Arthur E. (Red) Patterson, one of baseball's most innovative public
relations officials and an executive with both the Dodgers and Angels,
died Monday of cancer. He was 83.
During a baseball career that began with the New York Yankees in 1946
and spanned 45 years, Patterson was credited with introducing
old-timers' games, yearbooks, concession souvenirs and many of the most
popular promotional events. He also was the first to pace off a home run
by Mickey Mantle and refer to it as a tape-measure homer.
Helen Patterson, his wife of 60 years, was at his bedside when he
died at St. Jude's Hospital in Fullerton. Buzzie Bavasi, who
worked with Patterson as general manager of the Dodgers and Angels, said
he never met a harder worker.
"Fifteen hours a day weren't enough for Red," Bavasi said. "I
haven't known all of the public relations people, but he had to be up
with the best of them. He started most of the programs they all seem to
Said Tim Mead, public relations director of the Angels: "Red was one
of the last great baseball storytellers. He was one of the last baseball
purists, a baseball historian, to work as a club PR director. He taught
me how to recognize trends, to look beyond the obvious (in preparing
statistics and pregame media notes). And he was always positive. You had
to argue convincingly if you wanted to use a negative note or stat."
Patterson first served as vice president of public relations for the
Dodgers, then as president of the Angels.
Dodger President Peter O'Malley, who accepted a lifetime achievement
award on Patterson's behalf at Sunday night's annual dinner of the Los
Angeles-Anaheim chapter of the Baseball Writers Assn. of America, said
he was saddened by the loss of a "very special man" who provided an
"endless supply of creative ideas."
"I used to kid Red about typing his press notes with his right hand
as he drove home with his left," O'Malley said. "He loved his work,
always looked on the bright side and always had an anecdote. We were
fortunate to have him in the organization for 20 years."
Patterson was born on Feb. 1, 1909, in Long Island City, N.Y., the
son of a mill superintendent. He attended night school at New York
University while working days for the now defunct New York
Herald-Tribune. He spent 17 years with the paper, covering a variety of
sports, including baseball. He was on the road with the New York Yankees
on the day that Lou Gehrig's record streak of 2,130 games ended.
In an interview several years ago, Patterson said of that event: "We
were in Detroit, and I remember Joe McCarthy, who was the Yankee manager
then, calling and saying, 'I've got a story I think you'll be interested
in.' I went up to Joe's room and he said that Gehrig wasn't going to
play that day, that he had asked to come out of the lineup because he
felt there was something physically wrong, though no one knew what it
"Well, the Yankees won by about 16 runs that day. They were so
inspired they would have beaten any team ever. Gehrig had taken the
lineup card to the plate before the game. Guys were crying, going up to
bat with tears running down their cheeks."
In 1945, Patterson joined the National League Service Bureau under
Ford Frick, the league president and future commissioner. Patterson was
considered a candidate to become league president when Frick stepped up,
but Patterson left the league office in 1946 to join the Yankees as the
first publicity director for a major league team.
Two years later, he staged the first old-timers' game as a means of
honoring Babe Ruth and stimulating fans who had become disinterested by
the annual dominance of the Yankees. It was during his eight years with
the Yankees that he also came up with the idea of cap day and other
promotions and became the first to publish a yearbook that was sold with
other souvenirs at the concession stands.
"Harry Stevens ran the concessions then and he didn't like the idea,"
Patterson said in the interview. "I remember him saying, 'What are you
trying to do, make Yankee Stadium into a Coney Island?' It was the same
thing when I suggested the cap day. George Weiss was the club's general
manager then and he said, 'I don't want every kid in New York running
around in a Yankee cap.' I said, 'George, what could be better? That's
the greatest ad you could have.' "
Nothing, perhaps, brought Patterson more renown nor did more to
document the strength of the young Mantle than Patterson's decision to
measure the distance of a Mantle home run that was hit against
Chuck Stobbs of the Washington Senators and carried over the back
wall at Griffith Stadium.
"Nobody had ever hit the ball out of the left side of Griffith
Stadium, so I decided to go out into the neighborhood behind the fence,"
Patterson recalled. "I found a youngster with the ball, asked him where
it had landed, and paced off that distance to the fence. We knew how far
the wall was from the plate, so we could announce that it was 565 feet.
Mickey was absolutely the strongest player I ever saw."
Patterson would apply the newly created "tape measure" to other
homers in other places, the distances often raising skeptical eyebrows
but also creating headlines and conversation, as did many of his other
Patterson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers as their publicity director in
1954, came West with the team in 1958 and later became vice president of
public relations and promotions.
It is estimated that he made 300 speeches a year on behalf of the
club, often three a day, seven a week. His promotions, including a
Straight 'A' Night for students, were copied throughout baseball and
helped the Dodgers become baseball's attendance leaders on an almost
Impressed by Patterson's accomplishments and looking for ways to
reach the Angels' fans, owner Gene Autry hired Patterson as club
president in 1975. Patterson's title changed to assistant to the owner
when Bavasi was hired to oversee budget and playing player
personnel in 1977, but Patterson's promotions and programs helped the
Angels set a club attendance record of 2.5 million in 1979 and draw 2.2
million or more in every year except one since then.
He resigned briefly in 1985, believing he no longer retained any
authority, but basically remained on the payroll as a public relations
consultant. He continued to make occasional appearances on behalf of the
club until recently, and periodically wrote a baseball column for the
In addition to his wife, Patterson is survived by sons Kenneth and
Brian, daughters Janet Huie and Maureen Haskins, and 15
grandchildren. Services are pending.