Ken Brett

Continuing with a look back on some forgotten or semi-forgotten Buccos…
This time, the topic is Ken Brett. It was four years ago last week than Kemer succumbed to brain cancer. I heard his name mentioned in conversation the previous month when I dined with some new co-workers. The spouse of my boss’ boss is an artist and when he found out I was a baseball fan, he mentioned that he used to be friends with Ken Brett. It seemed that Brett was an art buff (for the record, the 1974 Pirates media guide says that Brett’s hobby was photography) and had been involved with this fellow. He was supposed to meet Ken at the Dodger’s Spring Training site in 1980. He was called the day after he arrived and informed that Ken had been released and had left town. The person who placed the call was former Pirate hurler Jerry Reuss. The big lefty informed the artist, that like Brett, he was interested in art. So, the artist and Reuss became buddies and the artist was on hand at the 1981 World Series.
Notables
MLB debut – entered a 9/27/67 contest in relief and pitched two innings for the Red Sox against the Indians
How acquired – was sent to the Pirates from Philadelphia even up for Dave Cash on October 18, 1973.
Bucco debut – received a no decision on 4/10/74 against Montreal. He went 4-1/3 and gave up five earned runs.
First win – 9/12/69. He allowed three runs in 7-2/3 innings against the Bombers. He also went 3-3 (collecting his first ML hit) with a homer and three RBI, foreshadowing his success with the bat.
Last win – got one out on 8/24/81 against Detroit. He whiffed Richie Hebner to end the top of the 7th and Amos Otis doubled home George Brett with the winning run in the bottom of the frame.
Final ML game – 10/3/81. Gave up a run in two innings of work for KC against Oakland.
Final game as a Bucco – Game 2 of the 1975 NLCS against the Big Red Machine. Kemer was the third of four Bucco pitchers as the Pirates lost to Fred Norman. Tony Perez drove in three including a homer off of starter Jim Rooker.
How he got away – Following the 1975 season, Brett, Dock Ellis and Willie Randolph were traded to the Bombers for Doc Medich and nothing else. Terrible, terrible trade. Brett even up for Medich would’ve been bad. Throw in Ellis, who had a couple good years left, and Randolph, who would become an All-Star, and you have a disaster.
1967 World Series – because of an injury to Sparky Lyle, Brett was on the 1967 World Series roster for the BoSox. He appeared in two games, becoming the youngest World Series ball chucker ever. Not only that, but he had appeared in just one regular season game in 1967. So, he played in more post-season games than he did regular season games, which I’m certain has to be rare.
Brush with greatness – is the older brother of HOFer George Brett
Brush with greatness, part 2 – gave up #700 to Hank Aaron
Who says pitchers can’t hit – Brett owns a 94 OPS+ for his career in 347 at bats. In four straight starts in June of 1973, Brett homered. The dingers came off of Bill Greif, Charlie Hough, Ray Sadecki and Tom Walker.
All-Star Winner – Brett was the Pirates lone representative at the 1974 All-Star game. The contest took place in Three Rivers and Brett was the winning pitcher. Steve Garvey was named MVP. That was Brett’s lone appearance in an All-Star game. He was 12-6 with a 2.60 ERA at the break. For reasons I’m unaware of, Brett pitched just 8 times in the second half of 1974, winning just once.
Flakey – I have the Pirates team issued photo of Ken Brett from 1974. (You can see a cropped version here.) As you can tell, Brett’s hair is teased out to a ridiculous width and, by the grin on his face, I’d say he’s well aware of it.
Flakey, part 2 – when Ken passed away, I remember reading this quote from George:

“I’ll never forget the first time he came on in relief for the Royals,” George recalled. “The bullpen was out in right field and they opened up the gate, and he came running in like an airplane — arms spread out like wings, banking left, banking right, banking left and banking right. I’m on the mound with Jim Frey, our manager, and Jamie Quirk, who I’d played with for years and was Ken’s dear friend. And I looked at Jamie and he looked at me, and I said, ‘Now I know why he’s been traded 10 times.’ “

Those were the days – back when I was an adolescent, Miller Lite used to have ads with athletes and former athletes that were pretty humorous. There was one with former Oakland Raiders in which they cheated at pool. Ken Brett was in one in which he mocked how frequently he changed teams during his career, ending with him surprised to find out that he was currently in Utica.

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2 Responses to “Ken Brett”

  1. Ray Says:

    In one of the editions of his Baseball Abstract, Bill James lists Kemer as the player from the 70s he would like to see get a “do over.” Ken was an exceptionally gifted athlete whose career was curtailed by arm problems (e.g., post All Star break 1974). He hit so well with the Pirates that he was occasionally used as a pinch-hitter. Thanks for the retrospective on one of my favorite Pirates for the two years he was in Pittsburgh.

  2. Randy Linville Says:

    Thanks for the comment, Ray. Your note on Brett’s pinch hitting duties is important. He logged 27 pinch hit at bats in his career, including 15 in 1974.


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