Mark Brouhard isn’t one of the names people think of when they discuss the 1982 Brewers. Many other players who were a part of Harvey’s Wallbangers went on for storied, even Hall of Fame-worthy careers. Paul Molitor, Robin Yount, Rollie Fingers, Don Sutton, Cecil Cooper … this team was a who’s who of great Brewers, and may have arguably been the greatest Brewers roster ever assembled. With that in mind, Brouhard’s presence is easy to overlook at first. However, Milwaukee’s World Series run may not have come to fruition had it not been for Brouhard’s contributions in his lone playoff appearance during that fateful 1982 season.
Mark Steven Brouhard was born on May 22, 1956, in Burbank, California. Despite his father’s wishes that he take up hunting or fishing, Brouhard’s mother persuaded him to play baseball. “She liked the sport and she urged me to play in a park league,” he recalled in a 1979 interview with The Sporting News.1 “She always wanted me out of the house. I guess I caused too much trouble. She encouraged me to play sandlot ball. I liked hunting and fishing, but I liked baseball better.”
He remained in the Burbank area for much of his pre-professional life, ultimately attending El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills, California, where he garnered all-conference honors after batting .395 for the season. He played at Los Angeles Pierce College in 1974 and 1975, batting over .300 both seasons as a catcher, and was named to the all-conference team. (Fellow major leaguers Greg Garrett, Rick Auerbach, and Doug DeCinces also played for Pierce, a junior college.)
After two years at Pierce, Brouhard entered the January 1976 amateur draft. (At this draft session, teams would select from junior-college players and those whose eligibility had expired.) The California Angels selected Brouhard with their fourth-round pick.
Brouhard felt he was overlooked as a draft prospect. “I wasn’t drafted very high and I wasn’t even signed as a draftee,” he told The Sporting News in 1979. “I thought about giving up baseball.”2 This was before Angels scout Joe Carpenter took him to a team workout camp. “I went there every single Sunday for about five or six months,” Broussard said. “I guess I improved and I was signed.”3
Although Brouhard was primarily a catcher during his prep days, the Angels seemed intent on using him as an outfielder, and he primarily acted as a designated hitter in his first pro season (44 of 69 games). Commenting on his defense, Brouhard was relatively bearish. “There’s no doubt about it. My batting is better than my fielding. Even though I was signed as a catcher, I’ve never played a game as a catcher. I don’t think they’re too high on my arm,” he said in 1979.4
Assigned to the Idaho Fall Angels of the rookie-level Pioneer League, Broussard batted .314 in 291 plate appearances with 7 home runs and 57 RBIs. (His BA was only third-best on the team but sixth in the league.)
Brouhard’s next stop was in the Arizona Instructional League. This isn’t the same as today’s Arizona Fall League, where the most prestigious prospects gather to tout their talents before major-league scouts. Brouhard earned league all-star honors.5
Brouhard’s next assignment was a full-season league. In 1977 he spent the entire year with the Salinas Angels in the Class-A California League. In 136 games (which would prove to be the highest number of games he’d ever play in a single season), he batted .278 with 16 homers. Since the 21-year-old Brouhard was younger than the average player at the level, the Angels had him repeat the level the following year.
Before heading back to Salinas, however, Brouhard took another tour of the Arizona Instructional League. This proved to be a good move, as he finished with an unofficial .400 batting average and another all-star selection.6
In his second year in the California League, Brouhard improved markedly. His batting average jumped up 32 points to .310, and his OPS skyrocketed nearly 100 points. A home run he hit in the Salinas ballpark in June was touted as having traveled an improbable 600 feet, and spurred this item in The Sporting News:
Managers Stan Wasiak of Lodi (California) and Chuck Cottier of Salinas were in agreement on one thing June 26: the homer hit by the Angels’ Mark Brouhard was the longest either of the veteran pilots had ever seen. The ball was estimated to have traveled 600 feet in the air. It cleared the left field fence, the stadium parking lot and a row of houses beyond, landing in the parking lot of a market.7
The team later measured the drive at 533 feet. Real or not, and other long home runs Broussard hit during the season earned the nickname “Mad Bomber.”8
After this strong showing, Brouhard was moved up to the Double-A El Paso Diablos of the Texas League for 1979, and posted an MVP and all-star season. Brouhard batted a league-leading .350 with 28 home runs, 107 RBIs, and 97 runs scored en route to winning the league’s first Triple Crown since 1927 … it seemed. But a recheck of the statistics showed that Jim Tracy of Midland had accumulated enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title, outhitting Brouhard by five points.9
That wasn’t enough to earn him a spot on the Angels’ roster just yet, and Brouhard was eligible to be taken in the Rule 5 draft at the 1979 Winter Meetings in Toronto. He was plucked from the Angels organization by the Milwaukee Brewers.
Many people were surprised, as the Brewers already had their fair share of right-handed power bats in the lineup. But Brewers general manager Harry Dalton thought Brouhard’s bat was simply too good to pass up. “We didn’t think he would still be available,” Dalton said. “His bat was just too attractive not to take a chance.”10
Brewers farm director Ray Poitevint was also high on Brouhard. “We tried to make a trade for him [in 1979] on the minor-league level,” Poitevint said. “He’s a hitting fool.”11 But the outlook for Brouhard wasn’t as good as it might have been had he remained with California. If the Brewers wanted to keep him in the organization, they would have to keep him on the major-league roster for all of the 1980 season. Otherwise, they’d have to offer him back to the Angels for half his draft price of $25,000. This was a daunting task considering that the Brewers already had outfielders Gorman Thomas, Sixto Lezcano, Ben Oglivie, and Larry Hisle. The expectation was that Brouhard would likely only contribute as a pinch-hitter with an occasional start in the outfield or as the designated hitter.12
This expectation did indeed become reality. Brouhard played in only 45 games (13 starts in the field) for Milwaukee in 1980. He batted .232 with 5 home runs. This was the first time Brouhard was ever relegated to the bench full-time in his playing career. “I’ve never sat in my life, not even in Little League,” he said. “It’s been a little bit of an adjustment for me. … Sometimes it gets depressing, sitting a lot. At least I’m here, and that’s been my goal. Basically, I think I prefer being here instead of in Triple A, but sometimes I wish I could play more.”13
The Brewers felt the same way at the time. “Naturally, the ideal situation would be to put him where he can play every day,” commented Buck Rodgers, the Brewers’ acting manager while George Bamberger was sidelined after heart bypass surgery. “In absence of that, he’s getting a lot of work.” The work Rodgers was discussing included not only fielding drills and batting practice, but also workouts at first base to increase his versatility off the bench.14
Broussard did manage to make some impact during his first major-league season. He collected his first major-league hit after replacing an ejected Sixto Lezcano against the Twins on May 24, then followed that up with a diving catch in right field. He hit his first big-league homer the next day.
With full control of Brouhard heading into the 1981 season, the Brewers were finally able to send him to the minors for more seasoning. He started the season with the Vancouver Canadians of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. He got into only 16 games with Vancouver before an injury to Paul Molitor led to his being summoned back to Milwaukee. He had 199 plate appearances with the Brewers and batted .274.
Manager Buck Rodgers praised Broussard’s defense. “Everything he does isn’t pretty out there,” Rodgers said. “Everything he gets to, he catches. He’s not a bad outfielder, in fact, he’s better than average. He just doesn’t always look good doing it.”15
Brouhard wasn’t able to stick with the Brewers for their 1981 playoff run. Shortly before the American League Division Series against the Yankees, he pulled a calf muscle and was unable to play in the series, in which the Yankees ousted the Brewers from the postseason.
Heading into the 1982 campaign, the Brewers thought of getting Brouhard more playing time by moving Molitor to third base. This would create a chain reaction in the lineup that would move Gorman Thomas back into center field and open up right field for Brouhard. “I would like that,” Brouhard said. “But they haven’t committed themselves in any way. I think I have to go to spring training and do the job and try to earn the position. I don’t think anything is guaranteed in this game, especially for me.”16
Most expected Brouhard to win the job out of the gate, and he did just that. Brouhard showed up to spring training “about 20 pounds lighter than , worked hard and had a good spring.”17 He started in right field on Opening Day. Things changed quickly, however, as he wound up ceding much of his playing time to Charlie Moore, who got off to a torrid start to begin the season. Although Brouhard did his job, the man affectionately known by Brewers fans as “Big Bro” was forced to wait on the bench even more.18
Even though it was simply a “hot bat” that had Moore playing over Brouhard in right field, it seemed as if Brouhard was largely passed over for the remainder of the season. The Californian wound up playing in just 40 games for Milwaukee, batting a modest .269 with 4 home runs and 10 RBIs. He was demoted to Triple-A Vancouver for a bit, producing a .282 batting average in 17 contests for the Canadians. Brouhard was included on the big-league playoff roster, although he played in only one game. What a single game it was, though.
Brouhard started Game Four of the American League Championship Series against the Angels, the team that drafted him. This was because of a rib injury suffered by Ben Oglivie. It was said that Brouhard didn’t even learn about the start from coach Sal Bando until a half-hour before the game. “I went over and looked at the lineup card and there I was,” Brouhard commented.19 Although the circumstances of his start were less than ideal, the result was well needed. The team was down two games to one in the series, and Brouhard provided the spark needed to create a Game Five.
Brouhard opened the scoring with an RBI single. The Brewers cruised to a 7-0 lead behind a stellar outing from Moose Haas, but the Angels crept back and made things interesting thanks to a grand slam by Don Baylor. Brouhard slammed the door shut after that, though, bashing a two-run homer to bring Milwaukee a 9-5 victory. He closed the day at 3-for-4 with a double, a home run, three RBIs, and four runs scored (the latter tying a playoff record).
This performance wasn’t enough to land Brouhard any more playing time, though. He sat on the bench for the remainder of the playoffs and watched as the Brewers lost the World Series to the Cardinals. “That’s just the way things worked out,” Brouhard said in 1991. “I had my ups and downs during my career, but I have no regrets. It was a great experience.”20
Brouhard was never able to live up to the potential the Brewers thought he had. He split time between the big leagues and Triple-A Vancouver over the following three seasons, hitting just .257 with 14 homers for Milwaukee in that span. He also lost the speed component of his game, as he went 0-for-7 on stolen-base attempts during that timeframe.
After those three disappointing seasons, Brouhard took his talents to Japan. He agreed to play for the Yakult Swallows in 1986 and stayed there into the next season, 140 games altogether with 23 home runs and 69 RBIs. His most interesting memory from Japan came during a rain delay in which he donned the mascot’s head, pretended to hit home runs and slid across the rain-soaked tarp to the fans’ great amusement.21
Brouhard briefly returned Stateside for an attempted comeback with the Angels organization, but opted to retire after the 1987 season in order to spend more time with his family. He bounced around from job to job before founding a painting business with a neighbor.22 In 2016 he was inducted into the Texas League Hall of Fame.23
Brouhard was one of the biggest “what if’s?” in Brewers history. Despite much potential given his success in the minor-leagues, he never got a full chance to prove his worth in the big leagues. Could he have made a big enough difference in that 1982 World Series to push Milwaukee over the hump? It’s something we can never know.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com (baseball-reference.com/players/b/brouhma01.shtml) and Baseball-Almanac.com,
1 Jim Thomas, “Brouhard Mother’s Gift to Angels,” The Sporting News, September 1, 1979: 62.
5 Ed Prell, “Leonard Unanimous Pick on Cactus Loop All-Stars,” The Sporting News, December 4, 1976: 71.
6 Ed Prell, “Three Cub Pitchers All-Stars,” The Sporting News, November 19, 1977: 63.
7 The Sporting News, July 22, 1978: 48.
8 The Sporting News, August 12, 1978: 42.
9 Kim Brazell,“Triple Crown Vanishes,” The Sporting News, September 29, 1979: 40.
10 Tom Flaherty, “Brewers Surprised, Elated to Get Brouhard’s Big Bat,” The Sporting News, December 22, 1979: 53.
13 Tom Flaherty, “Brewers Like Brouhard’s Future,” The Sporting News, May 24, 1980: 5.
15 Tom Flaherty, “Brouhard Fills Brewer Bill,” The Sporting News, June 20, 1981: 33.
16 Tom Flaherty, “Brewers’ Brouhard May Win Steady Job,” The Sporting News, January 30, 1982: 59.
17 Tom Flaherty, “A Mighty Long Wait for Mark Brouhard,” The Sporting News, May 17, 1982: 27.
18 “A Mighty Long Wait for Mark Brouhard,” 33.
19 “Braves 2 Down, Brewers Even Up,” Daytona Beach (Florida) News-Journal, October 9, 1982: 1C.
20 John Ortega, “Career Remembered for a Game Effort: Hero in Game 4 of ’82 American League Playoffs Against Angels Adjusting to Life After Baseball,” Los Angeles Times, August 17, 1991.
21 Wayne Graczyk, “Keys to Success as a Foreign Ballplayer in Japan,” Japan Times, November 21, 2015.
22 “Braves 2 Down, Brewers Even Up.”
23 “Contingent of RockHounds Executives Elected to TL Hall of Fame,” Midland (Texas) Reporter-Telegram, June 1, 2016.