Baseball’s Most Intriguing Brother Act

From SABR member David Eskenazi and Steve Rudman at Sportspress Northwest on May 31:

Any catalog of baseball’s professional eccentrics inevitably starts with outfielder Jackie Brandt, owing to the fact that Brandt was the first player to whom the word “flake” was applied. It came courtesy of Brandt’s St. Louis Cardinals teammate, Wally Moon, during Brandt’s rookie year (1956), Moon observing, “Brandt is so wild his brains sometimes fall out of his head, flaking off his body.” Brandt lugged around the nickname “Flaky” for the remainder of his career (1956-67).

The Dickson Baseball Dictionary defines a “flake” as “an odd or eccentric player; a kidder or comic; a kook.” As for “flaky,” the dictionary defines it as “strange, eccentric, a bit off; a player who behaves oddly.” Flakes mainly flourished before baseball went corporate after the arrival of free agency (1972), the mass extinction event for all but a few stragglers of Brandt’s flaky ilk.


No one who observed Fidrych’s antics had seen anything like it – unless they were old enough to have witnessed “Chesty” Chet Johnson pitch in the old Pacific Coast League in the late 1950s. Johnson was Fidrych – and a lot more – long before Fidrych emerged.

In fact, if Johnson had spent any significant time in the major leagues, he might be universally recognized today as one of the greatest flakes – in the Dickson Baseball Dictionary sense — of all time instead of a largely forgotten curiosity. But Johnson spent only five games of his 625-game professional career (1939-56) in the majors after graduating from Ballard High School, just ahead of his brother, Earl.

Baseball has featured numerous brother acts – the Alomars, Alous, DiMaggios, Boyers, Perrys, etc. — but none quite as intriguing as Chet and Earl Johnson, the second set of sibs from the state of Washington to reach the majors, following Chehalis natives Vean (1911-25) and Dave Gregg (1913).

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Originally published: May 31, 2011. Last Updated: May 31, 2011.