George Brunet—All-Time Minor-League Strikeout King, an Enigma and More (Part IV)

George Brunet (June 8, 1935 – October 25, 1991) enjoyed pitching so much that he continued doing so in the Mexican League, mid-1970s to mid-1980s. Table IV, in Part III, featured his Mexican League stats, e.g., 1975 Poza Rica Petroleros: 17-9, 2.62 ERA, 15 CG and eight SHO in thirty starts. His fifty-five career SHO in the Mexican League are second-best in that circuit. He kept busy in the winter months, hurling in the Mexican Pacific League (MXPL) or Liga Mexicana del Pacífico (LMP) in Spanish. Table I includes regular season W-L and strikeouts in Mexico (summer and winter); other winter ball; minors; and MLB, 1953-1985. His 3,175 career minor-league strikeouts comprise U.S. and Mexican (Triple-A) League but not Winter League totals.

Most remarkable are Brunet’s estimated 1,224 regular season games, with 409 wins and 5,129 strikeouts. His .487 W-L PCT should not detract from an exemplary pro pitching career that began in Dwight D. Eisenhower’s first term as U.S. President; and concluded in Ronald Reagan’s second term. Brunet was a running back for Calumet (Michigan) High School, early 1950s—same high school that George Gipp, Notre Dame star running back for Knute Rockne, 1918-1920, attended. Ronald Reagan portrayed Gipp, 1940 movie: Knute Rockne, All American. Brunet’s SABR bio by Andrew Sharp is at https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/george-brunet/

Table I: George Brunet’s Regular Season (1953-1985) Basic Pitching Stats

LeaguesGW-LIPERKBBERA
U.S. Minors (15)339111-113180878116929703.89
MLB (15)32469-931431.25769215813.62
Panamá (1)10#5-45316NANA2.72
LIDOM (2) (Dominican Republic)276-8120.24873333.58
PRWL (3) (Puerto Rico Winter League)42#14-19281971901223.11
Venezuela (2)3012-13190.275113723.54
Mexico-summer (13)327132-1272151.263614837222.66
MXPL or LMP-winter (10) #125#60-548402096573402.24
Regular Season1224409-4316876.22438512928403.19

#Estimated. Number of regular seasons in parenthesis.

Sources: https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/b/brunege01.shtml; https://www.baseball-reference.com/register/player.fcgi?id=brunet001geo; The Sporting News (1956-57); Jorge Colón Delgado; winter ball data (Dominican Republic); https://www.pelotabinaria.com.ve/beisbol/mostrar.php?ID=brungeo001 Enciclopedia del Béisbol Mexicano. Editor Pedro Treto Cisneros. Undécima Edición, Año 2011; https://mexico.as.com/mexico/2019/10/05/masdeporte/1570297931_509760.html

Caribbean Series Heroics

Part I highlighted Brunet’s fine pitching for Cerveza Balboa Brewers, 1957 Caribbean Series,

Havana, Cuba; while Part II mentioned his 1960 Caribbean Series CG for Caguas, in Panamá. The 1960 event was final one of its kind for a decade. It resumes in February 1970, thanks in large part to efforts by Guigo Otero Suro, an attorney from Vega Baja, Puerto Rico, and others. Brunet became the first (and only) pitcher in Caribbean Series history to pitch a CG for these three countries:

  • Panamá, 1957 event
  • Puerto Rico, 1960
  • Mexico, 1976.

Brunet pitched for Guasave, mid-to-late 1970s in LMP but reinforced three different Caribbean Series teams, 1976-to-1978: Hermosillo Orange Growers (1976), Mazatlán Deer (1977) and Culiacán Tomato Growers (1978). And he made his presence felt with superb pitching in 1976.

February 4-9, 1976, Caribbean Series

For the first time in Series history, games took place at two venues: Estadio Quisqueya, Santo Domingo; and, Estadio del Cibao, Santiago de los Caballeros. (Licey Tigers and Escogido Lions play home games at the former stadium; Águilas Cibaeñas do so at the latter ballpark.) This was Mexico’s sixth Caribbean Series—Hermosillo represented the country in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for the 1971 event, won by Licey.

Hermosillo featured Brunet, Doug Capilla, Rich Hinton, Tony Komadina with natives Ed Acosta, Francisco Barrios and Vicente Romo. The line-up included Series MVP Héctor Espino (.321 AVG, .536 SLG); 2B Bump Wills (.385 AVG, .577 SLG); 3B Celerino Sánchez (.250 AVG, .500 SLG); SS Eddie León; OF Jerry Hairston (.269 AVG, five RBI), Arnoldo DeHoyos (8 runs) and Chet Lemon. Catcher Sergio “Bazooka” Robles (.333 AVG) had a rifle arm. The Orange Growers allowed 14 ER in 58.2 innings, for a 2.15 team ERA. Brunet’s 18.1 innings were tops for all series pitchers. His 1.96 ERA was stellar in his two starts.

Brunet started the February 4, 1976, opener, and pitched into the 10th before giving way to Barrios. Águilas Cibaeñas won it, 4-3, after Barrios issued a bases-loaded walk. Kent Tekulve got the win, Barrios, the loss. Five days later, Brunet went the distance in besting Venezuela’s Aragua Tigers, 6-1. He fanned five; walked one; allowed six hits; one unearned run; and was named to the 1976 Caribbean Series All-Star Team, per Table II.

Table II: 1976 Caribbean Series All-Star Team

PLAYERTEAMPOS
Sergio RoblesHermosilloC
Héctor EspinoHermosillo1B
Bump WillsHermosillo2B
Celerino SánchezHermosillo3B
David ConcepciónAraguaSS
Miguel DilonéÁguilas CibaeñasLF
Arnoldo De HoyosHermosilloCF
Terry WhitfieldAraguaRF
Mark WileyAraguaRHP
George BrunetHermosilloLHP
Cananea ReyesHermosilloMGR

Source: Tony Piña Campora.

Final standings were Hermosillo (5-1), Aragua (3-3), Águilas Cibaeñas (2-4), Bayamón (2-4). Enos Cabell’s .400 AVG for Aragua was tops. He tied Espino with seven RBI, most in the series. Concepción’s two SB for Aragua were a series best. On February 7, 1976, Brunet appreciated Juan “Terín” Pizarro’s 2-0 SHO over Aragua, preceding Hermosillo’s Hinton blanking Águilas Cibaeñas, 4-0. Pizarro and Brunet, per Parts I-III, were 1964-65 Santurce Crabbers teammates in Puerto Rico. Pizarro celebrated his 2-0 SHO on his 39th birthday, reinforcing the Bayamón Cowboys, PRWL champions. Bayamón was the defending (1975) Caribbean Series champions. Their line-up featured Ken Griffey Sr., Dan Driessen, Art Howe, etc. They were the favorites.

Jerry Hairston Sr., who married a lady from Mexico (Esperanza), conversed with the author at a Lowndes County, Mississippi function, honoring his father, Sam Hairston, born in Lowndes County. Jerry Sr. complimented his Hermosillo teammates, including Brunet, and recalled driving in the game-winner versus Bayamón, in the bottom of the 11th, a 4-3 Hermosillo win, on February 5, 1976. “Dad (Sam) played in the PRWL [San Juan, 1947-48],” said Jerry Sr. “Winter ball was an important part of his life, and mine, too.” Coincidentally, the author met Jerry Hairston Jr., at the same Mississippi function, several years after Jerry Jr. played for the 2009 World Champion New York Yankees. (Jerry Jr. autographed a baseball for the author.)

1976-77 Winter League Season No-Hitter and 1977 Caribbean Series

Brunet, with Guasave Cotton Growers, no-hit Ostioneros de Guaymas, on November 3, 1976. At 41, he could compete with players born after his 1953 minor-league debut. Mazatlán contracted Brunet to reinforce them for the 1977 Caribbean Series, hosted by Caracas, Venezuela.

Licey (6-0) won their third Caribbean Series, February 4-9, 1977. Magallanes Navigators (3-3), Mazatlán (2-4) and Caguas Criollos (1-5) were second, third and fourth. Brunet was outvoted for best LHP by Licey’s Stan Wall. On February 6, Brunet defeated Caguas, 2-1, with relief help from Fernando López. Jerry Morales homered for Caguas’s only tally. Ed Whitson took the loss. Brunet pitched in relief versus Caguas, on February 9, 1977, a 5-4 Mazatlán win. Dennis Martínez was the loser; Sixto Lezcano homered. John Wockenfuss, named to the Series All-Star Team, caught all sixty regular season games for 40-20 Caguas, plus post-season games. He felt Caguas should have “performed better in Caracas,” noting “All four teams had many big-league caliber players.” Paul Hartzell (8-2 W-L) defeated Caguas early in the 1976-77 PRWL season, hurling for Santurce. He opined that PRWL clubs, had major league players at “just about every position.” Arguably, Brunet—who defeated his ex-Caguas team, twice, in Caracas—could have pitched for the 1976-78 California Angels, as Hartzell’s teammate, or for another MLB team.

Table III: 1977 Caribbean Series All-Star Team

PLAYERTEAMPOS
John WockenfussHermosilloC
Cito GastonMagallanes1B
Félix MillánCaguas2B
Ted MartínezLicey3B
Mario GuerreroLiceySS
Félix RodríguezMagallanesLF
Albino DíazMazatlánCF
Rico CartyLiceyRF/DH
Ed HalickiLiceyRHP
Stan WallLiceyLHP
Buck RodgersLiceyMGR

Source: Tony Piña Campora.

Rico Carty’s five HR eclipsed the four round-trippers connected by Willard Brown, for Santurce, in the 1953 Caribbean Series, hosted by Havana. Both events had a six-game round-robin format.

1978 Caribbean Series

Rene Lachemann managed the 1977-78 Mayagüez Indios to their first Caribbean Series crown in Mazatlán, February 4-9, 1978. Brunet succumbed to Mayagüez, 9-3, on February 8, Indios’ fifth straight win. (They finished 5-1, after losing Game Six to the Caracas Lions.) “Puerto Rico was an outstanding experience for anyone who wanted to manage at the major league level,” affirmed Lachemann, who managed in Venezuela, 1976-77. “The reason for that was in the minors, the basic job was to develop players, but in winter ball, you had to win, or you were gone.” Another motivator for Lachemann was $250 he would receive from team owner Luis Gómez, for each Caribbean Series win. And Lachemann went with his same line-up, except for replacing catcher John “Buck” Martínez with Arecibo’s Rick Sweet. Santurce’s Tom Bruno and Ponce’s Dennis Kinney reinforced Lachemann’s pitching staff. DH José Manuel Morales had clutch hits. Final standings were: Mayagüez (5-1), Águilas Cibaeñas (3-3), Caracas (3-3), Culiacán (1-5).

Diego Seguí, Brunet’s teammate in Venezuela, 1962-63 post-season, pitched superbly for the 1977-78 Caracas Lions. Seguí bested Brunet and the Culiacán Tomato Growers, in their February 4, 1978, opener; and he (Seguí) defeated Mayagüez, on February 9. “I enjoyed and looked forward to pitching in the Caribbean Series,” said Seguí. “I eventually made it to the Caribbean Series Hall of Fame at a [2004] ceremony in Santo Domingo…they played the Cuban National Anthem—a very emotional moment…”

Mario Mendoza represented Mexico in five Caribbean Series, starting in 1978. “It was an honor representing Mexico and I played with a great amount of emotion,” noted Mendoza.

Table IV: 1978 Caribbean Series All-Star Team

PLAYERTEAMPOS
Rick SweetMayagüezC
Raúl “Boogie” ColónMayagüez1B
Ramón AvilésMayagüez2B
Kurt BevacquaMayagüez3B
Edgardo RomeroMayagüezSS
Leon RobertsCaracasLF
Tony ArmasCaracasCF
Jesús “Bombo” RiveraMayagüezRF
José Manuel MoralesMayagüezDH
Danny DarwinMayagüezRHP
Paul MirabellaCaracasLHP
Rene LachemannMayagüezMGR

Source: Tony Piña Campora.

Brunet’s stats in five Caribbean Series are noted in Table V.

Table V: George Brunet’s Caribbean Series Basic Pitching Stats

SeriesTeamHostGW-LIPHERKBBERAWHIP
1957Cerveza BalboaHavana21-115.11141732.350.913
1960Caguas CriollosPanamá City10-1983433,001.222
1976HermosilloSantiago& Santo Domingo21-018.11841231.961.145
1977MazatlánCaracas21-08.271441.041.269
1978CuliacánMazatlán20-211.2105753.861.286
Total  93-463541744182.431.143

Source: Tony Piña Campora EXCEL file.

Brunet’s Caribbean Series Legacy

Here are some of Brunet´s highlights:

  • Only pitcher with a CG for three different countries (Panamá, Puerto Rico, Mexico)
  • Second-most series strikeouts per 9 IP, for Panamá, 1957 Series, with 10.13 K/9 IP, behind Humberto Robinson’s 10.45 K/9 IP (12 K, 10.1 IP, 1955 Series)
  • Fourth in career IP (63) after Venezuela’s José “Carrao” Bracho (74.1), Rubén Gómez (74.1) and José “Pantalones” Santiago (63.1)
  • Sixth in career strikeouts (44), trailing Juan “Terín” Pizarro (62), Luis “Mambo” de León (56), Dominican José Rijo (50), Odell Jones (48) and Rubén Gómez (45)
  • Posthumously inducted in Caribbean Series Baseball Hall of Fame (1999) along with Rubén Gómez, Cuban Sandy Amorós and Dominican Pedro Borbón Sr. (Terín Pizarro was inducted in 2000; Vic Power and Diego Seguí in 2004.)

Viva Mexico

  • Brunet pitched a no-hitter for Poza Rica, June 20, 1977 (on the author’s birthday)
  • LMP 1974-75 Pitcher of the Year with Guasave Cotton Growers
  • Led LMP with four SHO, 1978-79
  • His eighty-nine strikeouts were LMP-best, 1979-80
  • Pitched a SHO for Águila, June 8, 1980—his 45th birthday—and gave a thank-you speech to MGR Willie Davis and his teammates, in Spanish, post-game
  • Posthumously inducted in Mexico’s Professional Baseball Hall of Fame, Class of 1999.

MLB Level

Per Part III, Brunet is tied with Bob Miller (1957-1974) as the big leaguer who wore the most unique numbers (15). Brunet played fifteen big league seasons, including portions of some.

Source: https://www.mlb.com/news/george-brunet-is-the-most-interesting-pitcher-you-never-knew

Minor League Success

Brunet fanned 3,175 minor-leaguers—MOST in minor-league history—in 3,959.2 innings, 1953-1964 and 1971-1985, including the Mexican (Triple-A) League. (Nolan Ryan is MLB’s top career K artist, with 5,714.)  Brunet’s minor-league career W-L record was 243-240, a .503 PCT.

How Many Total Strikeouts for Brunet?

Table I indicated Brunet had 5,129 total regular season strikeouts. This excludes:

  • Caribbean Series, with 44 K in 63 IP
  • Venezuelan League post-season, with 42 K in 37 IP
  • PRWL and U.S. Minors post-season
  • February 1963 Inter-American Series
  • LMP and Mexican League post-season contests.

Table VI: Brunet’s Pro Career W-L versus Gómez and Pizarro

League(s)George BrunetRubén GómezTerín Pizarro
MLB69-9376-86131-105
Minors (U.S. Canada, Mexico)243-24088-57104-47
Panamá (Winter)5-4DNPDNP
Puerto Rico (PRWL)14-19174-119157-110
Mexican Pacific League (Winter)60-54DNPDNP
LIDOM (DR) and Venezuela (VZA)6-8 LIDOM 12-13 VZA8-3 DR 1-0 VZADNP
Semi-Pro (Quebec)DNP27-5DNP
Regular Season409-431374-270392-262
Post-Season and All-Star Games   
World SeriesDNP1-00-0
Caribbean Series3-46-24-2
Inter-American Series#0-1Utility^2-1#
PRWL All-Star Game0-0 (1 start)1-0#1-0#
PRWL Semi-Finals1-210-58-2#
PRWL Finals3-211-37-2#
DR and VZA post-season4-0 (VZA)3-3 (DR) 2-1 (VZA)DNP
Post-Season11-934-1422-7
Grand Total420-440408-284414-269

#Partial records for Pizarro. Exclude 1961 InterAmerican Series, reinforcing San Juan, plus some semi-final and final series W-L decisions. ^Gómez was on Santurce’s 1961-62 roster but did not pitch. DR: Dominican Republic. Gómez’s SABR bio by the author is at https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/ruben-gomez/  DNP: Did not participate. Multiple sources.

It was special chronicling Brunet’s colorful and outstanding pro baseball career. Even more special was documenting career W-L records of three 1964-65 Santurce Crabbers pitchers, on a team the author avidly followed, in Santurce, Puerto Rico, as a 10-year-old.

Special thanks and appreciation to Jerry Hairston Sr., for insights on Hermosillo winning the 1976 Caribbean Series; to Tony Piña Campora, for Brunet’s Caribbean Series stats; Paul Hartzell and John Wockenfuss, for reflections on 1976-77 winter ball; Rene Lachemann, Mario Mendoza and Diego Seguí, with their 1978 Caribbean Series thoughts; and, to Jorge Colón Delgado, Official Historian, Puerto Rico Professional Baseball League.

Photo: MLB.com

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