When looking at league-wide WAR leaders for 1960, one might not expect to find young St. Louis Cardinals hurler Ernie Broglio. Yet, he is right there, stacked alongside some of the greatest names of all time. Indeed, Broglio’s mark of 7.6 was higher than Hall of Famers Eddie Mathews, Don Drysdale, and Mickey Mantle. He also outgunned Roger Maris and fellow Cardinal Ken Boyer. He finished the year tied with Warren Spahn in wins (21) and led the majors in adjusted ERA+ (148). In short, Ernie Broglio had a season for the ages…and he was only 24 when he did it.
After having something of a lackluster rookie season, Ernie Broglio was not expected to do much in 1960. He proved the doubters wrong, putting up one of the finest pitching performances of anyone ever. Though he did not take home the Cy Young Award, he did prove that no matter the age, heroics can come from anywhere.
Ernie Broglio: From High School to the Big Leagues
Ernie Broglio had something of a winding path to the big leagues. In 1953, after a high school tryout, he signed a contract with the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League. From there, he bounced through the New York Yankees and New York Giants’ systems before winding up with the Cardinals. After a whirlwind Pacific tour, he made his debut in 1959, ironically enough, against the Giants. From there, his rookie season tumbled downhill. He went 7-12 with a 4.72 ERA, a 1.450 WHIP, and a 90 ERA+. This was a definite shock for someone who, only two years prior, had won 17 games with the Dallas Eagles of the Texas League.
The Supporting Cast
In 1960, Broglio bounced back and forth between the bullpen and the rotation. He made 24 starts and finished 14 games. Not only was he closer Lindy McDaniel’s primary setup man, but he threw just over 226 innings. He also struck out 188. His corps mates were nothing to sneeze at, either. The Cardinals put up the fourth-best team ERA in the National League (3.64) and finished second in strikeouts (906). Staff ace Larry Jackson won 18 contests with a 3.48 ERA. McDaniel took home 12 wins of his own, to go along with 27 saves. It was the second season for a young bullpen arm named Bob Gibson, who was overshadowed by the likes of McDaniel and Broglio.
An Unsuspecting Cy Young Contender
For the subject of our story today, the season began rather innocuously enough, with a no-decision to the now-California-based Giants. In fact, Ernie Broglio experienced multiple and extended gaps between decisions, simply due to his bullpen work. His first win of the season did not come until May 16, when he finished a game with the Philadelphia Phillies. On May 30, he picked up his second win of the year and the first in a game he started. In fact, he went the distance, hurling nine innings of four-hit, three-run ball. The Cardinals trounced the Los Angeles Dodgers 15-3 at Dodger Stadium.
From here, things began to get a little more interesting. Ernie Broglio began shifting ever more into a starting role. He reeled off three wins in a row during the middle of June, with his best performance coming on June 12 in the second game of a doubleheader. Holding the Pittsburgh Pirates to two runs over eight innings, he led the Cardinals to a 5-2 win. Overall, Broglio posted a 4-3 record for the month with a serviceable 3.44 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 34 innings. The only worrisome thing about his whole line was just how much Lady Luck played against him. Opposing teams were hitting a scorching .337 on balls put in play. In short, when Ernie Broglio kept the opposition from making contact, he was nearly unhittable. When they did, things turned south fast.
Ernie Broglio’s Sizzling Summer
As June turned to July, Broglio continued to take on even more responsibility in the rotation. In fact, it proved to be his most profitable month so far. He went 5-1 with a 2.45 ERA while holding opponents to a minuscule .194 average. Their BABIP plummeted to .239, as luck decided to turn in Ernie Broglio’s favor. He hurled two complete game shutouts during the span, one on July 15 against the Chicago Cubs and the other on July 29 against the Phillies. Over this month, 57% of his pitches went for strikes. He was also freezing hitters quite a bit, with 16% of those strikes being called. A lot of his pitches were being hit on the ground (a 0.84 or 84% ground ball rate). A strikeout total of 49 in 47 2/3 innings is the icing on what was a marvelous monthly cake.
The dog days of summer proved a tad less fruitful, though no less stud-like. In August, Ernie Broglio put up another sub-three ERA and held opponents to a .220 average. He managed to increase his strike percentage to 64%, with a swinging strike rate of 17%. Luck turned back against him a tad more as opponents put up a .256 BABIP. He also walked 20 batters in 57 innings. Other than that, August was very good to Broglio. His best performance came on August 11, when he hurled a 12-inning, complete-game gem against the Pirates. The Cardinals won 3-2. It was Broglio’s highest game score of the month (87).
Five Games of Bliss
Finally, in September, Broglio put up one of his best stretches of the season. He kickstarted the month with a five-game winning streak. Three of these wins were complete games, and one was a shutout. During this five-game stretch, he pitched to a 1.36 ERA and held opponents to a .162 average. He struck out 28 batters in 39 2/3 innings and only gave up two home runs. While his walk total was pushing towards the upper echelon (19), nobody could doubt that he was among the best in the game during this period. Unfortunately, he lost his final two starts of the season. However, that did nothing to put a damper on what was a spectacular year.
Ernie Broglio went on to become infamous in 1964 for being part of a trade with the Cubs that sent Lou Brock the other way. Despite this, during his years in St. Louis, Broglio was a force. This is especially true in 1960 when he had the best season of his career. He wouldn’t win 20 games again, although another impressive season in 1963 saw him win 18 contests. Even so, 1960 was his only time ever placing in Cy Young or MVP voting. The praise was well deserved, though some might have thought he was unproven. His impressive 1960 campaign was all the proof anyone needed.