Red Patterson Dies of Cancer : Baseball: An executive with both the Dodgers and Angels, he was a public relations innovator.


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 use.”

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 was yet.

“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 contributions.

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 annual basis.

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 Anaheim Bulletin.


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.