Warren Brusstar

November 12, 2007


“Uh, Warren, that chick from last night,” a teammate said a few moments prior to the snapping of this photograph. The teammate was standing just behind the photographer. The photographer was fiddling with the settings on his camera.

“Which one?” Warren Brusstar said.

He was already in a somewhat brusque, irritable mood. Here he was, the member of a championship team, the 1980 Phillies, maybe the greatest championship team of all time, considering the Phillies’ 97-year title-virginity preceding 1980, and he still had to have his baseball card picture taken in such a remote, inglorious location that the photo would stand as quite likely the only baseball card in history to include so much as a single automobile. In all the many years of baseball cards even the most mundane images had been kept at something of a remove from the everyday existence that most of us slog through. Was not baseball a world away from the world, a bucolic paradise, a sanctuary of growing green? And yet here was Warren Brusstar, World Series champion, standing within sight of not one but two rattling rustbuckets. Where was his verdant baseball card eden? It was unprecedented. It was bullshit. 

“You know, heh,” the teammate finally stammered. “The t-tall blonde you, uh, that you took out to the parking lot for a . . . for a few.”

“Oh, yeah,” Warren Brusstar said. His expression began to soften. “I told her I wanted to show her my fine Corinthian leather.”

He started to smile at the memory of what had happened in the backseat of his Chrysler. Unfortunately, the photographer wasn’t quite ready to snap the picture.

“Well, I don’t know how to tell you this,” the teammate said.

“Tell me what?” Warren Brusstar said.

The teammate coughed into his fist. He muttered something inaudible. 

“What the hell did you just say?” Warren Brusstar said.

The teammate looked past Warren Brusstar to the station wagon in the distance. He took a deep breath.

“Say cheese,” the photographer said.

“Warren,” the teammate said. “She’s a dude.”


  1. 1.  Wow, and I thought my 1988 Topps Steve Crawford looked like Murderface from Metalocalypse:

    I’d say ol’ Warren here takes the cake.

  2. 2.  Warren Brusstar, meet Dave Stewart. Dave Stewart, Warren Brusstar.

  3. 3.  1 Wow. That’s uncanny.

  4. 4.  A rare foray into one-liners! Well done.

  5. 5.  Where was that pic taken? Some high school? IIRC, Brusstar is pronounced just like Brewster, but I first thought that it rhymed with “russ star” when I was reading the name in NL boxscores.

  6. 6.  5 : I have always thought his name rhymed with “buster”; since I’ve already slandered him with this unseemly foray into speculative fiction, I might as well stick with the mispronunciation.

  7. 7.  I think the story is that his ancestor was named “Brewster”, but changed the spelling (maybe after hightailing it to America) in order to escape debt-collectors. Or bounty-hunters. At least I remember reading something like that in the Philly newspapers way back when.

    Brusstar was a solid middle reliever – I remember feeling a generalized sense of calm when he took the mound, a settling of the spirit in preparation for the soul-wrenching experience that was sure to follow once the Tugger came on in the 9th. I see that Brusstar had ERAs under 3 in 1977 and 1978, was hurt for much of 1979, then 3.72 in 39 innings in 1980, when he won an NLCS game against the Astros. Like most of the late-70s Phils, he wound up with the Cubs and had a couple more good seasons for them in 83-84. Only a handful of career saves, and no starts – a middle relief man to the end.

    Thanks for dredging him up, Josh, rusty cars (I’m guessing from Clearwater) & all. Sometimes nostalgia for the forgotten moments (“Greg Gross will stay in the game in the #9 slot, and coming in too pitch, batting 7th, will be Warren Brusstar..”) is the most satisfying.

  8. 8.  7 : “Sometimes nostalgia for the forgotten moments (‘Greg Gross will stay in the game in the #9 slot, and coming in too pitch, batting 7th, will be Warren Brusstar..’) is the most satisfying.”

    Amen to that.

    A couple other random thoughts:

    Brusstar pitched flawlessly in the World Series, 2.1 scoreless innings. I meant to squeeze that into the story, but failed.

    I really think that the Phillies’ 1980 championship may be the most glorious title ever, what with the 97 years of (mostly abject) failure that preceded it. If the Cubs ever win, the win might rival it, but at least the Cubs, in the hazy Frank Chance past, have a couple World Series titles already socked away. The Phillies had nuthin’. Their 1980 triumph should get more consideration in the collective narrative history of the game. I recall being alarmed by the fact that the Ken Burns baseball doc didn’t even mention the 1980 Phillies, but in reality it was an oversight that reflects a general ho-hum feeling about the long-awaited victory of the Philadelphia Philadelphias.

    Finally, there’s a bit of activity in comments for old posts: one reader wonders in comments for the David Clyde (Indians) card what the first Cardboard God post was (Answer: Mark Fidrych, which believe it or not I selected randomly). Another reader, Ennui Willie Keeler (perhaps bored by the slowing production of new posts), revisits the Gorman Thomas (Brewers) post.

  9. 9.  I remember his last name pronounced “brew star” when he was with the Cubs. That’s how Harry Caray said it, so it could be way off.

  10. 10.  8 Josh — I want to revisit some Planet of the Apes connections to all of this. Brusstar looks a bit like James Fransciscus.

  11. 11.  Thanks for giving the ’80 Phillies championship the recognition it deserves, Josh. OK, maybe I’m a little biased here. But even if Pete Rose turned out to be a gambling, drug-using jerk, and Steve Carlton turned out to be a crazy anti-Semitic jerk, and Larry Bowa really, let’s be honest here, always was a jerk, and Mike Schmidt’s cool detachment may well have served to hide some jerkiness (he certainly never seemed like much of an inspiration to his teammates), there’s still a glow around 1980 that the years will never dim. After so many years of trial and coming close or not very close, there was this breakthrough to another dimension. An offseason not filled with regret and frustration, for one thing. All four Philadelphia major sports franchises made it to their championships that year, actually, hard as this may be to fathom nowadays. We thought it was the start of a golden era for Philadelphia sports; little did we realize that we’d hit high water and (except for the Sixers, who got the ring in ’83) were about to sink back into various forms of oblivion. Oh, and two weeks after the Phils won the Series, Reagan was elected president, starting the republic’s retreat into three decades of mendacity, cynicism and moral decay, But maybe that’s a topic for another blog.

    Until 2004, at least, I always thought Red Sox fans were a little too quick to claim a monopoly on baseball suffering. The Sox always had way more literary and intellectual firepower behind their self-pity than anyone else – from Roger Angell through Bart Giamatti to, well, Josh Wilker. That’s why I really appreciate your paean to 1980, Josh. We need to recognize the roles that the Warren Brusstars and Bob Stanleys of this world have played in our common struggle against fate and history.

  12. 12.  Oh, and I finally looked up the game Brusstar won at Houston in the ’80 NLCS. He came on in the 8th with the Phils up by one, struck out swinging with Bowa on 2nd and two out in the top of the 9th (Green let him hit??!!??), then coughed up a run in the bottom of the 9th, then got the win when they scored two in the top of the 10th. So his only postseason win was also a blown save. I’d totally forgotten about this sequence of events. Appropriate somehow.

  13. 13.  Yes! Props for 1980. I should have known you would be the man to right history’s wrongs.

    Last time I was at Citizens Bank Park I made a point of taking a picture of the lonely “1980” banner that flies out past right-center field.
    There’s gonna be another one there someday.

  14. 14.  Oh, and BTW, I went upstairs after reading this entry and paged through one or two binders full of baseball cards, convinced I could find at least one other one with an automobile in it.
    Still haven’t found one.

  15. The Phillies finally added another title in 2008! I knew the Phillies had a rough time as a franchise but I did not realize 1980 was their first. In my baseball simulation, they are leading the league in 1977:


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