Saturday, May 14, 2016

Meet the Brewers #24: Bobby Bolin

The 1970 Milwaukee Brewers started the season in a four-man rotation. The number four man in the rotation -- Bobby Donald Bolin -- made his debut on Saturday, April 11, 1970, at "White Sox Park" in front of just 2,696 fans. As an aside before jumping in to the Bolin story, it's no wonder with attendance like that why the Chicago White Sox explored moving to Milwaukee in the late 1960s. The White Sox threatening to move was a consistent theme from the mid-1960s through the late 1980s -- until the "new" Comiskey was built.

Back to Bolin. His debut with Milwaukee was not all that successful personally. He pitched just four innings and gave up 4 earned runs on 4 hits and 2 walks including a solo homer in the first inning to future Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio. However, the Brewers rallied to score 2 runs in the six, 2 more in the eighth -- all on two two-run homers hit by Danny Walton -- and then adding 4 more runs in the 9th inning. All together, that scoring barrage couple with the bullpen holding the White Sox scoreless led to the first ever win in Milwaukee Brewers history. John O'Donoghue got the win, and Bob Locker got the save.

1970 McDonald's Milwaukee Brewers
Bobby was traded to the Seattle Pilots/Milwaukee Brewers in December of 1969 by the San Francisco Giants in exchange for Dick Simpson and Steve Whitaker. Bolin spent nine of his major league seasons with the Giants. In those years, he was fairly effective as a fifth starter/swingman. In every year with the Giants, he made at least 2 relief appearances and at least 1 start. Only once -- 1966 -- did he pitch more than 200 innings (he threw 224-1/3 innings that year and was quite effective, finishing 9th in the league in ERA that year). 

Here's a "rare sports film" of Bolin in action for the Giants:

He was a Brewer player for only a little over five months. In that time, he made 20 starts -- the last of which came on August 29 -- and appeared in 32 total games. He even notched a save. But, as was the case for the 1970 Milwaukee Brewers team, everyone was subject to being traded if the right deal or just about any deal came along. On September 10, the Red Sox came calling and told Milwaukee that the Sox would gladly pay them Tuesday for a Bobby Bolin today. In October, the Brewers received outfielder Al Yates in return.

1994 Miller Milwaukee Brewers Commemorative Set
Bolin retired after three more seasons with the Red Sox in which he never once started a game and, in fact, after a 1973 season in which he finished 7th in the league in saves with 15. Based on his comments last year at a lunch for former baseball players from Rock Hill (South Carolina) High School, it sounds like he didn't so much retire as he was retired: "I loved the game and would have played until I was 90 if they had let me."

A very long, detailed interview with Bolin in a Christian magazine talks in depth about his career and his faith. His time in San Francisco saw him managed for his first four years by Alvin Dark -- a man known for his strong beliefs in God and his proselytizing through various means for years afterward. A humorous story about Bolin mentions how he helped his church as a big leaguer. He gave 10% of his salary to his local Baptist church. The pastor got paid through getting the offering every fifth Sunday and pocketing it. Bolin sent the tithe to his mother, and Bolin learned only much later in life that his mother made sure that the tithe never went into the offering on that fifth Sunday!

If you're interested in hearing Bolin speak, here's a half-hour talk he gave at the Textile Sports Reunion in Piedmont, South Carolina, on March 16, 2013.

As best I can tell, Bolin appears on just three cards as a Brewer -- the two shown here and the 1971 Dell Today's Team Stamp. He didn't make the cut for that Flavor-Est Milk set, apparently.

1 comment:

  1. Love that Bolinsky clip. Remember this guy well as a pitcher on the Sox teams of my youth.