Jerry Augustine

This article was written by Rick Schabowski

Jerry Augustine (MILWAUKEE BREWERS)It’s very rare when an athlete plays high school, college, and professionally in his native state, but Jerry Augustine, a left-handed pitcher for the Brewers for a decade, went even further by being a baseball coach for an NCAA Division I school (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), and in 2009 he has been a TV analyst for the major-league team he played for, the Milwaukee Brewers.

Gerald Lee Augustine was born to Donald and Elerene Augustine on July 24, 1952, at old St. Mary’s hospital in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  The family lived in nearby Kewaunee. He was part of a big family, with brothers and sisters Dale, David, Susan, Joe, Mark, and Randy, as well as half-brothers Donald and Orville, the latter two half-brothers were instrumental in Jerry becoming a left-hander. Donald, who was right-handed, and Orville, who was left-handed, debated on how Jerry should throw. Orville settled the debate by giving Jerry a left-hander’s glove.

At Kewaunee High School Gerald starred in baseball, football, and basketball. His high-school classmates included Jack Novak, who played in the NFL, and Dale Koehler, who played basketball at the University of Wisconsin.

Augustine played baseball at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. While in La Crosse he and his high-school sweetheart, Nancy Flaherty, were married and had their first child, Tammy. They later added Todd, Ted, Matthew, and Melanie to their family.

Augustine helped the UWL Eagles win back-to-back conference championships in 1972 and 1973. He was selected to the All-Wisconsin State University Conference first team. As a starter, he posted 14 wins with 186 strikeouts. Many years later he looked back fondly on his college days: “As you go through life, you go through different areas. When I look back at La Crosse, I was given the opportunity to not only grow as a baseball player, but to grow as a person and get my education. La Crosse is very special to me because of that.”1 Augustine also praised his baseball coach, saying, “Bill Terry was the right coach for me. It was Bill’s way of handling people that really made me grow up as a person. I don’t think I would be able to go on and play and achieve the things the way I did without that. He helped me become a better baseball player and a better person.”2 Augustine graduated with a degree in physical education and health, and later he taught during the offseason.

Augustine was drafted by the Brewers in the 15th round of the June 1974 free-agent draft and was signed for what he described as “a small bonus” by Brewers scout Emil Belich, who also signed Paul Molitor and Jim Gantner.3

 

The Brewers sent Augustine to Danville (Illinois) of the Class A Midwest League, where he started 12 games, completed 6, and posted a 7-4 record with a 2.56 ERA. Danville, was the winner of the second half of the league’s split season, then won the league championship in the playoffs. During the playoffs Augustine pitched a two-hitter against Quad Cities, striking out 14 in the 1-0 win. He had a no-hitter going until the eighth inning.

Augustine reported to the Brewers’ 1975 spring-training camp at Sun City, Arizona, on March 3 and in the first hour of the camp he injured his knee so severely during pitcher’s fielding practice covering first base that he needed surgery. He was out of action until June 28, when he joined the Sacramento Solons, the Brewers’ Triple-A affiliate in the Pacific Coast League. After pitching in short stints, Augustine moved into the starting rotation in July.4 

 

The Solons played their games at Hughes Stadium, a football field located on the campus of Sacramento City College. The park favored hitters, with a left-field dimension of 251 feet, with a screen erected. In 15 games (11 starts) Augustine posted a 4-3 record with a 4.78 ERA and three complete games. When the major-league roster limits were raised to 40 on September 1, Augustine joined the Brewers and made his major-league debut on September 9 against Baltimore, coming into the game in the eighth inning with two out in relief of Larry Anderson. The first batter he faced, Mark Belanger, doubled. Ken Singleton singled to center field, driving in Belanger. Augustine ended the inning on a fly out by Paul Blair.

After a three-inning, no-hit performance against the New York Yankees the next day, Augustine got his first start on September 16, against the Yankees at County Stadium. He wasn’t informed that he would be the starter until the morning of the game when the Brewers were boarding a bus at Boston’s Logan Airport for the flight to Milwaukee. “Ken McBride (the Brewers pitching coach) told me about it,” Augustine said after the game. “I got nervous, of course, but I was determined to do well.”5 Augustine picked up his first major-league victory, 5-2, going 8⅓ innings and giving up two runs on nine hits. Brewers catcher Darrell Porter was impressed with Augustine’s performance, saying, “He’s aggressive and he is a competitor.”6 Augustine, obviously, was very happy, “It’s everybody’s dream come true.”7

Because of the short notice, none of Augustine’s family could attend the game, including his wife and their three-year-old daughter, Tammy, who had a cold. Augustine wasn’t upset, explaining, “My wife and I have a thing going. It’s a superstition. Every time she watched me pitch for the first time I didn’t do well. This was my first start in the majors, so it was best she didn’t watch me, but there’ll be other times.”8

Augustine pitched his first complete game on September 27 against the Tigers, a seven-hit, 5-2 victory. Brewers manager Del Crandall was impressed, commenting, “He’s got to figure in this club’s plans. He’s had very little experience, but he takes it to ’em. He’s not a nibbler. His ball is very alive, he works hard and he has good aptitude. Kenny McBride has worked with him on his curveball, and it has really come along.”9 Reflecting on his one month with the Brewers, Augustine said, “It’s been really exciting. I really enjoyed it. Something super.”10

During the offseason Augustine pitched winter ball in the Dominican Republic.

Augustine began the 1976 season in the bullpen. He didn’t make his first start until June 10. After five straight losses he was 2-7 on July 16. But between July 20 and September 3 he went 6-2 with a 2.18 ERA.

On July 24, Augustine’s 24th birthday, he pitched his first major-league shutout, a four-hit, eight-strikeout, 5-0 win over the Orioles.

In his next starting assignment, against the Tigers on July 28 at County Stadium, Augustine lost a heartbreaker. His 21-scoreless-innings streak ended when Pedro Garcia hit a sacrifice fly scoring Alex Johnson in the top of ninth, giving the Tigers a 1-0 win. After the game, manager Alex Grammas said of Augustine, “I think he’s reached the point where he’s much more relaxed. Just from looking at him before the game tonight, I got the feeling that he had arrived. I think he knows what he has to do, and he pitched one hell of a game tonight. Damn, he pitched a good game.”11

Augustine got revenge against Detroit at Tiger Stadium on September 3 with a complete-game, five-hit, 11-2 win over Mark Fidrych.

Augustine ended the season with a 9-12 record with a 3.30 earned-run average, his major-league best. He was named to the Topps American League Rookie All-Star Team, took second to Mark Fidrych as The Sporting News Rookie Pitcher of the Year in the American League, and was voted the Brewers’ Rookie of the Year by the Wisconsin Baseball Writers’ Association. After the season he signed a two-year contract, worked in the Brewers ticket office, and took a real-estate course.

In 1977 Augustine started 33 games and led the 68-94 Brewers in victories with 12, defeats (18), and complete games (10), and pitched a career-high 209 innings, second best on the team to Jim Slaton. He pitched seven complete games in May, his best month, compiling a 4-3 record with a 3.10 ERA. Two of the three losses in May were tough ones. On May 11, Augustine lost a 4-3 five-hitter against Cleveland with three of the runs unearned, and on May 24, he lost at Baltimore, 2-1, a game in which he pitched another five-hitter. After Mike Hegan was released, Augustine was elected the Brewers’ player representative and assumed his duties after the All-Star Game.

Augustine set a personal high in 1978 with 13 wins. He lost 12 games, ranked third on the team with 188⅓ innings pitched, and had nine complete games. His finest stretch as a starter was in June when he allowed three runs in 32⅓ innings in victories over the Blue Jays, Mariners, Indians, and Yankees. His 4-1/2.48 ERA earned him the Brewer Pitcher of the Month Award for June.

 

On August 28 Augustine pitched a two-hit, 10-1 victory over the Tigers. He also pitched two three-hitters and two five-hitters during the season. He was 3-1 against the World Series champion Yankees.

A game against the Blue Jays on September 7 was his final start of the 1978 season. He was sent to the bullpen and rookie Mark Bomback, a call-up from Spokane, took his spot in the starting rotation. Brewers manager George Bamberger said the switch to the bullpen was not a demotion. “From here on in, the bullpen will play an important part for us,” Bamberger said. “Augie gives us two left-handers (along with Bob McClure) in the bullpen.”12 In his last four relief appearances, he didn’t allow a run in 4⅓ innings. Bamberger was pleased with Augustine’s performance out of the bullpen as a short man, saying after the season, “I liked the way he handled himself. He took charge. Maybe that’s the right situation for him next season.”13

In 1979 Augustine pitched out of the bullpen except for two starts. He appeared in 43 games and posted a 9-6 record with a 3.47 ERA, with five saves. (He was 1-1 in his starts.) He had a 5-1 record at County Stadium. In his longest relief appearance, on September 25, he worked eight innings in a 7-6 win over the Mariners. Between May 9 and July 23, during a span of 20 appearances, he didn’t allow a home run. He finished the season on a high note, posting a 5-1 record, with a 0.92 ERA from August 15 to September 25. He was named the Brewers’ Rolaids Relief Pitcher of the Year.

In midseason Augustine spoke about his new role: “I kind of miss being a starter and yet, I’ve been having just as much fun out of the bullpen. I’m able to pitch in more games. That’s what I really enjoy about the bullpen. The toughest thing when you’re in the bullpen is that you have to be mentally ready every day.”14

Augustine pitched in 39 games for the Brewers in 1980, posting a 4-3 record with two saves and a 4.52 ERA. His only start came on May 9, when he lost to the Orioles, 5-2.

Augustine was excused the last two weeks of the season to go to the Arizona Instructional League and work on his delivery with George Bamberger. Bamberger had resigned as the Brewers manager on September 7, 1980, and was hired as a special consultant to Harry Dalton, who sent him to Arizona.  The Brewers wanted to see if it would be helpful if Augustine shortened his stride and kept his body back. Of this experience, Augustine said, “I think it had a positive influence on me. When you change your delivery almost completely the way I did, it’s quite a change.”15

In the strike-shortened 1981 season, Augustine appeared in 27 games, posting a 2-2 record in 61⅓ innings with two saves. He started two games, one on April 30 when he substituted for Pete Vuckovich, who was out with tightness in his right shoulder, and defeated the Angels, 12-1. Augustine pitched seven innings, allowing just two hits. In his other start, on May 25, Augustine went just two innings and lost to the Tigers, 12-3. August was an especially good month. He had eight appearances, earning a win and a save.

In 1982 Augustine pitched in 20 games and had a 1-3 record. June was a good month as he went 1-0 with a 1.08 ERA. On June 20, he pitched 4⅓ scoreless innings against Detroit, allowing only one hit and getting the victory in relief of Jim Slaton. He threw his first complete game in four years on July 19, against the Twins, allowing two earned runs in a 6-4 loss. After the Brewers acquired Don Sutton from the Astros on August 30 in a trade to help them make the playoffs, Augustine was designated assignment.

It was difficult not being on the roster for the 1982 postseason. Twenty-five years later, Augustine said, “I was replaced on the roster by Don Sutton, not a bad guy to be replaced with.”16 Still, it was a difficult adjustment for Augustine. “At the time I didn’t handle it very well. I really struggled with it. It was a real tough time for me personally. I had some good, long talks with Jamie (Easterly).Teddy Simmons took me aside and had a really good perspective. He said, ‘You know, Augie, if you weren’t here, we would not be here.’ You learn from those things and put it in perspective. It did take 25 guys, and with us, probably 30 guys.”17

Even though not on the roster, Augustine was given permission to suit up and sit next to manager Harvey Kuenn in the dugout. He loved the experience. “I really learned a lot about baseball because I sat there next to Harvey,” he said in 2007. “I listened to everything they did. Harvey would turn to me every now and then and say, ‘Augie, what do you think here?’ He made you feel like you were part of it, no matter what was going on.”18

Even before the 1983 regular season began, the Brewers had issues with their starting pitching. An arthogram of Pete Vuckovich taken in March revealed a tear in his rotator cuff sending him to the disabled list. After Dwight Bernard was released, Augustine was expected to fill the gap as the Brewers’ fifth starter. The Brewers started the season with three complete games by Sutton, Mike Caldwell, and Augustine. Augustine pitched 8⅓ innings of scoreless ball against the Angels until Bobby Grich hit a three-run homer as the Brewers won 5-3. It was the first time the Brewers had three complete games in a row since August 1980, and the first time they had ever opened the season with three complete games.

In his next start, against the Blue Jays on April 14, Augustine had to leave the game when he strained knee ligaments fielding a bunt by Willie Upshaw. He was out for two weeks, and in his next start against the White Sox, on April 27, Carlton Fisk hit a line drive off Augustine’s forearm. The injury was so severe that Augustine went on the disabled list until May 20. Augustine joked about the incident: “I always said that the Lord would tell me when it’s time to retire. This time he told me to become a better defensive pitcher.”19

Pitching coach Pat Dobson commented on the injury: “He can’t catch a break. He gets over one injury and he gets another. He was really starting to get his feet on the ground. He pitched well both times out. Now he’ll have to wait and start all over again. That’s tough.”20 Augustine started seven games and then went to the bullpen for the remainder of the season.

 

Augustine pitched in four games for the Brewers in 1984, the last one on April 11, working 3⅔ innings against the Angels, allowing no earned runs. When the Brewers took Rick Waits off the disabled list, Augustine was designated for assignment. He was sent to Vancouver (Pacific Coast League). On June 6 versus Salt Lake City, he allowed one hit in 7⅓ innings. He posted a 3-8 record with a 4.55 ERA. At the end of the season he declared himself a free agent but was not picked up by any team.

In 1985 Augustine pitched for the Rochester Red Wings, the Orioles’ Triple-A team, and had a 0.92 ERA through early June. He pitched 17⅓ innings before allowing an earned run. He picked up his fifth victory of the season on August 6, throwing 3⅓ scoreless innings in relief against Columbus. He posted a 6-3 record and had six saves and a 3.96 ERA.

After appearing in five games for Rochester and 34 for Columbus posting a 3-6 record, with six saves and a 4.14 ERA, Augustine retired from baseball in 1986. It was obviously a tough decision. Augustine commented in 2007, “I don’t know if I’d say it was hard going back to the minors. I was actually throwing the ball better at the end than I did with Milwaukee. I was throwing harder, I had a better breaking ball, and I adopted a changeup that I could throw for strikes. If I had gone back the next year, I think I could have made it back. But we had twins and I made a family decision. I just missed my family too much. I had five kids, and it was time to spend time with them.”21

After deciding against a teaching career, in November 1986 Augustine opened an insurance agency in West Allis, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee, which as of 2019 was still in business. He implemented lessons learned from playing professional baseball: “When managers come to the mound to talk to a pitcher, every eye in the stadium is on that conversation. Your words need to be direct and to the point. The same is true when I talk to clients. I learned to be direct and always be honest. It helped me learn as a player, and it has helped me succeed in business.” Did it help that he was a former major leaguer? “Name recognition was important when I started, and it remains important today. If people do not recall my name from my days with the Brewers, they’ll be reminded the moment they walk through the door.”22

In 1995 Augustine was named the baseball coach at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. In 12 seasons the team posted a 347-297-1 record and made three NCAA tournaments. In the 1999 tournament, UWM defeated top-ranked Rice.

The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse inducted Augustine into its Wall of Fame in 1984, and the Milwaukee Brewers put him on their Wall of Honor in 2014.

In 2009 he began working as a Brewers’ Live Color Analyst for Fox Sports Wisconsin for the pre- and postgame shows and filled in as a radio broadcaster in 2014.

 

Sources

In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author had a personal conversation with Jerry Augustine, and accessed Retrosheet.org, Baseball-Reference.com, Newspapers.com, Paper of Record, the 2018 Milwaukee Brewers Media Guide, and SABR.org.

 

Notes

1 Alex Vandenhouten, “Former Brewer Jerry Augustine: La Crosse Is a Baseball Town,” La Crosse Tribune, March 2, 2017.

2 Jeff Brown, “La Crosse Instrumental in Jerry Augustine’s Formative Years — On and Off the Field,” La Crosse Tribune, March 1, 2017.

3 Lou Chapman, “Brewers Happy Over List to Portside,” The Sporting News, September 18, 1976: 15.

4 Lou Chapman, “Yankees Tee Off on New Brewers,” Milwaukee Sentinel, September 11, 1975: 2, 1.

5 Lou Chapman, “Brewers Find Rookie Hero,” Milwaukee Sentinel, September 17, 1975: 2, 1.

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid.

8 Ibid.

9 Mike Gonring, “A Promotional Dream — State Pitcher Wins,” Milwaukee Journal, September 28, 19752, 1.

10 Ibid.

11 Mike Gonring, “Even a 1-0 Defeat Fails to Ruffle New Augustine,” Milwaukee Journal, July 29, 1976: 2, 12.

12 “Augustine Is Back in Bullpen,” Milwaukee Sentinel, September 9, 1978: 2, 6.

13 Mike Gonring, “Can Augustine Cure Brewer Bullpen Woe?” The Sporting News, November 4, 1978: 47.

14 Mike Gonring, “Ex-Starter Augustine Brewers’ New Stopper,” The Sporting News, June 30, 1979: 18.

15 Tom Flaherty, “Augustine Has a Super Tutor,” The Sporting News, November 15, 1980: 50.

16 Tom Haudricourt, “Where Have You Gone, ’82 Brewers?” KCI Sports, 2007: 9.

17 Haudricourt: 80.

18 Ibid.

19 Peter Gammons, “A.L. Beat,” The Sporting News, May 23, 1983: 25.

20 Tom Flaherty, “Hard Luck Hounds Hurler Augustine,” The Sporting News, May 16, 1983: 24.

21 Haudricourt.

22 Dan Aznoff, “Ex-Players Turn Discipline Into Pay Dirt with 2nd Careers,” Property Casualty 360, July 30, 2003

Full Name

Gerald Lee Augustine

Born

July 24, 1952 at Kewaunee, WI (USA)

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