Edwin “Eddie” Basinski had been the second-oldest former Major League Baseball player. He passed away at a care facility in Gladstone, Oregon, where he had been residing for the past seven years.
Born in 1922 in Buffalo, New York, into a working-class Polish-American family, Basinski was encouraged by his mother, who was a pianist, to begin playing the violin at age five.
He attended the University of Buffalo and played in the orchestra there, later taking on a casual position as a violinist for the Buffalo Symphony Orchestra.
According to The New York Times, he began his baseball career with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1944. The next year, he played 108 games with them, filling in for the future Hall of Famer Pee Wee Reese.
Basinski also played for the minor league Pirates and then later in the Pacific Coast League, for the Portland Beavers. He retired from the game in 1959.
He would occasionally be asked to play his violin for a baseball audience, but Basinski did so reluctantly. “I’m a perfectionist,” he confessed. “If I can’t play well then I prefer not to do it.”
According to his biography on the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR), his Dodgers teammates and manager became doubtful of Basinski’s musical ability, due to his reluctance to play at the clubhouse. On a bet, however, he proved them wrong by playing selections of Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Victor Herbert, and a Strauss waltz.
Along with being inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame and Pacific Coast League Hall Of Fame, his name was also featured in David Frishberg’s famous song, “Van Lingle Mungo.” Basinski was the last surviving player among the 33 players whose names constitute the lyrics.
“The good side is, he lived 99 years and 65 days,” his son, Dave Basinski, said. “He had a full life, like Betty White. His spirits were good right up until the end.”
Our condolences to Mr. Basinski’s family, friends, and colleagues.