As we approach the Feb. 22 celebration of the Rangers careers of Andy Bathgate and Harry Howell, newyorkrangers.com is looking back at a series of articles written about the duo during their heyday. The following article, written by Dave Anderson for the Rangers' 1957-58 game program, gives a sense of what sports writers said about Bathgate in his own era.
|Andy Bathgate was already considered an NHL superstar before he was 25 years old. By his fourth full season, he was being compared to Gordie Howe, Jean Beliveau and Rocket Richard. |
(photo courtesy Hockey Hall of Fame)
Phil Watson was deep in thought and paperwork at his desk in the Ranger office when Andy Bathgate dropped in. The coach was filling in one of his many statistical sheets but perked up when a visitor said:
“Here’s Mr. Bathgate, now, 77-point Bathgate. Say hello to your star, Phil.”
“Ahhhh!,” Watson sneered smilingly. “He should’ve had 100 points.”
“Ahhhh!,” Bathgate sneered smilingly. “Go back to pushin’ your pencil.”
When a player talks back to his coach, even in fun, he knows he’s got it made. And Andy Bathgate’s got everything “made” but the All-Star team. Maybe this season, he’ll make that, too.
Bathgate is the All-Star nobody voted for. He played the wrong position.
As a right wing, Gordie Howe commanded more ballots. Even admirers of Bathgate among those who select the NHL All-Stars couldn’t vote for Andy – in fairness to Howe’s 44 goals, 89 points.
And you couldn’t ridicule anyone who voted for Rocket Richard. At least last season you couldn’t.
But this season, maybe Howe will slip a little. Maybe the Rocket will, too. Howe’s lost his favorite playmate, Ted Lindsay, traded to the Black Hawks. And the Rocket’s lost another year.
Not only that, but the NHL is now conscious of Bathgate as an All-Star player … an MVP type. He doesn’t need a drumbeater. Statistics are his platform … goals … assists … points.
This is also the season Andy can clinch his credentials as one of the current “greats.” That may seem premature for this slick scorer, only 25 … only in his fourth season with the Blues.
But there’s only one plateau that’s been scaled by only the “greats” since the grind of the 70-game seasons began in 1949. The obvious current “greats” – Howe, Richard, Lindsay and Jean Beliveau.
Those four are the only players to score 70 or more points two years in a row!
Howe did it four years in a row, six in all. Beliveau’s shooting for four in a row this season. But Lindsay and the Rocket, for all their points, never did it more than two straight years.
Bathgate piled up 77 points last season – 27 goals, 50 assists. So this is his chance to join the “greats.”
The Ranger players consider Andy a cinch for 70 points, barring a serious injury. When they think of Bathgate, they think of 30 goals and 40 assists – that’s the minimum expected from him.
Another 70-point season, and who knows? Maybe Bathgate will be the All-Star right wing in the NHL this season, despite his private campaign to shrug off his accomplishments as “lucky.”
This is a genuinely modest athlete, which most fans realize, just as he is a genuinely humorous one, which most fans don’t realize. Like the story the Rangers tell of their Providence camp.
“Somebody sent us a picture of Louie Fontinato on his Summer construction job,” Watson said. “There was Louie, holding three bags of cement with an empty wheelbarrow right next to him.”
Few days later, Fontinato was steaming in the dressing-room, still annoyed after a near-fight with Jack Evans during practice.
“Dopey Louie,” Bathgate cracked as he passed Louie.
“Whaddya mean, dopey Louie,” seethed Fontinato
“Anybody who carries three bags of cement with an empty wheelbarrow alongside him is dopey.” Bathgate said.
Even Louie laughed.