Wednesday, October 12, 2011

#261 - Jerry Bell

This is Jerry Bell's third and final card. His first card was the '72 rookie one in which I am pretty sure his photo and the one of Darrell Porter are swapped. And his '73 shot is pretty much exactly the same as this photo except that the giant anthill in back is in a different place (both are taken at the Brewers' spring training facility in Arizona). So Jerry only really had one legitimate photo his whole Topps career but at least he made it count: look at those muttonchops!

Jerry Bell grew up in Tennessee and was a baseball and basketball star in high school. He attended Belmont University in Nashville on a sports scholarship and continued to excel there in both sports, winning all-conference honors from '65 to '67 and being voted into the school's hall of fame in '92. He then transferred to Rhodes College in Nashville and was drafted out of there by the Pilots in '69 after an aborted draft by the Army the year earlier (aborted because ironically Jerry failed his physical due to herniated disks in his back). He kicked off his career that summer in Single A ball with some awfully good stats. Those continued in '70 at the same level and in '71 spread between A and Triple A leagues. That September he threw well in a September showing of a few games. A starter those years he occupied that role in Triple A to start the '72 season going 3-0 in five starts before he was called up to Milwaukee. He earned the team's rookie pitcher of the year award as he spent most of the time in the pen. In '73 he joined the rotation and put up one of the best stat sheets of the team's starters. In '74 he won his first game with an excellent relief showing but then his back went out and he returned to the minors to do rehab work. That return didn't go so well as he went 6-12 with a 6.64 ERA in '74 and 7-14 with a 4.29 ERA in '75 as he moved from the Brewers system to Cleveland's. He was released following the '75 season and then retired. Jerry finished up top with a 17-11 record and a 3.28 ERA eight complete games, and a save. In the minors he was 52-53 with a 3.35 ERA.

Bell returned to Tennessee after playing where professionally he took on a couple of sales jobs. He also began a side business tutoring kids on pitching. He has stayed close to organized ball on a few levels: joint commissioner of the state's American Legion leagues; authorized advisor on NCAA recruiting; principal of MVP Sports Training and Diamond Athletics Group which coach and train kids in various sports; and scout for the Dodgers. Since 2010 he has been pitching coach for the Nashville Outlaws, a summer collegiate league.

Jerry had posted some excellent numbers at this point of his career and it would seem that he could have been quite good - despite some control issues - if he hadn't been hurt. Those three starts in the second bullet were his only ones of the year. While his surname was rather popular - he pitched with Gary on the Pilots and pitched against Buddy - he wasn't related to any other players.

This guy was a Brewer well before Ted Simmons was:

1. Bell and George Scott '72 to '74 Brewers;
2. Scott and Reggie Smith '66 to '71 Red Sox;
3. Smith and Ted Simmons '74 to '76 Cards.

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