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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2016 Topps Heritage - The Dodgers Insert Cards

Following up on the Heritage base cards I shared last week, here are the Dodgers inserts that are available.  I'll have pic of the box loader cards later this week.

Real One Autographs

#ROA-BBR Bruce Brubaker                    #ROA-CSE Corey Seager

Dodgers Notes from Spring Training: Spring Game 5/Home Game 3

Throughout Spring Training the Dodgers PR department sends out helpful daily notes from Camelback Ranch, and I am happy to pass them along.  See what they've written below.

Monday, March 7, 2016 – 1:05 p.m. MT | Camelback Ranch - Glendale
Cleveland Indians vs. LA Dodgers
RHP Danny Salazar (0-1, 13.50) vs. LHP Alex Wood (NR)
TV: None Radio: None

(Lining up for the anthem, pic via Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers 2016)

ON A ROLL: The undefeated Dodgers (3-0-1) return home to Camelback Ranch today to take on the Indians (0-4-2) in the first matchup of the spring between the two clubs. Yesterday, the Dodgers downed the Giants 5-2 in Scottsdale after taking the lead in the top of the fifth inning when outfielder Carl Crawford drove in a run with a triple and scored on a sacrifice fly by Yasiel Puig. Crawford finished the day going 2-for-3 with two RBI and shortstop Charlie Culberson continued to swing a hot bat, plating two more runs on a single in the top of the eighth in his only at-bat. Zach Lee pitched 2.0 scoreless innings in his first Spring Training start and Ross Stripling recorded the win, tossing 2.0 scoreless frames.
  • The Dodgers last faced the Indians during the regular season in 2014, when the Tribe took two of three at Dodger Stadium.
  • Charlie Culberson has gone 5-for-6 (.833) with a double, a triple and three RBI in four Spring Training games for Los Angeles.
YOUNG GUNS: The Dodgers enter the 2016 season with Baseball America’s top-ranked farm system and seven players ranked among the publication’s top 100 prospects: IF Corey Seager (#1), LHP Julio Urias (#4), RHP Jose De Leon (#23), RHP Kenta Maeda (#50), IF/OF Cody Bellinger (#54), RHP Grant Holmes (#72) and OF Alex Verdugo (#100).
(Dave Roberts, pic via Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers 2016)

NEW FRONT MAN: Dave Roberts is in his first season at the helm of the Dodgers after being named the 10th manager in Los Angeles history (28th in franchise history) on Nov. 23, 2015. Roberts, 43, served as the Padres’ bench coach from 2014-15 and was San Diego’s first base coach from 2011-13, after originally joining the organization as a special assistant in 2010. A veteran of 10 MLB seasons, Roberts was the starting center fielder for the Dodgers from 2002-04 and will become the fourth manager in Los Angeles history (15th overall in franchise history) to both play and manage the club.
  • Rick Honeycutt returns for an 11th season as Dodger pitching coach and is the lone returning member of the Los Angeles coaching staff beyond catching instructor Steve Yeager. The new-look staff is comprised of bench coach Bob Geren (2015: Mets’ bench coach), hitting coach Turner Ward (2015: D-backs’ hitting coach), first base coach George Lombard (2015: Red Sox’ minor league outfield/baserunning coordinator), third base coach Chris Woodward (2015: Mariners’ first base coach), bullpen coach Josh Bard (2015: Dodgers’ pro scout), assistant hitting coach Tim Hyers (2015: Red Sox’ minor league hitting coordinator) and quality assurance coach Juan Castro (2015: Dodgers’ minor league infield coordinator).
HOT TICKETS!: The Dodgers notched their first sellout of the spring, with 13,122 fans taking in their victory over Arizona on Saturday. Last year, the Dodgers established team records in total (147,066) and average (9,804) Spring Training attendance, while Camelback Ranch saw a record number of fans with a combined attendance of 232,305 between the Dodgers and the White Sox. So far this season, advance ticket sales have been brisk with Camelback Ranch enjoying its best advance ticket sale in its eight-year history. Three additional Dodger games already have sold out - Friday, March 11 (Los Angeles Angels-Dodgers), Saturday night, March 12 (Chicago Cubs-Dodgers) and Friday night, March 25 (San Francisco Giants-Dodgers).
(Alex Wood, pic via Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers 2016)

ON THE MOUND: LHP Alex Wood will make his first start of the spring today. He enters his fourth Major League season and his second with the Dodgers after being acquired by the club in an eight-player deal with the Braves on July 30, 2015. Wood, 25, posted career numbers last season, winning a career-high 12 games (12-12) in 32 combined starts, while posting a 3.84 ERA.
  • LHP Ian Thomas will make his first appearance of the spring this afternoon. A 2015 mid-season acquisition from the Atlanta Braves,  he made nine relief appearances (one start) for the Dodgers going 1-1 with a 4.00 ERA.
  • LHP J.P. Howell, enters his 11th MLB campaign and his fourth season with the Dodgers after leading MLB relievers (min. 40.0 IP) with a 1.43 ERA in a team-high 65 appearances in 2015. He finished the season posting a 6-1 record with one save and tossed scoreless relief in 59 of 65 appearances.
  • RHP Kenley Jansen will make his first appearance of the spring. He enters his seventh big league season after successfully converting 36 of 38 save opportunities last year, the third-highest single-season save percentage in team history (Gagne: 2003-100.0%, 2004-95.7%).
  • RHP Louis Coleman will be making his second appearance of the spring after tossing a scoreless inning of relief on Friday against the Rangers. Coleman enters his first season with the Dodgers after signing with the club on Feb. 19, 2016.
  • RHP Brandon Beachy will make his first appearance of the spring, after making his Dodger debut last season on July 11, 2015 with a start against the Brewers, his first since Aug. 20, 2013. He made two starts with the club after being reinstated from the 60-day disabled list, before being optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City where he went 1-1 with a 3.64 ERA in 10 games (nine starts).
  • RHP Yimi Garcia will be making his second appearance of the spring after striking out one batter in a scoreless inning of relief on Thursday against the White Sox.  He ranked among the NL’s best relievers in WHIP (0.95, 5th), opponents’ batting average (.199, 16th), opponents’ on-base percentage (.242, 4th) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (6.60, 3rd) last season.
A LOOK BACK: The Dodgers went 92-70 in 2015, with the club claiming its third consecutive and 14th overall National League West title. It marked the first time in franchise history that the team reached the postseason in three consecutive seasons.
  • The Dodgers topped the National League in homers for the first time since 1983, blasting 187, their most since 2004 (203 HR).
  • Los Angeles led the Majors with a .988 fielding percentage, while committing the fewest errors (75) of any big league team.
  • Los Angeles pitchers combined to post a 3.44 ERA, the fifth-best mark in the Majors, and tied for the big league lead with the Cubs with 21 shutouts.
(Banana mania continues unabated, pic via Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers 2016)

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Blog Kiosk: 3/7/2016 - Dodgers Links - Ryu, Lee and a New Jackie Robinson Statue

Joc Pederson continues to delight the fans as he signs autographs for eager fans along the 3rd base line in yesterdays game.  Pic via Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers 2016Go here to check out more pics taken by Jon from the day.

Below are more links to check out:
"They told me there will be a lot of at-bats for me, but 'Dre starts, and he's earned it," said Crawford, who went 2-for-3 with a triple and two RBIs in Sunday's 5-2 win over the Giants.
  • Not really unexpected.  Via ESPN, "MLB saves Chase Utley from slide suspension."  He will not have to serve that two-game suspension levied last year.
  • Via Doug Padilla at ESPN, "Hyun-Jin Ryu's downtime still not considered a setback."
“The staff had a built-in, kind of a back-off period where they could just kind of back off and pick it up again,” (Dave) Roberts said. “But there is no date when he will start throwing again. But I have asked them, and it’s definitely not a setback; it’s kind of built in with his rehab.”
  • Time to jump on the Lee Train?  Via Doug Padilla at ESPN, "Dodgers' Zach Lee makes solid opening argument."
“I don’t think he has one wipe-out pitch that might wow you,” Roberts said. “But when his command is good, when he’s down in the zone and working the cutter, the change and the sinker, changing eye levels with the fastball up, there’s some things he can do. When Zach’s right, he gets major league hitters out.”
  • UCLA unveiled a new Jackie Robinson statue on their campus this past Saturday.  Check it out below via a tweet from the LAist:

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