Thursday, April 14, 2011

#138 - Ed Brinkman

Here we have Ed Brinkman,, one of the longest-serving major leaguers in the set (although he's only 32) posing in one of the oldest fields at the time of the set, Comiskey Park. In '73 Ed would add over 30 points to his average and enjoy his only All-Star appearance. Ed has a bat in his hands although it would be more appropriate if he held a glove. Before the Mendoza line came into being there was Ed, toting his .220 average, as a hallmark of batting futility. But he was an awfully good fielder.

Ed Brinkman grew up in Cincinnati and played high school ball there, at a school called Western Hills. His senior year he played shortstop and pitched, batting .460 and winning 15 games. He then attended the University of Cincinnati where he played baseball and was drafted by the Senators - the new ones - in '61 (some sources say he was drafted by the OLD Senators for a big sum fresh out of high school in '59). That year he would play third base at a couple of D-level clubs, hit .314, and get called up to DC for a few late games. In '62 he started off at B-level Raleigh, hit .320, and again got promoted all the way up. Although he only hit .165, the following spring he was given the starting shortstop job, a role he held from '63 to '70, with a couple exceptions. In '67 Ed, like a few other major leaguers, began serving reserve duty in the National Guard. Normally that meant weekends and/or a few weeks to a few months a year he had to report for duty at a designated base. That year he was on a pretty good roll batting average-wise, but missed the time and then was slow coming back and his average ended back in the sub-.200 range. In '68, right around the beginning of the season Martin Luther King was assassinated and most Guardsmen were called in early to quell real or anticipated riots in urban parts of the country. Ed was one of them and on opening day of the '68 season he was ironically stationed at DC Stadium, his home park. It would turn out to be a lost season for Ed. Then in '69 his average popped 50 points and it stayed there in 1970. What happened? Despite the lowering of the mound and a couple other rule changes to favor hitters, what really happened was that Ed's manager those two years was Ted Williams, maybe the best hitting coach ever. Practically everyone on the team in '69 had career offensive seasons and Ed was no exception.

In 1971 Brinkman was part of a big trade that sent him to Detroit with Aurelio Rodriguez and Joe Coleman for Denny McLain, Elliott Maddox, Don Wert, and Norm McRae. Only Maddox would put in any significant time for Washington/Texas and the trade would become a steal for the Tigers. Despite his average sinking to its pre-Ted levels, Ed started rewriting the record books at shortstop. In '71 he played a record 56 straight games without an error at the position. In '72 he topped it, going 72 consecutive games without an error. He also started off that year on a decent hitting tear and got the highest amount of MVP votes on the division-winner. He also won his only Gold Glove. In his only post-season series he hit .250. In '74, his final season as a Tiger he would have his best power year with 14 homers and 54 RBIs. The following year Ed moved around a lot: he went to San Diego in the trade that brought Nate Colbert to Detroit and was then immediately swapped to St. Louis for pitchers Alan Foster, Rich Folkers, and Sonny Siebert. When the season was barely two month's old he went - back, in a way - to Texas for Willie Davis. Finally, ten days later he was sold to the Yankees. He barely played for any of those guys and he would be cut in spring training of '76 ending his playing career. Ed hit .220 for his time in the majors, but he finished pretty high lifetime in all major defense categories. From '65 to '74 - except the lost '68 - he finished in the top five shortstops fielding percentage-wise.

After playing Ed went into coaching. From '77 to '82 he managed in the Tigers chain, except for '79 and '81 when he coached at the majors level. From '83 to 2000 he worked with the White Sox, first as a coach and the last couple years as a scout. He then retired. As a manager he had a career record of 277-278. He passed away in 2008 either from heart problems or from lung cancer, depending on the source. He was 66.

That's a good star bullet. Ed did play with Pete Rose in high school and reportedly signed for a much higher bonus than Pete, if the latter's biography is to be believed. Don Zimmer also attended that school, although a bit earlier than Pete and Ed. If Ed dropped his last name he could have been on "Green Acres."

Two AL guys should make this easier:

1. Brinkman and Jim Northrup '71 to '74 Tigers;
2. Northrup and Al Bumbry '75 Orioles.

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