Thursday, November 8, 2012

#455- Tom Bradley

Here is an action shot of Tom Bradley pitching on a beautiful sunny day in front of a fervent crowd at Candlestick. I think there are five fans behind Tom and Chris Speier, which is pretty sad, especially if this game is from the early part of the season, when the Giants were playing good ball. Tom was the first of the ’72 trio of White Sox innings hogs to get out of Dodge, moving to San Fran for Ken Henderson and Steve Stone. His initial effort for the Giants was pretty good with 13 wins and one of only two winning records in the rotation but the damage from the prior two seasons was already in motion as his ERA moved up a run, his strikeout totals plunged, and the homers he gave up ratcheted up pretty good. The season started well with Tom opening 5-2 with an ERA around 3.00 but a nagging ankle injury – it had been broken in April and he’d missed a month – kept eating away at his numbers. Both ’74 and ’75 would be more extreme performance downticks and he’d be out of playing time in a few years, but not out of baseball.

Tom Bradley was born in North Carolina and relocated to Virginia as a kid. He played hoops and baseball in high school and despite very poor eyesight earned a scholarship to the University of Maryland. There he played with Gene Hiser of a couple posts back and like Gene was all-ACC a couple seasons, ’67 and ’68, when he went a combined 10-4 with an ACC-record 1.34 ERA. The latter year, his junior one, he was taken by California in the draft and in ’69 he got things rolling with an excellent year in which he succeeded at every level from Rookie to Double A (but didn’t do too well at Triple A or his debut up top) and went a combined 15-6 with a 2.78 ERA and nearly a strikeout an inning. In ’70 he did even better, going 14-1 with a 2.42 ERA split between Double and Triple A and then had a mediocre rookie year for the Angels. After that season he, Jay Johnstone, and Tom Egan went to the White Sox for Ken Berry, Syd O’Brien, and Billy Wynne.

In ’71 Bradley immediately earned a spot in the Chicago rotation where he posted an excellent ERA, recorded over 200 strikeouts, and helped revive a team that had fallen on hard times the past few seasons. In ’72 he, Wilbur Wood, and Stan Bahnsen combined to post 130 of the team’s 154 starts as they nearly pulled off a division crown. Tom had his best season, upping his K total and posting another sub-3.00 ERA. Then with the foreseen development of the team’s young staff, Tom was moved to San Francisco after the season. He is airbrushed into a Giants hat on his ’73 card and bears a striking resemblance to Bo Hopkins, one of a few actors who was supposed to be the next James Dean. After his first year for the Giants, Tom won his first start in ’74 and by mid-May was 4-4 with a 3.08 ERA. The next game he filled in as a mop-up guy and felt his shoulder snap. He would later be diagnosed with a rotator cuff injury and from that point on his pitching career was pretty much toast. He went 4-7 with a 6.40 ERA the rest of the season. He and Ron Bryant had gone a combined 37-24 in ’73 and in ’74 fell to 11-26, which went a long way to explain the team’s losing record that year. In ’75 Tom’s numbers really didn’t improve and he was demoted to Triple A, where he went 5-3 and pulled his ERA down a couple runs. After the season he hooked up with Oakland but for that team's Triple A club he went only 5-9 with a 6.51 ERA and then retired. He finished up top with a 55-61 record with a 3.72 ERA, 27 complete games, and ten shutouts. In the minors he was 39-19 with a 3.82 ERA.

Bradley immediately became a coach, something that had been on his radar for a while. By ’72 he had completed his degree at Maryland with a BA in Latin and Greek. In ’78 he became the pitching coach at St. Mary’s College and the following season became the head coach at Jacksonville University where in twelve seasons he went 431-291-1. When the position at his alma mater became available in ’91 he jumped on it and in ten years there he went 243-306-5. In 2001 he moved back to the pros where he managed in the Toronto system and went 20-56. From 2002 to ’05 he was a pitching coach for various franchises and then in 2006 he moved to the same role in the Padres system which he did through 2010. For the past couple years he has been helping out his son Andy as pitching coach at Gonzaga High School in the DC area. 

I am not sure where Tom pitched semi-pro ball in ’66 nor that he technically did since that was a big no-no for college players back then. At least according to that third bullet he pitched for one big crowd during his career. He did that ticket gig at both Chicago and San Francisco. It was when he was with the White Sox that he gave Goose Gossage his nickname after he watched Gossage throw goose eggs during a game. Tom has a lengthy SABR bio.

Just for the heck of it and because I'm too lazy to add the HTML stuff, here is Tom's '73 card and the Bo Hopkins photo. See what I mean?

Now that San Francisco has won two of the last three Series, the team’s contribution to the ’76 centennial doesn’t seem like a big deal but in ’76 it had been a long time since the team had gotten that far. So the Giants contributed their ’62 NL pennant which took a three-game playoff to settle after the team finished the regular season tied with LA. The teams each split the first two games and the clincher was pretty ugly. San Fran was down 4-2 entering the ninth. Willie Mays knocked in one run with a one-out single, which was nice, and then Orlando Cepeda tied things up with a sacrifice fly. The Giants then scored two runs on a bases-loaded walk and an error and then LA went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning. The Series was a lot better and ended when Bobby Richardson made a great stab at a Willie McCovey liner with the tying run on third.

Another pitcher helps out on the hook-up:

1. Bradley and John D’Acquisto ’73 to ’75 Giants;
2. D’Acquisto and Kurt Bevacqua ’79 to ’80 Padres.

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