George Brunet

I watch way too much tv.  It’s usually on just to provide some background noise when I’m home and Jenny is still at work, but I find myself watching the same show over and over.  Back in the day it was reruns of The Brady Bunch and Gilligan’s Island; in recent years its been a lot of Two and a Half Men and Seinfeld.  A memorable episode of that last one was on this week, the one where Kramer stops wearing underwear because he’s worried about low sperm count… just a thin layer of gabardeen between him and the world.  

This episode was on my mind when trying to decide which of the Maroons to write about this time.  Tom Seaver was also in the news this week: his dementia was announced.  This didn’t seem like a cheerful topic — the day you turn 60, this becomes one of your chief terrors for how your personal ninth inning might play out.  Jenny’s mom died of Alzheimer’s back in 2006, and so my fear of the disease is based on something concrete and personal.  At a certain point near her end, I found myself making excuses to stop visiting the nursing home where she died — not a must-see episode in my life’s chronicle — but Jenny went to see her every day, even those days towards the end when there was nothing left of Jean’s mind at all.  

I eulogized Jean Cook.  Sometimes a child can do a eulogy for a parent, but I know in my case, when my mom died, I was just a wreck and there was no way I would have gotten through even a short oration.  So I was the logical choice to say a few words, in that I was the son-in-law who lived closest and was probably the one who knew her best.  I wrote the eulogy with her five granddaughters in mind, and did my best to say farewell to the nice college librarian who had warmly welcomed me into her family.  

Jean ran the serials department at Iowa State, but I don’t have a sense of what that job really entailed so like to think of her sitting at a counter, stamping stacks of books with their return dates.  I recently read “The Library Book” (really good, by the way), and in it a librarian mentions it is hard to decide whether or not to make eye contact with the patrons, in part because you don’t want to seem to judge the reading choices.  As a kid, I remember when the books "Ball Four” and “Pitching & Wooing” were published; the baseball memiors of Jim Bouton and Bo Belinsky had enough baseball in them to be a passable choice for a baseball nut, but mostly they were read for the naughty bits.  I don’t recall if these were even shelved at my school library — I might have had to get them at the city library — but if Regina did have them I hope our librarian, the venerable Velma Miller, didn’t think any less of me for the selections.

A minor character in Bouton’s book is George Brunet, a lefty who had a decent career but not someone with whom I ever was connected via Strat-O-Matic or some other tie.  He’s mostly remembered for being Krameresque: "No, I never wear undershorts,”  Brunet said.  “Hell, the only time you need them is if you get into a car wreck.  Besides, this way I don’t have to worry about losing them.”  In 1968, the then 33-yo Brunet turned in one of his better seasons for the Angels.  His career seemed finished when he was 36, and this would be a normal age to retire from sports, but George wasn’t ready to hang up his cleats just yet.  After knocking around the minors a bit, he started pitching in the Mexican League, where his nickname was “El Viejo” (the old man) and he threw an unbelievable 55 shutouts.  What an amazing baseball life: pitching for Kansas City in 1956 and still pitching for Mexico City in 1985.  With Jordan, the greatness was in the shoes, but with Brunet it’s nice to remember that it was what he didn’t wear that made the difference. 

The IBC Maroons have a really cool pitching staff, led by a trio of young stars bound for glory: Jerry Koosman (19-12, 2.08, 264 IP), 23-yo Tom Seaver (16-12, 2.20, 278 IP), and 21-yo Nolan Ryan (6-9, 3.09, 134 IP).  The colorful supporting cast includes 33-yo George Brunet (13-17, 2.86, 245 IP), the hard-throwing 24-yo Dick Selma (9-10, 2.75, 170 IP), and a good old boy, Don Cardwell (7-13, 2.95, 180 IP), who had a memorable clash with teammate Ron Swoboda over the wearing of love beads in ’68.

Jim McAndrew

Those future hall-of-famers are the staff's obvious strength, but the bullpen is really interesting as well.  Three of them are actually more starters than relievers, crashing the staff because they were just too good to cut.  Two are young Angels, both just 22-yo: Tom Murphy (2.17, 99 IP) and Andy Messersmith (2.21, 81 IP).  The Met is 24-yo Jim McAndrew (2.28, 79 IP), who hails from Iowa and played baseball & basketball at my old school, the University of Iowa.  More traditional middle relievers are Marty Pattin (2.75, 84 IP) and the pen’s LOOGY, Dennis Bennett (3.54, 48 IP).  Two closers round out the staff, Ron Taylor (2.70, 77 IP, and 14 saves) and 34-yo Minnie Rojas (4.25, 55 IP, and 6 saves).  Note that Taylor has already accumulated 14 saves in the early action, matching his real-life total in ’68, which is mostly just an illustration that games are being managed more like today’s game (with fewer complete games).

Just three pitchers with the sorting requirement of 120+ IPs and/or a WAR of 0.5+ didn’t make the final 30-man roster for West Metro: 24-yo Jim McGlothlin (10-15, 3.54, 208 IP), Sammy Ellis (9-10, 3.95, 164 IP), and Clyde Wright (10-6, 3.94, 126 IP).  Wright will go on to pitch a no-no and win 22 games in 1970, so he’ll definitely get his chance to shine if I ever get around to that season!

This concludes my look at Week 10.

© John Kisner 2019