Cy saying goodbye
Long-time Tribe fixture retiring after 45 years in clubhouse role
When they hired Cy Buynak as their clubhouse manager at old Municipal Stadium in 1965, the Indians had little reason to believe the little man would have a long tenure.After all, Buynak's two predecessors had each lasted just two years. "Charlie Morris was the traveling secretary," Buynak recalls. "When he hired me, he said, 'How long are you gonna last?'" The answer? Forty-five years. No, Buynak didn't spend that entire time as the Tribe's clubhouse manager. He was an assistant from 1961-64, and he moved from the home clubhouse to the visitor's clubhouse when the Indians relocated to Jacobs Field in 1994. But no matter his role with the club over the last 45 years, Buynak -- all 4-foot-10, 190 pounds of him -- has been as recognizable a figure of Cleveland baseball as anyone. And now, his tenure is drawing to a close. At 70 years old, Buynak has decided to make the 2006 season his last in the visitor's clubhouse. He has vacations to embark on, other ballparks to visit and a patient wife, Mary, waiting at home. "Now that I'm retiring, a lot of people can't believe it," Buynak says. "I guess they thought I'd be here until I die. But I don't want to die in my boots." Buynak has donned his "boots" since he was 24 years old. Laid off from his job in quality control at TRW, he was looking for work when he attended the Indians' home opener in '61. "One of the ushers knew I was laid off and asked me if I wanted a part-time job," Buynak recalls. "I thought he wanted me to sell hamburgers and hot dogs." Rather, the casual fan was admitted into the underground. "I didn't know what I was getting into," Buynak says. Or how to act. Buynak remembers reporting to work for the first time. It was the day of a doubleheader, and Gary Bell was pitching the second game. Buynak knew enough about clubhouse etiquette not to bother a pitcher who was starting that day, but Bell must have noticed the kid was nervous. "He called me back into the training room and said, 'Talk to me,'" Buynak says. "He settled me down. He was asking me all kinds of questions about myself. He eased me into it." Once eased in, Buynak's career took off. Bell might have been the first Indians figure Buynak developed a relationship with, but he certainly wasn't the last. While working in the home clubhouse, Buynak saw 17 managers, six general managers and eight owners come and go. He laid out the champagne that greeted Len Barker after the big right-hander tossed a perfect game in 1981, and he even babysat Tito Francona's son, Terry, in the early '60s. "He remembers it well," Buynak says of the younger Francona, who has crossed paths with Buynak many times as manager of the Red Sox. "I guess I took care of him pretty good." But in 1993, with a move to Jacobs Field approaching and Buynak set to undergo two knee replacement surgeries in the fall, the Indians told Buynak of their plans to move him to the visiting side the following season. With 29 years of service in the home clubhouse role under his belt, Buynak was upset. "They figured I should enjoy my last 10 years in baseball," Buynak says. "I was against it at first. I really didn't want to go." Moving to the visiting side, which doesn't include the grind of travel, has, however, allowed Buynak to elongate his career. Instead of spending 10 seasons catering to the needs of the Tribe's opponents, he has lasted 13. "It's been a blessing in disguise," Buynak says. "I think it's neat meeting all the different players, not just the Indians."
: : : This Edition: Aug. 23, 2006 : : :
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.