1967, 1969-1971

KEN BRETT   P

Ken Brett was born on September 18, 1948, in Brooklyn. The family then lived for a little while in the town of Moundsville, West Virginia, and then completed their cross-country journey to Southern California.

All four of his brothers played professional baseball. Baby brother George is, of course, enshrined in the Hall of Fame. The eldest, John, and third son, Bobby, played in the minors until injuries derailed their careers.

His father recalled the 10-year-old Ken hitting two home runs over a 220-foot fence. At 15, Ken helped the El Segundo All-Stars capture the 1964 Babe Ruth League national championship. In that tournament, he no-hit a team from New Orleans.

Ken was a good student and was student-body secretary at El Segundo Junior High School in 1961. He also had the grades for Stanford, USC, and UCLA.

Ken played football and basketball in high school until he broke a leg in his junior year, but his first love was always baseball. He was the California Interscholastic Federation Player of the Year in 1966, drawing the attention of many baseball people. He was selected by the Red Sox with the fourth pick of the June 1966 amateur draft and received a $100,000 bonus, plus money for college, when he signed.

He struggled that first season in the New York-Penn League and went on to play winter ball in the Florida Instructional League. Even though he had only turned 19, the big leaguers were already impressed with his fastball.

In 1967 Ken pitched for Winston-Salem of the Carolina League and Pittsfield of the Eastern League, putting up some strong numbers with  219 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.95. He was a late-September call-up to the Red Sox and made his major-league debut, pitching two innings to finish up a game against the Cleveland Indians.

Because he was a September call-up, Ken wasnít expected to be on the 1967 World Series roster, but Bill Landis went into the service and Sparky Lyle developed late-season arm trouble. The Red Sox got approval from both Commissioner William Eckert and the Cardinals to put Brett on the postseason roster. He pitched twice in the World Series, becoming the youngest pitcher to ever appear in the World Series. He pitched 1 1/3 innings, with no runs, one strikeout, and one walk.

Then, not two weeks after the World Series, he started a six-month tour of duty with the Army and served as a medic. After he finished his military duty, he returned too quickly and hurt his elbow, an injury that plagued him the rest of his career. 

He threw only 29 innings at Triple-A Louisville in 1968. In 1969 he opened the season with the Red Sox, but was sent down to Louisville after three rocky starts. He was not called back up until the rosters expanded in September and went back to the Florida Instructional League that winter, to work on his curve and changeup to complement his fastball.

In 1970 he spent the entire year on the Red Sox major-league roster, but spent more time in the Army Reserve. He started 14 games and also worked out of the bullpen. He again played winter ball, this time in Puerto Rico for the San Juan Senators and was named to the Puerto Rico All-Star team.

But his winter-ball success failed to carry over into the 1971 major-league season. He appeared in only 29 games, starting two, with a 5.34 ERA. He then devoted another two weeks to Army Reserve duty.

The Red Sox finally gave up on Ken, trading him to the Brewers in October as part of a 10-player deal. He pitched one season for the Brewers, mostly as a starter but spent three weeks on the disabled list, with a lower back pain in July and August. In October 1972, he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies.

His 1973 season with the Phillies was one of his best in the major leagues. He ended up with a 13-9 record and a 3.44 ERA and also set the major-league record for a pitcher, by hitting home runs in four consecutive games.

Despite his solid season, the Phillies traded him to the Pittsburgh Pirates in October 1973. Ken went on to have another excellent season, finishing 13-9 with 10 complete games and three shutouts with an ERA of 3.30. He also contributed two home runs in consecutive games and led all major-league pitchers with 15 RBIs and a .310 batting average and was named to the All-Star team. But his elbow woes made him miss more than a month of action, from August to September.

His 1974-75 offseason was a busy one. He took courses at Boston University and also had surgery to remove chips and a bone spur from his left elbow. He signed back on with the Pirates for the 1975 season, however, his elbow continued to be a problem, and he reinjured it during a spring-training game, beginning the season on the disabled list.

Ken was traded to the New York Yankees in December 1975. He did finally get to go up against his younger brother, George in a spring-training game. George took Ken long and deep with a booming 425-foot home run.

Ken began the season in the Yankee bullpen but was traded to the White Sox in May, after appearing in only two games. His 1976 season for the White Sox was solid if unspectacular. The season highlight came in May, when he mowed down the first 23 Angels and took a no-hitter with two outs into the ninth inning, before giving up a controversial single.

After beginning 1977 locked in a contract battle with the White Sox, Ken struggled on the mound. His left elbow continued to bother him, and he was forced to leave his third start of the year. In June 1977, at the trading deadline, he was traded once again, this time to the California Angels. His record for the Angels was only 7-10, but included five complete games. 

The 1978 season opened with Ken in the starting rotation but he alternated between starting and relieving for the entire season. The Angels waived him in April 1979. Later that month, Brett signed with the Minnesota Twins and appeared in only nine games with the Twins, all in relief. He was back in the Los Angeles area later that month when he signed with the Dodgers in June, his ninth major-league team. 

Ken pitched out of the bullpen for the Dodgers and began 1980 as part of the Dodgers bullpen plan, but he hurt his arm in his first spring outing and was released before pitching again. 

He was out of major-league baseball for most of the summer, playing for the semipro Orange County Aís, until he signed to play with his brother George in Kansas City, in August. He joined the Royals and pitched in eight games to finish out the season with them. Ken also helped George with the media pressure during his drive to .400, and didnít want it overstated.

The 1980 Royals went on to sweep the Yankees in the AL Championship Series, but lost to the Phillies in the World Series. Ken was on the roster for both the Championship Series and the World Series, but didnít appear in a game.

Ken finished his major-league career with the Royals in 1981, appearing in 22 games. He was waived by the Royals in November 1981, ending his pitching career. 

He remained active in the community during this twilight of his career. He continued to appear in charity baseball games, was a grand marshal at parades, and helped other charitable causes and baseball clinics. He co-owned a minor-league baseball team, the Spokane Indians, and a minor-league hockey team, the Spokane Chiefs. He was a TV baseball color commentator for the Seattle Mariners and the California Angels, as well as appearing in beer commercials. 

He also was involved in restaurants with his brothers and appeared in the 1994 movie, "The Scout" as himself.

Ken Brett had brain cancer and died in Spokane, Washington, at the age of 55, on November 18, 2003.