Thursday, March 3, 2011

#104 - Ron Bryant

This is the last left coast card - but not the last action card - of this run. It shows a smiling Ron Bryant at Candlestick. In the midst of a career year, Ron had reason to smile. He was the NL's only 20 game winner in '73 and claimed the league victory title by one of the widest margins ever. Things would go south for him pretty fast, however.

Ron Bryant was drafted by the Giants out of high school in '65. Like Bill Greif from a couple posts back, Ron would also have a few hard luck moments. His senior year in high school was a good example - he lost five games - one a no-hitter - despite not giving up one earned run the whole season. He was spotted in a game by a Giants scout there to check on prospect Bobby Heise, who would go on to be a MLB teammate. After a couple unassuming years in the low minors Ron won 12 games for Single A Fresno in '67 with a very nice ERA and came all the way up for a couple innings. In '68 he won 11 at Double A and the next season he started off well enough in Triple A  - 6-2 with a 3.45 ERA - to get a call up the rest of the year. He was a spot starter and reliever that year and finished 4-3 with a save. In '70 he hurt his back and he took a while to get on track, necessitating a return for rehab to Triple A for part of the season.

In '71 Bryant returned to the Giants and the rotation, threw a couple shutouts, and put up a decent ERA, despite a losing record. He got into a couple innings in the playoffs that year. In '72 Ron started off 2-3 and was going nowhere with a nagging shoulder injury. Deciding to do something about that, he actually did three things. One was he had his shoulder and spine worked on by the guy that fixed his back a couple years earlier. Two is he had a talk with manager Charlie Fox about yanking him too soon in games. Three was he bought a used teddy bear from a fan for $30 - his catcher, Dave Rader, picked up part of the cost - and had it sit on the bench during his starts (Bryant's nickname was "Bear" and he was never sure if it was because he was big and hairy or it it was after Bear Bryant). Together the combo did something good because he then went on a 6-1 run that included three shutouts and finished the year with 14 wins, double the previous season's. In '73 he had good karma and rode it to be The Sporting News' Pitcher of the Year winner that season. The teddy bear was ever present. It should be said at this point that the bear was human-sized, not a small thing, and wore a uniform while sitting on the bench. Ron's record of 24-12 allowed him to finish third in the '73 NL Cy race.

In spring training of '74 Bryant was fooling around on a pool slide late at night and managed to rip open his side, inflicting serious damage on his back. As a result, his '74 season was one of the worst negative turnarounds in history as he went 3-15 with a 5.61 ERA. The following May, having yet to pitch in a game for the Giants, he was sent to St. Louis for Larry Herndon in a pretty good deal for the Giants. Ron went 0-1 in ten games for the Cards with an ERA above 16. He then retired to spend time with his family and be a gentleman farmer on some land he owned in Arizona. That didn't last too long and in '76 he attempted a couple minor league comebacks with the Dodgers and the Giants, neither of which went too well. He finished with a record of 57-56 with a 4.02 ERA, 23 complete games, six shutouts, and the save. He posted a 4.50 ERA in his couple innings of post-season work. I have been able to find out that he did some security work in Vegas in the late '70s and early '80s but have been unable to get a line on anything more recent.

Ron's best minor league season was probably his '67 one. There's the bear but I don't think it fit into his locker. It can be seen on the team card.

Bando was all-AL and Bryant all-NL. It's good this guy came along:

1. Bryant and Mike Caldwell '74 to '75 Giants;
2. Caldwell and Sal Bando '78 Brewers.

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