Commentary

Buyer Beware

Broglio believes Cards knew of arm injury when trading him to Cubs for Brock

Updated: July 31, 2011, 12:36 PM ET
By William Weinbaum | Special to ESPNChicago.com

SAN JOSE, Calif., and COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Despite spending nearly a half-century as prominent evidence of the "curse" on the Cubs, Ernie Broglio cheerfully takes all calls that come his way for appearances, autographs and answers.

But until now, Broglio said, he's never publicly shared what he thinks is the key to the story behind his star-crossed arrival in Chicago. He added that plenty of people ask him what happened, but few, if any, ask him why he was involved in what might be the most lopsided trade ever.

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As a rookie pitcher with the Cardinals in 1959, the Bay Area native and his wife, Barbara, spent nearly $21,000 to buy a house in a residential neighborhood of San Jose, Calif. The next year Broglio won a league-high 21 games, had a 2.74 ERA, finished third in the Cy Young Award voting and doubled his salary to $20,000.

Many families with homes on their street have come and gone in the past 52 years. The Broglios, however, still live in the same house where they raised their four children.

Now a 75-year-old great-grandfather, Broglio has Type 2 diabetes, but he regularly takes long walks, goes golfing and tutors teenage pitchers.

[+] EnlargeBroglio
ESPNNow a 75-year-old great-grandfather, Broglio has Type 2 Diabetes, but he regularly golfs and tutors teenage pitchers.
The wall of fame in his throwback den flashes back to Broglio on the cover of Sports Illustrated facing Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda of the Giants and to plaques presented to him for the 1960 season when the young righty was St. Louis' finest. The wall also showcases shots of Hall of Fame legends Bob Gibson, Stan Musial, Sandy Koufax and Lou Brock.

Last week the white-haired and welcoming Broglio adjusted his glasses and drew close to the Brock photo to read aloud for an ESPN camera crew the inscription from the left fielder who was never his teammate. Brock wrote that Broglio was a "hellava (sic) player" and that "history and time have tied us together."

That history goes back to the trade deadline, June 15, 1964. That day began with Brock a Cub and Broglio a Cardinal.

Chicago had a 27-27 record, sufficient for sixth place in the 10-team National League and better than most years in an inglorious era. The perennial second-division team hadn't been to a World Series since 1945.

Things weren't much different at the moment for their archrival Cardinals, who hadn't made it to the Series since winning the championship in '46 and were in eighth place, three games under .500.

The two mediocre ballclubs swapped six players before the deadline, with the Cubs shipping Jack Spring, Paul Toth and Brock to the Cards for Doug Clemens, Bobby Shantz and Broglio.

Brock and Broglio were and remain the significant names.

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Broglio is up there, or more aptly down there, with Bartman and the Billy Goat in the annals of angst for baseball's longest-suffering franchise. Brock evokes Redbird reverence befitting the National League stolen-base king and 3,000-hit club member.

But when the trade was made, many considered the deal a steal -- for the Cubs. They had essentially exchanged an unproven and defensively challenged outfielder three days short of his 25th birthday for an established 28-year-old pitcher who'd won 18 games the previous season.

"Everybody thought it was a good trade at that time," Hall of Fame Cubs outfielder Billy Williams said last weekend in Cooperstown, where he returns annually for induction festivities. While describing Broglio as a "great pitcher," Williams gestured to demonstrate the precipitous drop of the "12 to 6" curveball he recalls the 6-foot-2 Broglio throwing as a Cardinal.

"Perhaps, at that time, the best curveball in baseball," according to Brock, who also was interviewed in Cooperstown.

"The only track record I had was two left feet," he said.

Hall of Famer Red Schoendienst, a Cardinals coach at the time, said last weekend the St. Louis management asked for his thoughts on Brock before the trade. He said he was impressed with Brock's speed and his potential, but "nobody knew that Lou was going to be good that quick and right off the bat."

Brock, who was concerned he'd be demoted to the minors until the move to St. Louis, said the trade instilled in him a new confidence because "I now had value -- who is that value? Ernie Broglio. What has he done? 20-game winner."

His former team's perspective, Brock said, was easy to understand.

"Broglio could be a starter as well as a long relief man and he had been a winner with the Cardinals, and there was no reason why he should not have been a winner in Chicago."

But Broglio said there was indeed a reason and that the Cubs have never known what he believes motivated the Cardinals to trade him besides the opportunity to get Brock.

"They got a heckuva ballplayer; they gave up damaged goods," Broglio said. "I think that they knew I had a bad arm."

Broglio said he was already over a problem he had experienced two years before, when he had cortisone shots every other start for a troublesome shoulder, but he had hurt his elbow late in '63 and was still suffering as he struggled to a 3-5 record at the time of the trade. He said he received regular treatment for the elbow from the Cardinals' trainer and occasional cortisone shots, too.

[+] EnlargeLou Brock
Getty ImagesLou Brock hit .297 and stole 888 bases in 16 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals.
"I think the Cardinals knew a lot -- a lot more than what I knew of the injury," Broglio said. "So that's why I think they decided that they send the bad arm problem, get rid of him."

Schoendienst said although he knew beforehand of St. Louis's interest in Brock, he wasn't aware of a desire to deal Broglio. "I'm sure the Cardinals didn't make the trade because they thought his arm was bad. I'm sure they didn't."

According to Broglio, there were telling signs in some of his bad performances.

"If I remember right, at one time I threw about four or five wild pitches in one ballgame and Bob Uecker was catching and I kind of jokingly said, 'How come you didn't protect me?' He couldn't. He couldn't have caught the ball or stopped the ball," Broglio said, laughing.

"They were so far in front of home plate that there was an indication that I had problems with my elbow."

The records from '64 reveal that Broglio threw three wild pitches in a game the Cardinals hosted on May 19. Uecker was behind the plate as Broglio also gave up five walks in 6 1/3 innings. The opponent and winner? The Chicago Cubs.

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Brock said that when he joined the Cardinals, manager Johnny Keane gave him marching, actually speeding, orders and said he needed to become the team's version of the Dodgers' record-setting base stealer, Maury Wills. Although he was skeptical, Brock said he came to consider it the green light that turned his career around.

Thriving immediately for his new team in his new role, Brock batted .348 and stole 33 bases as the catalyst for the surprising world champions of 1964. He spent 16 seasons in St. Louis, surpassed single-season and career stolen-base records set by Wills and Ty Cobb, won another World Series in '67 and a pennant in '68, and earned induction into the Hall of Fame in 1985.

"If he could have stayed with the Chicago Cubs and put those kinds of numbers on the board for the Chicago Cubs, I think you might be seeing we wouldn't have to wait another hundred years to see a World Series," Williams said.

Broglio had just four wins the rest of the '64 season with Chicago, and after his elbow locked up in August, he had surgery in November. Broglio returned to pitching three months later in spring training but allowed more than six runs a game for the Cubs in 1965 and '66. He won three games, lost 12 and never appeared again in the major leagues.

When told of Broglio's assertion that the Cardinals knew they were dealing away damaged goods, Williams said, "That's how the game was played then. Any time a general manager felt he could put stuff on another organization, that's what they did.

[+] EnlargeErnie Broglio
AP Photo/Harry L. HallErnie Broglio appeared in just 59 games for the Cubs, posting a 7-19 record and 5.40 ERA.
"When he came to Chicago, you really knew something happened, you knew something was going on," Williams said. "It probably lost 2 or 3 miles per hour off his fastball; the curveball didn't go down."

"[The Cubs] didn't have a clue about it, and I pitched with pain," Broglio said.

"In those days, you didn't approach the front office, you didn't approach anybody. I didn't want to lose my job."

Cardinals general manager Bing Devine, who engineered the Brock-for-Broglio deal, wasn't with the team to enjoy the first fall fruits of the trade. He was fired that August, before the team surged to the top of the standings, and was later named Executive of the Year by the Sporting News. St. Louis rehired him in 1968, after he had missed both World Series titles achieved with Brock.

Devine died in 2007 and Cardinals trainer Bob Bowman, who treated Broglio, and Cubs general manager John Holland, who traded for him, are also dead.

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The 1964 surgery to reset Broglio's ulnar nerve left a nine-inch scar on, above and below his elbow that he calls "snake river." And he said there's also numbness to this day in two of his fingers.

Although he laments returning so quickly from the operation and wonders whether his career might have been salvaged if Tommy John surgery had been an option back then, Broglio said he's not bitter about the trade or its enduring burden.

In fact, Broglio reaped a gratifying benefit from being traded for Brock -- a lasting friendship with him. Their most recent get-together was two years ago when Brock, whom Broglio calls a "great individual," invited him to a benefit in St. Louis for his 70th birthday.

"Ernie is top of the charts," Brock said. "He is a good man, a man with integrity. We have a good relationship because we laugh, we talk, and people, for whatever reason, are still interested [in the trade]."

Brock and Broglio were in Chicago for a Cubs old-timers game in 1987 and were introduced to the Wrigley Field crowd. The reaction to the announcement of Broglio's name, he said, was "probably the only standing ovation boos that any athlete would ever get."

But for Brock, whose superb career was emblematic of many a missed Cubs opportunity, the fans stood and were "clapping, hooraying and everything else," Broglio said.

A self-deprecating sense of humor has probably served Broglio well in coming to terms with his unfulfilled pitching promise and his role in the success of others.

"I congratulate all the Hall of Famers," he said. "Some I played ball with, some I helped put there."

William Weinbaum is an "Outside the Lines" producer and worked with Geoff Brown and Jeff Ausiello on this report and the Brock-for-Broglio TV feature scheduled to air on "Baseball Tonight" on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.

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