Monday, March 07, 2016

Who the Heck is Bruce Brubaker?

One of the joys of the Topps Heritage Baseball card brand is finding out which old-time Dodger player (if any) did they sign up to include in the set.  In years past they've reached out to such luminaries as Sandy Koufax, Davey Lopes, Maury Wills and 8-year Dodger pitcher Ed Roebuck to sign limited edition cards.   This years set, focusing on 1967, had the potential of including a whole host of fantastic former players like Wes Parker, Willie Davis and Don Sutton.  So imagine my surprise when the name Bruce Brubaker popped up on the checklist.


Who is Bruce Brubaker?

You're forgiven if you were as clueless as me.  After all, he's hardly a name that evokes strong memories.

Bruce Brubaker originally came to Los Angeles during the winter before the 1967 Baseball  season as a Rule 5 draftee from the Philadelphia Phillies.  Hence the red colored windbreaker in his photo on the card above (BTW, this is what his actual card looked like from the original set.  At right is a pic of the reverse of his 1967 Topps card.).

At that time he was an 25-year old, 8-year minor league veteran who was known by most scouts to have a lively arm with a high-90's fastball.  Although mostly a starter in his professional career at that point, he might have blossomed as a reliever if only given the chance.  As a result of being picked up by the Dodgers he would finally get that opportunity.  Unfortunately, it didn't go exactly as planned.

Having made the Opening Day roster, he got into his first Major League game in relief.  It was the third game of the season, and he was tasked with getting the last four outs in a match that had already gotten way out of hand.  The St. Louis Cardinal had an 10-3 lead by the time Bruce came in.

The first batter he faced in the eight inning was third baseman Phil Gagliano, and he handily struck him out looking.   The next inning would not be as good -- to say the least.  The first two of the next three hitters got on base for Lou Brock, and he made Bruce pay.  The future Hall of Famer whacked a three-run homer -- his second of the day and third home run of the young season -- to solidify an already insurmountable lead. 

This would be the last game he ever pitched for the Dodgers; which is a bit unfair considering every other pitcher the Dodgers threw out there that day was hit just as hard.  Nevertheless, Bruce Brubaker would eventually be sent to the teams Triple-A club in Spokane.  He would go 11-8 with a 3.25 ERA in 199 innings pitched.

A couple of years later he would be traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for Jerry Stephenson, and he would get another chance to pitch in the Majors.  That too, unfortunately, was just a single 2-inning stint.  Via Chris Zantow:
(Milwaukee Brewers) Manager Dave Bristol remarked that he liked his “live arm” and Pitching Coach Wes Stock said “We liked what we saw of him” in regards to the 1970 major league appearance.  Stock added, “You never know about a guy until you give him a chance.”  In an interview from February, 1970, Brubaker commented “You look at my record and tell me what was wrong.  I’ve been at the Triple A level every year since 1964 and never had a season where I didn’t pitch over 200 innings.  Sometimes over 300 innings if you include winter ball.  But in 10 years I’ve only pitched three innings in the majors…”

“I had a good record for all these clubs, Syracuse, San Diego, Spokane and Portland, and I’ve faced probably all the top hitters at one time or another, with the exception of guys who skipped over Triple A.  Yet, I haven’t made it.”
Sometimes, it just takes a little bit of luck.  For Bruce Brubaker, his time to really show his stuff never really came on the Major League diamond.  Instead, he would prove to be a fantastic businessman.
“I started selling new Fords and worked my way up until I could buy my own Ford-Lincoln-Mercury-Mazda dealership in 1990 in Owensboro, KY.  We built a new facility in 2000 and we now have four different dealerships.”  His dealership is called ‘Champion’ and today his sons Bruce III and Tyler are running the business.  Meanwhile, Brubaker says, “My wife Leda and I are enjoying our 72 foot motor yacht ‘Championship’ that we keep in Miami Beach.”
I suppose that's an more than acceptable secondary career. 

BTW, his Baseball bloodline includes a World Series champion and potential Hall of Famer.  Former Yankees catcher Jorge Posada is his nephew.

Below are his career statistics via Baseball-Reference:

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