Long Lean Save Machine

 

Oh, What a Relief: Bill Henry

Bill Henry was a lanky, high-kicking left-hander who lasted 16 years in the major leagues … after making his first appearance in the big show at age 24.

He led the league in any pitching category only once. His 65 appearances for the Chicago Cubs in 1959 were the most in the National League that season. And though he never led the league in saves, saves are what kept him pitching until age 41. Henry knew how to close out a victory.

Bill Henry’s 65 appearances for the Chicago Cubs were the most for the National League in 1959. Henry was 9-8 with a 2.68 ERA and 12 saves for the Cubs.

A Texas native, Henry was a star in basketball and track in high school. His high school didn’t have a baseball team. But the University of Houston did, and after one college season he signed with the Clarksdale (Mississippi) Planters in the Class C Cotton States League in 1948. He bounced the minor leagues for four years with a combined record of 44-45. He was acquired by the Boston red Sox and made his major league debut in 1952. He was used sparingly by the Red Sox, mostly as a starter, and was 15-20 with a combined earned run average of 3.80.

In January of 1957, the Red Sox traded Henry to the Chicago Cubs. After spending another season in the minors, Henry earned a place in the Cubs’ bullpen in 1958 (at age 30), going 5-4 with a 2.88 ERA and six saves. In 1959, he was 9-8 for the Cubs with a 2.68 ERA and 12 saves. In the off-season, the Cubs dealt Henry, Lee Walls and Lou Jackson to the Cincinnati Reds for Frank Thomas.

Henry had his best seasons pitching for the Reds. He combined with Jim Brosnan for an effective righty-lefty closing combination. In 1960, Henry led the Reds with 17 saves (Brosnan had 12). He also made his only All-Star appearance that season.

In 1961, the Reds bullpen was a vital contributor to the team’s pennant-winning season. Brosnan and Henry tied for the team lead in saves with 16 each. Henry led the team with a 2.19 ERA.

Jim Brosnan (left) and Bill Henry were a dynamic righty-lefty closing combination for the Cincinnati Reds in the early 1960s. In 1961, for the pennant-winning Reds, Brosnan was 10-4 with 16 saves. Henry was 2-1 with 16 saves and a team-best 2.19 ERA.

In 1962, Henry was 4-2 with 11 saves for the Reds, and led the team with 14 saves in 1963. In 1964, the arrival of Sammy Ellis and Billy McCool limited Henry to only 37 appearances and six saves. (Ellis led the Reds with 14.) Still, at age 36, Henry was consistently effective when he did get the chance to pitch, posting a 0.87 ERA on the season.

In 1965, the Reds traded Henry to the San Francisco Giants for pitcher Jim Duffalo. Henry lasted four years with the Giants, going 5-5 with a combined 3.08 ERA. He made brief stops in Pittsburgh and Houston before retiring in 1969.

For his career, Henry was 46-50 with a 3.26 ERA and 90 saves. He closed 253 games, more than half of his 483 career relief appearances. Henry’s 64 saves with the Reds are tenth-most among Reds relief pitchers all time.

 

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Billy Throws BBs

 

Oh, What a Relief: Billy McCool

Billy McCool was a left-handed reliever who threw the ball hard and sometimes over the plate. The husky southpaw was at times impossible to hit … if you swung.

In 1966, Billy McCool was a National League All-Star at age 21. He was 8-8 that season with a 2.48 ERA. His 18 saves tied him for second in the league.

McCool was signed by the Cincinnati Reds out of high school in 1963. Dominating in his only season in the minors, he was 5-13 in A ball despite a 2.01 ERA. When promoted to AAA ball, he was 4-0 in four starts with a 1.04 ERA. He struck out 179 batters in 174 innings.

That was enough to bring him to spring training for 1964, and the 19-year-old McCool made the Reds’ roster as a relief pitcher. In his rookie season, he was 6-5 with a 2.42 ERA. In 40 appearances, he finished 21 games with seven saves. He struck out 87 batters in 89.1 innings.

McCool was even more dominating in his second season. He appeared in 62 games in 1965, going 9-10 with a 4.27 ERA and 21 saves. He struck out 120 batters in 105.1 innings. He had another strong year in 1966, going 8-8 with a 2.48 ERA and 18 saves (tied with Roy Face behind Phil Regan’s 21 saves). McCool struck out 104 batters in 105.1 innings.

Then National League batters started catching on and stopped swinging at unhittable fastballs outside the strike zone. McCool was 3-7 in 1967 with only two saves on a 3.42 ERA. However, he averaged 5.2 walks per nine innings in 1967 compared to 3.5 in his first three seasons. That average would climb to 7.3 in 1968, when he went 3-4 with a 4.97 ERA.

Following the 1968 season, McCool was selected by the San Diego Padres in the National League expansion draft. He pitched one season for San Diego, going 3-5 with a 4.30 ERA and seven saves, and then was acquired by the St. Louis Cardinals, going 0-3 with a 6.23 ERA in 1970. He finished the 1970 season in the minors, and never made it back to the big leagues.

McCool’s seven-season career produced a 32-42 record with 58 saves and a 3.59 earned run average.

 

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Tough Pitcher, Tough Breaks.

 

Oh, What a Relief: Jim Coates

In both starting and relieving roles, Jim Coates was a critical component in the New York Yankees’ pitching success from 1960 to 1962. Effective in both roles, he wasn’t afraid of pitching tight to batters. And he was tough in the face of adversity, on the mound and in his career.

Jim Coates saw duty as a starter and reliever for the 1960 New York Yankees. He was effective in both roles, going 13-3 with a league-best .813 winning percentage.

Coates was signed by the Yankees in 1951 and spent six seasons in the Yankees’ farm system. He won 14 games in the minors in 1955, and made his major league debut in 1956, only to suffer what could have been a career-ending fracture in his right arm. He recovered, though the injury sidelined him for the rest of that season. Coates won 14 games again in the minors in 1957, and made the Yankees roster to stay in 1959, going 6-1 with a 2.87 ERA as a reliever.

Valuable as both a starter and a reliever, Coates served in both roles for the Yankees over the next three seasons. He was 13-3 in 1960, leading the American League with an .813 winning percentage. He was 11-5 in 1961 and 7-6 with six saves in 1962.

Just after the beginning of the 1963 season, Coates was traded to the Washington Senators for pitcher Steve Hamilton. In 20 appearances with the Senators, he was 2-4 with a 5.28 ERA. In July of that same season, he was purchased by the Cincinnati Reds. He appeared in only nine games with the Reds, and then was optioned to AAA San Diego, where he finished the 1963 season.

Coates was traded to the California Angels in 1965, and spent three years shuttling between the Angels and their AAA affiliate at Seattle. He appeared in only 51 games for the Angels over those three seasons, going 4-3 with a combined 4.02 ERA. He spent most of those years in the minors, winning 17 games for Seattle in 1967. He pitched for Hawaii in the Pacific Coast League in 1969 and 1970, but never made it back to the major leagues. He retired in 1970.

In nine big league seasons, Coates compiled a 43-22 record with a career earned run average of 4.00. He was a member of the American League All-Star team in 1960.

Serving a Side of Saves

 

Oh, What a Relief: Hal Reniff

Hal Reniff was a big man with an imposing mound presence. He was a staple of the New York Yankees bullpen during the team’s final two pennant-winning seasons in the 1960s, leading the team in saves in 1963.

Hal Reniff was the ace of the New York Yankees’ bullpen in 1963. He led the team in appearances (48) and saves (18).

Reniff was signed by the Yankees in 1956. He toiled for six seasons in the New York farm system, winning 22 games in 1959. He made his debut in New York in 1961, going 2-0 with a 2.58 ERA and two saves in 25 appearances.

Injuries derailed his 1962 season. But in 1963 Reniff emerged as the ace of the Yankees’ bullpen. He saved 18 games in 48 appearances, with a 2.62 ERA and a 4-3 won-lost record. In 1964, Reniff split the closer’s role with Pete Mikkelsen, going 6-4 with nine saves and a 3.12 ERA.

During the next two seasons, Reniff’s numbers declined as the Yankees slipped from league champs to league’s worst. Reniff was 3-4 wth a 3.80 ERA in 1965, and he was 3-7 with a 3.21 ERA in 1966.

Reniff split 1967 between the Yankees and the New York Mets, who purchased him midway through the season. Reniff was a combined 3-5 with a 3.80 ERA for both teams. He retired after the 1967 season, at age 28.

In six full major league seasons, Reniff was a combined 21-23 with a 3.27 ERA and 45 saves. In none of those seasons did he have an earned run average higher than 3.80.

 

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Phillies Fire Fighter

 

Oh, What a Relief: Jack Baldschun

As baseball entered the 1960s, the National League’s worst team (pre-expansion) was indisputably the Philadelphia Phillies. The National League champs in 1950, the Phillies had fallen to the bottom of the standings by 1958 and stayed there through 1961, spared in 1962 only by the arrival of the New York Mets and the Houston Colt .45s, as well as the decline of the Chicago Cubs.

The 1961 Phillies set a record with a won-lost log of 47-107, a record for futility eclipsed mercifully the next season by the 40-120 inaugural campaign posted by the Mets. The only pitcher on the 1961 Phillies staff with a winning record was a 24-year-old rookie reliever named Jack Baldschun with a 5-3 record. He was also second on that team in ERA (3.88) and saves (3) while making the most appearances of any Phillies pitcher (65, tops in the National League).

From 1962 to 1964, Jack Baldschun was the ace of the Philadelphia bullpen, winning 29 games and saving 50 with a combined 2.79 ERA.

From 1962 to 1964, Jack Baldschun was the ace of the Philadelphia bullpen, winning 29 games and saving 50 with a combined 2.79 ERA.

Over the next three seasons, Baldschun would emerge as one of the league’s best closers, an emergence that coincided with Philadelphia’s steady rise in the standings.

Baldschun was originally signed in 1956 by the Washington Senators, and toiled in the Senators’ farm system for five years until he mastered the screwball that proved to be his ticket to the majors. He was drafted by the Phillies in the 1960 Rule 5 draft. His success as a rookie in 1961 proved to be no fluke, as Baldschun appeared in 67 games for the Phillies in 1962, all in relief, finishing 49 games for the club. He won 12 games in relief and saved 13 more with a 2.96 earned run average.

Baldschun was even better in 1963. He went 11-7 in 65 relief appearances with a 2.30 ERA. He finished 44 games for the Phillies and saved 16, tied for third-best in the league with Roy Face.

Baldschun’s 21 saves in 1964 were again third-best in the league, but his ERA rose to a still-respectable 3.12 while his won-lost record slipped to 6-9. The 1964 season will be remembered in Philadelphia as the one that got away, as the Phillies lost 10 straight games down the stretch and saw a 6.5 game lead on September 20 evaporate completely. Phillies manager Gene Mauch lost confidence in Baldschun as his closer (even though he finished 51 games in 71 appearances that season) and Baldschun saw no action as the pennant slipped away from Philadelphia.

Baldschun was never the same pitcher after that. His record in 1965 slipped to 5-8 with a 3.82 ERA and only six saves in 65 appearances. After the 1965 season, Baldschun was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for Jackie Brandt and Darold Knowles. Three days later, the Orioles packaged Baldschun with pitchers Milt Pappas and Dick Simpson in the deal with the Cincinnati Reds that brought Frank Robinson to Baltimore. Baldschun went 1-5 for the Reds with no saves and a 5.49 ERA. In 1967, he appeared in only nine games for the Reds before being sent down to AAA ball to re-discover his former effectiveness, but mostly he struggled at that level. The Reds released Baldschun after the 1969 season, the last remnant of the infamous (for Cincinnati fans) Frank Robinson trade.

Balschun signed with the San Diego Padres and appeared in 65 games for San Diego in 1970. His record was 7-2, but he registered only one save with a 4.79 ERA. The Padres released him at the beginning of the 1970 season.

Baldschun’s nine-year career produced a 48-41 record with a 3.69 ERA. He appeared in 457 games and finished 267 with 60 saves – all but one of those saves with the Phillies. Even though he pitched only 5 seasons with Philadelphia, Baldschun’s 333 appearances still rank him eighth all-time in games pitched among Phillies hurlers.

Chief of Relief

 

Oh, What a Relief: Ed Roebuck

For 11 major league seasons, Ed Roebuck was a stellar relief pitcher for three different teams. In 460 big league appearances, he made only one start (in 1957).

A mainstay in the Dodgers’ bullpen in the early 1960s, Ed Roebuck was 10-2 with nine saves in 1962.

A mainstay in the Dodgers’ bullpen in the early 1960s, Ed Roebuck was 10-2 with nine saves in 1962.

Roebuck was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949. He spent six years in the Dodgers’ farm system, finding moderate success as a reliever before pitching as a starter and reliever at the AAA level, winning 15 games in 1953 and 18 games in 1954.

When Roebuck was promoted to the Dodgers’ pitching staff in 1955, he began his major league career in relief, going 5-6 with a 4.61 ERA. He appeared in 47 games for the Dodgers, finishing 27 with 12 saves (second in the National League). He pitched in the sixth game of the 1955 World Series, tossing two innings of scoreless, one-hit relief. He was 8-2 with a 2.71 ERA in 1957, and was 0-1 with a 3.48 ERA and five saves in 1958.

In 1959, Roebuck was sent back to the minors, where he pitched exclusively as a starter at St. Paul in the American Association. He went 13-10 with a 2.98 ERA in 28 starts. Then he found himself back on the Dodgers’ roster in 1960, going 8-3 with a 2.78 ERA in 58 appearances … all in relief. He made only five appearances in 1961, but teamed with left-hander Ron Perranoski to form one of the most effective relief tandems in baseball in 1962. As the right-handed half of that pair, Roebuck appeared in 64 games with a 10-2 record and a 3.09 ERA. He finished 22 games and saved nine. Together, Roebuck and Perranoski combined for a 16-8 record with 29 saves.

In 1963, Roebuck opened the season with the Dodgers but was traded at the end of July to the Washington Senators for Marv Breeding. Roebuck was a combined 4-5 with four saves and a 3.69 ERA for 1963.

Ed Roebuck was 5-3 with a 2.21 ERA and 12 saves for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1964.

Ed Roebuck was 5-3 with a 2.21 ERA and 12 saves for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1964.

In April of 1964 Roebuck was purchased by the Philadelphia Phillies and went 5-3 with a 2.21 ERA and 12 saves for the Phillies. He was 5-3 with three saves in 1965, and appeared in six games in 1966 before being released by Philadelphia. He caught on with San Diego in the Pacific Coast League for a season and a half before retiring as a player after the 1967 season.

Roebuck finished his major league career at 52-31 for a .627 winning percentage. His career ERA was 3.35 with 62 saves.

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A Fox in the ‘Pen

 

Oh, What a Relief: Terry Fox

Terry Fox came to the Detroit Tigers in 1960 in a multi-player trade that sent Dick Brown, Bill Bruton and Chuck Cottier to Detroit in exchange for Frank Bolling and Neil Chrisley (named later) going to the Milwaukee Braves.

Terry Fox was third in the American League with 16 saves. He was 3-1 that season with a 1.71 ERA.

Terry Fox was third in the American League with 16 saves in 1962. He was 3-1 that season with a 1.71 ERA.

Fox turned out to be the “steal” in the deal. Over the next five seasons, he developed into a consistently effective reliever for the Tigers, a bullpen ace who posted winning records in each of those seasons and led the team in saves four out of those five years.

Fox was acquired by the Braves some time before 1956 and toiled in their farm system for four years before making his major league debut in 1959. He pitched in five games with no decisions and a 4.52 earned run average in his rookie season.

In 1960, his first season in Detroit, Fox went 5-2 in 39 appearances, with a 1.41 ERA and 12 saves. In 1962 he went 3-1 in 44 games, with 16 saves (third in the American League) and a 1.71 ERA.

In 1963, Fox led the Tigers in pitching appearances (46) and saves (11), while his 8-6 record made him fourth on the team in wins. In 1964, he became the “forgotten” man in the Tigers’ bullpen with only 32 appearances as Larry Sherry and Fred Gladding took over as the team’s closers. Fox went 4-3 with a 3.39 ERA and only five saves in 1964. He was 6-4 with a 2.78 ERA in 1965, again leading the team with 10 saves.

After making four appearances at the start of the 1966 season, Fox was purchased by the Philadelphia Phillies. He pitched for one season in Philadelphia, going 3-2 with a 4.47 ERA and four saves.

He retired after the 1966 season with a career record of 29-19 with a 2.99 career ERA. He appeared in 248 games in a 7-year major league career, closing 145 games with 59 saves.

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Keepin’ ‘em Close

 

Oh, What a Relief: Johnny Klippstein

Right-hander Johnny Klippstein pitched for eight different teams in an 18-year major league career.

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In 18 major league seasons, Johnny Klippstein pitched for eight different teams. He won 101 games and saved 65. In 1960, pitching for the Cleveland Indians, he led the American League with 14 saves.

He was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1944 and drafted, in consecutive years, by the Brooklyn Dodgers and then the Chicago Cubs. He made his major league debut with the Cubs in 1950, going 2-9 with a 5.50 ERA. In five seasons with the Cubs, Klippstein was 31-51 with a 4.79 ERA.

Klippstein was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in 1954 and won 12 games for the Reds in 1956. He was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1958. He went 4-0 out of the Dodgers’ bullpen in 1959, and won a World Series game that year, only to be purchased by the Cleveland Indians just before the 1960 season. Klippstein was 5-5 for the Indians in 1960 with a 2.29 ERA. He led the American League in saves with 14.

Following the 1960 season, Klippstein was selected by the Washington Senators in the expansion draft. After a 2-2 season with the Senators, he was traded to the Reds again, and a year later was purchased by the Philadelphia Phillies.

Klippstein’s control and pitching savvy improved with age. At 35, he was 5-6 for the Phillies with a 1.93 ERA and eight saves. He was purchased by the Minnesota Twins after the start of the 1964 season, and had several outstanding seasons working out of the Twins’ bullpen. In 1965, he was 9-3 with five saves and a 2.24 ERA.

He retired after pitching in five games for the Detroit Tigers in 1967, posting a career record of 101-118 and a 4.24 ERA. Klippstein appeared in 711 games.

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Relief Everywhere

 

Oh, What a Relief: Ron Kline

Ron Kline’s career as a major league pitcher spanned 17 seasons and nine teams. He started his career as a starting pitcher, with mixed results, and experienced his best seasons after the age of 30, when he emerged as one of the American League’s most effective and durable relievers … yet is hardly counted today among the premier relievers of the 1960s despite putting up numbers that say he deserves that kind of accolade.

During the first decade of Ron Kline’s pitching career, he was 68-107 with a 4.14 ERA as a starter and reliever. He moved to the bullpen exclusively with the Washington Senators in 1962, and over the next six seasons he was 45-31 with a 2.52 ERA.

During the first decade of Ron Kline’s pitching career, he was 68-107 with a 4.14 ERA as a starter and reliever. He moved to the bullpen exclusively with the Washington Senators in 1962, and over the next six seasons he was 45-31 with a 2.52 ERA.

Kline was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1950 and made his major league debut in 1952, going 0-7 out of the Pirates’ bullpen that year. He spent the next two years in military service, and returned to the Pirates in 1955, going 6-13 as a starter and reliever. In 1956 he worked out of the Pirates’ starting rotation, making 39 starts and pitching 264 innings on his way to a 14-18 record and a 3.38 ERA. He won nine and 13 games in each of the next two seasons respectively, while losing 16 decisions both years. After an 11-13 season with Pittsburgh in 1959, he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Tom Cheney and Gino Cimoli.

Kline was 4-9 in 1960, his only season with the Cardinals. He was purchased by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1961, and was 8-9 that year, which he finished with the Detroit Tigers. After a 3-6 season with the Tigers in 1962, he was purchased by the Washington Senators.

It would be a career-lifting move for the 31-year-old right-hander, who had been 68-107 to this point as a starter and reliever. For the Senators, he would move to the bullpen and never move out. His numbers as a relief specialist revealed why.

For the Senators in 1963, Kline was 3-8 with a 2.79 ERA. He finished 46 of his 62 appearances and saved 17 games for a team that won only 56 on the season. He followed up in 1964 with a 10-7 season and a 2.32 ERA, appearing in 61 games and finishing 52 of them, with 14 saves.

Ron Kline led the American League with 29 saves in 1965.

Ron Kline led the American League with 29 saves in 1965.

In 1965, Kline led the American League with 29 saves, going 7-6 with a 2.63 ERA. In 1966, he tallied 23 saves with a record of 6-4 and a 2.39 earned run average. In the off-season, Kline was traded by the Senators to the Minnesota Twins for Bernie Allen and Camilo Pascual. He was 7-1 for the Twins in 1967 with a 3.77 ERA, and was traded only one season later to the Pirates for catcher Bob Oliver. Kline was 12-5 for the Pirates in 1968 with a 1.68 ERA.

He spent the 1969 season with three teams: the Pirates, the San Francisco Giants (traded for Joe Gibbon) and the Boston Red Sox. For the season, he was a combined 1-5 in 43 relief appearances. He signed with Atlanta for the 1970 season, but retired after only five appearances with the Braves.

In his prime, from 1963 through 1968, Kline appeared in 370 games (an average of 62 per season) with 45 victories, 95 saves and a combined ERA of 2.52. Kline finished with a career record of 114-144 and a 3.75 ERA.

 

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The Write Kind of Relief

 

Oh, What a Relief: Jim Brosnan

Jim Brosnan was one of the true pioneers of unvarnished sports journalism. His 1959 expose, The Long Season, while tame by today’s standards, was the first book of its kind, revealing life in the major leagues and preceding by a decade Jim Bouton‘s tell-all best-seller Ball Four.

Jim Brosnan was a key contributor to the Cincinnati Reds’ 1961 pennant. As the Reds’ bullpen ace, Brosnan was 10-4 with a 3.04 ERA and 16 saves.

Jim Brosnan was a key contributor to the Cincinnati Reds’ 1961 pennant. As the Reds’ bullpen ace, Brosnan was 10-4 with a 3.04 ERA and 16 saves.

The publication of The Long Season also coincided with what would be Brosnan’s most effective period as a major league reliever. He proved to be a major contributor to the Cincinnati Reds‘ pennant-winning season of 1961.

Brosnan was signed by the Chicago Cubs in 1946 and made his first appearance for the Cubs in 1954, when he went 1-0 in 18 relief appearances. He made the Chicago roster to stay in 1956, posting a 5-9 record as a starter and reliever with a 3.79 ERA. In 1957, working almost entirely out of the Cubs’ bullpen, Brosnan went 5-5 in 41 appearances.

In May of 1958, Brosnan was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for veteran shortstop Al Dark. He went 11-8 that season with a 3.35 ERA, working as both a starter and as a reliever. But from this point in his career on, Brosnan would find himself relied on more and more as a reliever, and with more and more success in that role.

After the start of the 1959 season, Brosnan was traded to the Reds for Hal Jeffcoat. He had a combined record of 9-6 in 1959, and emerged as the Reds’ relief ace in 1960 with a 7-2 record in 57 appearances, all but two in relief. Brosnan posted a 2.36 ERA and recorded 12 saves for the Reds in 1960.

Jim Brosnan’s 1960 memoir, The Long Season, was one of the first sports books to give fans an authentic glimpse of what happened in the clubhouse. It chronicled Brosnan’s 1959 season with the Cardinals and Reds.

Jim Brosnan’s 1960 memoir, The Long Season, was one of the first sports books to give fans an authentic glimpse of what happened in the clubhouse. It chronicled Brosnan’s 1959 season with the Cardinals and Reds.

In 1961, as Cincinnati claimed the National League pennant for the first time in more than two decades, Brosnan had his best season, going 10-4 with a 3.04 ERA in 53 relief appearances. He also posted a career-high 16 saves, closing for a starting rotation that featured Joey Jay, Jim O’Toole and Bob Purkey.

Brosnan went 4-4 for Cincinnati in 1962 with a 3.34 ERA and 13 saves. In 1963 he was traded to the Chicago White Sox for pitcher Dom Zanni, and finished the 1963 season at 3-8 with a combined ERA of 3.13 and 14 saves, all with the White Sox. At the end of the 1963 season he was released by Chicago, and retired at age 33.

During his nine-season major league career, Brosnan compiled a 55-47 record with 67 saves and a 3.54 ERA.

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