Eddie Brinkman, 66; Senators Shortstop

Eddie Brinkman, left, said Ted Williams helped him with his hitting.
Eddie Brinkman, left, said Ted Williams helped him with his hitting. (File Photo)
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By Joe Holley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 3, 2008

Eddie Brinkman, 66, the quintessential "good field, no hit" shortstop who spent 10 seasons with the Washington Senators before being swapped to the Detroit Tigers in the infamous Denny McLain trade in 1971, died Sept. 30 in his home town of Cincinnati, according to an announcement from the Chicago White Sox. No cause of death was given, although friends said he had a heart ailment.

Playing for the Tigers, Mr. Brinkman won a Gold Glove award in 1972, a season in which he played a record 72 consecutive errorless games and finished in the Top 10 for Most Valuable Player honors. He was named to the American League all-star team in 1973.

He had a fine arm and good range but just couldn't hit. He finished his 15-year major league career with a batting average of .224.

Mr. Brinkman was known among fellow ballplayers as congenial and fun-loving -- and a fine pinochle player. With the Senators, the 170-pounder was "Wimpy," in contrast to his roommate, 6-8, 270-pound Frank "Hondo" Howard.

"He was an absolute delight to be around," Howard said. "We were like brothers."

Mr. Brinkman was a pitcher in high school with a commanding fastball and a vicious curve. Howard recalled that the Senators considered putting him back on the mound if his hitting didn't pick up. Nothing came of the notion, Howard said.

"A contending club could carry Brinkman for his glove and never worry about his bat," Washington player Sam Mele once observed.

Unfortunately, the Senators were rarely a contending team.

In 1964, the team was hoping Mr. Brinkman had solved his hitting problems when he got off to a sensational start, hitting .400 in the exhibition season. Once the regular season began, he fell into a prolonged slump and finished with a disappointing .224 average.

"I don't know what the trouble was with me last year," he told The Washington Post during spring training in 1965. "I hit everybody in the spring -- good pitchers. But once the season started I couldn't buy a base hit. I was hitting the ball well but always at somebody."

Mr. Brinkman was activated as a member of the D.C. National Guard to help quell the riots in the city in 1968 and missed more than half the season.

He had his best year in 1969, when he hit .267. He credited Nellie Fox, the Senators' hitting instructor and former all-star second baseman with the White Sox, for advising him to use fat-handled bats, to choke up and to spray the ball to all fields.

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