Tuesday, August 29, 2006
My Interview with Ernie Broglio
Ernie Broglio played eight years in the big leagues, staring with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1959 at age 23. He went 7-12 that year – not bad for a rookie – and became a fixture in the team’s rotation for the next four years, winning 70 games and losing 55 overall for the Cardinals. His finest year was 1960, when Broglio went 21-9 with a 2.74 ERA, 2nd best in the National league, behind only Mike McCormick of San Francisco. He finished third in Cy Young voting that year (behind only Law and Spahn) and 4th in strikeouts behind a trio of LA Dodgers (Koufax, Drysdale and Stan Williams). In 1964, after going 3-5 for the Cards, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs with Doug Clemens and Bobby Shantz for Lou Brock, Jack Spring and Paul Toth. But, day baseball and the cramped quarters of Wrigley Field didn’t suit Ernie, and his career went into a tailspin. After 2.5 years and a 14-31 record, Broglio retired from the Cubs at the age of 30.
I contacted Ernie through a mutual friend and we hit it off instantly. Sitting in his den, one of the first things I noticed was Ernie’s picture on the cover of Sports Illustrated – from his moment in the sun – his 15 minutes of fame in 1960. Broglio’s career stats are pretty unspectacular, and he’ll always be known for the one-sided trade with Lou Brock. But, Ernie has gained a lot of notoriety for that trade, now considered one of the most lopsided in baseball history. What I didn’t know until talking with him, however, was that both Ernie and the Cardinals knew he was damaged goods when they shipped him off to the Windy City that fateful day in ’64.
Talking about the day of the big trade: “Well, I was in Houston and Johnny Keane (Cardinals’ manager) brought all three of us in and said you guys have been traded and you’re going to Chicago and I thought, great okay fine, day baseball, but when I got there I ended up not really liking day baseball. So, nothing else could really be said, so I said, when do we have to be there? Because I never really had any rapport with Johnny Keane, so in some instances I was glad. The Cardinals were in seventh place at the time I was traded – Lou Brock brought them the pennant and the World Series that year.”
“Trades are made to better your team In some instances it works out and in other instances it doesn’t. It just so happens with this trade it worked out for them.”
“I knew I had arm problems. Nowadays, they’d have you go in and get checked out by a doctor before making a trade, but that wasn’t how things were done back then. The Cardinals knew. They were keeping it quiet. In 1961, I took 20 cortisone shots in my shoulder – before every other start. They thought they were getting away with something.
What was told to me originally was that Ray Wasburn was supposed to be traded for Lou Brock, but I got in the doghouse with Johnny Keane and so I got traded.”
The Broglio and Keane feud: “I don’t really know how it got started. Something happened when he was a coach. I came into the dugout after getting taken out of a game, and I was mad at myself. I kicked some bats and one of them landed right on Keane’s leg and he didn’t care for that much, I guess. Because after that we just never seemed to see eye to eye.”
Talking about the early years: “I signed out of high school. I had every Major League team after me, and three Coast League teams. And in those days, there were only sixteen major league teams. And Oakland, San Francisco, and Sacramento and the Coast League were after me. And it was funny because the Boston Red Sox were really hot after me, and they were going to send me to Montgomery, Alabama. And I looked on a map and couldn’t find it and I said, “No, I’m not gonna go there!” So, I decided to sign with Oakland because Pumpsie Green, who I went to high school with, was there. He was the first black ball player to play for the Boston Red Sox. And we all ended up with the Oakland Oaks organization. And then in ’54, Charley Dressen was our manager, and he sent me down to get some seasoning with Modesto and I was 9 and 3 down there. And then they brought me back up; I think I ended up 5 and 8 for the year. And then the following year Lefty O’Doul was our manager, and I stayed with the ball club for about a month when he sent me to Stockton and I won 20 games there. Roy Partee was our manager down there. Auggie Guland was an important guy in those days. He was from El Cerritos, and he was instrumental in getting me signed with the Oaks.”
Talking about Charlie Dressen: “Oh, he was tough. But, I mean, I’m 17 years old! Then I signed with the Oaks, I turned 18 in August, and I signed in July. So, I was eighteen when Charlie came there. And he kinda took me under the wing. “Cause I got in a little trouble down in Modesto. I got out in the water, sunbathing and got almost a second-degree sunburn. I had bubbles all over. I slept in a bathtub for about three days. So, Charlie sends a message down to me saying the next time it happens, it’ll be a thousand dollar fine. I’m thing -- $1,000? I didn’t know what a thousand dollars looked like, all I knew was it had a bunch of numbers, you know, a bunch of zeroes, behind a “1”, and I said, “oh boy, I’d better watch out for that!” And then he brings me in and says, “Don’t ever do that again.” He sent a clear message down to me to make sure that I never done it again.”
Why the Cardinals labeled him “Not tough enough:”: “ Cardinals coach Harry Walker didn’t think I was tough enough as a pitcher. He would yell at me and try to fire me up, and I would say hey, that’s not my nature. I’ll take care of stuff when I get out there. Because I’d always walk to and from the mound with my head down, you know? Evidently, Harry didn’t think I had the tenacity to be a major league pitcher. My ability was there, they knew that, but I guess some people show their emotions more. Like Bob Gibson or Larry Jackson -- they were real battlers. I’m just not made up that way.”
Stan Musial: “ I first met him in Japan. Just a neat guy. He’s one of the few I still communicate with. He is so gracious to me. If I’m in a golf tournament and I need something signed, he always signs it and then asks me if there’s anything else I need.
I’ve got nothing but good things to say about him. When they won the World Series and I was, of course, with the Cubs, I got a call from Stan’s restaurant. When they won it, I was sitting home having champagne with them.”
On Chicago Cubs fans: They were all right, but much different than St. Louis fans. They were so used to losing all the time they handpicked certain players and booed the living heck out of them for not having a good year. And they kind of got on me.
Talking about his life-long attachment to Brock: “One incident, many years later, they had an old-timers game there in St. Louis and they brought Lou Brock and I in, and it was a full house. And they introduced Lou Brock first, you know and he got a standing ovation. And they were still standing and booing me when I was introduced. I have to be the only guy in the world to get a standing/booing ovation!”