- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Standing on the pitcher's mound, righthander Tom Brennan starts into his windup. He raises his left leg until his knee is waist high, lowers his hands and freezes. Then, as if remembering there is more to do, he whips the ball sidearm across his body, falling forward and landing in perfect fielding position.
Brennan's career as a professional ballplayer has been as fragmented as his delivery. Last season he was with the Los Angeles Dodgers, having earned the final spot on their roster. He spent two months clinging to his job, knowing all along that he was only filling in until veteran Bob Welch came off the disabled list. When Welch returned, Brennan was sent to the Albuquerque Dukes, where he spent the rest of the season. Last month he was playing winter ball, a middle relief man for Licey in the Dominican Republic. This spring he will play for any team, major or minor, that gives him a chance.
Brennan's 12-year odyssey through professional baseball resembles a train schedule, with stops in 22 cities covering six countries, highlighted by brief stints with three major league clubs. As a rule he plays 10� to 11 months each year, and he has never made more than the minimum salary. In a game that has home plates, home runs and home teams, Brennan and his wife, Bridget, are always visitors.
In the U.S. the Brennans have no address, no phone number and no furniture. Tom doesn't even have his own bats. All he has is a silver 1977 Chevy van, dubbed Mr. Van by Bridget.
Brennan's distinctive wind-up is, if nothing else, provocative. "The first time I saw Tom pitch, I thought, 'What the hell is this?' " says Dodger relief pitcher Ken Howell, who played with Brennan a year ago. "I thought it was a joke."
"I don't want to blame anyone for this windup," says the 33-year-old Brennan, who is called, naturally, the Flamingo. "I don't think an unusual style gets good hitters out. Good pitches do. If it gave everyone trouble, I'd have had an illustrious major league career.
"I'm sure it has hurt me, too. I know some people look at it and say, 'There's no way he can get anyone out with it.' "
And there have been times when those people were right. But there have also been times when Brennan has gotten everyone out. As a Dodger, Brennan retired the first 20 batters he faced. He was 1-0 with a 1.88 ERA after four appearances. Alas, Brennan faltered, and by the time he was shuttled back to the minors in early June his ERA was 7.39.
It was obvious Brennan needed a tune-up. He made a few mechanical adjustments at Albuquerque and after a month with the Dukes was 4-0 with a 1.93 ERA, a remarkable figure in the hit-happy Pacific Coast League. But again he tailed off, finishing the season 6-5, with a 3.76 ERA.
In fact, one of the brighter moments of the season came on the Fourth of July in a game against the Las Vegas Stars. Brennan was working on a shutout when he took the mound in the top of the eighth. As Brennan started throwing his warmup pitches, fans started throwing fireworks onto the field.