A Grandson Pays Tribute on ‘Earl Averill Day’
The grandson of the late Earl Averill, the only Washington State native enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame, has a party at the ballpark every year on Aug. 13--his own birthday.
On that day--Earl Averill Day for the 2,000 or so fans of the Everett Giants of the Class A Northwest League--James H. (The Earl) Averill becomes a self-proclaimed celebrity.
Averill, 33, a jack-of-all-trades employe of the team, gives fans a picture of his grandfather receiving a Cadillac from appreciative Cleveland Indians fans in 1938. He then throws out the first ball of the game.
“It’s the only time all year I wear a suit and a tie, and I sweat a lot because it’s usually hot,” Averill said.
Nevertheless, he loves every moment. In fact, work has become nirvana for Jim Averill since Bob and Margaret Bavasi bought a rookie league franchise four years ago and placed it in Everett.
Averill is fortunate to have a boss who understands him. Bob Bavasi also has baseball bloodlines. His father, Buzzy Bavasi, worked for most of two decades as a general manager for the Dodgers, Angels and the Padres.
Averill, on the other hand, had no first-hand experience with baseball. His best recollections are of watching games on television in his grandfather’s modest home in Snohomish, a small logging community northeast of Seattle.
“He used to talk about the game, how he played it,” Averill said. “As I look back I realize now I had so much respect for him that it was hard for me to approach him. But I was around him a lot. I loved him. He was a pretty mellow guy.”
Earl Averill, who died in 1983 at age 81, played in the major leagues from 1929 to 1941--including 10 1/2 years with the Indians. The left-handed hitting centerfielder had a career batting average of .318 and 238 home runs. He was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1975.
Earl Averill had four sons, and only Homer, Jim’s father, did not play baseball. Earl Jr. made it to the major leagues, where he played for six years as a catcher and third baseman.
Although Jim missed his grandfather’s induction into the Hall of Fame, that honor has meant more to him than any other single event in his life. He admits to being more proud of being Earl Averill’s grandson than being Jim Averill.
So upon learning of the arrival of Bob and Margaret Bavasi, Averill quickly set up an interview.
“I pictured some hot-shot businessman wearing a suit,” said Bavasi. “But in comes this leprechaun wearing a green jacket, a green shirt, green suspenders and green pants. His socks were probably green, but I didn’t bother to look.”
Averill quickly let Bavasi know about his grandfather and produced the “Earl Averill Memorial Photo Album,” which he figured was his best step forward.
“I was kind of in shock,” Bavasi admits. “I eventually asked him if he wanted to do public relations for us, or what exactly. He said he would love to hand out schedules in Snohomish. That was it.”
The next day, however, the Everett Herald ran an article saying Averill had been named public relations director for the team. The information came from a release compiled by the new PR director.
“What could I do?” Bavasi said. “I had to hire him after that.”
Averill can be “a little rough around the edges,” Bavasi said, but eventually he became “director of stadium operations,” which means he is on the prowl during games, keeping peace and solving problems. He also works on the grounds crew and does much of Bavasi’s clerical work.
He lives in an apartment that the Bavasis’s use as an annex to their main office.
“I just like everything about my job,” Averill said. “I wish I made more money, but the money I make I almost feel guilty about because I enjoy being here so much. It’s in my blood.
“I like the benefits, too. I don’t get to watch the home games much, but I get to ride the team bus once in a while. And I get free food. And I like the players at this level. They’re nice because they haven’t made it yet. But best of all, just living in this atmosphere makes me feel good.”
Averill has spent most of his adult years working menial jobs, but the experience with the Giants has given him a new self-confidence.
“I don’t think I’m general manager material or anything like that,” Averill said, “but I have a good future in the game. I belong.”