50 Years of Baseball Memories from Yankees, Dodgers and Angels

Among Red Patterson’s exciting experiences with the Dodgers was watching Sandy Koufax pitch four no-hitters.

Grandstands overlooking home plate at the National League Championship Series (NLCS), Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, on Oct. 12, 2008.
Grandstands overlooking home plate at the National League Championship Series (NLCS), Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, on Oct. 12, 2008. (photo: Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock)

Professional baseball is known for its great players and memorable games, however, equally important but much less known are those who work in ball clubs around the country to popularize the game among the public and draw in new fans.

One of the best was Arthur “Red” Patterson (1909-92), a newspaperman turned pioneering baseball public relations professional and club executive who worked for nearly 50 years for the New York Yankees, Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers and California Angels. Red was associated with 13 pennant-winning teams — six with the Yankees and seven with the Dodgers. He perhaps became best known during his 20-plus years as a Dodgers PR man and three years as president of the California Angels (1975-77). Known as a hard worker with innovative ideas, Red was also a Catholic convert whose beliefs permeated his career and volunteer activities.

Red was born in Queens, New York, the son of a mill superintendent. He became a sportswriter for the New York Herald-Tribune, before accepting a job as publicity director for the New York Yankees in 1946. It was the first such job for a major league baseball team. He would go on to help the team become an attendance leader through his creative promotions, such as the Old Timer’s game which would bring back such retired legends as Babe Ruth to play in 1947. Red noted, “It has since become a tradition.”

Billy Martin

While in New York he met and befriended one of his favorite people in baseball, Yankees infielder and manager Billy Martin (1928-89). He recalled, “Billy was as fiery-tempered a man as you would ever want. But he was a soft man in his feelings towards people.”

He recalled encountering Martin while serving as a pallbearer at the funeral of another famous Yankee manager, Casey Stengel (1890-1975). Upon leaving the church, Red spied Martin behind some bushes weeping. Red explained, “He regarded Casey as a second father. He just couldn’t face this loss of a dear friend so he sat there alone, crying.”

Martin would be killed years later in an alcohol-related car crash. Red noted that he kept a photograph of Martin in his home, on which Martin had written a message that included the advice, “Don’t drink and drive.” Red mused, “It shakes me up a bit when I read it. That’s exactly how Billy lost his life.”

In 1954, Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley (1903-79) hired Red to be the Dodgers’ director of public relations. Four years later, O’Malley took the Dodgers to Los Angeles, and Red went with them. O’Malley was a firm but good-humored boss, he recalled, who knew baseball well, and whom he admired because of his commitment to his Catholic faith. He noted, “Walter insisted on having Mass said on the field so the players would not miss it.”

Among his exciting experiences with the Dodgers was watching pitcher Sandy Koufax pitch four no-hitters. In 1975, while with the Angels, Nolan Ryan pitched his fourth of seven no-hitters in Anaheim Stadium. Red called Koufax to ask his thoughts. Koufax replied, “I knew it would be just a matter of time before my record was broken.”

Singing cowboy Gene Autry (1907-1998), who also owned the California Angels, called Red in 1975 to tell him he was looking for a new club president and ask his opinion on three candidates for the job. Red related the conversation to Peter O’Malley, Walter’s son and then Dodgers vice president, who told him, “Red, he’s asking you whether or not you would be interested.”

Red said, “So, I called Gene back and I said, ‘Gene, I’d like that job.’”

Red brought his talents to the Angels, leading the club to attendance records just as he had with the Dodgers.

Community Activism

Red lived out his faith in his community activism. Perhaps his best-known initiative was the launching of the 65 Roses campaign to raise money to combat cystic fibrosis. He recalled that a man had come to visit him while he was Angels president, asking if the club would be willing to do something to fight the disease. Red knew a boy in his parish with CF, and learned the disease was sometimes referred to as “65 roses,” as small children had difficulty saying “cystic fibrosis.”

Red agreed, and initially recruited 40 people with the Dodgers and Angels who would be willing to contribute $10 to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation every time either club hit a home run. In time, other major league baseball teams would adopt the practice. Professional football and hockey teams also joined the effort. In time, “65 Roses” had raised millions towards a cure. Red recalled, “It all started with me and this guy sitting in my staff room. For us that was a historic meeting.”

Red’s other involvements included the National Conference of Christians and Jews, Boy Scouts, Red Cross and Lions Club.

With a career in professional sports, Red was always a competitive man but noted that his Catholic faith kept him from an unhealthy competitiveness. He said, “Everyone in sports can recall the unhappiness they felt upon losing big games. But when you settle down and it’s all over, you realize that there is something more important in life.”

Inadvertently alluding to the old Catholic maxim “grace builds on nature,” Red also noted that when an athlete prays to God for success, he must also put in the hard work to excel at his sport. He recalled the story of a fighter who, when preparing for a fight, would make the sign of the cross. Red continued, “Someone asked a priest, ‘Father, does that really do him any good?’ The priest replied, ‘Only if he can fight.’”

Red was also active in building up his parish, St. Mary’s of Fullerton, which he attended with his wife Helen. In the last years of his life, he joined in efforts to build the Monsignor John W. Siebert Hall, named in honor of its late pastor who served from 1954-83. Red recalled, “Msgr. Siebert was quite a baseball fan. Unfortunately, he was a Red Sox fan!”

Helen and Red had five children, including son Brian, who was in the first graduating class of Servite High School in Anaheim operated by the Servite Fathers. The administration named the campus sports field Patterson Field in recognition of his support of the school.

Red also turned to the Church in times of trial, such as when his 29-year-old son, Arthur, Jr., was killed in a car crash. Red recalled, “The most comforting thing that helped me at that time was a visit by a priest who came to console my wife and I.”

Red lived in the same modest house in Fullerton, California since arriving on the West Coast in 1958. He died of cancer at nearby St. Jude Hospital with Helen at his side. Red reflected that his life in sports and competition was one of “tremendous peaks and valleys,” but that his Catholic faith had helped keep him grounded. 

He opined, “Religion tempers the competitive zeal of sports, so that when the game is over you realize that you just played a game, that’s all. There is a bigger game for all of us.”