Advertisement
Share

As the other guy, Broglio’s moment of glory was stolen

Times Staff Writer

Often when introduced to strangers, former major league pitcher Ernie Broglio will notice a glint of recognition in their eyes.

“They’ll say, ‘How do I know that name?’ ” Broglio says.

And he’ll say, “You know Lou Brock? I got traded for him.”

More than 40 years later -- to his amusement, he says -- Broglio is still linked to the Hall of Fame outfielder because in 1964 they were the principal figures in what is often referred to as the most lopsided trade in baseball history.

Advertisement

“It’s amazing,” Broglio, 71, says from his home in San Jose, where the right-hander who compiled a 77-74 record and 3.74 earned-run average in eight major league seasons serves as a high school pitching coach and private tutor. “Forty-something years later and they still remember. I wonder how many other people got traded and nobody remembered.”

Why the “Brock for Broglio” trade has endured is simple: Almost from the moment that Broglio and two other players were sent to the Chicago Cubs on June 15, 1964 -- and Brock and two others were sent to the Cubs’ bitter rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals -- Brock’s career blossomed and Broglio’s cratered.

Four years later, Brock and the Cardinals were playing in the World Series for the third time in five seasons and Broglio was driving a truck.

It wasn’t easy for Broglio to accept -- and not only because Brock, one of baseball’s all-time great leadoff hitters and base stealers, had transformed himself from a struggling Cubs outfielder into a National League All-Star.

“You spend five years with an organization, you really like the guys you’re playing with and then all of a sudden you get traded, it takes you a while to bounce back,” says Broglio, adding that he was suffering from elbow pain at the time of the trade, a detail the Cardinals kept quiet. “I don’t know if I ever really did bounce back from it. They’re winning pennants and you had a chance to be on that ballclub.”

Though it turned out to be a steal for the Cardinals, the trade did not seem outlandish at the time when Broglio and Brock switched teams.

Broglio, who was 27, was a fixture in the Cardinals’ rotation, having compiled a 21-9 record and 2.74 ERA in 1960, when he finished third in voting for the Cy Young Award, and an 18-8 record and 2.99 ERA in 1963. He considered himself one of the National League’s top 10 pitchers. But he had fallen out of favor with Manager Johnny Keane -- perhaps because Keane did not like his easygoing manner, he says.

Meanwhile, the soon-to-be 25-year-old Brock had not lived up to his promise, batting .257 with 50 stolen bases in 2 1/2 seasons with the Cubs.

Advertisement

So, despite the pain in Broglio’s right elbow, the trade was made. “In those days,” Broglio says, “they did not give you a physical when you were traded. I guess it was more or less a gentleman’s agreement, in comparison to nowadays.”

Two months later, Broglio awoke one morning with a locked elbow that eventually would require surgery. Less than two years later, he was out of the major leagues for good, having made only 33 starts for the Cubs while compiling a 7-19 record.

Brock, meantime, hit .348 the rest of the ’64 season and helped the Cardinals to their first World Series championship in 18 years. He played another 15 1/2 seasons after leaving Chicago, racking up 2,713 of his 3,023 hits and 888 of his then-major league record 938 stolen bases. In 21 World Series games, he batted .391.

Broglio, demoted by the Cubs to the minors in July 1966, spent the 1967 season with the Buffalo Bisons, a Cincinnati Reds affiliate. Believing that his 12-13 record and 3.69 ERA were worthy of a September recall, he was upset when he heard nothing from the Reds and so he staged an incendiary farewell to the game.

Advertisement

“I knew it was the end of my career,” he says, “so I asked the clubhouse guy if he had any lighter fluid. I took all my underpants, my jockstrap, shirts and a bunch of other stuff, piled them in the middle of the floor and lit them on fire.

“And I said goodbye to baseball.”

The Bay Area native jumped into his car and drove home.

“I’d given up,” he says. “My heart wasn’t in it anymore.”

Advertisement

In San Jose, Broglio says, he made more money driving a liquor delivery truck than he could pitching in the minors. A father of four -- he also has three grandchildren and a great-granddaughter -- Broglio says he never made more than $25,000 in the majors. He is retired now but has coached off and on for the last 15 years. He’ll turn 72 in August and he and wife Barbara will celebrate their 53rd wedding anniversary in November.

Every now and then he’ll hear his name mentioned on TV, usually on ESPN and almost always in connection with a questionable trade.

Earlier in his career, Broglio notes, he and another Bay Area resident, Hobie Landrith, were involved in a deal that sent Broglio to the Cardinals and Landrith, a journeyman catcher, to the San Francisco Giants.

Whenever the former major leaguers run into each other these days, Broglio says, Landrith always asks, “How come nobody remembers our trade?”

Advertisement

jerome.crowe@latimes.com


Advertisement