August 1, 1923|
Staten Island, New York
|Died: April 4, 2004
North Redington Beach, Florida
|April 19, 1951, for the New York Giants|
|Last MLB appearance|
|April 22, 1959, for the Baltimore Orioles|
|Earned run average||9.42|
George Irvin Bamberger (August 1, 1923 – April 4, 2004) was an American professional baseball player, pitching coach and manager. In Major League Baseball, the right-handed pitcher appeared in ten games, nine in relief, for the 1951–52 New York Giants and the 1959 Baltimore Orioles. He later spent ten seasons (1968–77) as the Orioles' pitching coach and managed the Milwaukee Brewers (1978–80; 1985–86) and New York Mets (1982–83).
Bamberger was born and raised in Staten Island, New York. He served in the United States Army during World War II in the Mediterranean and European theaters of operations and signed with the Giants in 1946. Bamberger reached double digits in wins during four of his first five minor league seasons; he would record ten or more victories in 15 of his 18 years as a minor league pitcher, and win 213 total games during that span (1946–63).
Bamberger made the MLB Giants' 28-man roster at the outset of the 1951 season. In his big-league debut on April 19, 1951, during a Patriots' Day doubleheader against the Boston Braves at Braves Field, he gave up three hits (including a home run to Sam Jethroe) and two earned runs in two innings pitched. Nine days later, he struggled again, as he surrendered a base on balls and then a two-run homer to Jackie Robinson, while recording no outs, against the Brooklyn Dodgers. Bamberger spent the rest of that season with the Triple-A Ottawa Giants of the International League.
In 1952, Bamberger again was a member of the big-league Giants during the season's early weeks. He appeared in five more games, all as a relief pitcher, but was largely ineffective, allowing six hits, three walks and four earned runs in four full innings of work. After June 1, he was sent to the Oakland Oaks of the top-level Pacific Coast League, where he spent the bulk of the rest of his playing career. The Oaks transferred to Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1956, and Bamberger remained with the renamed Vancouver Mounties for another seven years until the franchise moved again, to Dallas, Texas, in 1963.
In the midst of that tenure, however, in 1959, the 35-year-old Bamberger received his third and final Major League trial with the Mounties' parent club, the Baltimore Orioles. In his American League debut April 16, Bamberger was the starting pitcher against the defending world champion New York Yankees at Memorial Stadium. He held the Yankees scoreless for five full innings, as Baltimore built a 2–0 lead. But in the sixth, he surrendered a two-run double to Norm Siebern, tying the game, and then, after the Orioles had gone ahead, 3–2, in their half of the sixth, gave up the lead in the seventh frame. He left after 6⅓ innings, allowing four earned runs on four hits, with Baltimore trailing by a run. (The Orioles eventually prevailed, 7–4, with Billy O'Dell getting the win in relief.)
After two relief appearances with the Orioles, Bamberger returned to the Pacific Coast League for the rest of his pitching career. He never recorded a decision in the Majors, and compiled a 9.42 ERA with 25 hits and ten bases on balls allowed, and only three strikeouts, over 14⅓ innings.
Coaching and managerial career
Baltimore Orioles pitching coach
In 1960–63, Bamberger served as a player-coach for the Mounties and Dallas-Fort Worth Rangers while still pitching regularly (working in 135 games, 110 as a starter). Then, in 1964, he retired as a player and rejoined the Baltimore organization as its roving minor league pitching instructor. The Orioles' farm system was then among the pioneers in standardizing player instruction. With Bamberger playing a key role, it was developing a corps of young pitchers that would help the club win the 1966 World Series. He earned a promotion when general manager Harry Dalton appointed him to succeed Harry Brecheen as the Orioles' pitching coach on October 3, 1967. Serving under Hank Bauer and then Earl Weaver, Bamberger would remain with the ballclub through 1977 and five American League East Division championships, three American League pennants and the 1970 World Series championship. During that decade, he produced 18 twenty-game winners, including four for the 1971 American League champions: Jim Palmer, Mike Cuellar, Dave McNally and Pat Dobson. He also would teach his famed pitch, "The Staten Island Sinker".
1978–80: Manager of "Bambi's Bombers"
After the 1977 season, Dalton became general manager of the Milwaukee Brewers. In their nine-year history, including 1969 as the Seattle Pilots, the Brewers had never had a winning record, nor had they won more than 76 games. Seeking a replacement for dismissed manager Alex Grammas, Dalton hired the 54-year-old Bamberger as Milwaukee's 1978 pilot.
In his first managerial assignment, Bamberger led the 1978 Brewers to a 26-game turnaround. His club won 93 games and finished third behind the Yankees and Boston Red Sox in the AL East. Bamberger's influence on his pitching staff was reflected by a 30 percent decrease in walks allowed (566 vs. 398) and a 20 percent decline in home runs allowed (136 vs. 109). Team ERA dropped from 4.32 to 3.65, and both Mike Caldwell (22–9, 2.36) and Lary Sorensen (18–12, 3.21) enjoyed standout seasons. But a spike in offense would make an even larger mark on Bamberger's team. The 1978 Brewers hit 173 home runs (48 more than in 1977) and outscored their previous year's team by 165 runs, a 26 percent rise. Seven players hit double figures in home runs, and two (Larry Hisle, signed as a free agent, and Gorman Thomas) eclipsed the 30-homer mark. The Brewers became known as "Bambi's Bombers."
Then, in 1979, Bamberger's Brewers hit 185 home runs, captured 95 victories and finished second, behind only Weaver's Orioles. But in March 1980, during spring training, Bamberger was hospitalized with back and chest pains. He was diagnosed with a heart attack, underwent surgery and was sidelined until June 6. He re-took the reins from interim pilot Buck Rodgers, but did not finish the season, resigning September 7 after compiling a disappointing 47–45 win-loss record. He stepped down with a 235–180 (.566) mark for his maiden managerial job, while turning Milwaukee into a contender for the American League pennant. The Brewers qualified for the playoffs in 1981 under Rodgers and won their only AL championship in 1982 with Harvey Kuenn at the helm. (The club moved to the National League Central Division in 1998.)
1982–83: Struggles during Mets' rebuilding
Bamberger's managerial career was not over, however. Frank Cashen, another former Oriole executive, hired him as skipper of the struggling New York Mets for 1982. The Mets had gone only 41–62 (.398) under Joe Torre during the strike-shortened 1981 season. The 1982 Mets—still in the early stages of a rebuilding process that would produce the 1986 world championship—played at almost an identical pace (.401), led the National League in bases on balls and finished second-worst in team ERA. Then the 1983 edition started even worse. They were 16–30 (.348) on June 3 when Bamberger resigned, saying, "I've probably suffered enough."
1985–86: Second term in Milwaukee
A season and a half later, during the 1984–85 off-season, Dalton called Bamberger back into harness to attempt to revive the Brewers, who had plunged into the AL East basement in 1984. But this time, Bamberger was unable to turn the club around: they won only 71 games for him in 1985 (with the team ERA climbing by 0.33 to 4.39) and 71 more the following season. The bright spot on the Brewers' staff was left-handed starting pitcher Teddy Higuera, who won 15 games as a rookie in 1985 and 20 more the following season. Bamberger retired for a final time September 25, 1986, at age 63, turning the Brewers over to coach Tom Trebelhorn with nine games left in the season. He finished his managerial career with a record of 458–478 (.489).
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
- George Bamberger managerial career statistics at Baseball-Reference.com
- SABR Biography Project. Article written by Tom Hawthorn
- Baseball in Wartime
- Historic Baseball
|Baltimore Orioles Pitching Coach