Everett Lamar “Rocky” Bridges Jr., 87, passed away last week of natural causes in the town of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where he moved with his family in 1970.
Rocky was a Major League baseball player and a manager in the minor leagues, including 9 years as the manager of the the Phoenix Giants, the San Francisco Giants top minor league team.
Born in Refugio, TX, his family moved to California and he graduated from Long Beach Polytechnic H.S. in 1947. Signed that year, he broke into the majors with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1951, becoming the 8,344th major leaguer.
Rocky was an infielder, playing second, third, and shortstop. In 11 years in the majors, he played for 7 teams: Brooklyn, Cincinnati, Washington, Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis, and the Los Angeles Angels in their inaugural season, 1961.
Rocky had a career batting average of .247 and never hit more than 5 home runs or stole more than 6 bases in a season.
After his playing days, Rocky served as a minor league manager for 21 years, leading teams in over 2800 games. In addition to several years with the Phoenix Giants, teams he led included the San Jose Bees, the El Paso Sun Kings, the Hawaiian Islanders, the Albuquerque Dukes, and the Buffalo Bisons.
Called by some a “journeyman” Major League baseball player, Bridges is well-appreciated by aficionados as one of baseball’s most quotable quipsters, perhaps the best ever. For example, speaking of his longest tenure with one team, 4 years with Cincinnati, he said “It took me that long to learn to spell it.”
He made the All Star team in 1958 when he was with the Washington Senators. He reportedly said “I never got in the game, but I sat on the bench with Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, and Yogi Berra…I gave ‘em instructions on how to sit.”
Some other of his quotes:
“A public address announcer thought Lamar sounded lousy and started calling me Rocky. For quite awhile I thought it was because of my build. Then I realized it fit my game.”
“I’m the only man in the history of the game who began his career in a slump and stayed in it.”
“The main quality a great third base coach must have is a fast runner.”
In 2011 he reminisced about his life with a Los Angeles Times reporter. “I had fun playing baseball…Many of the players now, I’m not sure they have fun playing the game.”
My path first crossed with Rocky in the mid 1990’s on a trip to Coeur d’Alene (“CDA”) to visit with my wife’s brother and his family who resided there; my wife’s sister-in-law is Rocky’s daughter. Over the years we’ve made numerous trips to CDA and are fortunate to have seen and enjoyed Rocky and his family over holidays and at regularly scheduled family breakfasts and lunches. Very special treats were visits to Rocky’s home and having him give us impromptu, guided tours through his collection of baseball memorabilia.
For a number of years Rocky had a special stool at the Lakers Inn Bar in downtown CDA. You knew he was there overseeing a can of Coor’s Light when you saw the car with license plates “O fer” parked out front.
There is much more to say about Rocky, too much for this blog post, so I’ll soon provide links to several articles that help flesh him out.
Rocky’s wife, Mary, died in 2008. They had 3 boys and a girl, all of whom live in the Pacific Northwest with their families including grandchildren.