Tagged: Jack Brohammer

My trade to the Cleveland Indians

Fritz PetersonGeorge Steinbrenner tried to buy the Cleveland Indians in the early 1970’s, before he put together a deal for a little less than what Brett Gardner will make this year alone to buy the New York Yankees. The Boss was an Indians fan who grew to love the Yankees, the same way I developed a deep affection for my adopted team when I was traded to Cleveland in 1974. I was a proud member of the Tribe for nearly two seasons. I went to the Cleveland Indians during an especially tough time in my life and I will always have tremendous affection for the team and its fans, who made me feel welcome and rejuvenated.

When I got to the Indians, I could not wear #19 because that number belonged to the extraordinary Bob Feller, one of the greatest pitchers in the history of baseball. So I got #30, which Gene Bearden wore during the Indians World Championship year of 1948. Gene went 20-7 that year, part of an amazing pitching staff of Feller and Bob Lemon. I remember being around 11-years-old growing up in Chicago and listening to the radio when Gene was pitching the White Sox. Later I switched to #16, which had been worn by another great pitcher, Hall of Famer Hal Newhouser. I focus on the uniform because that is a big deal to a player, and to me it represented the next chapter of my baseball career. I had been a Yankee since I was 21, and in MLB it was always pinstripes.

It was April 30, 1974, four days after the trade, and the Indians were playing the Minnesota Twins at Metropolitan Stadium. This was my first start for my new team, and I admit I was a little nervous. Maybe it wasn’t being the new kid on the first day of school as it was the fear of pitching against Bert Blyleven, but anyway I was in a new uniform for the first time since trading in the Columbus Clippers jersey for pinstripes.

The first game I played for the Indians was on April 30, 1974, four days after the trade. It was a Tuesday night and we were playing the Minnesota Twins at Metropolitan Stadium. John Lowenstein, the leadoff hitter, made it to first on shortstop Luis Gomez’s error, and moved to second on Jack Brohammer’s single. John stole third, and scored when Jack stole second and moved to third on Randy Hundley’s throwing error. Oscar came up with two outs and singled to center, driving in Jack. So I took the mound as a first-time Indians pitcher with a 2-0 lead. Oscar went 2-for-4 in that game – he also hit a double and was intentionally walked in the fifth when the Yankees scored four more runs. I was pulled in the seventh after Danny Darwin hit his second Home Run of the day against me, and Freddy Beene, who came to Cleveland in the same deal as me, came in and settled everything down. I got my first win on the new team as Cleveland won 8-3.

A good player with big hair

I never pitched to Oscar Gamble.  He was in the National League for five years before being traded to Cleveland, and I joined him on the Indians in 1974.  We were both traded in 1976 – Oscar to the Yankees and me to the Rangers.  I didn’t pitch much against Cleveland in 1973, and when I did, Oscar wasn’t in the lineup.  He didn’t play in the game I threw against Cleveland in 1974, just before the trade.  And my career in Texas was over before the first series against the Yankees.  I liked Oscar immediately, probably because of how he helped me in my first game as an Indians pitcher.  It was April 30, 1974, four days after the trade, and the Indians were playing the Minnesota Twins at Metropolitan Stadium.  This was my first start for my new team, and I admit I was a little nervous.  Maybe it wasn’t being the new kid on the first day of school as it was the fear of pitching against Bert Blyleven, but anyway I was in a new uniform for the first time since trading in the Columbus Clippers jersey for pinstripes.

John Lowenstein, the leadoff hitter, made it to first on shortstop Luis Gomez’s error, and moved to second on Jack Brohammer’s single.  John stole third, and scored when Jack stole second and moved to third on Randy Hundley’s throwing error.  Oscar came up with two outs and singled to center, driving in Jack.  So I took the mound as a first-time Indians pitcher with a 2-0 lead.  Oscar went 2-for-4 in that game – he also hit a double and was intentionally walked in the fifth when the Yankees scored four more runs.  I was pulled in the seventh after Danny Darwin hit his second Home Run of the day against me, and Freddy Beene, who came to Cleveland in the same deal as me, came in and settled everything down.  I got my first win on the new team as Cleveland won 8-3.

I can’t write about Oscar without mentioning his hair.  The massive afro that stuck out from beneath the Topps “Traded” card with the artist-enhanced Yankee cap in 1976 sort of defined Oscar Gamble to a generation of baseball fans.  A good player with big hair.

My last At-Bat

Like most pitchers, I wasn’t much of a hitter. My career average was .159 – 82 hits, including 15 doubles, a triple, and two “historic” home runs (off Clyde Wright and Mike Cuellar).  I actually hit well my rookie season, 1966: .224, which was four points higher than a right fielder named Lou Clinton, a very nice man who was nearing the end of his career.  Of course my hitting career came to an end in 1973 when the AL adopted the Designated Hitter rule.  I was fine with that; it made it a little tougher when #9 in the order was no longer a pitcher, but fans liked the idea of some veteran hitters staying on a bit longer and so did I.   My last major league at-bat came on October 1, 1972, the first game of a Sunday double header against the Cleveland Indians at Yankee Stadium – my last start of the season because there was no post-season in the “Horace Clarke Era.”  It was one of the most memorable games of my career – an 11-inning complete game!  How many times has that happened?

Gaylord Perry was pitching for the Indians, and he was enjoying the best seasons of his career: 24-16, with a 1.92 ERA, 234 strikeouts, and winning the Cy Young Award.   He also pitched a complete game – his 29th of the season.  So I repeat my question: when was the last time two pitchers threw an 11-inning complete game in the same game?

This was not an inconsequential game.  The Yankees began the day tied for 3rd in the AL East with the Orioles, while the Red Sox and Tigers were in a down-to-the-wire battle for first.  We were five games out of first place, with five games remaining.  We were eliminated from winning the division since Boston and Detroit had three games left against each other.  But there was a scenario that could have had us in 2nd – not 4th, where we wound up – and that was worth trying for.

The Yankees scored in the fourth when Roy White scored on Bernie Allen’s ground rule double, and the Indians tied it in the fifth when Ray Fosse hit a leadoff Home Run against me.  The game remained 1-1 until the top of the eleventh.  Buddy Bell led off with a double to left, and moved to third on Jack Brohamer’s grounder to Ron Bloomberg at first.  Chris Chambliss hit a sacrifice fly to Bobby Murcer in center; Bell scored, and we were down 2-1.   I was supposed to lead off the bottom of the eleventh, but naturally Ralph Houk pinch hit for me.  Frank Tepedino struck out looking.  Then Horace Clarke filed out and Thurman Munson grounded out.  We lost 2-1.

I don’t presume to know anything about baseball compared to Houk, who was one of the smartest baseball strategists I ever knew.  But 43 years later, maybe it’s ok to wonder what he was thinking when he sent Tepedino, who was 0-8 as a September call up, to leadoff in the bottom of the eleventh, one run down. There were only two left-handed hitter on the bench: Tepedino and Johnny Callison, who was a .216 lifetime hitter against Perry but was hitting .280 vs. righties that season.  Would it have been better to take his chances with Johnny Ellis, a right-handed hitter with a .294 average and a .270 average against right-handed pitchers that season?  Or an experienced hitter, like Ron Swoboda?  We will never know.

Anyway, there was a point to this post, and finally I’m getting to it.  With the DH starting in 1973 – call it the Ron Bloomberg Lifetime of Fame Rule – this was the last time I would ever bat in a major league game.  I popped up to shortstop Frank Duffy in the fourth, and struck out in the fifth — I was one of Perry’s eleven strikeouts that game.  My final career At-Bat came in the eighth, with a ground out to second.  As I said earlier, Teppie pinch hit for me in the eleventh and struck out.  I think I could have done at least as well.