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Where are they now? Brett's All-Star win a big thrill

Monday, July 14, 2003

By Rich Emert, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Ken Brett pitched for 10 teams during a 14-year major-league career that ended after the 1981 season. Pittsburgh was one of his stops, and although he was with the Pirates for just two seasons, some of Brett's better performances came in the team's double-knit uniform.

Ken Brett was 13-9 with a 3.45 ERA for the Pirates in 1974. (Post-Gazette photo)

Perhaps the best moment for Brett came in 1974, when he was the winning pitcher of the All-Star Game that was played at Three Rivers Stadium. He didn't start, but he pitched two innings as the National League defeated the American League, 7-2.

"What made that a great experience is that I was the only Pittsburgh player selected for the [National League] team," said Brett, 55, who lives in Spokane, Wash., and is involved with the Brett Brothers Bat Company along with brothers George, Bob and John. The company produces and sells baseball equipment.

"Because I was the only one from the Pirates in the game, I got the biggest ovation when they introduced the players, which was a thrill. Steve Garvey was the MVP of the game, but to be the winning pitcher in an All-Star Game in your team's park, well, it doesn't get a whole lot better than that."

Although never a perennially big winner -- the most victories Brett had in any one season was 13 -- this crafty left-hander ended his career with an 83-85 record and a 3.93 ERA. He was 13-9 with a 3.45 ERA for the Pirates in '74 and followed that with a 9-5 record and 3.56 ERA in '75. He was traded to the Yankees after the 1975 season.

"I really enjoyed Pittsburgh," Brett said. "I didn't get that involved with the community that much because I lived sort of out in the boonies, but I liked the fans and the atmosphere. For me, it was a good place to play, and I wouldn't mind going back to see the new park."

Brett was a favorite of Pirates fans for a couple of reasons. He didn't possess an outstanding fastball, but he worked hard on the mound and got by with guts and good location.

Second, he was a terrific hitter for a pitcher, with a career batting average of .262 and 10 home runs. While with the Phillies in 1973, he hit home runs in four consecutive starts. Fans love a pitcher who can swing a bat.

"I took a lot of pride in my ability to hit," he said. "In high school, I was also an outfielder and a pretty good hitter. I always thought my being able to hit helped me in games, and I pinch-hit a lot for pitchers, although there were a couple times in Pittsburgh when I hit for Kurt Bevacqua. He didn't like that much."

Good hitting and the Brett family go together naturally. Brett's younger brother, George, who played for the Kansas City Royals and is in the Hall of Fame, is regarded as one of the better hitters in the history of the game.

"I never took extra batting practice or anything like that," Brett said. "On days when I pitched, I'd get my swing in during batting practice."

One of his best days with the team was May 27, 1974. Brett took a no-hitter into the ninth inning of the first game of a doubleheader against San Diego. He settled for a two-hit, 6-0 victory.

In the second game, Brett smacked a pinch-hit, two-run triple to help the Pirates to an 8-7 victory.

Brett has a quick wit and was something of a clubhouse jokester. He served up Hank Aaron's 700th home run on July 21, 1973, while with the Phillies.

"I won the game, so it didn't matter that much to me," Brett said. "Aaron gave me an autographed picture the next day, and I stood there and tore it up in mock anger. I always took the game seriously, but I also had a good time playing it."

After retiring as a player, Brett was a broadcaster for more than 10 years, most recently with Fox Sports. Brett and his wife, Teresa, have 16-year-old twins, Casey and Sheridan.

Have an idea for a Where are they Now? E-mail it to emert196@comcast.net.

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