Friday, January 27, 2012

#321 - Steve Braun

I had for a long while thought this guy was Ryan's dad, even though they look pretty much nothing alike. He's not but he did put up a few pretty good hitting seasons of his own when he played, most of them in the uniform pictured here. This card represents a transitional period for Steve here. '73 would be his last year of regular work at third base as his ability to hit for average and to play pretty much anywhere allowed his move to the outfield while Eric Soderholm, who'd been splitting time with Steve at third and couldn't really play anywhere else, took over his old position.

Steve Braun grew up in Jersey and was tabbed by the Twins in the '66 draft. A week after graduating high school he was in Rookie ball where he played second base and hit a tad light. The next year he returned to that level and boosted his average 15 points. That got him moved to A ball but almost right after there was a bigger move into the armed forces. He lost the rest of the '67 season and all of '68 and '69 to the military before returning in '70 to A ball. There he hit .279 and because by then the Twins had an institution at second base named Rod Carew, he took up third base. The results were impressive enough and the situation up top at third was unsettled enough that after a pretty good spring training in '71 Steve moved all the way up.

Braun had a pretty good rookie year in '71, especially considering all the steps he vaulted to get to Minnesota. Though he had a middling average and not too much power he played a pretty good defense and made the Topps and Baseball Digest rookie teams at his position, also spending a little time at second. In '72 he boosted his average considerably to .289 and would keep it in the .280's the duration of his career with the Twins, except for '75 when he topped .300. In '74 and '75 he took over left field from Jim Holt. In '76 he became a true utility guy as the arrival of Lyman Bostock moved Larry Hisle to left. That year Steve played primarily DH, a little outfield, and a little third. After the season, tired of owner Calving Griffith's penny-pinching, Steve asked to be left off the protected list for the expansion draft. As a result he was selected by the new Seattle Mariners.

Braun's time in Seattle was not terribly productive. While he was able to recapture a regular spot in left field, his average tanked to the .235 area without the support of the big Minnesota lumber. In June of '78 he was traded to the Royals for Jim Colborn and for Kansas City for the next couple seasons he would do back-up outfield work and revive his average to the .260's. He got his first post-season work in '78 also. In '80 after a slow start he was released and shortly thereafter picked up by Toronto. He played a bit in Triple A for the Blue Jays, hitting .328, and resuming things up top in the role that would define the rest of his career, pinch-hitting. After departing Toronto as a free agent he signed with Cards and was able to extend his career for five seasons in his new role. While his average in '81 was below .200 he had a nearly .400 OBA. The next three seasons he averaged .275 with an OBA in the high .380's. In '82 and '85 he saw some Series action, winning in the former season. After the '85 season he moved down to Triple A basically as a reserve guy since that year the rosters were reduced by one. After that season he retired with a .271 average, 52 homers, and .388 RBI's. He generated a .371 OBA and although he hit .091 in eight post-season games, he batted .333 in three Series games.

Braun got into coaching immediately after playing, becoming a hitting coach in the St. Louis system from '87 to '89 before assuming the same role up top in '90. He then spent the Nineties as a roving hitting instructor in the Boston and Yankees systems. In 2000 he became hitting coach for the Trenton Thunder which he did through '06. Since '02 he has been running his own baseball school in the Trenton area.

Steve gets star bullet props for his defense which was quite good despite his moving around a bunch. His military time was spent mostly on an Army base in Germany. There is a recent in-depth interview with him linked to here.

Since Braun was primarily AL and Dusty primarily NL, this will require a league-changer:

1. Braun and Bill Stein '77 to '78 Mariners;
2. Stein and Ralph Garr '76 White Sox;
3. Garr and Dusty Baker '70 to '75 Braves.

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