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Ken Brett, 55; Was Youngest Pitcher in World Series History

November 20, 2003|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

Former major league baseball player Ken Brett, who came out of El Segundo High School and became the youngest World Series pitcher in history at 19, died Tuesday night in Spokane, Wash., after a prolonged fight with brain cancer. He was 55.

The former Angel and Seattle Mariner broadcaster was the older brother of Hall of Fame third baseman George Brett. Ken Brett's major league career spanned 14 years (1967-81), including an appearance in the 1967 World Series for the Boston Red Sox. He also was the winning pitcher in the 1974 All-Star game when he was with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The left-hander's major league record was 83-85 with a 3.93 ERA, and he had a .262 batting average. Including stints with the Angels and the Dodgers, he played for 10 major league teams, tying a modern record. He finished his career in 1981 with the Kansas City Royals.

All four of the Brett brothers played for legendary baseball coach John Stevenson at El Segundo High. Stevenson, who is heading into his 45th season at the school, said that he had last seen Ken Brett in July and that they had spoken frequently on the phone in Brett's final days. Ken Brett was a two-time California Interscholastic Federation player of the year at El Segundo.

"I'm prejudiced, but if you go back to his era, 1964, '65, '66, he was the most devastating high school baseball player I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot of them," Stevenson said Wednesday. "I've never seen a guy who could do it so many different ways."

Stevenson still remembers the day the Brett family called him when the Red Sox made the World Series in 1967. "His dad said, 'You're going with us to St. Louis,' " Stevenson said.

And Ken, just one month past his 19th birthday, pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings of relief in the World Series against the Cardinals.

It was his father, John, who told a scout from the Red Sox -- who drafted Ken Brett in 1966 as the fourth pick overall -- to keep an eye on the youngest Brett in the household, 12-year-old George.

George Brett recalled Wednesday that the Red Sox had been the only team interested in making Ken a pitcher. Nearly every other organization had been planning to put Ken in center field. Ken would go on to establish a record for pitchers by hitting home runs in four consecutive starts when he played for Philadelphia in 1973.

"When I was still in high school, I would always go to his games," George Brett said. "He'd bring me around in the locker room, and I think maybe that had an effect on me becoming a baseball player."

The brothers remained close after their baseball days, entering business ventures together. In recent years, Ken was an owner of the Spokane Indians minor-league baseball team, Spokane Chiefs junior hockey team and a baseball equipment company, the Brett Brothers Bat Co., along with brothers George and Bobby.

Last month, Whitworth College in Spokane awarded Ken Brett an honorary bachelor of arts degree in a special ceremony. He worked as a pitching coach at the school after moving to Spokane in 1999.

He is survived by his wife, Teresa, and two children, Casey and Sheridan; and mother Ethel, in addition to the three brothers, John, Bobby and George.

A memorial will be held at St. John's Cathedral in Spokane at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. The family said there won't be any services in Southern California.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made in Ken's name to the Hospice of Spokane, P.O. Box 2215, Spokane, Wash., 99210. Phone: (509) 456-0438.

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