His passing didn’t get much ink, but this past Sunday former Chicago Cubs, Phillies and Chicago White Sox hurler John Buzhardt died at 71 in Prosperity, S.C. after a stroke followed by several years of illness.
As a young pitcher with a lot of potential, Buzhardt had the misfortune to have been part of some of the worst teams in MLB history. He started his career with the Cubs. Baseball writer Bob Spear recalls his interview with Buzhardt 4 years ago;
He signed a pro contract with the Cubs in 1954 — for $250.
“I got another $250 if I lasted 60 days,” he said jokingly.
After turning 3-0 and 4-5 records in his first 2 seasons with the Cubs, he was traded to a Phillies club which was sooo bad (How bad were they??), sooo bad that manager Eddie Sawyer who managed them to last place finishes in 1958 and 1959 gave up on them and quit after they lost the opening game of the 1960 season.
They were sooo bad that they managed one the worst trades in MLB history, 1958 rookie of the year Jack Sanford for the horrid and inept battery of Ruben Gomez and Valmy Thomas and that the Phils held on to Gomez for two seasons although then-owner Bob Carpenter later called the deal “the worst trade he ever made.”
However Buzhardt commented to Bob Spear on those Philly teams; “Not a bad team, just a young team,”
When Buzhardt came to the Phils, the sports writers and the radio, TV announcers all pronounced his name “Buzhardt” pronouncing the “h”. But when he arrived at Clearwater in 1961, he asserted that the correct pronounciation of his family name was “Buzhardt” with the “h” silent.
John Buzhardt is best known by MLB historians for having won the second game of a doubleheader with the San Francisco Giants on July 28, which preceeded the now infamous Phillies “modern NL-record 23-game losing streak,” and winning over the Milwaukee Braves 7-4 in the 2nd game of a doubleheader on Aug 20, 1961 ending the winless string.
Although Buzhardt had a lifetime losing record of 71-96 in his 11 year career, he finished his career with an enviable 3.66 ERA.
Buzhardt had his longest and most successful stretch with one club from 1962-1967 with the AL Chicago White Sox. The Sox acquired him in exchange for 1st baseman Roy Sievers, a slugger with the Sox who came to be known in Philly as “Pop-Up Sievers” during 2 1/2 failed seasons. Buzhardt’s career best season was in 1965 with the Sox with a recorde of 13-8 and a 3.01 ERA.
Baseball writer Spear also recalls Buzhardt’s personality from during the interview;
“My first hit,” he said. “A line drive that gets longer and harder every year.”
Even after a motorized scooter and wheelchair replaced a golf cart for transportation, John Buzhardt remained a beacon for good humor.
John Buzhardt, however one pronounces the name, will be missed and not forgotten.