Two gentlemen of baseball died recently – Joe Preseren, former general manager of the Tulsa Drillers, and Roy Sievers, former Major League All-Star.
Preseren died April 12 at the age of 58, after suffering a cerebral aneurysm on March 10. Preseren is survived by his four children, and had been a widower the past 14 years, as his wife Diane died of a heart attack at age 41, in 2003.
In 1989, my first summer in Tulsa and my first year working in the local media, Preseren was one of the first executives of the local sports teams I met. Although I was just a young reporter at that time, Preseren treated me like anyone else. In fact, we hit it off very well from the start, as he was a Cleveland, Ohio, native and I grew up only 150 miles east of Cleveland, in Jamestown, New York.
The other connection we had was we both had worked with long-time baseball executive Murray Cook. Preseren worked with Cook when they were both with the Salem (Virginia) Redbirds in the Carolina League in 1982. I met with Cook many times when he was general manager of the Montreal Expos (1984-87) and I was working in the Expos minor league system.
Preseren became the general manager of the minor-league ballclub in Salt Lake City in 1983, then he moved to Tulsa. Preseren served as general manager for the Drillers from 1984-95. He was named Texas League executive of the year in 1987 and 1993, as the team’s attendance rose in each of his first 11 seasons in Tulsa. Preseren also earned the honor of The Sporting News Minor League Executive of the Year in 1990.
Preseren left Tulsa after the 1995 season to take the general manager job with the Frederick Keys in the Carolina League. He and his wife wanted their children to live closer to their grandparents in the Roanoke, Virginia, area. Again, accolades came his way as Preseren was named the 1999 Carolina League executive of the year.
In December 1999, Preseren returned to Salem to become the general manager of the Carolina League’s Salem Avalanche. He left there in May 2001 for a job in the NBA D-League and in April 2002 he became president of the NBA D-League team in Roanoke. The team didn’t draw well, and Preseren was fired from his job with the Dazzle in January 2003.
Two months later his wife died, and Preseren turned his attention to raising his children, and decided to not pursue another job in minor league sports. Most recently, Preseren had been working for Roanoke County Therapeutic Recreation Services, helping adults with developmental disabilities.
Everyone you talk to around Tulsa, who was here during the days that Preseren was at the helm of the Drillers will tell you what a great guy he was – always treating people with the dignity and respect they deserved. I know he had to be thrilled last year when the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA title, and I’m sure he was excited and upset when his beloved Indians made it to the World Series, but lost to the Chicago Cubs. Preseren made an impact on me when I was a young pup in this business, and because of that, there will always be a place in my heart for him.
Roy “Squirrel” Sievers
The Rookie of the Year Award was first awarded in 1947, to the best rookie in the Majors. That year, the winner was Jackie Robinson. In 1949, the award was split to give one in each league, and that year a young outfielder with the St. Louis Browns, Roy Sievers, won the first American League Rookie of the Year Award.
Sievers died on April 3, at his home in Spanish Lake, Missouri. He was 90.
He spent 17 years in the majors, but a shoulder injury plagued his first few seasons. In 1954, as the Browns became the Baltimore Orioles, Sievers was traded to the Washington Senators. He regained his status as one of the game’s better hitters in D.C., hitting 180 homers and making the All-Star team three times over the next six seasons.
After Washington, he made stops with the White Sox and Phillies before returning to the expansion Washington Senators, as the original Washington franchise had moved to Minnesota to become the Twins. Sievers played his final two years in Washington, and retired after the 1965 season.
Sievers may not be as well-known as other players from that era, but that doesn’t diminish his accomplishments. His popularity is hampered by the fact he played for two teams that ceased to exist, and today the Browns and Senators are pretty much forgotten.