In just a few weeks the long-anticipated phrase “pitchers and catchers report” will echo across the land announcing the start of baseball spring training and the arrival of major leaguers and prospects to their training camps in Florida and Arizona.
Some 65 years ago area resident Jim Brady was one of those eager prospects, a sought-after left-handed pitcher, that held outstanding promise as a major league caliber player.
I was fortunate to be introduced to Brady by good friend Francis Lott and his wife Dianne, who drove me to Jacksonville where we had lunch with him and his son, Jim, the youngest of his three boys.
How promising were Brady’s prospects? His New Jersey high school credentials were impressive, pitching a number of no-hitters and a perfect game. He was so extraordinarily good that in 1954 Boston Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey offered him a then jaw-dropping $65,000 signing bonus sight unseen after being urged by his legendary outfielder, Ted Williams, to sign the kid after Williams watched him pitch during a week-long workout session with the Red Sox.
But here’s where Brady’s story takes an unusual twist. His father, Jim, a scrappy Irish immigrant, whose permission was legally required, told his 18-year-old son “No”, despite the fact that $65,000 in 1954 was the equivalent of $620,940 today. The senior Brady, who left Ireland with his wife, only a fourth-grade education, and what his son says was a “death threat” hanging over him, ended up in Jersey City, NJ, working as a longshoreman on the docks there. He labored alongside professional boxer, Jim Braddock, who made a comeback in 1935 and defeated Max Baer for the heavyweight title.
The elder Brady’s wife and Jim’s mother, Anna, died when Brady was 12 and the only child was raised by the spunky Irishman, who was reputed to be in the center of many a pub brawl, was self-taught, well-read and prized education above all else. His life mirrored that of another longshoreman, Eric Hoffer, a moral and social philosopher, with no formal schooling. He told his son to put his major league ambitions on the backburner and instead pack for Notre Dame, where he was told he could select either an academic or baseball scholarship. He picked the baseball option.
But major league baseball still had its eye on the imposing lefty.
In his freshman year at Notre Dame two events took place that changed the lives of both Brady’s. “During a school break I was visiting Jersey when my dad came home from work and I could tell something was wrong,” recalled the son. “He told me that he was fired that day.” Why? It turns out he clocked out at 6 p.m. following an almost 12-hour day without a break explained his son. Unbeknownst to his father his son went to the docks the next day to voice his concern. Management wasn’t moved, but the Longshoreman’s Union was, and it called a crippling strike on the elder Brady’s behalf, resulting in his job being reinstated.
But Jim had enough of his father’s 20-years of back-breaking labor on the docks for an ungrateful and intolerant management and when he returned to Notre Dame he convinced the university to provide his dad a job in its maintenance organization. Soon after the Detroit Tigers came calling and this time dad agreed only after his son promised to complete his education following his baseball career, a pledge he fulfilled beyond his father’s wildest expectations.
If Jim Brady’s name sounds familiar hereabouts that’s because he’s Dr. James Joseph Brady, who served as President of Jacksonville University from 1989-1996, after earning undergraduate degrees, a masters and a PhD at Notre Dame. He also held the department chair in economics at Old Dominion University and was a member of the economics faculty at Notre Dame. He served as dean of both Jacksonville’s University’s College of Arts and Sciences and Davis College of Business prior to becoming its 8th president. His father, who passed away in 1990, was beaming in the front row when his son was inaugurated President of JU.
“I was an admirer of Dizzy Dean,” said Brady. “I wanted to be like Dean, instead I became a dean.”
At a Notre Dame reunion someone asked Brady classmate and NPR radio host Mark Shields: “Of all the people you’ve ever interviewed over the years who’s the smartest person you’ve ever met?” Without hesitation Shields replied: “Jim Brady’s father.”
The Tiger’s offered the lanky 6’2” 185-pound lefty a $37,500 signing bonus — worth $358,409 in today’s purchasing power — and he was automatically added to their 1955 major league roster. As one of the era’s first “bonus babies” his signing bonus earned him the nickname “Diamond Jim.” An arcane major league rule at the time dictated that any player that received a $4,000 or higher bonus had to be immediately put on the team’s major league roster. This made him one of just a handful of major leaguers that never played in the minors before going directly to the majors, a rule he says hurt his career, because he felt he needed the time and coaching he would have received in the minor league system rather than being thrust directly into the big time. He was one of a trio of ’56 Tiger “bonus babies” that included outfielders Al Kaline and Jim Small. Others on that Tigers team included Frank “The Yankee Killer” Lary, famed for his ability to beat the hated Bronx powerhouse; Jim Bunning, Charlie Maxwell, and Harvey Kuenn.
However, on June 9, 1955, the last day of a week-long workout where he had pitched batting practice every day he was told that Tigers General Manager Muddy Ruel wanted to see the now arm-weary pitcher throw. That day was a turning point in the impressive rookie’s life. “My first pitch was a fastball and when I released it a crack echoed throughout the empty stadium along with searing pain as the youngster ripped open an arm ligament. The Tigers signed him nonetheless, but he sat on the bench without playing all of 1955 to “rest his arm.” There was no such thing as Tommy John surgery in those days. His prescribed therapy was “bowling” to strengthen and stretch the injured ligament he was told.
In 1956, as a 20-year-old, armed with a fastball, an overhand curve, and a change-up, he was used as a reliever and faced lineups that contained players whose baseball cards he collected just a couple of years previously including Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Minnie Minoso, George Kell, Jackie Jensen, Ted Williams, Nellie Fox, Gil McDougald, Eddie Yost, Larry Doby, Hank Bauer, Rocky Colavito, Roy Sievers, Harmon Killebrew, and Jimmy Piersall.
In his major league debut May 12, 1956, he hurled a perfect ninth inning against the Chicago White Sox in a 7–6 loss at Briggs Stadium. A week later, he pitched another scoreless inning against the Baltimore Orioles. But the arm injury flared up again and he made only six appearances, all in relief, during the season before being sent to the minors for good in 1957.
The toughest batter he ever faced? “Definitely Washington’s Roy Sievers,” answered Brady. “He hit a home run off me that he must have reached into the catcher’s glove to pull out.” He admitted Mantle doubled off him, but in an exhibition game at Cooperstown he forced Willie Mays to pop up.
After just one year in the majors and a little over four in the minors his continuing arm problems ended his career. He pitched his last game with the Class A Knoxville Smokies in 1961 but fulfilled the promise he made to his dad and more, continuing in the education field until his retirement as President of Jacksonville University in 1996.
He just missed out on becoming Director of the Cooperstown Baseball Hall of fame in the late 1990’s after having his named submitted by friend and retired Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, also a Jacksonville resident, who passed away in 2007.
The apples didn’t fall far from the Brady tree as all three of Dr. Brady’s and his wife Sheila’s sons are college educated, exceptional baseball players and all three pitchers.
The Lott’s daughter, Mary Jane, is married to their son, Michael Brady, who is the Bob Sasser Professor of Marketing and Chair, Department of Marketing, at Florida State University. Ironically their son, Jack, is now the punter for the University of Florida Gators. Mike played baseball for four years while attending FSU and was drafted by the L.A. Dodgers, but an injury that resulted in Tommy John Surgery brought an end to his baseball career while he was in the Dodgers minor league system.
Son, Jim, a JU grad and a Jacksonville-based medical supplies salesman, played at Bolles High School along with Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones who invited him to his Hall of Fame induction and the two remain close friends. Son, Matt, runs a highly a successful Jacksonville investment firm, played baseball at Bolles High School and JU and was good enough to be drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates, but health issues prevented him from accepting.
Dr. Brady, who turned 84 this past Sunday, has suffered some physical disabilities, but his mind is incredibly sharp, his voice loud and clear, and his deep blue eyes sparkle as he rattles off baseball stats and recalls details of 65-year-old incidents like they happened yesterday. He continues to follow the game and thinks the brouhaha over the signal stealing by the Houston Astros is way overblown. “Baseball players have been doing that for decades using any technology available to them,” he says. “When we played at Chicago the White Sox pitching coach would disappear into the Comiskey Park scoreboard where he’d use binoculars to steal signals then relay coming pitches to batters with a flashlight. When we were caught by the umpires stealing signals and told to stop, we said “OK’ if they’d go get the Chicago coach out of the scoreboard.”
Jim Brady is one of the most fascinating people I’ve ever encountered, and a life story about him and his dad would make a terrific book and film. His name should also be in the record books as the only university president to pitch in the major leagues.
Help Wanted! No Slackers Need Apply: If you’re looking for a job in Nassau County and can’t find one there are probably two reasons: One, you don’t want one, and are content laying around your parent’s den all day watching TV and munching Doritos; or two, you wasted your time and your parent’s money on a degree in diversity or gender studies, psychology, art history, theater, or some other useless field of study.
No matter where you go in the county, there are “Help Wanted” signs posted. Even the News Leader’s shrinking classified ad page contains more employment opportunities that any other type of ad. It also features display ads for “Job Fairs” at local resorts for food and beverage, spa, housekeeping and culinary workers among others. Other News Leader ads are seeking program managers, front office/medical assistants, maintenance technicians and more. Fernandina Beach’s two paper mills – Rayonier and West Rock — have advertised openings starting at more than $50,000 that don’t even require college degrees. However, if you can’t pass a drug test then forget it, your life is already off the rails and your only recourse is rehab or hoping your parents don’t throw you out the door.
I’ve also seen numerous ads seeking electricians, carpenters, plumbers, landscapers, welders, masons and other skilled laborers, that offer eye-popping salaries and career advancement opportunities.
Nassau County’s rapidly expanding population, building boom and thriving business environment — when’s the last time you saw a boarded-up store front hereabouts? — multiple housing developments from Three Rivers to Wildlight, and the new service industries that pop up in their wake offer abundant entrepreneurial and employment opportunities.
If I had a college age kid at home who wasn’t interested in college, I’d encourage him or her to learn a valuable trade such as plumbing, carpentry, fire fighting, electrician, HVAC technician, mechanic, landscaping, law enforcement, hospitality, or construction. Society will always need nurses, chemists, respiratory therapists, biologists, scientists, engineers, doctors, information technologists, etc. all jobs that require advanced studies and pay extraordinarily well, offer advancement opportunities and self-satisfaction for any ambitious person willing to study and work hard. All of these jobs are also extremely mobile since they are in high demand all across the country.
Once you’ve learned a marketable skill or trade or a sought-after degree and landed a good job, and you’re still interested in psychology, philosophy or art history, go to the library and check out books on Freud or Jung, Plato or Nietzsche, Rembrandt or Picasso. Appreciate their talents admire their skills, but don’t expect to earn a living studying them, unless you want to be a pompous, arrogant, pipe-sucking professor lecturing to glazed-eyed dozing students.
Would you hire an art history major to remodel your bathroom or one with a degree in African-American studies to provide home care for granny? Me either. Those degrees don’t even qualify these poor saps to mow my lawn or wash my car. And they’re stuck with tens of thousands of dollars in student debt, have no marketable skills, and little to no chance of landing any kind of decent position to pay off their massive debt. Their best hope is to sue the elitist schools that convinced them to accumulate this untenable debt for dead-end degrees that were fraudulently sold to them. If the universities think these degrees are so valuable then why don’t they co-sign the student loans and provide job guarantees to go with them? Instead of concentrating on professors to teach courses leading to a BS degree colleges and universities continue to raise tuition so they can hire more administrative BS such as diversity administrators and directors of affinity group leadership. It’s time to start a movement to start using the courts to empty their vaults of their billions of dollars of endowments to get rid of this burdensome student debt their graduates accumulated through fraud. How do the universities and colleges continue to get away with this outrageous scam? Any private company doing the same would be dragged into court and face massive class actions suits, forced to pay restitution, have its doors shuttered, and its executives jailed. What the universities have going on here is the equivalent of Enron U and WorldCom U without any consequences.
Desperate Democrat presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren doomed her failing candidacy a few weeks ago when she dismissed an irate father’s comment on the unfairness of her student-debt forgiveness proposal. Warren’s proposal is a slap in the face to those of us that paid for our kid’s education and to those of our children who worked to put themselves through school and graduated debt-free with marketable degrees and skills. She wants to use our taxpayer dollars and those of our employed kids to fulfill her outrageous vote pandering. It ain’t free folks. Warren wants to take our tax dollars to pay off the slacker’s college debts. So does crazy Uncle Bernie.
I paid for my daughter’s education and she earned a BS degree in the US and spent a year at the Sorbonne in Paris. She graduated debt-free. She also worked to help defray costs and landed a job immediately upon graduation. We financially supported our son, who also worked and graduated debt-free and went on to earn a masters degree at night at his own expense while working fulltime to pay for it. He’s now living large in Asheville, NC working as an executive for a Fortune 300 company. I also supported my now ex-wife while she earned two degrees. So please explain to my wife, Linda, who worked her way through college, graduating debt free, and me, who dropped out of FSU due to lack of funds, why we and our children should be forced to pay to cancel the debt of those who didn’t save or plan ahead?
Speaking Of Elizabeth Warren: When Pocahontas hops up on stage during her campaign stops, jumping up and down and waving her arms, she reminds me of an awkward high school girl hopelessly attempting to make the band’s dance team but who can’t remember the steps and can’t keep a beat. She looks as desperate as she sounds. She won’t win anything, but I hope she doesn’t drop out of the race as she is hilariously entertaining to listen to and watch.
“Left Coast” Lednovich Takes Umbrage: Last week Fernandina Beach City Commissioner Mike “Left Coast” Lednovich, commented here that he did not propose that ordinary citizens be fined $14,000 if they down a tree on their property. “I did not,” he said. “I displayed a slide that showed the City of Tampa recently fined a developer $14,000 per tree that were illegally removed.” No, he didn’t. At a January 7 City Commission meeting “Left Coast” said: “The city of Tampa fined a developer $28,000 each for live oaks removed against that city’s tree protection laws.” He went on to add: “I’m not saying go to the extreme of Tampa, but if we went to half of that, $14,000 a tree…I would think that would make a developer think twice about taking down a tree.” Even Commissioner Chip Ross was taken aback by Lednovich’s suggestion saying, “When a homeowner cuts down a tree, $14,000 is an extraordinary amount of money for most people that live in the city.” Left Coast didn’t protest the doctor’s comment. So why is Dr. Ross right and I’m wrong Lefty?
Lednovich fired off another complaint my way the same day saying: “Dave: once again you’ve skewed the facts to fit your narrative. The City is not ‘paying $40,000 of our tax dollars to a company called Bhide & Hall Architects’ for advice on a new City Hall. The facts are that the City Manager will issue a Request For Qualifications from consultants to conduct a ‘needs assessment’ to determine if a new City Hall is warranted. No tax dollars have been attached thus far to this effort. The Bhide & Associates proposal was rejected by a 5-0 vote of the City Commission.” OK, I’ll give him that one, but somebody in the city — the tax-and-spend City Manager perhaps? — did consider paying them 40 grand. And don’t believe for a minute that the city isn’t going to eventually pay thousands of dollars of our money to some outfit to find it some new digs it doesn’t need if it would just stop all this unnecessary hiring and started downsizing. Or MERGED with the county to eliminate all the duplication of efforts.
Bullet Bob’s Bombast: For reasons known only to her, Pam Davis, the admitted liberal editor of the local News Leader continues to publish any far-left twaddle local extremist and unhinged gasbag Robert “Bullet Bob” Weintraub submits to her newspaper. He could pen an opinion-editorial on why it’s necessary to create armed neighborhood patrols to eliminate any conservative thought or political opinions that oppose his and she’d run it. Oh wait, he already did that on Facebook. On Veterans Day, November 11, this unhinged old fool threatened my wife and me on Facebook with a “loaded shotgun, loaded rifle” and, if that wasn’t enough to get the job done, a threat to “purchase handguns” because we planted a celebratory Trump sign in our yard following the 2016 election. It was serious enough that the police paid this fruitcake a visit. I have the Facebook postings and police report to prove it. Frighteningly this armed-to-the-teeth crackpot was my next-door neighbor at the time. He has since moved on to terrorize other locals. His most recent rant in a January 24 issue of the News Leader cautions readers that the planet will soon become uninhabitable because it’s being destroyed by conservative politicians and their policies hellbent on wiping humanity off the face of the earth as quickly as possible. In his mindless rant he not only blames local and national conservative politicians for rising sea levels, tornadoes, wildfires, hurricanes and submerging islands but says their failure to put a stop to climate change is also causing — and I’m not making this up – “diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s.” He even says the enabling of “airborne particles” caused by climate change can lead to “brain inflammation.” Well, his is certainly one very inflamed brain that appears to have suffered severe damage with its seething hated for opposing viewpoints. Ms. Davis and the News Leader’s management obviously agree with and support everything this lunatic writes since they never print a disclaimer saying otherwise. As a public service she should at least add an editorial note on any of his future rants stating: “Caution: If you’re considering writing a letter to the editor opposing Robert Weintraub’s comments be warned that he claims he is armed to the teeth and has publicly threatened to shoot area residents who disagree with his opinions.” If she doesn’t then I’ll just keep reminding readers here each time she prints one of his spittle-spewing, incoherent diatribes.
“Hello Captain Underwear, Something Went Wrong In My Fruit Of the Looms:” Maybe Senator Mitt Romney’s (R-UT) “Magic Underwear” malfunctioned when he decided to vote President Trump “Guilty” Wednesday on Article I of impeachment, Abuse of Power. He apparently had a short in in his shorts but they started working properly again when he voted “Not Guilty” on the second article, Obstruction of Congress. According to the Church of Latter-day Saints, of which Romney is a member, these “temple garments” referred to by some as “magic underwear” serve a number of purposes when properly worn. “They provide protection against temptation and evil” says church expert Carlos E. Assay who adds that the garment “strengthens the wearer to resist temptation, fend off evil influences, and stand firmly for the right.” Ummmm, something definitely short circuited in Romney’s skivvies! Maybe they weren’t plugged in or he needed to reboot them. He’ll need to wear two pair the next time he meets with Mitch McConnell and he’ll need more than Magic Underwear when he crosses paths with President Trump.
No Explanation Necessary!