Harry Arthur “Cookie” Lavagetto is best known for one swing of the bat against Bill Bevens of the New York Yankees on an October day in 1947. But his baseball career, as a player and manager, was much more than that. The six-foot, 170-pound Lavagetto played professional baseball for ten seasons over a fourteen-year span, losing four seasons to service in the navy during World War II. Lavagetto, a four-time All-Star at third base, had a career batting average of .269 and played in two World Series as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers, in 1941 and 1947. He was the last manager of the American League Washington Senators, from 1957 through 1960, and the first manager of the Minnesota Twins when the Senators relocated there for the 1961 season.
Lavagetto’s parents were Luigi S. and Adelaide (Lavagett) Lavagetto, both born in Italy in the mid-1870s. Luigi arrived in the United States in 1901; Adelaide arrived in 1906. Harry, the youngest of four boys, was born on December 1, 1912, in Oakland, California, and christened Enrico Atillio Lavagetto.1 His name was “changed” twice. After his Catholic Church confirmation, the middle name “Attilio” became “Arturo.” And on his first day of school, he was told by his teacher that in English “Enrico” was either “Henry” or “Harry.” He decided on Harry, and from that day forward he was known as Harry Arturo Lavagetto. It was during these early days at school in Oakland that Harry met Mary Poggi. It was a long courtship; they didn’t marry until 1945. “Our families used to go mushroom-hunting together in the hills above Oakland,” Lavagetto recalled.2
Cookie Lavagetto was a part-time player in 1947, his final
big league season.
Playing Major League baseball had always been young Harry’s dream. Shortly after graduating from Oakland Technical High School, he had a tryout with San Francisco of the Pacific Coast League.3 Living just across the bay, Lavagetto was eager for the chance to play professional baseball so close to home. But he flopped during the tryout and assumed his goal of playing in the big leagues was over. Moreover, his father had been pressuring him to start earning a living.