Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Marshall plan

In December of 1973. The Dodgers traded long time fan favorite Willie Davis to the Montreal Expos in exchange for relief pitcher Mike Marshall. The players from the 60's were being phased out as a group of up and coming players by the names of Garvey, Cey, Lopes, Buckner were taking over.

Jim Brewer was one of the last players left from that era. Though he made his first and only All Star game in 1973. His age was finally starting to show. He had his first losing since 1966, where he only appeared in thirteen games due to an injury and the Dodgers turned to Mike Marshall to help sure up the bull pen for 1974. During the 1974 season, Brewer was once again fighting a bad back appearing in twenty four games, mostly as Marshall's set up man. A role Brewer had not done since taking over for Ron Perranoski in 1968, but did without question.

I asked Scott how his father felt when the team brought in Marshall. He said "It did not matter to dad what his job was, he always put the team first. That was something that was driven into Jim Brewer and his boys from the time his father joined the team in 1964 by Walter O'Malley. Walter preched that the team wins and loses as a family. There would be no second guessing any decision made by Alston or his office personal. The Brewer boys were not quite old enough to understand, why their father was not in his normal role as the number one relief pitcher, but they knew something was changing. Jim Brewer was once again hampered by injuries that season. He only pitched in twenty four games while making just one appearance in the 1974 World Series. In game three he pitched to one batter in the bottom of the fourth, striking him out. By 1975 the Dodgers farm system was still overflowing with talent and ready to help the team. 1974 Cy Young winner Mike Marshall was coming into the 1975 season after pitching in a record setting 106 games in 1974. There was no doubt he was the number one going into the new season.

By this time the Brewer family made it into the front row of the family section. Sharing the honor with the Alston family, as the families with the most seniority. Something that Mrs brewer was very proud of. Scott was no longer a bat boy and chose to sit in the stands with his mother and siblings that season trying to be on his best behavior. I asked Scott if he understood that his dad was getting older and was not quite the dominating, reliable pitcher he once was. There was a pause on the phone as Scott told me about the night that he knew it was all coming to an end.

Scott was watching the Dodgers play the Padres in a game that just did not go well for the team. Burt Hooton started the game only going 4 1/3  before he was pulled for Jim Brewer. The elder Brewer could not stop the bleeding. After giving up a single and a walk with bases loaded. Mike Ivie hit a grand slam and his father gave up another single to Randy Hundley before the inning was over. Alston let his father go back out in the fifth. He continued to struggle after getting two quick outs, as the Padres scored two more runs on three consecutive singles before Bobby Tolan made the final out of the inning. As Scott stood there in shock. The husband of Mrs. O'Malley's sister cam over and put his arm around the young boy as his father walked off the mound. The man grabbed his shoulder and held him tight as the young boy started crying. The man said to him. "Your father was one of the greatest Dodgers ever" Scott knew, just as everyone in the park that night. Jim Brewer was not going to be a Dodger much longer. That was the last game his father ever pitched as a Dodger. In the eighth inning a fight broke out after the Padres tried to squeeze in a run when they were already leading 10-1. The Dodgers lost the game, won the fight and a great players career was winding down.

You could hear the pain in Scott's voice on the phone as he told me of that night. I told him that I understood how hard it is for anyone to see their hero or father struggle. Jim Brewer was a great baseball player for a long period of time. The one thing that comes with that type of longevity is, you have more highs than lows. The Brewer family shared in many great moments over his career. They like to focus on his success rather than one night in July of 1975.


Fite Club said...

I just caught up on all your Jim Brewer & Son articles. They were great.
Don't worry about the grammar and writing skill stuff.
Thanks for providing it for our reading pleasure!

M.Brown said...

Thanks. I still have a few more yet.

gcrl said...

great stuff.