After the Cardinals acquired Jim Brosnan from the Cubs in 1958, they thought they had a premier reliever. What they didn’t know was they had a premier author.
“The Long Season” (1960, Harper & Brothers) chronicled Brosnan’s 1959 season with the Cardinals and Reds. “Pennant Race” (1962, Harper & Brothers) was a diary about Brosnan’s season with the 1961 National League champion Reds. Both books rank among the best and most influential written about baseball. Brosnan, nicknamed “Professor” during his playing days, wrote with sly wit and intelligence.
I discovered “Pennant Race” at a public library while in grade school in the 1960s. The book was so compelling that I spent the better part of the day with it there in a library chair.
“The Ted Simmons Story,” written while the all-star catcher was at the height of his Cardinals career, is a gem, a perfect pairing of author and subject. Brosnan and Simmons are two of the smartest, original thinkers to play the game.
Scholar joins St. Louis
Traded by the Cubs for shortstop Al Dark on May 20, 1958, Brosnan, 28, was put into the Cardinals starting rotation. He earned wins in his first three Cardinals starts, including a complete game in an 8-1 St. Louis victory over the Giants on May 30. Boxscore
Cardinals manager Fred Hutchinson discovered, though, that Brosnan was more effective as a reliever. In 21 relief appearances for the 1958 Cardinals, Brosnan was 4-1 with 7 saves and a 1.67 ERA.
Oscar Kahan of The Sporting News wrote, “The scholarly, bespectacled right-hander … developed into one of the sharpest bullpen men in the National League.”
In 12 starts for the 1958 Cardinals, Brosnan was 4-3 with a 4.50 ERA. His overall numbers for the 1958 Cardinals: 8-4, 3.44 ERA, in 33 games.
The Cardinals embarked on an exhibition tour of Japan after the 1958 season. Brosnan filed articles about the trip for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
In describing their arrival during a stopover in Hawaii, Brosnan wrote that the team was greeted “by girls with leis who did their celebrated walk forward, placed the garlands around each blushing player’s neck and whispered ‘Aloha’ while nuzzling the right cheek.”
Aloha, Brosnan informed his St. Louis readers, “is used to say hello, to say goodbye and even just to be friendly when having nothing else to say.”
In “The Long Season,” Brosnan wrote how his Cardinals teammates, Don Blasingame and Joe Cunningham, were out to “see everything and do everything” during the Japan trip.
Wrote Brosnan, “The Japanese bath is an unusual custom for an Occidental to enjoy, but it is an easy habit to get into. If it’s not the first thing to do after you land in Japan, it may well be the last before you leave … Cunningham and Blasingame, in their anxiety to do the right thing by the Japanese as well as themselves, absorbed a maximum of Oriental culture on the last day and night of our stay in Tokyo. The rising sun found them padding quietly and contentedly through the lobby of the Imperial Hotel. Sleepless, perhaps, but loose as a goose, like they say.”
St. Louis stumble
Solly Hemus replaced Hutchinson as manager, but Brosnan remained firmly in the Cardinals’ bullpen plans for 1959.
He experienced a disastrous Opening Day against the Giants at St. Louis.
With the Cardinals ahead 4-3, Hemus lifted starter Larry Jackson after seven innings and brought in Brosnan. The Giants scored twice against him in the eighth (Willie Kirkland homered and Andre Rodgers hit a RBI-triple) for a 5-4 lead.
In the bottom half of the inning, Alex Grammas had a RBI-single, tying the score at 5-5. Hemus could have removed Brosnan for a pinch-hitter, but allowed him to remain in the game to pitch the ninth.
Brosnan walked the leadoff batter and, one out later, Jackie Brandt hit a RBI-double. The Giants won, 6-5. Brosnan got the loss and was booed. Boxscore
In “The Long Season,” Brosnan wrote, “It doesn’t take very long, really, to lose your confidence. To embarrass yourself, jeopardize your position, maybe lose your job. Hemus went a long way with me. He could have taken me out. He should have taken me out.”
Heading to hometown
Brosnan allowed eight runs in six relief appearances from May 1 to May 10. In The Sporting News, Ralph Ray wrote, “From one of the best relief men in the NL a year ago … Brosnan turned into a dud as a fireman.”
Hoping a change in routine would help, Hemus gave Brosnan a start against the Phillies on June 7 at Philadelphia. It was a bust. Brosnan gave up four runs before he was yanked with one out in the first. The Phillies won, 11-9. Boxscore
The next day, back in St. Louis, Brosnan and his wife dined at Stan Musial’s restaurant. When they returned to the George Washington Hotel, where Brosnan resided during the season, a desk clerk called to Brosnan as he crossed the lobby.
“Solly Hemus was here just a while ago, Mr. Brosnan,” the clerk said. “He left this letter.”
Brosnan wrote that he waited to open the envelope until he got to his room. The letter, from general manager Bing Devine, informed Brosnan he had been traded to the Reds for pitcher Hal Jeffcoat.
“I sat back on the couch, half-breathing as I waited for the indignation to flush good red blood to my head,” Brosnan wrote. “Nothing happened. I took a deep breath, then exhaled slowly. It’s true. The second time you’re sold you don’t feel a thing.”
Brosnan was 1-3 with 2 saves and a 4.91 ERA in 20 games for the 1959 Cardinals.
Born and raised in Cincinnati, he regained his form with the Reds and was a prominent member of their pennant-winning staff in 1961. Brosnan was 10-4 with 16 saves and a 3.04 ERA in 53 appearances for the National League champions, who were managed by Hutchinson.
In a nine-year major-league career with the Cubs, Cardinals, Reds and White Sox, Brosnan was 55-47 with 67 saves and a 3.54 ERA.