Los Alamos has many treasured community members, one of whom is Bun Ryan (Dec. 23, 1923-Sept. 29, 2014) who was named a Living Treasure of Los Alamos in 1999. Bun Ryan is famous in Los Alamos for his fast pitches as part of the Pierotti’s Clowns, but his contributions to Los Alamos history don’t end there.
Before coming to Los Alamos, Bernard “Bullet Bun” L. Ryan was drafted into the United State Army in 1943 and served in the Pacific Theatre in World War II. As part of the invasion force in the Philippines his corps was preparing to invade Japan before the droppings of the atomic bombs. He came to work at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory after the war ended, where he joined the S-site softball team and met Lou Pierotti.
Bun’s skills as a pitcher are a thing of legend in Los Alamos. He was the pitcher for the five-man softball team, the Pierotti’s Clowns. The Clowns played for charity against nine-man teams and relied heavily on Ryan’s 100-plus miles an hour fastball to hold their own. In June of 1984, one of the softball fields at North Mesa was dedicated as “Bun Ryan” field. Bun Ryan gave Los Alamos so much more.
Ryan is also known for receiving the distinguished service award for his work starting Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Employee Assistance Program that focused on counseling employees and families through substance abuse recovery. Bun joined Alcoholics Anonymous in 1966 and was devoted to helping others recover from substance abuse through his experiences which he shared publicly.
On top of Bun Ryan’s contributions in the military, and then to Los Alamos through his pitching skills and investment in substance abuse recovery programs, he was an active member of the Democratic Party and was the Democratic candidate for State Representative in 1994. Bun was involved in multiple facets of Los Alamos and helped shape who we are as a community today.
Come #InsideTheArchives for a small peek at the impact Bernard “Bullet Bun” L. Ryan had on the community of Los Alamos and our history.
Letter from Los Alamos County Council Chairman Morris Pongratz to Bun Ryan about the renaming of the North Mesa Softball Field the Bun Ryan Field on May 20, 1985.
The letter reads:
“[letterhead: Los Alamos County / P.O. Box 30, Los Alamos, New Mexico 87544, 505-662-8000 / County Council: Chairman Morris B. Pongratz, Vice Chairman Jeannette O. Wallace, Members Nancy R. Bartlit, George L. Chandler, Kenneth H. Milder, John D. Rogers, Roger E. Waterman, County Administrator Ronald C. Jack]
“May 15, 1985
“Mr. Bun Ryan, 73-A Park Lane, White Rock, NM 87544
“Dear Mr. Ryan:
“It gives me great pleasure to inform you that at the Council meeting of May 6, 1985 the Council unanimously adopted the following motion:
“That the Council accept the Recreation Board’s recommendation to rename the North Mesa Softball field to ‘Bun Ryan’ Field.
“A dedication ceremony in your honor will be held on May 20, 1895 [sic] at 5:30 p.m. at the North Mesa Softball Field.
“Your outstanding service and efforts towards our community were factors in determination of renaming the field. You have given the Men’s Fastpitch Association a reputation and one they can be very proud of.
“Because of this, the Los Alamos County Council wishes to recognize your contributions by, therefore, renaming the North Mesa Softball Field to ‘Bun Ryan’ Field.
“Sincerely, [signed: Morris B. Pongratz], Morris B. Pongratz, Chairman, Los Alamos County Council
Jeff Laing, "New Mexico's Great Fund-Raising Five-Man Softball Team: Lou Pierotti's Clowns," The National Pastime: A Review of Baseball History, 1999
Handwritten below the title is: “To a Wonderful Lady, Best Wishes Always, Lou Pierotti, “Bun” Ryan”
This page reads:
“New Mexico’s great fund-raising five-man softball team
“Lou Pierotti’s Clowns
“One early spring afternoon, a work acquaintance began waxing nostalgic about the five-man softball team he watched weekends at Bomber Field in Los Alamos, New Mexico. It has been years since I heard such spontaneous and joyous enthusiasm for any sport. No soapboxing about player salaries and court cases, no pillorying of owners’ arrogance and stupidity, no haranguing about umpires’ hubris. Just my colleague’s fond memories of the past and his continuing love for baseball. He left me with a tantalizing final thought: ‘I don’t even know if Lou Pierotti is still alive.’ He is and I, too, became a eager convert to the story of ‘Lou Pierotti’s Clowns.’
“The Funny Man—On a messy, snowy mid-autumn Los Alamos day, I met a well-groomed, handsome man of medium build and height who looked two decades younger than his seventy-seven years. Lou Pierotti then transported me to a sports paradise beyond economics and self-interest.
“Lou Pierotti was a baseball prodigy who played a few games for the Balboa Brewers while he was stationed in Panama in 1944–45. Professional baseball in Panama in the 1940s was a hard-nosed game that paid by piecework—four dollars for a home run, three for a triple, two for a double, one for a single, and one for every point above .250 at the end of the year. But it still was competitive baseball. Lou had a firm offer for the 1945–46 season in Panama, but he was being mustered out of the service, and with the demands of a young, growing family he returned to New Mexico. Back in the States, Lou turned down a final professional temptation. He was offered a contract to play C ball for Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Firmly ensconced in the young Los Alamos community, Pierotti became a successful businessman, owning first a soda shop and then a floral shop. Lou insists that the Clowns owe a debt of gratitude to his wife Lee, who ran the business(es) while he played ball.
“Pierotti has always felt compelled to give something back. He has set fund-raising records for Los Alamos Kiwanis and United Way of Los Alamos in this his fiftieth consecutive year of charitable work. If Lou’s passion was sports—he has played for national titles in five separate sports—his life’s work has been helping others.
“Having fun and raising funds—Presaging the era of mascots and promotions, Lou decided in 1953 to spur charitable fund-raising by organizing a five-man softball team that combined family entertainment and superior ball playing.
“But why a clown team? Some former teammates say that Lou had dressed as a girl to play in a comedy game in his hometown of Walsenberg, Colorado, but this tale is evidently apocryphal. The shy Lou does not disagree with those who say he started the team because he was a frustrated actor. He more readily agrees that he has always been a fan of the circus.
“Winning 177 of 200 games over the twenty-five year life of the club, the Clowns were one heck of a team, but their most amazing accomplishment was never accepting a penny, not even for expenses, for their work. ‘Lou Pierotti’s Clowns’ were literally the ‘Goodwill Ambassadors of Los Alamos.’
“Jeff Laing is a Santa Fe, New Mexico, professor and writer who is still in denial that Ernie Banks never played in the World Series.”
The other page reads:
“The dominant pitcher—Their lineup was filled with intelligent, exceptionally gifted athletes. However, the acknowledged superstar was a tall Irishman, Bun Ryan, who was a dominating, nearly unhittable pitcher. Ryan is especially proud of his seven appearances in the nine-man World Softball tournament 1954–1960.
“After winning decorations for World War II service in the field artillery in New Guinea and the Phillipines, Bun appreciates the delicious irony of living in the bomb-making city that he is certain saved his life in the Pacific. Bun moved from Taos to Los Alamos to accept a position at the National Laboratory. A Leadville, Colorado native, Bun became a force in Los Alamos politics, often fighting the quixotic fight of a Democratic liberal in a fiercely conservative Republican county. He has received an appropriate reward for his public service: a local softball field is now ‘Bun Ryan Field.’
“Firing smoke and possessing pinpoint control, Bun allowed his teammates the opportunity to clown. But Bun played it straight and hard, never employing illegal pitches as did megastar Eddie Feigner of the ‘King and His Court’ fame.
“Clowning and winning—Wearing expensive theatrical makeup and sporting first-class uniforms, the Clowns never played the Harlem Globetrotters to the local Washington Generals. There were entertainment bits, but games were on the level and often hard-fought. Speed-demon second baseman Jim Higgins remembers that the Clowns were successful because they clowned mostly on defense while Bun struck everyone out. Lou was the catalyst for the acts and Jim remembers that even the inmates at the state pen, who didn’t like to lose, responded to Lou’s gambits by riding their own side.
“Lou modeled his acts directly on those he’d seen in the circus. The Clowns introduced to the diamond such acts as pitching blindfolded, leaving the field, hitting the string and mush ball(s), lying in front of the pitcher, kneeling to hit, and using the big bat that was actually a lightweight one. And from the beginning, the Clowns were a family affair with Lou breaking in two of his young sons as batboys, bench players, and, of course, clowns.
“He is proud that his team influenced others. The famous touring team the ‘Queen and Her Maids’ (whom the Clowns easily handled) went on to create their own clowning strategies after their frustrating experiences with the Clowns.
“As long as it was a charity affair, the Clowns accepted all comers, wandering far afield in the Inter-Mountain Range states. However, most of the games were played in New Mexico against such colorful teams as the Tierra Amarilla Bombers, the Los Alamos Monitor Newshounds, the Kirtland Air Force Base Flyers, the Santa Fe Penitentiary Rocks,”
My Cat-Skills: A Cat's Tale by Big-A-Boy
This page reads: “I really don’t know what my original name was. You see, I was born in a place called Pajarito Acres, a small community in the mountains of northern New Mexico. As soon as I was able, I left that litter of kittens and struck out on my own. Pajarito Acres is pretty close to White Rock, and that’s where I ultimately ended up.
“Being a stray cat is no easy life. I lived on lizards, mice, leftovers in dumpsters, or whatever else I could scrounge up. Shelter was another problem, especially in winter. Northern New Mexico is sunny, but after that sun sets, it gets darn cold. I managed to find warm places under bridges or in the dumpster. Despite the tough conditions, I grew up to be a pretty big, strong cat. A lot of my time was spent looking out for coyotes and wandering dogs. Raccoons could be a problem too. But as I said—I was big, strong, and also fast—which saved me in several encounters. Small dogs were no worry I could KICK ASS!
“My primary stomping ground was that area around Bonnie View Drive and Park Lane. There were multiple housing units in the vicinity and lots of people. But people didn’t seem to like me, and the feeling was mutual. I didn’t like them either. That’s why I say I’d never had a real name. They called me things like that “Dirty little Bastard” or that “Stinky little Son of a Bitch.” I never knew what that meant.
“Roaming the neighborhood one day, and crawling along the top of a concrete wall, I noticed this Lady working in her backyard. Also in the yard were two cats; one I recognized as having had a sexual encounter with some time ago, and wondered if the smaller one could be the result of that encounter.”
Atomic Energy Commission announcementThis page reads:
“No. P-95 / For Immediate Release
“Contact: Robert W. Newlin
“AEC Names Los Alamos Meson Facility For Senator Clinton P. Anderson
“The Atomic Energy Commission will name its Los Alamos Meson Physics Facility for H. S. Senator Clinton P. Anderson of New Mexico.
“The announcement was made at the conclusion of a speech today by Commissioner James T. Ramey during ‘Clinton P. Anderson Day’ ceremonies in Los Alamos, at which distinguished guests from across the Nation paid tribute to the Senator.
“The Meson Physics Facility, now being completed at Los Alamos, has had the strong support of Senator Anderson.
“The major feature of this facility will be a proton linear accelerator which will produce the most intense beam of protons of any high energy accelerator in the world. It not only will expand knowledge of the structure of the atomic nucleus, but is expected to offer practical applications which will be of immediate benefit to society, such as the treatment of cancer and the production of new radio-isotopes for medical diagnosis.
“In his speech, Commissioner Ramey said: ‘Chairman James R. Schlesinger and the Members of the Commission and its Staff did some studying recently on the naming of the Meson Facility. We sought the advice of the White House and President Nixon, and consulted with Senator Anderson’s colleagues on the Congressional Joint Committee on Atomic Energy and, of course, with the Laboratory Director and his associates, regarding a name which would symbolize all our interests in the peacetime aspects of basic science here at Los Alamos for the benefit of the entire Southwest and Rocky Mountain Regions, and nationally and internationally. All of us came to the unanimous conclusion that we should name the Meson Physics Facility the “Clinton P. Anderson Meson Physics Facility” and that is what we intend to do!’"
Organizational Chart, Citizens Committee for Senator Clinton P. AndersonThis organizational chart is headed: “Citizens Committee for the Senator Clinton P. Anderson Day, April 8, 1972.” A handwritten note in pencil at the top reads: “handout for Feb. 24 Public Meeting”
A note at the bottom of the chart indicates that (x) denotes a member of the Executive Working Committee.
At the top of the organization is General Chairman Gerold H. Tenney (x), Liaison to Official Washington and Other Places. Under the chairman are:
–Public Relations Committee: Peggy Corbett (x), Chairman; Andy Long, Vice-Chairman; News Media & Press; Administrative Coordination: Files, Posters, Buttons; Correspondence Control; Album; Community Coordination; Organizations: Civic, Students, Women, Lulacs, Clubs
–State of New Mexico Coordination Committee: John D. Rogers (x), Chairman; Vernon Kerr, Vice-Chairman
–Out-of-Town Coordination Committee: Ted Russo (x), Chairman; Fidel Naranjo, Vice-Chairman
–Events Committee: Paul D. Noland (x), Chairman; Bun Ryan, Vice-Chairman; Parade; Barbecue; Tribute to Senator Assembly; Reception
–General Vice-Chairman: Robert Y. Porton (x)
–Secretary: Esther Strohecker (x)
–Treasurer & Chairman of Finance Committee: Paul D. Edwards (x)
–Scientific Community Liaison Committee: Del Sundberg (x), Chairman
These articles are written by the Los Alamos Historical Society Staff. Many of these articles were originally published by the