“The Mad Russian” ~Tanya Hanson


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My dad’s slugger-cousin Lou Novikoff (1915-1970) is the perfect choice for this week’s special event. Our family is 100% “Go Halos” Los Angeles Angels at Anaheim fanatics, so the fact that The Mad Russian played long ago for their top-level minor league team has always been way cool.

Lou as Angel

Here’s a few fun facts:

  1. Playing 36 games for the AA Pacific Coast League Angels in 1939, Lou hit .452 and was named Minor League Player of the Year.
  2. He played 174 games for the Angels in 1940 and hit .363 with 41 home runs and 259 hits. This earned him the Pacific Coast League Batting Title.Lou as Angel 2
  3. One of 12 kids, Lou grew up near Bakersfield, California and joined a professional softball team in high school. Therefore, he was banned from high school sports for accepting money. His baseball career almost ended there…
  4. …but he became such a sensational fast-pitch pitcher and hitter that the Chicago Cubs shocked the baseball world by offering him a contract for their class C team in 1937.
  5. He found great success in the minor-leagues. His claim to fame–purposely going after bad pitches and most times, knocking the ball out of the park!
  6. A colorful guy with a “duck-waddling” gait, he refused to play at Wrigley Field because he was certain the vines climbing on the walls was poison ivy!Lou as Chicago Cub
  7. In the off season, he took on such jobs as a longshoreman out of Long Beach, California and worked in the oil fields as a roughneck.
  8. Mostly known as The Mad Russian, reporters also gave him such monikers as The Crazy Cossack, The Soviet Slugger, The Moscow Mauler, and…the Volga Batman.
  9. He had a pet Russian wolfhound that he proudly displayed. And claimed the dog only ate caviar.
  10. Lou was suspicious. Around 1940 with the Angels, The Mad Russian claimed he couldn’t hit unless his wife was nearby heckling him from the bleachers. Supposedly Esther’s nasty insults inspired him. Seems with Mrs. Mad Russian in the stands, her Muscovite mate batted .300 every game.
  11. Also a proficient bowler, Lou loved his harmonica and played it in 1941 on Bing Crosby’s radio program. Oh, uh, also on left field sometimes. Once, an aria in his fine baritone earned him a fine for singing during a game.
  12. Kids loved him. He’d purposely smack practice balls into the low-rent seats for their souvenirs.Baseball card
  13. During the Second World War, he was a beloved attraction while big-gun major leaguers were off to war. Originally deferred due to Esther’s ill health, Lou was inducted into the U.S. Army in July 1945. At U.S. Air Corps Sheppard Field in Wichita Falls, Texas, he played on the service team, The Flyers.
  14. After an unsuccessful comeback with the Angels in 1950, Lou returned to softball. He led his Long Beach (CA) team to three championships and became the first man inducted into the Softball Hall of Fame. (1965)

    Lou returning to Softball
    Lou returning to Softball

Thanks with my whole heart to David Eskenazi for permission to share with us photos from his collection. For more details on The Mad Russian, check out David’s article with Steve Rudman. http://tinyurl.com/o35vo2y

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15 thoughts on ““The Mad Russian” ~Tanya Hanson”

  1. Hi Tanya! Thank you for this great post. I am an avid Angels fan too! I am a native Californian transplanted by my hubby to Indiana. My mom and I had season tickets with the Angels from 1974 to 1995. I love the fact that they finished this season number one in all of baseball!

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

  2. Hi Cindy, welcome to a fellow Halo lover! Even our two little grandsons are mega fans already! Thanks for the post….so,glad you enjoyed it. I am waiting to join a tour group in Charlestj SC so I won’t be able to,visit here much today….thanks for starting the ball rolling!

  3. Oooh The Mad Russian in your family history! What great information. I love to watch our local baseball team. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Wow! Tanya, Lou sounds like a great person to have to have in your family tree. Very interesting. Love his wide smile. He looks like a person who liked to have fun. It’s clear he enjoyed what he did. I’d like to have known him.

    A great start to our Ancestors Week!

  5. Tanya,

    What a great piece! Loved this! You’ve “batted 1000” with your opening post for Ancestor’s Week here at P&P. That is so cool that you have such a neat ancestor! LOL


  6. Such a cool post, Tanya! What a character to have on your family tree, and one heck of a ball player. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Howdy everybody, thanks for the wonderful comments today. I typed earlier….hubs and I spent the day in Charleston SC…what a lovely town so filled with history. Sorry I didn’t get to comment much. I sooo appreciate the support….now it’s packing up for,Savannah. Hugs to all….xoxo

  8. How nice to have such a good record of his life and good pictures. He sounds like he was a nice man to know. Thank you for sharing.

  9. That is so neat with family history. My sister is still working on ours but it’s so fascinating what we learned so far. After reading this I so must read more of ours. Thanks for sharing. Cathie

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