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Did You Know?

Retro Columns

DID YOU KNOW? (first posted MARCH, 2009)
Posted on: 02-24-2009

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    Spring Training actually begins with
more than a month remaining in winter.
    However, just the mention of the word
"Spring" makes us up north in Michigan
feel as warm inside as it actually is down
in Lakeland, FL.
    There is much more to spring training
than the Grapefruit or Cactus League
games which tell the 30 big league clubs who
is good enough to begin the regular season
on their rosters.
    At Tigertown and at the other 29 MLB
camps there are spring drills.
    There are conditioning drills, hitting drills,
fielding drills, bunting drills, base-running drills.
   There are what sometimes feel like endless drills to the already established
major leaguers.
    For about a quarter of a century at Tigertown in Lakeland there were
more than just base-running drills. There were sliding drills. Seemingly endless,
repetitive and sometimes painful sliding drills, done by prospects and veterans
    The cuts, bruises and "strawberries" sustained on the legs of the Tiger players
proved that painful lessons learned prevent painful mistakes later.  
    These drills were run and rerun until there was perfection under the watchful
eyes of Tiger scout and spring training instructor Bernard John DeViveiros.
    Look at any old film of workouts at Henley Field or Marchant Stadium or the
Tigertown minor league complex taken in the era spanning the Korean and
Vietnam Wars. (Remember, Tigertown was once an Air Force training facility.)
If you watch that black-&-white footage you'll see Tigers running and diving into
the sliding pits with a slight, elderly, 5-foot-7 and 160-lb man standing behind
the base at the end of the dirt filled pit carefully grading each effort.    
    DID YOU KNOW Bernie DeViveiros played for the Tigers in the 1920s and
worked for the club into the 1970s?
    DeViveiros made his major league debut with the Chicago White Sox on 9/13/1924.
He played both secondbase and shortstop in that game. He was nervous. He made
two errors at each position for and went 0-for-1 at the plate in what was a 16-1 WSox
loss to the New York Yankees at original Comiskey Park in Chicago.
    That game was the first and last in the majors DiViveiros would play until he was
again at late season minor league call-up to the bigs in 1927, this time with the Tigers.
    The second time DeViveiros was a bit more composed, but still short on talent. He went
5-for-22 in 24 games as a pinch-hitter and late game replacement. DeViveiros struck-out
eight times in his 22-ABs, had a pair of walks, four runs scored, two RBIs and one double
for a .227-BA. He made four errors again, but at least this time he spaced them out over
15 games in the field, 14 at shortstop and one at thirdbase.
    This second shot at the big leagues was DeViveiros' last. Frankly, his .846 lifetime
MLB fielding percentage was horrid.
    His first and last major league games were three years and one day apart. His last
Tiger appearance was on 9/14/1927.
    DeViveiros himself had done the endless sliding drills in spring training at Augusta, GA
as a Tiger farmhand while under the eyes of the master himself, then-Tiger manager Ty
Cobb in the mid 1920s. DeViveiros certainly learned this important and now often
forgotten phase of the game very well.
    Unfortunately, DeViveiros only got to display that skill once. He had with a lone stolen
base for the '27 Tigers for new Tiger MGR George Moriarty (who once played for Detroit
and who later umpired when the Tigers played in the 1934-35 World Series).
    However, as the old saying goes, "Those who can't do teach."          
    After his playing days were over DeViveiros turned to coaching, managing and scouting.
    A west coast native, DeViveiros managed the Spokane, WASH Hawks of the Western
International League for three seasons from 1937--39. This was during a time before
television and when hundreds of minor league ballparks and thousands of movie houses
were America's form of small-town entertainment. DeViveiros had instant success with
the Hawks, winning the WIL pennant in 1937. His independent clubs (not part of a big
league team farm system) were not as good the next two years with fifth and fourth
place performances.
    Still, the Brooklyn Dodgers took note and DeViveiros was hired by them to boss the
Americus Pioneers of the Georgia-Florida LGE in 1940. Things didn't go well and he was
replaced in-season by former Dodgers catcher Stew Hofferth.  DeViveiros quickly found
work, replacing Clarence Mitchell as MGR of the independent Meridian Bears in the
Southeastern LGE. DeViveiros took a bad club to a 7th place finish to close out 1940.
    Then came World War II.
    Following WWII, DeViveiros went to work as a scout for the Tigers in 1946 and remained
in that position until he retired in 1972.
    Of course, he did more than scout.
    Every spring he went to Lakeland and taught the art of the textbook bent-leg (hook)
slide. It's the way baserunners should and used to go into the bag on steals or extra base
hits, with one leg outstretched and the other tucked under so the player could instantly
pop up and run again if there was a misplay in the field.
    DeViveiros would demonstrate the hook slide to vets and prospects alike at the
drop of a hat, often showing off his technique (even in his advanced age) on hotel
lobby carpets.
    From the late 1940s to the early 1970s DeViveiros tutored Hall-of-Famers George Kell
and Al Kaline plus other Tiger greats ranging from Vic Wertz, Hoot Evers and Harvey
Kuenn to Rocky Colavito, Dick McAuliffe and Bill Freehan to Mickey Stanley, Jim Northrup,
Willie Horton and Gates Brown in the arts of both sliding and bunting.
    His expertise was not limited to instructing only Detroit Tigers.
    Known from coast-to-coast as "The Doctor of Slide" DeViveiros ran countless baseball
clinics for high schoolers and American Legion players in the Oakland/San Francisco Bay
area. Among those who learned how to slide properly were future greats Billy Martin (who'd
become Tiger MGR during DeViveiros' last years in Lakeland), Frank Robinson, Curt Flood
and Vada Pinson (who'd later become a Tiger coach during the Sparky Anderson regime).        
    The man who spanned the Tiger bombastic eras of both Cobb and Martin was himself
soft-spoken and likeable.    
    DeViveiros was born and died in Oakland, CA more than 93 years apart from 4/19/1901
to 7/5/1994.  



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