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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Dick Brodowski

             Dick Brodowski is one of many players who passed in and out of the major leagues, never able to gain enough footing to stay for any extended period of time. He had success in the minors, but couldn’t translate that on a consistent basis at the Big League level. 

The right-handed pitcher signed with the Boston Red Sox in 1951, as the team was still searching for the magical combination to overtake the powerhouse Yankees. Boston brought him up in 1952 when he was just 19 years old. He struggled in his first three games, before rebounding with consecutive complete game wins against the Tigers and Yankees.

Brodowski went 5-5 in 20 games in 1952, with a 4.40 ERA. He had 12 starts, and more than held his own at such a young age. Unfortunately, military service took him away from professional baseball for the next two full seasons, and when he returned in 1955, he was unable to build on the promise he had displayed as a rookie.

The Red Sox traded Brodowski to the Washington Senators following the 1955 season, where he lasted for two seasons, before being shipped to the Cleveland Indians, for the final two seasons of his major league career. He finally retired after pitching in one game in 1960 with Reading, a Single-A affiliate of Cleveland.

All told, in parts of six major league seasons, Brodowski posted a 9-11 record in 72 games, all but 15 in relief. He also had a 4.76 ERA, and managed to hit two home runs- off Ted Gray and Don Larsen. More information about his career statistics is available at

Although he didn’t produce the results or longevity that he had hoped for, Brodowski enjoyed his time in baseball, and recently shared some of those memories with me.

Dick Brodowski Interview:

How did you first get interested in baseball?: I loved it as a little kid and just never stopped playing. I loved it when I got older and got to play in Little League, and then into high school. From high school I went into the pros. 

I wasn’t really that good of a student, so I didn’t really have much of a decision about going to play baseball, and give it a try.

What was it like getting signed by the Red Sox?: There was a gentleman who lived in Jersey City named Bill McCarron (sp?), and he had signed a few other ball players like (Sam) Mele and Maury (Mickey) McDermott for the Red Sox. So he was a Red Sox scout, and he was a very nice gentleman, and we used to talk quite a bit. Matt of fact, I believe he was a groundskeeper at one of the baseball parks in Jersey City. I would get to see him occasionally. 

When I became available, in other words, out of high school, he approached me with the Red Sox. That was where I wanted to go anyways, so it was an easy choice for me.

Do you think you were prepared as a 19-year old to play in the Major Leagues?: Yeah, my stuff was good enough, it’s just that I wasn’t smart enough I guess. It was a big decision. I did so well in my first year in D-ball. I was signed as a third baseman-pitcher. 

I was 21 and 5 my first year, and that was coming from playing third base. I had pitched in high school… Then I almost made the Red Sox that year, and at the last minute they sent me down to the minors. They wanted to send me to an A-ball team; I think I was assigned to San Jose or something like that. There were some clubs on the east coast here, and what happened was I told them, ‘Jeez, I nearly made the Red Sox, and you’re sending me so far down the minor league system. I thought I would get a chance with Louisville.’ 

They granted my wish and sent me to Louisville, and Mike Jacobs was there. They threw me out there real fast to see if I was going to do it or I wasn’t going to do it. I ended up 7-1 and doing very well. The Red Sox could use some pitching, and I was brought up. 

I was turning 20 on July 26th when I came up in June. I got away with my first start, against the Detroit Tigers. I think I won 10 to 3. And then I went into Yankee Stadium and won 4 to 3. Then I went to Boston and won my first game there. I think the score was 16-6 or something like that. It was an easy win, so I did okay at the beginning. Then I think it caught up with me. 

My whole career is dry spells, you know, a tough 3-4 weeks. It always happened to me, even when I went to Winter Ball.

What type of pitches did you throw?: I had a fair fastball, and I had what they call a wrap curve. In other words, it stuck in your palm almost like a palm ball. It came out like a looping curve. I developed a faster curve, slider, and other stuff as I went on, but those were my beginning pitches.

What was Mike “Pinky” Higgins like as a manager?: Mike was a wonderful guy; very gentle; very soft spoken; never got excited; was always optimistic. H was very, very good. I didn’t come across many bad managers. 

There was only a few I didn’t like so good. One of them was Charlie Dressen. I didn’t think that he had a personality. 

Did you play for him in Washington?: Yeah, the Washington Senators.

You were with the Red Sox when they signed Pumpsie Green as their first African-American player. What do you remember about that?: I don’t think I was with the Red Sox when Pumpsie came there.

I think he was in the organization, signed around 1952: I’m not sure, but I did meet Pumpsie when I went to play Puerto Rican winter ball. Matter of fact, we were all gathered in the same house because we played for the same team. But they got rid of me. I was 0-6. Ponce was the bottom team in Puerto Rico, and I was 0-6 there. The next thing I knew, they were releasing me off the island. San Juan picked me up and I was 8-2 for them. 

You also played in Cuba as well?: Yeah, that’s where I was 13 and 6 I believe. It was really a weird set-up, where there were four teams. The four teams played a doubleheader in the same ballpark. So all you did was play one of three other teams. Those four teams played almost every day and it was one ballpark.
It was a little different because we all stayed out at a hotel, well me and my family anyways. The manager Bobby Bragan, stayed at the same hotel. 

How was Ted Williams as a teammate? Is it true he didn’t really care for pitchers?: I couldn’t tell that. What it was that he was so far above me, I just had the respect to leave him alone unless we were brought accidentally into a talking situation. A few times, we were on a trip and I was with George Susce, who was another pitcher on the team. He didn’t mind speaking with Ted. He got Ted to talking and, and he was talking about flying his jets in Korea, and his crashing, and how they used to have missions going out to meet the Russian jets. It was really interesting. And then he would talk a lot about his fishing, and I’m not a fisherman, and I’ve never cared for fishing, so that didn’t interest me that much. 

You know what is funny I can tell you about Ted? They used to argue with him about hitting. Here they are arguing with a .360 hitter; these guys who are hitting .270, you know… and they would argue about what’s your leading hand, which is your power and stuff like that. They would argue with him and it was very funny because I don’t know why they bothered arguing with the best hitter in baseball. I guess they enjoyed getting him riled up.

How do you think Ted would have translated to the modern game?: He probably would have hit .290 or .300, figuring he would be about 80 or 90 years old. I’m just kidding. That’s a real old joke. I think he’d be fine with that great eyesight. 

But you know what’s very humbling? I was on the team with him for a whole year, and watched him hit like .340 or .350. It shows you how much failure there is in baseball. If you’re hitting .300, you’re only getting one for three, so you’re failing two out of three times, yet, you’re a great hitter.

Do you have a favorite moment from your playing career?: Oh, it would have to be Yankee Stadium, winning 4-3, giving up four hits, striking out eight. That was June 30th, 1952. That was my second start in the Big Leagues.

Who was the biggest character you ever played with or against?: Probably looking down the bullpen and seeing Satchel Paige in this big arm chair, and everything. 

There was one instance where I remember we were at the Philadelphia Athletics, and I was still new on the team; considered new anyways. Sammy White, I think, had gotten into an argument with the other catcher. Actually, either him (White), or Piersall. Both benches cleared and when I looked up I was the only guy sitting. I was like a guy in the stands, I was so enthralled with what was going on. All the players take off and go out to the field, and I’m the only guy sitting on the bench. 

Is there anything about your career that you would do differently if given the chance?: Well, you know, what ended my career is one of the things that I would like to do over again. I was doing pretty well when I got on to the Cleveland bullpen. I think this was ’59. I had good stuff when I came up in ’58 for two or three weeks, and they practically gave me the job in ’59. So, in ’59 I was doing pretty good, and got a bad shoulder. 

But I had learned a new curveball, a looping curveball, and I threw this crap at the Major Leaguers, and they had a lot of trouble with it. They couldn’t wait; they were so used to hitting 88 to 91, 92, 93 miles an hour, that when I threw the crap up there, it was like Wakefield throwing his knuckleball. I was getting away with it. So what happened was, the day before the All Star Game, I got a spasm in my back. In those days you didn’t go running to tell everybody. You sort of took your chances.

So, the game comes down to near the end of the game in Detroit, and they called me to warm up. So I tried to warm up and they could tell that as bad as I threw the ball sometimes that I was having big trouble, and they hurried up and warmed up Jim Perry. Perry went in there and threw a home run ball and lost the game. When we got back to Cleveland the next day, we were working out, and I was told that I was sold to, oh where the hell did I go… oh, Toronto, the Triple-A team.

It turned out after a couple of days of rest, I was throwing as good as I had ever threw. At the time, I didn’t complain, and I didn’t complain about having a bad back and everything, and I got my ass sold out of baseball. I was still like 27 years old… 28. That was a regretful thing that I didn’t handle properly, and if I had it to do over again, I would have mentioned it. I don’t deny that it was my fault. 

What have you done since you stopped playing baseball?: Let me see. I was an insurance agent for Metropolitan Life, and I think I survived seven years there. I came up with a job as a liquor salesman for about another seven years. Then a friend of mine came into the Boston area that I knew in Bayonne, New Jersey, where I grew up. He was working for Stone & Webster Engineering, and he said, ‘Dick, I can get you a position at Stone & Webster security if you would like to come into Boston and work for security there.’ I said, ‘I’d love to,’ and it turned out to be a wonderful thing. I retired from Stone & Webster 15 or 17 years later.

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