Saturday, April 20, 2013

22 - GENE BRABENDER - PITCHER for the ORIOLES and later literary folk hero

 We move from Dave Bristol to a pitcher who would later play for him with the Brewers, Gene Brabender. This picture of Brabender does not do him justice. This man could've played on the same defense with Merlin Olsen, Deacon Jones, Rosey Grier and Lamar Lundy calling him the "Fearsome Fifth." He was 6' 6" and weighed 225 lbs. Brabender had a short pro career which began in 1966 with the World Championship Orioles. He started out as a jack of all trades. Starting, closing, and filling in out of the bullpen. He did not see action in the series (only four pitchers did: Drabowsky, Palmer, McNally and Bunker) but he may have made the roster.

He continued to be a starter and reliever for the O's. Garnering few wins but 4 shutouts and 5 saves to his credit. The Piolts picked him in their expansion draft in '69 where he saw the most work in his career. He went 13-14 with a 4.36 ERA. Neither stat looks great but neither was that Pilots team. At least Brabender gave them a fighting chance.

Brabender continued with the franchise when the new owners moved in and took the Pilots out of Seattle and landed them in Wisconsin as the Milwaukee Brewers, Brabenders home state. Brabender struggled with the struggling team with a 6-15 record and a balooning ERA of 6.02. He bounced around in the Angels farm system in '71. Topps was even optimistic enough of his prospects to return by making a high number '71 Topps card. Unfortunately, he never returned to the majors after 1970.

Brabender, like all of the '69 Pilots team is mentioned extensively in Jim Bouton's famous (for fans) and infamous (for fellow players) book "Ball Four" The book is still considered a classic tell all book which broke the long held clubhouse rule which says "What you see here, what you hear here, let it stay here" He didn't and the players on the Pilots team who were able to laugh at themselves live beyond their playing careers for baseball fans everywhere thanks to Bouton's book.

Bouton later wrote that Brabender auditioned for the role of Gene Brabender for a TV sitcom based on "Ball Four" but the part of Brabender went to former Raider Ben Davidson.

As for this '67 Topps card, the Orioles were the reigning Champions when the card was designed. The picture is generic posing at Spring Training fair but the bright yellow lettering stands out well and it lets the collector now clearly that you ARE holding the card of a champion.

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