Part 5: Infinitely infamous

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 23, 2007 - 12:25 AM

Fred Bruckbauer's potential appeared to have no bounds. But an injury tarnished a blip of a big-league debut, leaving the Sleepy Eye native with only a statistical anomaly to mark his career.

The baseball record book is filled with one-game wonders, forgotten men such as Archibald Moonlight Graham, whose character was brought to life in the movie "Field of Dreams."

Graham played in one game for the New York Giants in 1905 but never got to bat.

And then there's Sleepy Eye native Fred Bruckbauer. He pitched one game for the Twins in 1961, faced four batters, gave up three runs and never got an out.

Just two years earlier, Bruckbauer had been a star for the Gophers. But a shoulder injury robbed his talent, and like Graham, he never got another chance.

"I had a gut feeling my arm wasn't coming around," he said. "And it never did."

According to Baseball-Almanac.com, Bruckbauer is one of only 19 pitchers in major league history to retire with an ERA of infinity.

Over time, that distinction has gained him some attention for an otherwise forgettable career.

These days, he is an avid hunter and fisherman who lives in Naples, Fla., with his wife, Kathy. The former sixth-grade classmates have been married for 48 years.

"I spent 34 years with John Deere; it's a great company," Bruckbauer said. "I have four super-duper kids and 13 grandchildren -- nine boys and four girls."

At 69, Bruckbauer figures those are the statistics that matter most.

• • •

Bruckbauer never dwells too long on the events of April 25, 1961.

The Twins' 20-2 defeat that night against the Kansas City Athletics is still the most lopsided loss in team history.

It was the 11th game of the franchise's first season in Minnesota. Weather records show it being a crisp spring evening -- 50 degrees and clear with a light breeze -- at Kansas City's Municipal Stadium.

"It should have been ideal," Bruckbauer said. "But it wasn't."

Kathy watched it unfold on TV with sadness from their Minneapolis apartment.

There had been good games, too. She had been there for many of those.

Fred had been a 16-year-old schoolboy sensation, pitching for the Sleepy Eye Indians before teeming crowds in the Western Minny League.

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