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Red Adams: PCL Pitcher, Dodgers Coach, Friend

Red Adams was a long-time PCL pitcher, Los Angeles Dodgers scout and pitching coach, and my friend. He died on January 19th at the age of 95.

Adams was a “baseball lifer” who spent over 50 years working professionally in the game. I found his baseball resume very impressive. However, I found who he was as a man even more impressive. Without exaggeration, he was one of the best men I have ever met.

Born in Parlier, California, Adams pitched 19 seasons professionally (1939-1942, 1944-1958), before a long scouting and coaching career with the Dodgers. In 16 seasons in the PCL, Adams compiled a 153-138 record with the Los Angeles Angels, Portland Beavers, San Diego Padres and Sacrament() Solons. He posted his best record, 21-15, in 1945 with the Angels, which resulted in a promotion to the Chicago Cubs the following year. He saw only brief big league action, posting an 0-1 record over eight games in relief during the 1946 season. At the time of his passing, he was the oldest living Cub.

In addition to his standout 1945 season, highlights of his PCL career include leading the league in ERA in 1952 (2.17) and being a contributor on three championship teams with the Angels (1944, 1947, 1956).

Following his playing days, Adams spent 33 years with the Dodgers, 1959-1991, in numerous scouting and coaching roles. His time with the Dodgers included 12 seasons as their pitching coach, 1969-1980. In seven seasons from 1972-1978, the Dodgers led the National League in ERA six times (19721975, 1977-1978) and finished second the other year (1976). During this time, the Dodgers won three National League pennants (1974, 1977-1978). He was praised by many Dodgers pitchers for his coaching abilities. In Don Sutton’s Hall of Fame induction speech, he stated, “Red Adams is the standard by which every pitching coach should be measured. No person ever meant more to my career than Red Adams. Without him, I wouldn’t be standing in Cooperstown today.”

I first met Adams as a young teenager through my great-uncle, Larry Powell. Larry and Red were teammates with the Angels in 1947-1948 and kept in touch. Since I loved baseball and lived relatively close to Red, Larry suggested I reach out to him. Red was always very accommodating. We talked on the phone occasionally, regularly traded letters and he had me as a guest at his home a few times. Our conversations focused primarily on baseball, but as I got older they evolved into more important topics like marriage, family and life in general. As a Giants fan, we often joked with each other about our preferred teams.

Over the past decade, I got focused on my career and family and we lost regular contact. I spoke with him by phone in mid-2015 and that fall his birthday card was returned. I tried calling a few times last year

and eventually gotRed Adams & Zak Ford

notice in September that his phone had been disconnected.

His connection to Dodgers history inspired me to attend Vin Scully Weekend in Los Angeles at the end of the last baseball season. For the first (and likely last) time in my life, I wore a Dodgers jersey at the games – his 1980 game used home jersey. I figured it was a fitting way to retire the jersey and say goodbye to Red, as I never expected to see him again.

Upon returning home from that nostalgic and emotional trip, I decided to try and track him down, regardless of how unlikely my success would be.

I knew his wife had passed away in 2010 and I looked for her obituary online. Luckily, I found it and in the obituary there was reference to his surviving children. After some online searching, I found a few possible numbers and called them. The next day I got a call from his oldest daughter, who updated me on his condition and location. He was in an assisted living and memory care home in Fresno.

I am very thankful that in the last three months of his life, I had the opportunity to enjoy four visits with him. I was able to thank him for the positive impact he had on my life and even introduce him to my wife and kids. Despite not remembering many details of his baseball career, he was the same man. He hadn’t lost his sense of humor nor his welcoming nature and ability to lift everyone around him up with his encouraging personality.

During those four visits, we didn’t talk much about his experiences as a baseball player or coach. That was no longer important. We were able to talk about what was important to him at his core as a man.

 

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  1. I cried over and over when I read this Article. It was a happy cry because that is the way I saw my Uncle. Thank you Zak, for this wonderful Article…you have me still in tears…

    Uncle Red lives on, in all of us!