Wednesday, September 4, 2013

#586 - Jack Brohamer



And they called Walt Williams No-Neck! It’s obviously just the pose but Walt’s ’73 teammate Jack Brohamer here looks like a much more appropriate subject for that handle. I want to say Jack is in Cleveland since the color of the seats looks about right but he’s wearing an away uniform, so he’s probably at Comiskey. Wherever he is he, like Merv Rettenmund, was in not a great spot in his career. ’73 had to be frustrating for him. After putting up a good enough rookie season in ’72 to get named to both the Topps and Baseball Digest rookie teams, Jack came out of the box the next year with an average that would aspire to Mendoza proportions. He missed extensive time to some injuries and his bat and split his second base duties with Tom Ragland and John Lowenstein. Jack had a spanking card in ’73 when it looks like he’s just failed to avoid a tag by Bobby Grich. So this one of him imitating a turtle is a poor follow-up. But Jack was hardly a shrinking violet as a couple of his career choices will attest.

Jack Brohamer grew up in Huntington Beach, California, where he was all-area in hoops and presumably pretty good in baseball since he was drafted by Cleveland upon graduating in ’67. He played local ball that summer so his pro career didn’t begin until the next spring when he hit pretty well for two A teams while playing mostly shortstop. In ’69 he remained at that level and added some second base to his field work. In ’70 he was more of a utility guy adding third base to his repertoire and both his average and his confidence suffered even though he was now performing at both Double A Savannah and Triple A Wichita. That also happened during his ’71 all in Triple A and Jack was ready to return home – this from his SABR bio – when that July he was made the regular second baseman. By spring training of the following year both Jack and his manager Ken Aspromonte were moved up to Cleveland.

For the past couple seasons the Indians’ regular second baseman had been Eddie Leon and Brohamer was brought up to do reserve work. But Leon’s offense went south in a hurry and before too long Jack was given the starting role at second. He did a nice job defensively, hit his first two homers the same day, and got those spots on the two rookie teams. After his setback in ’73 he came out of spring training behind Angel Hermoso, the former Expo who’d come up from the minors to win the second base job. But Angel got steamrolled at second in May, went on the DL, and Jack got the gig back, though he missed nearly all of August with a pulled muscle. He had a much better year offensively, hitting over .300 his first month as a regular, and settling at .270 for the season. In ’75 Jack had the regular job Opening Day but in May he went down after sliding into second, bruising a hip which later became infected and missing nearly three months. The problem this time was that the Tribe had a young guy, Duane Kuiper, on the roster who was scratching for playing time and was quite good, so that while Jack had plenty of starting time when he was healthy his injury opened the way for Kuiper to succeed him. After the season Jack went to the White Sox for Larvell Blanks, another infielder.

In ’76 the Chicago traded third baseman Bill Melton to California and they moved regular second baseman Jorge Orta to third to fill in the gap. So Brohamer became the regular guy again, splitting work there with Bill Stein. Jack bumped his average up to .251 and had his lifetime high in RBI”s with 40 though the season was pretty tough with the Sox finishing in the cellar. In ’77 the team signed Eric Soderholm to play third so Orta returned to second with his bigger bat and Jack settled into a reserve role, playing more at third that year than at second. Prior to the ’78 season he signed with Boston as a free agent, where for the next two-plus seasons he would split time pretty evenly between second and third. In ’78 with starter Butch Hobson being hurt a bunch, Jack got into about half the games including the playoff one against the Yankees. In ’79 he hit .266 and in ’80 was hitting .316 when he was sold back to the Tribe in June. He finished up that year and his career splitting time at second the rest of the way. After that he retired to move on to his new career and finished his old one with a .245 average, 30 homers, and 227 RBI’s. He was pretty good at not striking out – once in about eleven at bats – and only his rookie year did his K totals top his walk ones.

Brohamer’s dad had been a machinist while Jack was growing up and for Jack’s first few off-seasons he returned to the west coast to work with his dad where his specialty was building pumps for oil wells. He also began taking classes at Golden West College which he would put to use in a career he actually started before he finished playing ball: as a police detective in Ocean City. He specialized in sexual predation, particularly of kids, and became sort of renowned locally for his work. He did that through the late Nineties when he suffered a back injury on the job that forced him into quasi-retirement on disability. When he got healthier after a long rehab he returned to his golf game – he is about a scratch golfer – and in 2004 began writing reviews of area golf clubs for a local magazine. He also consulted to his old police department, mostly on background checks. He still resides in California, playing golf, and is pretty much retired.


That’s a fun way to kick off a career in that first star bullet. Jack got a couple wisps of mention in the “The Curse of...” book by Terry Pluto. Jack, like just about everyone else who enjoyed the experience, had stories about playing behind Gaylord Perry. He told a local writer that if he made an error behind Perry, the pitcher would step to the top of the mound and just stare at him which must have been pretty imposing since Gaylord went 6’4” without the mound. He also said that Perry could be generous and when the strike happened in late spring training of Jack’s rookie year and nobody was getting paid Gaylord told Jack and fellow rookie Buddy Bell that he’d cover their expenses until the strike was over.

A career got resuscitated in Cleveland in ’75 and that helps us here:

1. Brohamer and Boog Powell ’75 Indians;
2. Powell and Merv Rettenmund ’69 to ’73 Orioles.

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