Ernie Broglio, RIP

Pumpsie Green wasn’t the only old-time major leaguer of note to pass away this month. Pitcher Ernie Broglio also died in July.

The two players are closely connected. Both Green and Broglio were natives of the East Bay portion of the San Francisco Bay region. Indeed, Broglio said that Green was his catcher in high school. Both signed with the Oakland Oaks, though only Broglio played for them.

Broglio is remembered as the short end of the lopsided trade through which Lou Brock joined the St. Louis Cardinals in 1964. The Chicago Cubs received Broglio in exchange for Brock.*

The pitcher should be remembered for more. The Cubs had reason to covet Broglio. He was a 21 game winner in 1960. In 1962-63, his record was a combined 30-17 with a 2.99 ERA.

Brock, meanwhile, was a .260 hitter with a poor on-base percentage. In the field, he was error prone (and would remain so throughout his career). He hadn’t yet developed into a great base stealer, though he showed clear signs of becoming one.

At the time of the trade, most observers thought the Cubs had picked the Cardinals’ pocket. Bob Smith, a writer for the Chicago Daily News, wrote:

Thank you, thank you, oh you lovely St. Louis Cardinals. Nice doing business with you. Please call again any time.

A St. Louis sportswriter wrote: “Bing Devine! You have reached the living end.” Devine, the Cardinals general manager, took to answering the phone, “This is your ex-Executive of the Year.”

Many of the St. Louis players thought their team had been robbed. “A proven eighteen-game winner who once won twenty-one games for a .251 hitter who can’t field,” one groused.

St. Louis fans felt the same way. One showed up with a banner saying, “Broglio for Brock, who would make such a deal?”

Brock hit .348 for the Cardinals during the remainder of the 1964 season, and helped lead them to the pennant and to victory in the World Series. He went on to have a Hall of Fame career.

Broglio lost his first four starts for Chicago. As a Cub, he went 4-7 with an ERA of 4.04 that year.

The Cardinals awarded Broglio no World Series share and no ring, even though he won three games for St. Louis, which won the pennant by only one game. The players did remember him though. He recalled:

A lot of the players called me from their party at Stan Musial’s restaurant after the last game. They passed the phone around and I really appreciated it. I popped open my own bottle of champagne and drank along with them.

It turned out that Broglio’s elbow was injured at the time of the trade, and it kept getting worse thereafter. He was operated on during the off-season, but was back with the Cubs for spring training. He received only about three months of rest for an operation that, he said, would now entail a full year of healing and rehab.

In his remaining two seasons with the Cubs, Broglio won only three games, while losing 12. His ERA was more than 6.00.

After a year of pitching in the minor leagues, Broglio was out of baseball by 1968.

Brock and Broglio became friends. They would appear together from time to time, the way Bobby Thomson and Ralph Branca did. Of one appearance at an old-timers game in the 1990s, Broglio recalled:

They introduced me next-to-last, and Lou was last. The Cub fans sure didn’t forget Brock for Broglio.

As I came out, everybody stood up and gave me a great ovation of boos. I started laughing, removed my cap, and took a bow. Then they introduced Lou, and my God, I thought Wrigley Field was going to collapse the way they cheered him.

Broglio kept an autographed picture of Brock in his house. He liked to say that he often advised Brock not to die first because “as long as people remember him, I know they also are going to remember me.”

Brock, now 80 years old, took Broglio’s advice.

But for the arm trouble he suffered and the rush to get him back on the mound, Broglio would probably be remembered for more than just the Brock trade. RIP.

* In that trade, Chicago also obtained Bobby Shantz and Doug Clemens. St. Louis received Jack Spring and Paul Toth.