Every pro baseball player today has an agent. Some even have lawyers and accountants. Stout Steve Bilko, the Los Angeles Angels’ slugging seraph from 1955 to 1957, was flying solo with one exception his first season in L.A. – he had his own bartender.
In 1955, Bilko shared an efficiency apartment at the Wellington Hotel in downtown L.A. with three other players: pitcher Raymond “Moe” Bauer; catcher Jim Fanning; and outfielder Bob Coats.
“Jim and I each had a bed over by one wall,” Moe recalled. “Coatsie had one that was on the other side from us. Steve had the pull-down bed in the living room.”
Bilko did all of the cooking. “He made a deal with us,” Fanning said. “Once he cooked a meal and ate, he didn’t have anything to do with cleaning up. He did enough of that when he was hitting, however.”
“He was a good cook,” Moe added.
“Oh, he could make that Polish food like you couldn’t believe,” Fanning said.
As chef, Bilko made sure the refrigerator was full. “We had the upper part for our milk; the bottom was for Steve’s beer,” Moe chuckled.
A bartender from Steve’s hometown in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania, kept the refrigerator well stocked with beer, adding a case almost every day. “He was bartending at some nightspot in L.A., not too far from the Wellington,” Moe explained. “He’d come in and turn a case of beer and that’s what Steve was drinking.”
The name of the bartender is not known. But there’s a photograph of him taken at L.A.’s Wrigley Field in July 1955 standing in the middle of the roommates.
Fanning was the only one with a car so the others were dependent on him for a ride to and from the ballpark. When a game ended, Bilko headed straight for the hot tub in the Wrigley Field clubhouse. “He’d have a beer here, a beer there, and a beer in the shower,” Moe said. “He’d come out and have another beer while he was putting his clothes on. We’d drive to the hotel and Steve would go to the hotel bar close at hand and he’d have a couple more beers. We’d go upstairs and try to get to sleep quickly before he came in.”
As Bilko did so often for opposing teams with his mighty home runs, he usually turned the apartment lights out at night. “You’d better get to sleep before he did,” Moe said, “because if you didn’t, the whole building trembled when he was snoring.”
The Bilko Athletic Club is a book published by Rowman & Littlefield about the 1956 Los Angeles Angels, a team of castoffs and kids built around a bulky, beer-loving basher of home runs named Steve Bilko. The book features a delightful foreword by John Schulian, former sports columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and Philadelphia Daily News and longtime contributor to Sports Illustrated and GQ.
The book can now be ordered by clicking on any of the website links below:
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