By Joe Christensen
Some sad news to pass along:
Fred Bruckbauer, a Sleepy Eye native who became one of the better pitchers in Gophers history before making one ill-fated appearance for the Twins in 1961, died this past weekend at his home in Naples, Fla. He was 69.
Twins minor-league director Jim Rantz, Bruckbauer’s longtime friend, released the news today. Rantz did not know the official cause of death but said Bruckbauer was found in bed and appeared to die in his sleep.
Bruckbauer went 16-5 in two years with the Gophers and received one of the bigger signing bonuses of its time, about $50,000, from the Washington Senators in 1959. When the Senators moved to Minnesota for the 1961 season, becoming the Twins, Bruckbauer had a chance to pitch near home but a shoulder injury had robbed much of his promise.
His one appearance came April 25, 1961 in Kansas City against the Athletics. He faced four batters, allowed three runs and did not record an out. He was eventually sent back to the minors and never got another chance in the big leagues.
To this day, he is one of only 19 pitchers in major league history with a career earned-run average of infinity. Still, Bruckbauer went on to live a full life with Kathy Bruckbauer, his wife of 48 years.
In August, Bruckbauer told the Star Tribune, “I spent 34 years with John Deere; it’s a great company. I have four super-duper kids and 13 grandchildren – nine boys and four girls.”
His family is planning a private service in Naples, though Rantz said there would likely be a public service in Sleepy Eye in about 10 days.
(To read more about Fred Bruckbauer, check out this feature story.)