had other players who drank too much. Ed Roebuck and I were drinking buddies, Johnny Podres, Duke Snider, it almost killed Podres, it almost killed me."
                            In Johnny's case, it was both the drinking and the smoking that contributed to his very serious heart condition.

                            c.

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                            • #15
                              Don Bessent

                              Originally posted by DODGER DEB
                              In Johnny's case, it was both the drinking and the smoking that contributed to his very serious heart condition.

                              c.
                              A few years ago I saw Johnny Podres in uniform as a coach for the Phillies in the booth above the minor league field having a smoke.
                              Lets support Gil Hodges for The Hall of Fame, a true Hall of Famer.

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