Thursday, November 20, 2003

Sports

Brett, 55, succumbs

Associated Press
Ken Brett was the winning pitcher in the 1974 All-Star Game at Pittsburgh.

John Blanchette - Staff writer

He wore nearly every hat there is in baseball -- major league player, minor league manager, owner, coach, broadcaster, bat company executive and, by no means the least of all, proud father.

But baseball was hardly the sum and substance of Ken Brett, who died Tuesday night after a six-year battle with brain cancer.

He was 55.

In Spokane, where he and his family had made their home since 1998, Brett was part-owner of the Spokane Indians and Spokane Chiefs, president of Brett Bros. Bat Company and an assistant coach at Whitworth College.

"He was the connoisseur of the family," said Bobby Brett, who steered the Brett brothers to Spokane in 1985 with their initial purchase of the baseball club. "He was knowledgeable about art, a collector of books. He was different than the other brothers.

"Some players, when their careers are over, all they want to do is coach or get back into it somehow. He had other interests. But he loved the game, too."

And while he didn't play his way into the Hall of Fame like his younger brother, George, Ken Brett made his mark on baseball.

The No. 4 pick in the 1966 draft and a legendary athlete at El Segundo High School in California, Brett became the youngest pitcher ever to appear in the World Series a year later when the Boston Red Sox sent him in to pitch the eighth inning of Game 4 against the St. Louis Cardinals. He was 19 years, 1 month, and wound up pitching 1 1/3 scoreless innings in two Series games.

That was the beginning of a 14-year major league career that saw him play for 10 different teams -- the last one being Kansas City, where he and George were teammates in 1980 and 1981. His career record of 83-85, with a 3.93 earned run average, belied some more notable accomplishments.

He was the winning pitcher in the 1974 All-Star Game while playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and set a record for pitchers by belting home runs in four consecutive starts for Philadelphia in 1973. He was perhaps baseball's best hitting pitcher of his era, with a .262 career average and 10 home runs.

"I remember talking to Tommy Lasorda of the Dodgers and George Genovese, a long-time scout," said Brett's high school baseball coach, John Stevenson, "and they said, `If we'd drafted him, we'd have put him in center field and he'd have stayed there.' "

But he also twice just missed pitching no-hitters. In 1974, he no-hit San Diego for eight innings in the first game of a doubleheader -- and hit a pinch triple in the second game to give the Pirates a sweep.

Two years later, pitching for the Chicago White Sox, Brett had another no-hitter going with two out in the ninth when California's Jerry Remy tapped a slow grounder that third baseman Jorge Orta let roll. Amid some controversy, it was scored a hit, though Brett would win a 1-0 decision in 11 innings.

His best seasons in the big leagues were 1973 and '74, when he was 13-9 both years for the Phillies and Pirates. The lefthander pitched in the National League Championship Series in 1974 and '75.

In addition, Brett pitched for Milwaukee, the New York Mets, California, Minnesota and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

After a break from the game -- and his marriage to Teresa Somogyi in 1983 -- Brett accepted an offer to manage the Utica Blue Sox of the New York-Pennsylvania League in 1985, and then moved into broadcasting as a color commentator on Seattle Mariners broadcasts in 1986. An eight-year stint in the booth with the Angels followed.

Born Kenneth Alven Brett in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Sept. 18, 1948, he is survived by his wife, Teresa, and twin children Casey and Sheridan, both juniors at Ferris High School, and brothers John, of Palm Desert, Calif.; Bobby, of Spokane, and George of Kansas City, Mo.

A memorial service will be held Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at St. John's Cathedral. The Brett family requests that memorials be made in his name to Hospice of Spokane.