The Zuvella Files

From Abbott to Zuvella it’s the 1980s all over again!!

Paul Zuvella

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Our hero

Our hero

Middle infielder/Closer

As a teenager I recall some magazine (it may’ve been Baseball Digest) having an article titled “Potential, Thy Name Is Zuvella.” He did have a nine year career, but, with 545 plate appearances, it may be one of the more insignificant careers of such length.

A California native, he was a Stanford grad. Played for Team USA in the 1979 Pan Am games and probably played with John Elway. Zuvella was drafted in the 11th round in 1979 by the Brewers but opted to stay in school. In 1980 he dropped to the 15th round.

He made some token appearences for the Braves in 1982, ’83, and ’84. But Joe Torre was the skipper in Atlanta and he wasn’t exactly a rookie’s best friend. In 1985 he got a chance to play when Eddie Haas was the manager and he appeared in half the games; sometimes at short but mainly at 2nd. His .235/.311/.305 line wasn’t particularly good; even for a miidle infielder of his day, but it was the best of his career until he had a power surge in Cleveland in 1989 and hit his only two big league home runs.

In 1986, he was sent back down again to Richmond, home of the Braves AAA affiliate. That was the year of the 24-man roster. The Braves had some former prospects in Richmond that year. Between Zuvella, Gerald Perry, Paul Runge, and Brad Komminsk (trying to learn thirdbase) their infield payroll rivaled that of the major league Giants.
But Senior Griffey wasn’t happy in New York so the Yankees traded him and Andre Roberstson for Claudell Washington and Zuvella. That was the year that the Yankkes grew disenchanted with Bobby Meacham and went through Wayne Tolleson, Mike Fischlin, Dale Berra, Yogi Berra, Ivan DeJesus, and Zuvella at short. Before his first start, an elderly man approached him in the dugout.

“Excuse me,” the man said. “Do you pronounce your name Zu-VELL-a or ZU-vella?”

Paul told him it was Zu-VELL-a. “Thank you,” the man said.

Zuvella turned to his new teammates and asked, “Was that GOD?” It was actually Bob Sheppard.

His divine encounter must’ve rattled him. Zuvella’s Yankee career started off with an 0-for-28 drought. When reporters asked why he wasn’t hitting, Zuvella yogied, “I’ve been doing my best not to think about it, but by trying so hard not to think about it, I can’t stop thinking about it.” He finally broke the streak when he hit a Baltimore chop on the Metrodome turf that he barely beat out for an infield hit. First base coach Joe Altobelli retrieved the ball for him. More importantly, 1986 was the year that he made his film debut in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Paul hung around for five more years, shuttling back and forth between Columbus and New York, Colorado Springs and Cleveland, Omaha and Kansas City. He then spent a few years managing and coaching in the Colorado Rockies system. I may have seen him mange a game or two at Yale Field. I know that I would catch a New Haven Ravens game on occasion.

Paul turns 50 on Halloween. He no longer has that glorious mustache and is in real estate instead.
In 2004, he was elected to San Ramon Valley Marketing Association “Hall of Fame” with 92.7% of the vote. Cookie Kwan apparently doesn’t believe that anyone should be elected unanimously.

– Jon


Written by Jon

October 30, 2008 at 4:51 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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