Brenly's reluctance to sit stems partly from the fact that he had such a long, tough haul to the majors from tiny Coshocton. ("There are more people in this hotel than there are in our hometown," Brenly said of the Grand Hyatt in New York.) Let's pick up his career from age five. Bob has known Joan, who lived two blocks away in Coshocton, ever since kindergarten. "He liked another girl then," Joan says. Retorts Bob. "Well, you have to play the field at that point." They started dating as freshmen in high school and were married after his sophomore year at Ohio University. Though Brenly caught in his junior season at Ohio, he finished up at third base, at which position he was named an All-America. In the process, he broke or tied a number of school records held by a pretty fair in-fielder named Mike Schmidt. In June 1976 Brenly got his degree in health education, but he also received a stunning rejection: Nobody drafted him.
He continued to work out at the school's ball park. Joan hit grounders to him at third, and he threw to a stack of tires they had piled up at first. Finally, the Giants called. They needed an in-fielder for their Rookie League team in Great Falls, Mont. "I asked about a signing bonus," Brenly says, "and the scout just giggled." Brenly had to borrow money for the trip.
Still playing third, he began a dreary five-year sojourn in the minors. "Physically, I think a lot of my best talent was left on the back of a bus in Texas," Brenly said earlier this year. It wasn't until 1980, when he was with Phoenix of the Pacific Coast League, that Brenly was moved back behind the plate. The Giants' front office gave him a hard look during the 1981 strike and called him up for the second half of the season.
As the Brenlys drove from Phoenix to the Bay Area, their van blew its alternator at 2 a.m. The first to arrive on the scene were highway patrolmen who saw Brenly pushing the van off the road and thought he was trying to steal it. An hour or two later, he was back on the road. At 5 a.m., Bob and Joan reached San Mateo, only to find that there was no room at the Hillsdale Inn. Welcome to the bigs; practice at 9 a.m.
Brenly hit .333 in 19 games that year. A broken collarbone sidelined him for nearly six weeks in 1982, in which he batted .283. Brenly believes that a major reason he hit so poorly last season was that he rarely knew when he'd be in the lineup.
It wasn't until Brenly reached the majors that he and Joan started a family. Daughter Lacey was born in July 1982. A born fan, she can already sing Take Me Out to the Ball Game and part of the national anthem.
Giant second baseman Duane Kuiper has been kidding Brenly all year that he wants to take Lacey out for pizza and wine. After a game last month, Kuiper came by to say hi to Lacey. Sweetly, she said, "Duane, grab some pine, meat." That's Giant talk for "take a seat, buddy."
No one has asked Lacey's daddy to grab any pine recently.