A pair of former ballplayers saw their demise in this realm of existence yet the significance of their stories within the baseball world continue to live on. They’re not to be forgotten anytime soon.
One of the players was pitcher Ernie Broglio – who during his time with the St. Louis Cardinals won 70 games, including one 20-win season and another where he came close.
THE CHICAGO CUBS acquiring him in 1964 should have been the kind of move that added a potential ace to their pitching staff. Looking particularly good since all the Cubbies gave up for Broglio was an outfielder who barely hit .250 and didn’t even come close to the home run power they always dreamed he had.
The outfielder, of course, was Lou Brock, who upon going to the Cardinals suddenly discovered he could steal bases – some 33 in that partial season alone and more than 900 over the course of his two decades as a major leaguer.
The reason why he’s a member of the baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. Immortalized in bronze – even though there are some who like to think Brock is a perfect example of a ballplayer who wasn’t that special.
All he could do, after all, is steal bases – better than anybody else who had played prior to his arrival in baseball. Personally, I always viewed Brock as the perfect example of Cubs’ mismanagement – thinking your leadoff hitter and star base thief was a slugger just because he was one of the few who ever hit a home run into the center field bleachers at New York’s old Polo Grounds – a shot of at least 460 feet.
AS FOR BROGLIO, the former ace pitcher suddenly “lost” it. In two-and-a-half seasons pitching for the Cubs, he won a total of 7 ballgames.
And now, Broglio popped back into the news briefly – he died from complications due to cancer Tuesday in San Jose, Calif., at age 83. I’m sure Cubs fans are hoping this puts that long-ago trade (that some baseball fans consider the worst ever, aside from maybe Frank Robinson to Baltimore for Milt Pappas to Cincinnati) to bed, once and for all.
But Broglio isn’t the only late ballplayer of significance this week.
For Elijah Green, nicknamed “Pumpsie,” met his maker Wednesday at age 85 at a hospital in San Leandro, Calif. His family said he had been ill for the past five months.
GREEN WAS A ballplayer who made his Major League debut as a pinch runner for the Boston Red Sox in a game July 21, 1959 at Comiskey Park. He finished out that game playing shortstop.
Which is significant because he was the first black ballplayer to play for the Red Sox, which made them the final ball club to finally give in to the integration trend started some 12 years earlier when Jackie Robinson took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Considering that Boston’s other ball club, the Braves, had integrated as far back as 1950 and that Chicago’s two ballclubs (the White Sox in 1951 and Cubs in 1953) also had made the move toward integration, it could be said that it took the Red Sox long enough to get with the program of trying to truly put together the best ball clubs possible.
Or we could celebrate the notion that the integration of the game that likes to use “the National Pastime” label to describe itself finally wasn’t a joke. Maybe it finally bore a bit of legitimacy.
AND AS FOR the memories baseball fans will have of both Broglio and Green, one doesn’t have to be of Hall of Fame statistical ability to be an interesting story.
Which is why it is encouraging to learn that Green never viewed himself as some sort of racial pioneer, while Broglio didn’t let his life sink into a quagmire of sorts because the guy he was traded for went on to become a super star – and he didn’t.
Both are amongst the ranks of those who tried to play baseball professionally AND wound up making it up to the game’s highest ranks. They got their lines of type in the Baseball Encyclopedia to confirm it.
And I’m sure both of them went to their graves this week thinking of themselves as Major Leaguers – a label no one could take away from them.