Eddie Popowski was born on August 30, 1913 in Sayreville, New Jersey. He went to St. Stanislaus, the Polish Catholic school in town and was known to play a little hooky from time to time so he could play more ball. There was sandlot ball, and he and his brothers played town ball for Holy Trinity church as well, until economics forced him to leave school after the eighth grade.
In 1931 he was working on an ice wagon and playing on the Sayreville town team when the House of David baseball team signed him. The 17-year-old was conspicuous not only for his diminutive size, but for his inability to grow the trademark long beard of the House of David players. With the House of David touring team, he played as many as 256 games in one season, often playing two or three games a day.
"Pop" participated in a vaudeville-style pepper game after the seventh inning of each game. In addition to juggling baseballs in the coaching box during a lopsided game, he would also field foul balls and return them to the pitcher with a behind-the-back toss that became known to generations of Sox players and fans as the "Popowski Flip".
Red Sox scouts signed Eddie to a contract in 1936, but he felt he owed it to the House of David to finish the season with them. His Organized Baseball debut would wait until 1937, when he reported to Hazleton, Pennsylvania, of the Class A New York-Penn League.
In 1938 Eddie remained with Hazleton, which was now part of the Eastern League. He labored in 1939-41 for the Scranton Red Sox along with a short stint with Centreville of the Class D Eastern Shore League.
He missed the 1942 season due to a stint in the Army. Like a number of ballplayers, Eddie played in the service as well, but broke his knee in Georgia, and was discharged from the Army.
"Pop" was with Double-A Louisville in 1943, his only season above Class A. After hurting his hand late in the year, he was headed home for the winter when the Sox farm director suggested he take over the Class B Roanoke Red Sox. The stint as Roanoke skipper began a long career as a minor-league manager, though he continued to play through 1948.
Eddie managed for a long list of teams: in sequence, Roanoke, Scranton, Lynn, Oneonta, Louisville (coach), Greensboro, Montgomery, Greensboro again, Albany, Allenton, Alpine, Minneapolis, Johnstown, Winston-Salem, Reading, and Pittsfield. Popowski achieved a high level of success as a manager. In 20 years of managing in minor-league ball, his teams won four pennants and finished in second place five times.
Never having managed higher than Class A in his first 14 seasons, Eddie was suddenly tabbed as the manager of Triple-A Minneapolis in 1960. "Pop" worked closely with Carl Yastrzemski to convert him from an infielder to an outfielder. After the season he returned to manage in the lower minors until September 1966, when he was named a Red Sox coach for 1967.
When Dick Williams was selected as the new skipper, he designated "Pop" as second in command, or his bench coach. Perhaps Eddie's most important contribution to the "Impossible Dream" Red Sox was his handling of players. He was more than just a coach or manager, but also a confidant and adviser with whom many players talked over their personal, as well as their baseball, problems.
When Williams was fired in 1969, "Pop" was named interim manager for the final nine games of the season. He again was promised a coaching position before the new manager was hired. The other coaches were let go, bur he remained on the coaching staff throughout the tenures of Eddie Kasko (1970-73) and Darrell Johnson (1974-75). He served again as interim manager for the final game of 1973.
"Pop" was a minor-league instructor at the beginning of 1976, but he was added to the coaching staff when third-base coach Don Zimmer replaced Johnson as manager. He was not retained by Zimmer after the season, but he continued to work in the Red Sox system, serving as coordinator/manager/special Instructor for the Red Sox in the Florida Instructional League from 1976 to 1989. From 1989 on, he was an infield instructor for the Red Sox in the Instructional League, and was always a presence at spring training. Eddie worked for the Red Sox right through spring training 2001 – for the last 15 years or so reportedly without feeling the need for a signed contract.
In 1997 Field #1 at the Fort Myers spring training complex was named in Eddie's honor. He died of lung cancer at his Sayreville home on December 4, 2001, at age 88. Per his request, the family buried "Pop" in his uniform.