Thursday, July 23, 2015

Meet the Brewers #2: Jerry McNertney

Just as Lew Krausse was the first man wearing a Milwaukee Brewers uniform to throw a real pitch in the major leagues, the second man to handle the ball was Jerry McNertney.

McNertney caught the first pitch of the game and, as this story from the Milwaukee Journal from April 8, 1970, notes, time was called to replace the ball and ship that ball to Cooperstown.  The game took place one week after Federal Bankruptcy Referee Sidney C. Volinn gave approval for the Seattle Pilots to be sold and moved to Milwaukee -- over the objections of the State of Washington and the City of Seattle (who sued Major League Baseball for $82 million).  

Not that McNertney minded all that much.  He said so himself to the UPI: "I'm glad they made a decision. I don't have the problem of the married guys. But I'm going to miss Seattle. I really liked it and looked forward to more years there.  They do have a better ball park in Milwaukee, which gives the pitchers an advantage. I'm relieved, yet I'm sorry. Seattle deserves better."

Perhaps McNertney deserved better out of his career as well. It took him until the age of 27 to reach the big leagues with the Chicago White Sox, the team he signed with initially straight out of Iowa State University in 1958.  The Sox didn't think that much of the young 1B/OF, or, on the other hand, they were doing so well in the big leagues with guys like Roy Sievers, Minnie Minoso, Jim Landis, and Al Smith such that they didn't need another corner guy.  

1971 Dell Today's Team Stamp, from Trading Card Database
Only when he converted to catching in the Sally League in 1961 in Charleston did McNertney become a potentially viable major leaguer.  McNertney's minor league stats show a guy who had a good batting eye but very little pop.  That's the way his big league career turned out as well.  He was an okay player who was left unprotected in the expansion draft in 1968 at the age of 32 years old. The Pilots selected him and made him their everyday catcher.

He spent two years with the franchise -- 1969 and 1970.  As a result, he never appeared on a Topps card as a Brewer. He was a Pilot in the 1970 set and, by the time his card hit the 1971 set, he was listed as a St. Louis Cardinal -- one of the 93 -- because he was traded with George Lauzerique and a minor leaguer for Jim Ellis and Carl Taylor.

McNertney's role in St. Louis was well established. His role in 1971 was to play when Ted Simmons needed a day off.  Those "days off" came when Simmons had to serve his military reserve duty. This earned McNertney the nickname "Weekend Warrior."  

He spent two years in St. Louis before he was released after the 1972 season. He was signed by Oakland for the 1973 season, spent a month at Triple-A, and then went to Pittsburgh. There, he went 1 for 4 over 9 games and was released on July 5, 1973 at the age of 36. 

After his release, he returned to Ames and finished up his bachelor's degree from Iowa State. His career in baseball continued after that in the Yankees farm system before working as the bullpen coach for both the Yankees and Red Sox.   

Later, he got married and had two children -- Jason, who played baseball at Iowa State from 1998 to 2001, and Molly, who played softball for Iowa State from 2000 through 2003.  He was inducted into the Cyclone Athletics Hall of Fame in 2006.

I have just one McNertney card in my possession, and it is a glorious oddball:

This is actually a detail (to use an art term) from a sheet of 6 that McDonald's in Wisconsin gave away in 1970. There were 6 total sheets, and the set is reasonably available on eBay and through other hobby sources.


  1. I like this series Tony! That is a great oddball.

  2. Those McDonald's sheets are fantastic, but I'm trying hard to resist the urge to get something that doesn't really fit in my already bloated collection.

    The 1971 Topps McNertney, though? That card speaks to me somehow, and I can definitely find my way towards getting that.