The best absorbing amateur you’ve never heard of pitched in at atomic 33 afterwards able seasons, from 1953 to 1985 — and that’s aloof what we can verify. He holds a allotment of the Major Alliance almanac for best compatible numbers worn, and a allotment of the Angels’ almanac for best losses in a season. He owns the Minor Alliance almanac for best strikeouts. He’s a affiliate of the Mexican Alliance Hall of Fame. This is all aloof about abrading the apparent of an absurd baseball life.
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He threw two no-hitters — 21 years apart. He was already alive by the Philadelphia A’s, but he additionally pitched as afresh as the Reagan administration, a career amount that about coincides with the two time-period settings of “Back To The Future.” He already issued bristles bases-loaded walks — added a hit-by-pitch — in a distinct inning. It’s allegedly the affliction inning in Major Alliance history, but it’s adamantine to say if that’s bigger or worse than the time he went added than a ages in the Minors and over 50 innings afterwards his aggregation scoring a run for him.
As a rookie, afterwards actuality escorted to the bank in a blush Lincoln Continental, he faced the allegorical Ted Williams, who he declared as his adolescence idol … and didn’t alike apprehend who was hitting adjoin him until he was advanced 0-2.
He did all of this, and more, while abnegation to abrasion underwear or a careful cup on the mound. He still managed to accept three children.
Welcome to the actually alluring activity and career of George Brunet, who was built-in in Michigan in 1935, anesthetized abroad in Mexico in 1991 and pitched for dozens of teams in between. His name won’t arena any accretion for best people, and none of the teams he pitched for will accept a appropriate day to bethink his life. But if you’re absorbed in agitative lives and absurd stories, few can top Brunet’s. Here’s aloof a atom of what fabricated him so intriguing.
1. He pitched for at atomic 33 afterwards seasons
Brunet was originally alive by his home accompaniment Tigers in 1953, afterwards actuality scouted by “Schoolboy” Rowe, who had starred for Detroit in the 1930s. (If this Michigan Facebook photo explanation can be believed, his mother stood on the acreage while he formed out for the team.) But he never pitched in the bigs for the Tigers, who cut him chargeless afterwards three Minor Alliance seasons. (“You consistently get a little added accursed up for the aggregation that alive you,” he already said about adverse the Tigers. “And appear you.”) He bent on with the Philadelphia Athletics’ acreage arrangement aloof afore they confused to Kansas City, afresh fabricated his Major Alliance admission on Sept. 14, 1956, to bandy the final inning of a 4-1 draft to Washington.
Thus began an adventure through actually dozens of teams, from Shelby, N.C., to Seminole, Okla., to Hawaii, and all the way aback again. This 1966 account from the Guam Daily News — no, we didn’t apprehend that either — gives you a taste.
After genitalia of four seasons with the A’s amid 1956 and ’60, Brunet saw big alliance time with the Milwaukee Braves (1960-61), Houston Colt .45s (1962-63), Baltimore Orioles (’63), and then, in his longest amplitude in one place, for the Los Angeles/California Angels from 1964 through ’69, confined as their Opening Day amateur in ’67. That catches us up to area the burghal log aloft finishes off. It’s not about the end.
He’d abutting go to Seattle in 1969 (the Pilots, not the Mariners), Washington in 1970 (the Senators, not the Nationals), Pittsburgh afterwards in ’70 and, to accomplishment off his Major Alliance career, seven amateur for the 1971 St. Louis Cardinals. He briefly put on an Angels compatible afresh to bandy batting convenance to his old team, afresh he went aback to Hawaii afresh (Triple-A for the Padres in 1971 and ’72) and Eugene, Ore. (Triple-A for the Phillies in ’73) to accomplishment off his calm career. That’s 21 seasons of able baseball, from 1953-73. That’s added than abundant for best players.
He still wasn’t done. In 1974, he went south to Poza Rica of the Mexican League, and here’s area it gets interesting. He was 39 years old. He’d angle for at atomic addition 12 years — and maybe, as we’ll explain shortly, added than that.
In his aboriginal Major Alliance season, he faced Williams, who had debuted in 1939. In his final season, he faced Joe Morgan, who would comedy until 1984.
2. He began a Hall of Fame casting career at age 39
We accumulate adage “at atomic 33 seasons,” and that’s because adverse letters get a little murky. As Peter Gammons wrote in a January 1986 copy of the Sporting News, “George Brunet, casting drillmaster of the Mexico Burghal Tigers, pitched in two amateur in 1985. That meant he set a record, accepting pitched professionally in 33 seasons. Brunet, 50, is eight amateur abbreviate of casting in 1,000 pro games.”
So we apperceive he was alive through 1985. The botheration is, the annal from the two Mexican Leagues (winter and summer) in the 1980s are somewhat unclear, and we kept award letters like these:
“Brunet connected to angle into his 50s in the Mexican League, until 1989,” wrote the Seattle Times in 2006. Aback he anesthetized in 1991 at 56, the Boston Globe acclaimed that he had pitched until he was 54, which would additionally be 1989. We apperceive that he got into those two amateur in 1985, cheating from his job as Mexico City’s casting coach, but we can’t acquisition any absolute bold logs or stats to abutment that he additionally pitched from ’86 to ’89. So whether or not he did, or that one long-ago biographer fabricated one aberration that kept accepting again until it was fact, we can’t say for sure. (We do apperceive he pitched aloft a 1981 affection attack.)
Still, afterwards all this time, he charcoal added in Mexican Alliance history (min. 2,000 innings thrown) with a 2.66 ERA and added in shutouts with 55.
When he was inducted into Mexico’s baseball Hall of Fame — the Salón de la Fama — in 1999, it was acclaimed that he’d played for Poza Rica, Coatzacoalcos, Tigres, Aguila de Veracruz, Saltillo and Monterrey for 14 seasons in the summer league, and for nine added years with Culiacán, Guasave and Los Mochis in the winter league. That doesn’t beggarly 23 added years; it agency that for abounding years in his 40s, he was casting about year-round, casting potentially three to four hundred innings anniversary year.
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So, application all the sources accessible — Baseball Reference, the album of the winter Mexican Pacific League, this almanac of Venezuelan baseball and this armpit committed to Latin American baseball, we pulled calm the best complete account of Brunet’s campaign we could find. This doesn’t accommodate the Caribbean Series, area he represented both Panama and Mexico, or his time arena Puerto Rico winter ball, which we could acquisition advertence to but not dates for. The actuality that we apperceive this isn’t 100% complete and it’s still this continued should acquaint you something.
That’s 65 altered entries.
3. No Major Leaguer has anytime beat added altered compatible numbers
Over his 15 Major Alliance seasons, Brunet got into 324 amateur for nine teams and wore — abysmal animation — 15 altered compatible numbers. (It’s 18, if you accede that he wore 28, 30 and 34 for assorted teams with added numbers in between.)
That is, according to Baseball-Reference, angry for the best numbers beat by a distinct amateur in baseball history.
15 — George Brunet, 1956-7115 — Bob Miller, 1957-7413 — Ken Brett, 1967-8113 — Bobo Newsom, 1929-5313 — Juan Pizarro, 1967-74
It’s a lot. It’s so many. It looks like this.
That far aback in history, we can’t dig up explanations for all of them, added than to accept that as he confused from aggregation to aggregation in those days, he was artlessly handed whatever the accessories administrator had in his size.
Still, there’s affluence of aberancy in there. For example, aback he was awash from the Angels to the Pilots on July 31, 1969, he took No. 39, which had already been beat that year by Gary Bell, who was traded to the White Sox in June, and Garry Roggenburk, who had somehow cycled through three numbers — 39, 44, and 46 — in six weeks with the aggregation afore walking out on baseball entirely, which was why the Pilots acquired Brunet in the aboriginal place. But afresh Brunet concluded up affective on to No. 57, which Bucky Brandon had beat afore actuality beatific to Minnesota in June. Why? Actually no idea.
When he was with the Pirates, he wore No. 4 and No. 22 in aloof a dozen amateur for Pittsburgh, aback aback it was still acutely odd for a bullpen to abrasion distinct digits. Aback in 2009, Keith Olbermann relayed the adventure as told by broadcasters Hal Kelly and Don Drysdale:
Drysdale says to Kelly that Brunet is activity to change the cardinal as anon as accessible because: a) pitchers aloof don’t abrasion “low numbers” like that, and b) Brunet has told him so. Left bond is the actuality that Brunet, listed at 6’1″, 195, was allegedly afterpiece to 220 by the time he got to Pittsburgh, and they allegedly gave him Cardinal 4 because, in that aboriginal year in which double-knit unis were anytime acclimated in the Majors, it was acceptable the alone shirt they had that fit him.
Of course, it wasn’t alike his aboriginal single-digit number, accepting beat No. 9 for allotment of his amateur division in 1956.
4. He was allotment of maybe the affliction inning of all time
In 1959, a 24-year-old Brunet spent best of the year casting for Triple-A Portland, but he got into two amateur for the Kansas Burghal A’s. The aboriginal one was bad, acceptance two homers and bristles becoming runs in two innings of a 13-4 draft to Cleveland on April 18. The added was worse.
Four canicule later, the A’s were down, 8-6, to the White Sox entering the seventh inning. That arrears was 19-6 at the end of the seventh inning … a anatomy in which the White Sox had managed alone one hit, a single. Three Kansas Burghal pitchers had accustomed 11 runs on one hit, three errors, a hit-by-pitch and 10 walks — eight advancing with the bases loaded.
Shield your eyes from the carnage, via the Baseball-Reference box score.
Brunet faced eight batters, every distinct one advancing with the bases loaded. He absolved five, consistent in bristles runs. He hit Johnny Callison to force in an eighth. He mercifully got a strikeout and a groundout.
To this day, it charcoal the best bases-loaded walks accustomed in a distinct inning by a aggregation …
8 — A’s vs. White Sox, 7th inning, 4/22/595 — Pirates vs. Dodgers, 3rd inning, 7/22/505 — Senators vs. Yankees, 3rd inning, 9/11/495 — A’s vs. Yankees, 1st inning, 9/7/31
… or by a bullpen …
5 — George Brunet, 7th inning, 4/22/594 — Steve Delabar, 5th inning, 5/17/164 — Hal Gregg, 5th inning, 6/15/44
… and that doesn’t alike accommodate his bases-loaded hit-by-pitch. So, alike admitting added teams accept denticulate added runs in an inning, we’re adequate calling it the affliction inning in baseball history. At atomic those added clubs got some hits. The abutting day’s headlines: “Big or Little League? One Hit Nets 11 Runs.”
5. He was fabricated (in)famous by Jim Bouton in “Ball Four”
Brunet didn’t angle for the Pilots for actual long, aloof a dozen late-season amateur in 1969 afterwards he was acquired from the Angels on July 31. But in that time, he fabricated abundant of an consequence to accretion acknowledgment in Bouton’s seminal baseball tell-all, “Ball Four.”
“No, I never abrasion undershorts,” Brunet was quoted as adage in the book. “Hell, the alone time you charge them is if you get into a car wreck. Besides, this way I don’t accept to anguish about draft them.”
“I aloof consistently acquainted added adequate that way,” he told Sports Illustrated a decade afterwards in 1980. “Of course, accepting out of the way of arena assurance up the boilerplate has amount me a few singles over the years.”
6. He was belled for … “enjoying life”
“The alone agitation with George Brunet’s arm,” wrote Los Angeles Times sportswriter Jim Murray in 1966, “in the appearance of a annular dozen baseball managers, is that it came absorbed to George Brunet.”
Brunet acquired himself absolutely a reputation. In 1959, he was declared to accept been Kansas City’s fifth starter, but aloof afore the end of Spring Training, and afterwards an allegedly agreeable night, he absitively to absolute cartage in advanced of the aggregation auberge at 2 o’clock in the morning — endlessly a car active by the team’s accepted administrator (Parke Carroll) and administrator (Harry Craft). (One ability analyze as to why they were out so late, but not us.) The abutting day, it amount him his agenda spot.
He reportedly helped Angels assistant Jack Hamilton able a rib while angry in the adviser in 1968. He “stood arch and amateur aloft best big alliance ballplayers in the postgame affair department,” wrote the Los Angeles Times in 1979. “Every time there was a song to be sung, a beer to be opened, a agenda to be angry over, or a boondocks to be bankrupt up or a action to be started, George was your man,” Murray had accounting in 1965. “He’ll fit appropriate in on this ballclub,” Bouton wrote aback his Pilots best up Brunet. “He’s crazy.”
You don’t get that array of ballyhoo by accident, but there’s affirmation he began to acerb on it.
“The belief are consistently the same,” Brunet said to Ross Newhan in 1967. “It was always, ‘Here comes George, adumbrate the bottle.’ That’s all they wrote and talked about. It was either that or my weight. Alike aftermost year, alike in L.A. and Anaheim, there were columns [written] which ashamed my wife and myself. I’m absolutely a little disgusted with that accomplished bit.”
7. He had one of the weakest batting averages in big alliance history
In the continued history of the game, there accept been 5,806 altered players to booty at atomic 450 bowl appearances. The best career boilerplate amid them is .366, acceptance to Ty Cobb. The weakest is .066 — that’s 44 hits in 662 at-bats — acceptance to Dean Chance, unsurprisingly a pitcher.
You won’t be surprised, obviously, to acquisition that all of the everyman batting averages in history accord to pitchers, mostly in the pre-DH days. But amid all of those about 6,000 players, alone eight — a atom of one percent — came in with lower averages than Brunet did, who managed a bald 37 hits in 418 at-bats.
.066 — Dean Chance.076 — Ben Sheets.078 — Bill Hands.083 — Doug Davis.085 — Al Leiter.085 — Roger Craig.088 — Hoyt Wilhelm.088 — Dick Ellsworth.089 — George Brunet.089 — Bob Buhl
To his credit, at least, he did administer to brew three homers, one apiece in ’66, ’69, and ’70. Interestingly enough, Brunet and Chance were Angels teammates from 1964-66, accumulation to bung 471 2/3 innings for that ’66 club. That’s a lot of non-competitive bowl appearances.
8. He never pitched for the Red Sox, but had a duke in the 1967 “Impossible Dream” season
In ’67, the Red Sox were advancing off of eight beeline draft seasons and little was accepted to change, but the aggregation was shockingly competitive, and on the aboriginal day of September, it had the best almanac in the American Alliance — but with the Twins, Tigers and White Sox all aural 2 1/2 games. On the final weekend of the season, the Red Sox and Tigers were anniversary one bold abaft the Twins, with Boston and Minnesota adverse off in a two-game season-ending set at Fenway Park. The Red Sox won both amateur to top the Twins, but the Tigers won the aboriginal bold of a final day doubleheader with the Angels. If they won the added game, they’d accept angry the Red Sox, banishment a one-game tiebreaker — which, in those pre-division days, meant a admission to the World Series.
California amateur Rickey Clark lasted alone bristles outs, but the Angels had congenital an 8-3 advance entering the seventh. Analgesic Jim McGlothlin gave up two to accomplish it 8-5, so in came afterpiece Minnie Rojas, who’d had 27 saves that year. Afterwards artifice the seventh and casting a scoreless eighth, he accustomed a bifold and a airing to alpha the ninth, putting the attached run at the bowl with no outs. In came Brunet, who was absolutely not a reliever. (He’d started Opening Day and would bandy 250 innings that year.)
Still, he had fabricated a addiction of afflictive his hometown aggregation over the years. (In 162 2/3 innings adjoin the Tigers, he’d acquaint a career 3.65 ERA. As a June 1967 Sports Illustrated commodity presciently noted, “George Brunet is a Tiger-killer. The Detroit Tigers bleat like kittens aback they apprehend George’s name mentioned.”) That said, he’d pitched aloof the day before, and not well, acceptance four runs to the Tigers in aloof two innings.
As the book “The 1967 American Alliance Pennant Race: Four Teams, Six Weeks, One Winner” explained, the Red Sox, alert to the radio advertisement in their clubhouse, were audition the Tigers boring draft the lead, and potentially their own cruise to the World Series. Future Hall of Famer Al Kaline was due up fourth.
“If Brunet does it,” said Carl Yastrzemski, “we’ll buy him a year’s accumulation of beer.”
Brunet managed to abet a flyball and a bifold play, catastrophe the game, sending Boston on to the Fall Classic for the aboriginal time in over 20 years, and accession his fourth and final career save. He’d allegedly done so while adversity from pneumonia. No chat on if Yaz’s affiance was anytime agitated through.
Brunet helped the 1967 Red Sox get into the World Series.
9. He reportedly about fabricated it aback to the Majors at age 47
Brunet never absolutely let the big alliance dream go, cogent Sports Illustrated in 1980 that “I apperceive I can angle two or three innings at a time up there,” and aboveboard absorption that he ability go aback to Anaheim and ask then-Angels administrator Jim Fregosi — who had been Brunet’s assistant during his Angels assignment in the ’60s — for a workout.
Obviously, he never did acknowledgment to the Angels or any added Major Alliance team. But, as Peter Gammons appear in the March 13, 1983, affair of the Boston Globe, he ability accept appear afterpiece than you would accept thought.
“The Angels’ new Caribbean advance is George Brunet,” Gammons wrote. “But added interesting, aback they purchased Luis Tiant aftermost August, they about bought the then-47-year-old Brunet instead.”
Tiant, mostly acclaimed for his time with Cleveland and Boston, accomplished his career at age 41 with six late-season amateur for the ’82 Angels. That could accept been Brunet. Maybe, attractive back, it should accept been. It would accept been the absolute acme to an amazing career.
Baseball-Reference’s Kenny Jackelen helped to affirm the best compatible numbers beat by one player, and Bruce Markusen’s 2013 Hardball Times allotment on Brunet was an invaluable analysis source.
Mike Petriello is an analyst for MLB.com and the host of the Statcast podcast.
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