November 19, 2003 by

Ken Brett


Categories: Sports

Ken Brett, the youngest World Series pitcher in history, died on Nov. 18 from brain cancer. He was 53.

Brett grew up in El Segundo, Calif., playing sports every night. He signed his first pro contract at 17 with the Boston Red Sox, as the fourth player taken in the draft.

He was only 19 years old when he pitched for Boston in the 1967 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. The left-hander would eventually spend 14 years in the major leagues, pitching for Milwaukee, the New York Yankees, the Chicago White Sox, California, Minnesota, Los Angeles and Kansas City before retiring in 1981.

One of the best hitting pitchers of his time, he set a record by homering in four straight starts for the Phillies in 1973. For his career, Brett hit .262 with 10 homers. His pitching record was 83-85, with a 3.93 ERA.

After his retirement, Brett became a broadcaster for the Angels and Mariners. He moved to Spokane, Wash., several years ago to help run the Spokane Indians minor league baseball team and the Spokane Chiefs hockey team with his brothers Bobby Brett and Hall of Famer George Brett. Ken was also the president of Brett Bros. Bat Company and an assistant coach at Whitworth College.

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10 Responses to Ken Brett

  1. Bill Tapp

    Played ball against Ken all through high school (Palos Verdes) and legion ball as well. He was a great player on a very good team (El Segundo) which had a great baseball tradition. I remember my last summer of legion ball playing against Kimmer (as he was known in those days) I hit four homeruns and struck out four times! The next summer he was pitching in the World Series! Pretty cool. Not a personal friend but respected him as an athlete and a competitor and certainly followed his career. Sorry to hear of his passing> He was way too young.

  2. Raydell Barr

    I am in shock! It’s September 18, 2004 and Kemer’s birthday. I was doing a search to find out what he was up to and I found his death notice from last year. I can’t understand why I didn’t read or hear of it sooner.
    I fell in love with Kemer when he joined the Pirates. I followed his career with every move and he would send me a picture of himself in his new uniform. I remember when he went from the Yankees to the White Sox, he wrote on the picture, “Sorry about the change in uniforms, however……” He will be missed!! Love ya, Kemer! Mean it!

  3. ed helvey

    Edison Helvey, my late grandfather, was the manager of the El Segundo Babe Ruth team Kemer lead to a world series victory. “A man among boys,” he often said about Kemer. A head Red Sox scout called him shortly before the draft, he told me over a steak dinner when I was eleven or twelve, and asked whether they should make him into a pitcher or outfielder. My grandfather, knowing the Bosox would be contending for the pennant that year knew they needed pitching NOW. He also knew Kemer was ready to pitch in the bigs but was sure two or three years in the minors as an outfielder would have paved the way for a Hall or Fame career. So, as the story goes, my grandpa said to the scout, “Why are you calling me during dinner? You sonsofbitches already know what you’re going to do!”
    In one of the first allumni baseball games in El Segundo, Kemer beat George in the homerun derby contest. George was coming off his historical attempt to be the first hitter to hit .400 in nearly forty years. The older brother was already out of baseball.
    The day before my elventh birthday, my grandfather was visiting Kemer and mentioned my birthday was coming up. He gave him the bat he used to hit those record setting home runs in four consecutive starts. The bat, as I write this, is but a few feet away.
    Ed Helvey

  4. Auggie Meick

    Kemer was my first baseball coach. I know go to El Segundo High School, Coach Ken’s Hs, and this will be my third year pitching for the varsity squad. I always remembered that Ken was always in a good mood. I spent the night at his house(when he lived in Manhatten Beach) when I played for him. He was a great guy, and he is missed throughout our entire program at El Segundo.

  5. b viselli

    Ken was a solid human being , all you had to do was look at his brothers and you knew who was
    the leader of the pack, and that was quite the pack!!!!!
    Ken we all miss you, it is a damn shame, you were real!!!!
    There is nothing to say…you deserve so…………..much more….

  6. Roy Hand

    I remember Ken Brett quite well. The year was 1963, and I had decided to go out for the Junior Varsity team as a pitcher at Lennox High. I would find out later that being in the Pioneer League in the South Bay of Los Angeles was the wrong place to be. My teammates and I would have to endure this for three years. Our coach had told us about Kemmer as he was called, and informed us that Ken had thrown a no-hitter for the El Segundo Varsity against Leuzinger High during the Easter Tournament. We were not thrilled. He was only a freshman. Coming off of a 13-2 victory over Lawndale, and having struck out 13 batters in my first high school league outing did not set me up for what was to happen in our first meeting. Ken was the opposing pitcher that day. I remember the blue and white uniforms on the first-base side of the El Segundo ball diamond. By the fourth inning, El Segundo was up 4-2. Just as my Dad and my eldest brother had sat down to start the bottom of the 4th, a kid named Sligar hit my first pitch off of the flag pole on the homerun side of right field. Ouch! El Segundo went on to win 9-4, and I found out that day that not only could Ken pitch, but he could hit. He hammered the ball every time we played against him. Ken went on to win Player of the Year honors his jnnior and senior year. He even broke his leg or ankle his senior year while playing against the Lennox HIgh football team. It just so happened that Phil Watanabe, the Lennox quarterback, broke his leg in the same game.
    As I mention Phil’s name, it causes me to reflect and consider these two great athletes and men of character. Of course, we know Ken went on to be a pro ballplayer for the Boston Red Sox. Ken will be missed, and I will always remember that we could not beat him. I never met Bobby or George, but I played ball with John at El Camino College in Torrance, Ca. John was funny and could be a lovable clown, but Ken always came across as more serious and sure of himself.
    I didn’t know you personally, but you will be missed.

  7. Angels Fan

    I saw Ken’s name while surfing the net and was shocked to see he had passed away.
    I know Ken Brett as a great baseball announcer for the Angels.
    Rest in peace Ken.

  8. Ed Carroll Jr

    The first time I saw Kimmer pitch was when my dad took me to an El Segundo High School game. What I remember most about that game was how Kemer dominated every hitter he faced. His talent and abilities were above everyone else. I had the privilege to meet Kemer one spring after I started high school in El Segundo. Kemer was preparing for his upcoming season and I was looking forward to playing high school baseball. An arrangement was made that Kemer, his father Jack, my father, and my friend Bruce Newman met at a ballpark so I could be coached by Kemer. I was in awe of Kemer and paid close attention to everything he said and did. My father, bless his soul, decided to film the workout with his 8mm camera. A while back I watched the film and it brought back great moments of my time with Kemer. Kemer had such an impact of my baseball career. Over the years I would see Kemer and I always remembered how he took time for me as a young ballplayer. I also had the privilege to play Babe Ruth ball, high school ball, and professional ball with George. Learning of Kemer’s illness and passing away left me asking why. I miss Kemer and everything he stood for. God Bless!

  9. Mark Deneen

    It’s World Series time 2014. The Royal’s Hall of Famer, George Brett takes the field to throw out the first pitch, and I’m taken back fifty years to the Pioneer league championship game with George’s older brother, Kemer Brett on the mound for the El Segundo Eagles. For the competition, he may as well have been Sandy Koufax.

    I know it is little brother George who is in Cooperstown, but in the 1960s it was big brother Kemer who was the God of Baseball in the idyllic middle America province of El Segundo. Kemer not only dominated the diamond, in an almost comic book super hero fashion, but he dominated the gestalt of high school life. As a nameless face in those halls for four years, I can attest to the power of Kemer’s aura. I can’t imagine any 15 year old boy not in awe of the talent and poise of this man-boy who’s name seemed to float in the atmosphere everywhere.

    But Kemer wasn’t like many heroic high school jocks with inflated egos and tactless social skills leaning towards a cruel streak. You know what I’m talking about. Kemer had an easy going grace with both feet on the ground. I bet I wasn’t alone as a nameless, faceless admirer among the other 150 boys in his class. The small ones, the quite ones, the unpopular ones, the one who never met him, but only walked by him. Kemer was my first role model.

    Pitching for the Bosox as a teenager in the ’67 World Series was all it took to forever cement Kemer’s Big League baseball credentials in my mind. Over the years I would notice the baseball career slipping through his destiny, but it never reduced his stature for me. It was only this past year I regained an interest in baseball. I had decades ago lost track of my high school hero.

    Then George Brett came on my TV screen and I picked up my tablet and Googled, ‘Kenneth Kemer Brett’, to find out that he had left us 11 years earlier. A sadness fell over me. I searched out all the Brett family stories I could find to catch up on my hero’s life over the time I hadn’t been watching. What I hoped against hope was that I wouldn’t find a steroid scandal, or drug busts, or wife beatings, or gambling charges. I wanted to believe that my judgment and intuition as a high school kid had been solid and stood the test of time. I discovered a man that his friends, peers, competitors and teamates liked and respected. Kemer didn’t win those 300 games or hit those 600 home runs. Maybe a freak twist of an elbow some foggy El Segundo night?  A freak twist of fate. But everyone who knew him in 1966 knows he could have been that guy. He was a legendary ‘phenom’ – and everyone wanted to be like Kemer.

    I’m glad I had a chance to catch up on his life and his death. Even years after he’s gone he gave me a little jolt of inspiration. He was once behind me on the snack line. “Great game Kemer!” I offered. He looked at me sincerely, “Hey thanks!” I could always brag, I knew the greatest phenom in the game!

  10. Don Nelson

    I remember facing Ken back in 1966 during the High School CIF championship playoffs. They (He) beat us (San Bernardino High School) 3-2. Probably the greatest thrill of my baseball career was hitting that home run against him…I remember the pitch even now as if it were yesterday. I remember talking to him as he stood on 2nd base after one of his many extra base hits…such a friendly and likeable guy. Wish I could have known him better, but that two hours will be with me for ever. Rest in peace.

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