Thursday, May 22, 2014

Card #46: Jerry Augustine

Who Can It Be Now?
Gerald Lee Augustine was born on July 24, 1952, in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and grew up in Kewaunee.  For those of you not familiar with Kewaunee, it is due east of Green Bay and located right on Lake Michigan halfway between Manitowoc and Sturgeon Bay. Augustine went to Kewaunee High School, went undrafted, and then went clear across the state of Wisconsin to the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse for college.  

In the mid-1970s, the Brewers were struggling both to find talent and to find ways to get people to come to the games.  The 1974 June Draft saw them pick four guys from the State of Wisconsin in consecutive rounds between 12 and 15.  In order, they were Jim Gantner (from Wisconsin-Oshkosh), Thomas Farina (drafted from Pulaski High School in Milwaukee, he lasted all of 7 games in the New-York Penn League), Daniel Morgan (hailing from Superior, Wisconsin, Morgan did not sign and went to the University of Minnesota instead), and Jerry Augustine.

Despite the lack of pedigree in being a fifteenth round pick, Augustine was promoted aggressively through the system in a fashion somewhat appropriate for a collegiate pitcher. He started in 1974 at Danville in the Midwest League and had facially acceptable numbers -- a 7-4 record and a 2.56 ERA.  Still, he only struck out 5.3 per 9 innings in A-ball while walking 3.5 per 9.    

The club pushed him to Triple-A Sacramento for 1975.  He didn't exactly shine -- a 4.78 ERA with only 3.1 K and 4.6 BB per 9 innings.  Even so, the Brewers gave Augustine a big-league call-up in September of that year, having him start 3 games.  After that, Augustine did not go back to the minor leagues until 1984.

Outside of his 1975 cup of coffee, Augustine had two years as a Brewer where he sported an ERA better than the league average -- 1976 and 1979.  Otherwise,  Augie was solidly below average every year.  He didn't strike people out -- only 3.3 K/9 for his career and never getting more than 68 strikeouts in a season (that was in his single 200+ inning year, 1977).  He was a finesse pitcher, a swingman who, when things were going well, induced a lot of ground balls.  

When the Brewers started to contend in the American League East in 1978 and thereafter, Augustine's role changed.  Yes, he could still hop into the rotation for a spot start here and there.  But, the Brewers treated him as a mop-up man.  For example, in 1980 for a team that finished 86-76 and in third place in the AL East, Augustine pitched in 39 games.  In those 39 games, the team's record was a miserable 7-32.  Only on 10 occasions did Augustine enter the game with the score tied or with the Brewers winning.  He came in 3 games with the team down a run, eight times with the team down two, six times with the team down three runs, four times with the Brewers losing by four runs, and eight times when the team was losing by five or more runs.  To me, that sounds like the very definition of the low-leverage mop-up man.

Coming in to 1982, then, Augustine was a guy on the bubble.  A story ran in March of 1982 in the Milwaukee Sentinel (the old morning paper) that Augustine was fighting to make the staff.  Indeed, later that season, when the Brewers traded for Don Sutton on August 31, room had to be made on the 25-man roster for Sutton.  That room was created when the Brewers designated Augustine for assignment.  

Strangely, though, it was all a paperwork issue because he was back with the team two days later after the Triple-A season was over.  That move, however, made him ineligible for the post-season roster -- meaning that the home-grown guy who played through the bad years in the mid-1970s sat and watched his team as a fan.  As he put it the next spring, "it still hurt inside.  I wanted to play.  I kept dreaming at night after the games that I got into the game and I helped win it.  Stuff like that.  It didn't make it any easier, but there was nothing I could do about it."

Augustine's career as a major leaguer ended after April of 1984.  Augustine pitched four times in the first seven games of the season and did not give up an earned run, but the Brewers sent him down to Triple-A Vancouver to make room on the roster for fellow lefty Rick Waits.  That same year, Augustine moved through two other organizations -- St. Louis and the Cubs.  He finished his career pitching in Triple-A for Baltimore and, finally at the end of 1986, the New York Yankees.

Family Ties
Augustine's brother Dale played football at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.  Dale's son and Jerry's nephew, James Augustine, played college basketball at the University of Illinois and professionally with the Orlando Magic from 2006-2008.

This Is Radio Clash
Since 2009, Augustine has served as a pregame and postgame analyst on Fox Sports Wisconsin for Milwaukee Brewers games.

A Few Minutes with Tony L.
Even as a kid, I learned to cringe a bit when Jerry Augustine came into the game. Instinctively -- because I didn't have the stats to prove it -- I knew that the game must be getting out of hand.  Now, at least, I can relax a bit in knowing that my instincts then were correct.  

That said, whenever Augustine came into the game -- and even when I hear his name now -- I think of a Viennese song written in around 1800.  Huh?  Yes:

Okay, back to Jerry Augustine.  In the time between his retirement from baseball as a player and his current gig as a TV analyst, Augustine has had two main jobs.  First, he served for 12 seasons as the head baseball coach for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (and yes, there are a LOT of schools that are the University of Wisconsin-somewhere).  After that and outside of his TV roles, his main work in life is as an American Family Insurance agent.

Two final random items:

1.  Augustine is a very diligent signer of autographs through the mail, as fellow blogger Cynical Buddha found out last year.

2.  You can follow Augie on Twitter, though it does not appear that he tweets very regularly.

When I was a kid, Jerry Augustine was not high on my list of favorite Brewers.  I recognized the limitations on his talents.  I wanted to grow up to be a Robin Yount/Paul Molitor/Cecil Cooper type -- the star, the guy everyone watches.  If you asked me now, I would take the life that Jerry Augustine led -- being a local boy who got to play for the local team in the majors for nearly a decade -- in a heartbeat.   

1 comment:

  1. Maybe if he played right now he could use that song as his entrance music.