Oakland’s Heavenly Body
By John B Holway
Laurie Brady was a stunning Irish redhead, who went from a convent to a beauty contest, a Hollywood screen test, a belly dancer, the owner of a string of nightclubs, and then to official astrologer for the Oakland Athletics in 1976.
She was the first, and so far only, full-time astrologer for a major sports team. Sportswriters dubbed her “Oakland’s heavenly body.”
How did a nice girl from Illinois become Charlie O Finley’s official star gazer? To find out, I ascended to her cluttered office-apartment on a sunny summer afternoon while sailboats scudded on blue Lake Michigan below.
I was skeptical. How can a star – a tiny speck of light – influence us millions of light years away? And how can a lady who knows nothing of baseball tell a hard-bitten manager he should bench his center fielder next Wednesday?
Brady’s sign was Cancer (early summer), a “water” sign along with Scorpio and Pisces. These connote psychic ability, she told me. Brady believed herself to be psychic, which she inherited from her grandmother. She said she knew psychically of her brother’s death before she heard the actual news.
Once, driving her convertible, “I could feel the hackles on the back of my neck going up.” Brady suddenly pulled off the road, “which I had never done. A streak of lightning zig-zagged down the highway. If I hadn’t pulled off. …”
Sinking her savings from some Hollywood bit parts into a Chicago nightclub, the Gaslight Club, Laurie soon opened clubs in Washington, New York, Los Angeles, even Paris. She was a wealthy woman before she was old enough to vote.
Brady became interested in psychiatry. Reading Carl Jung’s works, she found that astrology kept popping up: “He wouldn’t even see a patient until he had first made out his horoscope. At first, I was skeptical. I was going to write a book to debunk it.”
She decided to do charts on 500 complete strangers. Laurie left questionnaires in beauty shops and wherever she could. She was able to pick out the day a subject was divorced, when a parent died, etc. “That’s what hooked me,” she said, “because 500-to-one, that’s not chance.”
Laurie said she predicted the Liz Taylor-Richard Burton divorce and re-marriage, and also claimed to have held some shaky marriages together. At times she advises a couple that they are not compatible. They may have ignored her advice, “but they nearly always call me on the way to the divorce lawyer.”
She wrote for the National Enquirer, and appeared on radio and TV talk shows. On one occasion she said, 76,000 callers jammed the phone lines at Universal City in Hollywood.
In 1970, on assignment for the Chicago Tribune, Laurie did horoscopes for the Chicago Cubs and predicted Leo Durocher’s departure as manager. She wrote a sports column, “Astro Sports,” for the Chicago Fans magazine.
Charlie Finley, owner of the Oakland A’s, lived in Brady’s apartment building on Chicago’s Lake Shore. Meeting in the elevator in 1970, Finley asked, “Well, am I going to win the Series this year?” Though the A’s were doing well, Brady told him no. When she turned out to be right, he scratched his chin and shrugged, “Maybe there’s something to this, because you were so positive, even when we were on a winning streak.”
She did tell Finley his A’s were about to win five straight division titles and three world championships. That’s just what they did 1971-75, including World Series rings 1972-74. Finley, who had an eye for the ladies, invited Laurie to his box in Oakland.
At the 1971 World Series, Brady met Roland Hemond, vice-president of the White Sox.
My wife was expecting, and Laurie predicted a son. She said the first year he would have a lot of physical problems and then he’d be fine. And she gave us the personalities of each of our children, whom she had never met. She amazed me with her accuracy.
Two years later Brady told Hemond that Sox stars Dick Allen and Ken Henderson would suffer injuries. “They took place just as she said.”
On September 29 1973, Vice-President Spiro Agnew said he would never resign. The next day, on TV Brady said he would. Ten days later, he did. In 1972, Laurie says, she had predicted that Richard Nixon would resign. In 1974, he followed Agnew.
Laurie has been asked to predict crops, when to start new corporations, when to buy stocks etc. But she insisted she was not in astrology to make money. “A lot of psychics lose their powers when they get greedy. My clients made 500% when I put them in gold in 1973. I didn’t even have time to call my broker!” On her TV show she predicted three stock market drops in 1974, 1975, and 1976. “I’ve done better than the economists who study high finance.”
Brady said she foretold that Chicago Bears running back Gale Sayers would have his career cut short by injury; that coach Don Shula would bring the lowly Miami Dolphins to the Super Bowl; that hockey great Gordie Howe would retire and then make a comeback at 42. “He laughed at me,” she said, but she was right.
Finley asked her to do his personal chart. “I told him the date he’d go into a hospital, and he went in that day. The doctor said he’d be in traction for a week, but I said, ‘You’ll be out next Friday,’ and he was.”
That was enough for Charlie O. He signed her as the A’s official star gazer.
Brady hasn’t always been right. She cautioned Finley that Reggie Jackson (36 homers) and Ken Holtzman (18-14) would both slump after ‘75. If he was thinking of trading them, she advised doing it while their value was high. Finley took her advice. Both did, in fact, start ’76 slowly (Jackson .225, Holtzman 5-4). Jackson added 52 points, and Holtzman went 9-5 over the second half. But he was injured the next year and won only nine more games in his career.
Brady told me she could determine what day a player’s energy level would be low, what day he would be accident prone or apt to make errors of judgment, when he might get into fights with umpires, what kind of mood he’d be in, or if anything was bothering him. Off-the-field problems, she said, are as important as on-the-field ones, because a player takes them into the game with him.
Finley asked her to make charts for all 25 A’s players for every day of the 1976 season and mail them to manager Chuck Tanner. Tanner threw them in the wastebasket. “I think he was skeptical,” Laurie smiled. But she insisted that he did use her charts, at least at first.
Against the Kansas City on May 9, Mike Torrez was scheduled to pitch, but Brady warned against it: “He was low that day.” Tanner, of course, ignored her. Sure enough, Torrez walked the bases loaded in the 6th, and they all scored.
For Newsweek, she predicted that Oakland would beat Chicago twice June 15-16. They did. On another occasion, she told me they were going to lose Friday and Saturday, “but there’s a possibility of winning one game Sunday.” But they lost both games Sunday “because Tanner didn’t use the players I told him to.” However, she realized, a manager couldn’t always change his lineup to conform to her charts.
Brady told me she didn’t put much stock in the sun signs alone. “Too general,” she said. “The inner planets – Mercury, Venus, Mars – are more important.”
Now that she had had a detailed look at a great many athletes’ horoscopes, I asked her if there was anything that stood out as a sure-fire mark of an athlete?
You have to have a well-aspected Mars. Mars is the planet of aggressiveness, energy, strength, and stamina. Without it, you don’t have the ability to kick or punch. People with a weak Mars tire easily; they’re always getting cuts and bruises.
Mars can also mean sexual energy, especially if it’s right on top of Venus, the planet of loving. Even if you’re ugly, this magnetism just radiates.
Ask Questions. Question Answers
PETE, TY, AND ICHIRO
Wow! This will be eye-opening to a lot of people! (Craig Tomarkin)
Banzai! (J Dorinson)
Pete is never going to admit that anyone, Ichiro or otherwise, is better than (or even as good as) he was. Bonds also left the game under a cloud, but at least he kept his mouth shut. (John Bushman)
We can never get a definitive read on how yesterday’s stars would have fared today. What counts is that they were the best of their respective eras. Cobb would not hit .400 today against 98 mph fastballs. But he was clearly the best then; his statistics were so far above either the mean or the median. (Mark G. Chalpin)
(I agree. Except that Ty or Babe could not be so far above average today, because the population ratio is so much greater. They might even be below average! Ty was competing against a population of 100 million or less whites. Today he would be competing against over 300 million U.S. whites and blacks – plus Latins and Asians.
In man-against-nature sports – the mile run, the shot put – man clearly gets better and better year after year. But in man-vs-man sports, like pitcher vs hitter, both are getting better, so the stats don’t show the individual improvement. And, of course, any change the environment – the ball, the fences, the height of the mound etc – makes the problem practically unsolvable. Still, we continue to use the old statistics, such as total hits, as bench marks for today’s players.)
I found your latest article an interesting read.
I used to try to compare players in different sports with different eras, but I have just accepted the fact that there’s no way to compare, because the only facts we have are the way they performed in their own era.
I wish I could have seen Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Shoeless Joe Jackson, and Walter Johnson play. I would have loved that.
I have seen Pete Rose, Nolan Ryan, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Ichiro Suzuki, Hank Aaron, and many others play. All were great and Hall of Fame-worthy in their time. Gambling and steroids have prevented some from making it into the Hall of Fame.
I’d like to hear more about the shrouded use of steroids by Pete Rose, Hank Aaron and Nolan Ryan, to which you refer, as this is the first time I’ve ever heard or even contemplated this possibility. Is this something about which you’ve written before now? Did this speculation grow out of their being so successful after the age of 35? Are there other players who had successful stints in their careers after the age of 35 who you think did not use steroids? If so, what are the differences between the two sets of players? Thanks for the thought-provoking piece. (Eddie Cook)
(We did some posts on this is a year ago. I built my case on their lifetime stats. You can check them yourself. If you see a big jump in stats at the end of careers, or great performances after 40, I think you are justified in raising an eyebrow. Bonds, Clemens, and McGwire clearly convict themselves with their numbers, and thus they are out of the Hall and will never get in. But Ryan, Randy Johnson, and Gwynn are just as obvious, yet they are in and can never be gotten out. (Carlton Fisk is also suspicious.)
This is hard for many fans to accept, since the last three are nice guys, and we don’t want to believe that nice guys would do that. But their numbers just shout at us: “We did!”
The hardest for readers to accept was Aaron. I’ll cover him in more detail next week.
Read a Good Book
Baseball in the Garden of Eden:
The Secret History of the Early Game
By John Thorn
Thorn puts the earliest reference to baseball in Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 1791, or 28 years before Abner Doubleday was born.
Doubleday never even mentioned baseball in his voluminous writings. But he was a longtime friend of Abraham G Mills, head of a commission formed by sporting goods magnate Albert Spalding to research the origins of baseball.
Thorn also debunks Alexander Cartwright, saying he never put the bases at 90 feet, the game at nine innings, or the teams at nine men, as listed on his Hall of Fame plaque.
Thorn says baseball did not have a single founder. Other members of the New York Knickerbockers made more substantive contributions. For instance, Doc Adams created the position of shortstop, and William Wheaton wrote down the first rules.
The book also shows how 19th century professional baseball was as full of conflict between owners and players as the game is today. Thorn brings to life Spalding and other pioneers – John Montgomery Ward, James Creighton, William Hulbert, Cap Anson, Ban Johnson, John McGraw, and others.
Creighton was baseball’s first superstar, who died when he ruptured a disk while hitting a home run. (Rob Langenderfer)
It’s a Big World –
Outside the Stadium
Several years ago, back when Washington had a reputation as “the murder capital of America,” I rode in a police patrol car on the midnight shift, cruising one of the city’s roughest neighborhoods. To my amazement, my driver was a black woman!
One of her calls was about a loud party. She drove up to a row house, walked to the door, and knocked. A guy answered, they talked, the noise toned down, and she left.
As she climbed back into the car, she asked me, “Would you have done that?”
I squared my shoulders John Wayne-style and replied in my best Clint Eastwood voice:
Most DC police were women, she told me. That’s because most of the men applicants had records “up to here,” pointing to her shoulder.
Today one of every five patrol cars has a woman officer at the wheel. We have a female police chief. One rarely reads about murders any more. And I can’t remember reading about police killing a civilian.
Today many other cities are erupting in war: white police killing black citizens, black citizens killing white police.
Why not try Washington’s solution? It’s working here.