Schulian: The ‘average professional baseball player’ who changed sports writing

From John Schulian at on July 9, 2014:

Jim Brosnan, the pitcher whose book about his 1959 season offered an uncommonly candid look at life within baseball, died last month at the age of 84. In 2007, Brosnan was inducted into the Baseball Reliquary’s Shrine of the Eternals, [run by SABR member Terry Cannon.] Writer John Schulian gave the following speech on Brosnan’s behalf.  

I’ve always thought of Jim Brosnan as complete in a way that few other players have been in the whole sprawling history of baseball. Of course, if you look at nothing but the cold hard facts of his career, you might call me delusional. Brosnan came off the Cincinnati sandlots, where he grew up playing with Don Zimmer and Jim Frey and considered himself lucky when the Cubs signed him out of high school 60 years ago. A pitcher lucky to be a Cub? Broz would soon learn what it meant to be naive.

He survived by letting his inner realist emerge and went on to play in the major leagues for nine seasons. In 1954 and from 1956 to 1963, as a starter and reliever with four teams—the Cubs, the Cardinals, his hometown Reds, and the White Sox—he won 55 games, lost 47 and had 67 saves, all to the tune of a 3.54 earned-run average. He was, in his own words, “an average professional baseball player.”

But he rose far above that description with a statistic that the Baseball Encyclopedia fails to note. Number of books published: two. Both were nonfiction, written by him in diary form over the course of two baseball seasons. Their titles, as I hope you know, are The Long Season and Pennant Race. There is nothing average about either one. They are, rather, a window into what made Jim Brosnan a complete pitcher—smart, funny, insightful, irreverent, marvelously well-written, and, most important, honest.

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Originally published: July 9, 2014. Last Updated: July 9, 2014.