Tom Bradley played in an era where the workload of a starting pitcher is far different than it is today. Now 61 years old, Bradley pitched from 1969-1975, a time where four-man rotations were the norm, pitchers like Mickey Lolich and Wilbur Wood were throwing upwards of 350 innings a season, and pitch counts had yet to be invented. The right-hander went 55-61 over seven big-league seasons with the Angels, White Sox, and Giants, his best years coming in Chicago where he won 15 games in both 1971 and ’72. A hard thrower, Bradley finished in the top 10 in strikeouts in the American League each year. Formerly the head baseball coach at Jacksonville University (1979-1990) and the University of Maryland (1991-2000), Bradley currently serves as the pitching coach for the Fort Wayne Wizards, the Padres‘ affiliate in the Midwest League.
David Laurila: When you look back, how do you view the career you had as a big-league pitcher?
Tom Bradley: I had a decent career, but it was too short. I came up in the era from 1968 to 1977, when we were on a four-man rotation and only had one side [session] between starts. I logged about a thousand innings over a four-year period of time-1970, 1971, 1972, and 1973-and I put together four good seasons. In 1972, with Johnny Sain as our pitching coach, we were kind of short on starters, so I made seven starts on two days’ rest. I got traded to San Francisco that winter, and ended up getting 34 starts-and I had a broken ankle-so I was pretty durable. I started every fourth day, but then I hurt my arm in Candlestick, in 1974, on a cold and windy night. They asked me to pitch in relief, and like a dummy I said yes. I felt something pop in my shoulder, and I wasn’t the same again. And that’s unfortunate because if we do anything today, it’s that we overprotect our pitchers. So I would have liked to have played longer, obviously, but it just didn’t work out that way.
DL: Pitchers obviously threw a lot more innings in your era than they do now. Can you talk a little more about your workload?
TB: I think that was probably the year I threw 286. I threw 260 one year, in the strike season, and in 1973 when I had the broken ankle, I think I threw about 225. So I was durable that way; I just wish I could have played for a longer period of time. I guess that I was considered a power pitcher, but unfortunately I hurt my arm in ’74. I did play a few years after that-I went to spring training with Oakland, and also with Pittsburgh, but I didn’t make the clubs, so I decided to hang them up and go into coaching. I’ve been doing that ever since.
DL: In 1972 you lost an 11-inning game by the score of 1-0, with both you and Rudy May throwing complete games. Is that something you feel could, or should, still happen today?
TB: Well, today it would never happen because we don’t allow pitchers to go more than six, maybe seven innings. We kind of groom them in the minor leagues to be five-, six-inning-type guys. From my perspective, I’d rather see guys go a little bit longer. I’m not an advocate of the four-man rotation, but given the economics of the game-these guys are making so much more money than in the era I played in-clubs have so much invested in their top picks and in the salaries of these guys. They don’t want guys to get hurt, so rather than getting 39 or 40 starts a year, you get 33 starts and are able to pitch anywhere from 180 to 220 innings as opposed to throwing 270 to 300 innings. I think it’s the money, the dollar figures, that have kind of, if anything, led to overprotecting the pitchers a little bit.
DL: Wilbur Wood threw over 370 innings in 1972. Can you talk a little about him?
TB: Woody was… I got traded over to Chicago in the winter of 1970, and I think Wilbur had been there a couple of years prior. He had been a reliever, and had some saves, and I remember that the last day of spring training in 1971, Joel Horlen was pitching and he got hurt. He was our fourth starter, so that’s when Woody got a chance to be a starting pitcher, and he did well. He was durable. He’d go out there and give teams a different look, being a knuckleballer, and he put together two good years while I was with him. Of course, I got traded, but he continued on and pitched very well; he won a lot of games and he soaked up a lot of innings. He’d throw that knuckleball any time in the count, pretty much; he never threw much of a fastball or a slider. If he was 3-0 he might come in with a fastball, but it was primarily knuckleballs.
TB: In 1970, Terry Forster had played in Appleton, Wisconsin, in the Midwest League, and had dominated. So he was invited to spring training, and I actually roomed with Terry on the road. He had dynamite stuff-a hard, crisp fastball, and a real good big breaking ball. I mean, I saw him freeze Yaz and Norm Cash for called third strikes. It was kind of like a Koufax hard slider, although Koufax’s was a curveball, obviously. Terry put together a nice career, and he definitely had a live, live arm.
DL: How about Gossage?
TB: With Goose, in 1972 I roomed with him at home, and I actually gave him his nickname of Goose Gossage. He was a wipeout guy. He had been the same thing in 1971, in Appleton, Wisconsin, and had made the jump to the big leagues because of his stuff being so electric. He had the hard fastball, 96 to 100, and a hard slider-just wipeout stuff.
DL: Why did you start calling him “Goose”?
TB: He pitched in a game early in the season, and I think he threw like two or three innings, and I looked at the scoreboard and said, “Look at all the goose eggs.” This was one of his first appearances in the big leagues. Rich kind of had a gangly motion, all elbows and arms and legs, which must have been awful tough on hitters, so I put two and two together and started calling him “Goose.” He kind of had that unorthodox whip-like delivery where he hid the ball real well, and then he had such explosive stuff.
DL: What was it like playing with Dick Allen?
TB: It was great. One year he was MVP, and he could hit. He kind of did his own thing. He didn’t take batting practice a lot, but he was a gifted athlete who really could hit a baseball hard. He probably hit the ball as hard as anybody I’ve ever seen. And I think that one year he had five inside-the-park home runs. I know he had two in one game-I believe it was in Minnesota. He would hit the ball so hard it would knuckle. I remember Mickey Stanley playing center field in Detroit, in that big ballpark where it was 440 feet to center, and he hit a line drive where Mickey went one way and the ball went another way. The ball went all the way to the wall, and Dick Allen ran very well, so he circled the bases. It’s fun to watch players like that who have such extraordinary ability and are just so much better than your average player.
DL: You also played with Bobby Bonds. How similar were he and Dick Allen?
TB: They were somewhat similar, but they played different positions. Bobby Bonds was a basestealer and had power. He struck out more than Dick Allen did. He was sitting at 38 home runs going into September in 1973, I believe, and ended up with 39. But he had very good ability. He was a five-tool player who could do everything: hit, hit with power, good arm, good defender, he could steal a base for you. Of course, his son has turned out to be a tremendous player, too. Bobby was a very gifted outfielder.
DL: What was it like to play with Juan Marichal?
TB: It was good, but it was just one year. He was at the tail end of his career, but of course I had heard stories and watched him, growing up. He didn’t face Koufax a lot, but there were those duels you would see on TV, and there was that high leg kick. And with the stuff he had, the games would be over in two hours. I think he won 10 or 11 games that year, even though he had a persistent back problem. But he was helpful, talking about hitters and how to get hitters out-talking about changing speeds. I know he’s been a real ambassador for baseball. He’s very highly thought of. He came from the Dominican Republic, and has done a lot for the game. He was quite a pleasure to watch.
DL: You played with Sam McDowell in San Francisco. Can you say a little about him?
TB: Sam had great stuff. I saw him in 1970 and 1971 in the American League, and in 1972 he got traded over to the Giants. He didn’t live up to his potential, but he had a lot of God-given ability. He threw extremely hard and he had a real wipeout curveball. He probably should have won more games than he did. He had dynamite stuff, and didn’t really have to command the baseball all that well because he had such overpowering stuff in the strike zone.
DL: Who had the best fastball in your era?
TB: Without question it was Nolan Ryan. Whoever was pitching against him, you could tell the difference in velocity. Our pitcher didn’t look like he was hardly throwing compared to Ryan. It was hard, it was fast; it was a heavy ball. Then, of course, he developed that breaking ball that he could throw over the plate. He was a lot of fun to watch, and I wouldn’t have wanted to be a hitter facing him. So he probably had the best overall stuff, but Sandy Koufax, going back to the early ’60s-watching him perform from about ’61 to ’66, it was a shame he got hurt and had that arthritic elbow. It was always fun to watch him, and to look at the box scores the next day to see how he did. He was a national phenomenon, and when he pitched, people followed him.
TB: Well, I can’t say that it was a lot of fun. I didn’t really face Aaron and Mays a lot, because they were kind of at the tail end of their careers, but I remember that McCovey got me for a home run when he went to San Diego. I played in an era where there were a lot of guys who made it to the Hall of Fame, and I probably contributed a little bit to that. But yeah, there were a lot of great hitters and you really had to make good pitches to them. Looking back on it, I played in a pretty good era for Major League Baseball. There were a lot of good players back then.