RIP to Dick Brodowski, who entered the major leagues as a teenager and pitched for 6 seasons, with two years of military service in between. He died on January 19 in Lynn, Mass. at the age of 86. He played for the Boston Red Sox (1952, 1955), Washington Senators (1956-57) and Cleveland Indians (1958-59).
Dick Brodowski was born on July 26, 1932 in Bayonne, N.J. He went to high school there and was signed as an amateur free agent by the Red Sox prior to the 1951 season. In his first season of professional ball, he won 21 games with the Marion (Ohio) Red Sox of the Class-D Ohio-Indiana League and struck out 212 batters in 204 innings. The thing was, he wasn’t supposed to be a pitcher! He was signed as a third baseman and only went to the mound when injuries wrecked the pitching staff. Manager Elmer Yoter took a chance on the Jersey kid with the strong arm, and it succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.
Incidentally, Brodowski batted .276 in 74 games with Marion, so he was a pretty good hitter.
The following season, he moved all the way up to the AAA Louisville Colonels as a pitcher and carried on his winning ways. He had a 7-1 record for the team in 10 starts, and the Red Sox brought him to the majors that June. The results were mixed, but the potential was pretty obvious. He had a 5-5 record and 4.40 ERA. On the down side, he gave up 12 home runs in 114-2/3 innings and walked 50 while striking out just 42, but he had some excellent performances. He threw back-to-back complete games against the Tigers and Yankees on June 25 and 30, respectively. The Yankees win was particularly impressive, as he held the Yanks to 4 hits while whiffing 8.
“He is the best pitcher we have faced this year,” said Yogi Berra.
Unfortunately, Brodowski’s youth worked against him. Since he didn’t turn 20 until July of 1952, he was drafted into military service and spent the next two years away from the game. This was during the Korean War, though he never went overseas. He came back to the Sox in 1955 but had an ERA of 5.63 after 16 relief appearances, so he was sent back to the minors. That November, he was traded from Boston to Washington in a 9-player deal that was mostly notable for bringing an aging Mickey Vernon to the Red Sox.
Brodowski struggled for his year-and-a-half in the Senators organization. He appeared in 13 games for the Senators over that time and had a 9.93 ERA. Washington shipped him to Cleveland in May 1957 for Bob Usher. He pitched for the Indians briefly in 1958 and 1959 and was excellent in his limited use. He tossed 10 scoreless innings for them in 1958 and had a 2-2 record and 1.80 ERA in 18 games in 1959. He also picked up 5 saves. In spite of that success, he was sent back to the minors in July after a couple of ineffective outings. He never appeared in the big leagues again. His last pro outing came in 1960 in Reading, where he gave up 4 runs in 4 innings of work.
For his MLB career, Brodowski had a 9-11 record and a 4.76 ERA in 72 games, 15 of which were starts. He had 5 complete games and 5 saves and struck out 85 batters in 215-2/3 innings of work. After his baseball career, he was a salesman for Metropolitan Life Insurance, according to his SABR biography. He then worked at Boston engineering firm Stone and Webster as security until his retirement.