Today, a quote from reliever-writer, Jim Brosnan, who kept a journal during Cincinnati’s 1961 National League pennant winning season. The book, appropriately titled “Pennant Race” was his second book. His first offering, of similar nature, was The
Long Season” written in 1959, the year he was traded from the St. Louis Cardinals to Cincinnati.
“When a ballplayer is winning, even his sweat smells good.” — Jim Brosnan
The above quote comes from “The Long Season.” Brosnan was acquired on June 8 for pitcher Hal Jeffcoat, who was in his last major league season. Brosnan had been a swing man for the Cardinals and Cubs, and continued that role with the 1959 Reds, going 8-3 with a 3.35 ERA the second half of the season for the Redlegs, as they were called then (no Communist leanings in Cincinnati).
He made only two starts for the remainder of his career, becoming a fulltime reliever. Brosnan was good enough at his craft that he finished 20th in MVP voting during the 1961 pennant season. He finished the year 10-4 with 16 saves and a 3.04 ERA. Well, they didn’t count saves then; that number was attributed to him retroactively. Anyway, he and Bill Henry (2-1, 2.19 ERA, and 16 “saves” of his own) made for a great righty-lefty tandem in the bullpen. Brosnan pitched one more year and a half for the Reds (they had changed their nickname back to Reds for the 1961 season) before being dealt to the White Sox to finish his last season. (As for irony….the Redlegs changed their name back to Reds before the 1961 season….and they win the NL pennant and play the Yankees for the 1961 World Series title).
Jeffcoat’s an interesting story himself. He made it to the majors as a starting centerfielder for the Cubs at age 23 in 1948, finishing second in the league in sacrifice bunts and eighth in steals. Not much of a hitter (career OPS+ is 73), he converted to pitching at age 29, he eventually was traded to the Reds at age 31 and became a rotation starter at age 32, going 12-13 with a 4.52 ERA in 1957.
There are not too many players who have had this career path. Reds great pitcher Bucky Walters (1939 National League MVP) was a converted third baseman. He converted to pitching in his fifth big league season while with the Phillies after playing third base three years for the Boston Braves. However, Walters was 26 at the time of his position change, three years younger than Jeffcoat. Both stories are somewhat remarkable for baseball history.
Quote found in Paul Dickson’s book “Baseball’s Greatest Quotations.”