Former big league pitcher turned writer Jim Brosnan passed away last Saturday at the age of 84.
Brosnan signed with the Chicago Cubs in 1946 when he was only 17, but would not make his major league debut with the Cubs until 1954. He would not stick in the majors for good until 1956. Mid-way through the 1958 season, the Cubs dealt Brosnan to the St. Louis Cardinals for future big league manager Alvin Dark.
It was in 1959 that Brosnan became a nationally known figure, but not for his pitching. That season, Brosnan kept a diary which would be published the following year as The Long Season. Until then books authored by baseball players and other athletes were actually penned by ghostwriters. Even before Brosnan wrote The Long Season, his thick glasses and the books he kept in the clubhouse earned him the nickname “The Professor”.
Brosnan opened the door to the personalities in the clubhouse and the front office and also touched on the state of basebal”s finances where it concerned player salaries which in those days were quite paltry. Brosnan’s prose was that of a Southern gentleman with an understated wit and a formal tone. He would refer to his wife by her full name, Ann Stewart.
The Long Season came out a full decade before Ball Four , a book written by another relief pitcher named Jim – Bouton that is. Interestingly, both Brosnan and Bouton would be traded mid-season in their respective books. Bouton was traded by the Seattle Pilots to the Houston Astros while Brosnan was dealt by the Cardinals to the Cincinnati Reds. Two years later, Brosnan set about to write another book. However, the Reds were unexpectedly good in 1961. In fact they would win their first NL pennant in 21 years and would face the New York Yankees in the World Series. The result was Pennant Race. As it turned out, 1961 was Brosnan’s best season. Pitching exclusively in relief, Brosnan went 10-4 with a 3.04 ERA and 16 saves.
On a peculiar note, my copy of The Long Season inexplicably becomes Pennant Race towards the end of the book. Not sure how that happened.
Brosnan would be dealt to the Chicago White Sox in the middle of the 1963 season who would release him in the off-season. In nine seasons, Brosnan had a record of 55-47 and a 3.54 ERA with 67 saves. After his career, Brosnan would become a writer as well as a radio and TV sportscaster. Brosnan’s articles would appear in magazines such as The Atlantic Monthly. In 2007, Brosnan was inducted into The Baseball Reliquary’s Shrine of the Eternals.
Writing in The Paris Review, Luke Epplin sums up Brosnan this way, “The same qualities that hindered Brosnan as a pitcher — sensitivity, pensiveness, and self-consciousness – helped him excel as a writer.”