Bragan remembered fondly at memorial

Bragan remembered fondly at memorial

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Bobby Bragan's friends, family and loved ones -- is there a difference? -- filled the First United Methodist Church in Fort Worth for his memorial service on Wednesday.

His wife Betty was surrounded by Bragan's daughter, Cissie Bragan Walden, his brother Frank, grandchildren and other family members. Fort Worth mayor Mike Moncrief was in attendance along with Fort Worth Cats owner Carl Bells and Tom Vandergriff, the patron saint of baseball in North Texas.

There were ex-Rangers Mike Jeffcoat, Dick Billings, Geno Petralli, Pete O'Brien, Bobby Witt, Jeff Russell and others, many former Cats including Carroll Behringer and Mike Napoli, Rangers vice-presidents Jim Sundberg, John Blake, Dale Petroskey and Norm Lyons, broadcasters Tom Grieve, Steve Busby and Brad Sham, and former club executives Jay Miller, Dave Fendrick and Marty Scott.

Most of all, there was Bragan himself, the long-time Major League player, coach and manager who passed away last week at the age of 92, but still provided much of the music at his own service.

Bragan, along with a distinguished career in baseball and philanthropy, was also an accomplished pianist and singer. Country superstar Charley Pride was the only one there Wednesday who could match Bragan's musical gifts.

As guests filled the pews, Bragan's music blessed the stately 80-year-old church with recordings of him singing "When the Saints Go Marching In," "That Old Rugged Cross," "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" and other spirituals that have provided comfort through the ages.

"Bobby was the greatest," said former Rangers manager Bobby Valentine in his eulogy. "It's simple. Case closed. There will not be another. We can only hope to be a shadow of the man Bobby was in his lifetime."

Bragan was born on Oct. 30, 1917, in Birmingham and passed away on Jan. 21 at his home in Fort Worth. He played for the Phillies and Dodgers during his career and was manager of the Cats from 1948-52 when they were a Dodgers' Minor League affiliate. He was a disciple of Branch Rickey and befriended Jackie Robinson, overcoming initial resistance from his Southern upbringing.

Bragan later managed the Pirates, Indians and Braves. In 1979, he was hired as a special assistant for the Rangers and still worked for the club up until the time he passed away.

"Dad loved God first, then his family and baseball," daughter Cissie said. "Or maybe it was baseball and family. When I was a little girl, I thought he didn't have a job. Then I realized how blessed he was to spend his whole life in baseball."

He also spent the past 18 years as head of the Bobby Bragan Youth Foundation, which has raised over $1 million in scholarship money for local students. The Foundation's annual Gala after the baseball season was a major social event in Fort Worth.

"He loved people, he loved his family and he adored baseball," Cissie said. "But he loved God first."

Cissie reminisced about how her father always had his baseball card with him, ready to sign when someone asked for his autograph.

"When I think of him walking through the Pearly Gates, I think of him handing out those baseball cards," she said.

Said Valentine, "I can tell you what Bobby Bragan said to the Big Dodger in the Sky: 'I am 92, I was Dodger blue and I did it for you.'"

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.