Friday, October 7, 2011
Vintage Fridays: Harry Brecheen, 1955 Topps #113
Brecheen was a native Oklahoman who did not reach the big leagues for good until joining the Cardinals at age 28 in 1943. He never posted an earned run average above 3.80, and his ERA+ was 112 or better every year. The Cat, who earned his nickname for the nimble manner in which he fielded bunts, was a mainstay on the St. Louis pitching staff for a decade, averaging 16 wins per year in a six-year span from 1944-1949. He was a two-time All-Star, including his career year in 1948: 20-7 with a league-best 2.24 ERA, 7 shutouts, 149 strikeouts, 1.04 WHIP, and 0.2 home runs allowed per 9 innings. He had a postseason record of 4-1 with an 0.83 ERA in 7 games spanning 3 World Series, with only 3 runs allowed in 32.2 innings overall. His superlative effort in the 1946 Fall Classic spurred a 7-game Cardinals triumph over the Red Sox: 3-0 with a single run allowed in 20 innings of work, including a 2-inning relief stint in the clincher just two days after a complete-game win in Game 6. His curtain call as a pitcher came in 1953, when he suited up for the crosstown Browns and suffered a 5-13 record despite a 3.07 ERA. The 38-year-old retired with a 133-92 mark in parts of 12 seasons and a 2.92 ERA.
With the Browns pulling up stakes and heading east to Baltimore in 1954, Brecheen came along to serve as the pitching coach of the now-Orioles. He must have taken to it pretty well, because he stayed in that role for 14 seasons, coaching under 5 different O's managers (Jimmy Dykes, Paul Richards, Lum Harris, Billy Hitchcock, and Hank Bauer). He cultivated the talent of young pitchers such as Billy O'Dell, Milt Pappas, Jerry Walker, Chuck Estrada, Steve Barber, and Dave McNally. He was the first coach that Jim Palmer had in the big leagues, and he stuck around just long enough to celebrate the club's first World Series title in 1966. For good measure, he even spent a couple seasons coaching Harvey Haddix at the end of the lefty's career. (Haddix was dubbed "Kitten" when he debuted with the Cardinals in 1952, a jab at his resemblance to elder teammate Brecheen.)
So there you have it, a coach's card that holds its own with the heavyweights of the 1955 Topps set.