Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Astronomically Unlikely ERA of Pitchers From New Ulm, Minnesota

By The Common Man

With the last out of last night’s Twins win, our giveaway here at The Platoon Advantage came to an end. As a refresher, in honor of Bill’s move to rural Southwest Minnesota, we asked the question: “What is the combined ERA of every pitcher who was ever born, died, or buried in New Ulm, Minnesota?”

The hard part, undoubtedly, was identifying the pitchers who hailed from this small town. If you go to Baseball, you’ll find a player bio page, that allows you to see every player who was born, died, and buried in each state. After clicking on Minnesota, you can sort the results by city. As it turns out, there is one player buried in New Ulm, though he was a position player. No former MLBers have died there either. Of the six players who were born there (a remarkable number, given the town is just 13,000 people strong today, two of them are pitchers. They are Doc Hamann and Fred Bruckbauer.

In all of baseball history, there are 21 pitchers who were inserted into games and never recorded an out in their entire MLB career. Two of those players are Doc Hamann and Fred Bruckbauer. What are the odds? Probably astronomical.

Anyway, there are no records of Hamann ever pitching anywhere but for Cleveland in 1922. As a 21 year old, he got into a single September game for the 5th place Indians, in the 9th inning and his team down 9-5, and faced seven batters. Three of those batters walked, three got hits, and another was hit by a pitch. Hamann also threw a wild pitch. He was charged with six earned runs. Understandably, he was not offered a spot on the 1923 squad.

Bruckbauer, on the other hand, was considered something of a prospect. The Senators signed him out of the University of Minnesota in 1959 for $30,000 and assigned him to their minor league squad in Fox Cities, where he performed well. Senators manager Cookie Lavagetto wrote, “I’m anxious to look at Fred Bruckbauer, a bonus kid we signed out of the U of Minnesota last June. He won 12 games in barely half a season in the Three-I League.” The young pitcher seemed to break camp with the Twins in 1961, and finally got into a game on April 25. Starter Ted Sadowski had given up seven runs in less than three innings of work, and Bruckbauer was brought on to start the third inning with the Twins down 7-0.

Dick Howser met the rookie with a double to leftfield, and was singled in by Jay Hankins. Jerry Lumpe walked, putting runners on first and second with noboy out. Third baseman Lou Klimchock then doubled to right, bringing home both Hankins and Lumpe, and Bruckbauer was removed from the contest. The Twins would give up 10 more runs on the day and lose 20-2. Eight days later, the Twins optioned their prospect down to Syracuse, where he posted a 4.71 ERA. After getting into 8 minor league games as a reliever in 1962, Bruckbauer was done. There’s nothing that explains what happened, but there may have been some kind of injury, as he was only 24 at the time.

Given that neither Hamann nor Bruckbauer retired even a single batter, and that they allowed a combined 9 earned runs, Hamann and Bruckbauer’s combined ERA is infinite.

We got many correct answers, but there can be only one winner. So we drew at random from all the correct responses we got, and our winner is Jake Hillesheim. Jake is going to receive a complete set of the 1991 World Series on DVD, which contains both the original CBS audio feed featuring Jack Buck and a surprisingly not obnoxious Tim McCarver and the Twins radio feed featuring the immortal Herb Carneal, from A&E Home Entertainment. He’s also going to get Magic in Minnesota, a commemorative DVD celebrating the 1991 championship season. You can purchase both discs for yourself by going to A&E Home Entertainment’s web site, and you can purchase Twins tickets, merchandise, and the complete set of 1987 World Series DVDs on

Congratulations to Jake and thanks to all of our readers who sent in entries.

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