As I started doing research for my Milwaukee Brewers book, I was grateful that Lew Krausse from the original 1970 team took the time to answer some questions about his career.
Lew Krausse was born on April 25, 1943 in Media, Pennsylvania. His father Lew Sr. was a baseball pitcher and that certainly influenced the younger Krausse in making a career choice. He spent his childhood and high school years at Chester, PA on the diamond. By then Lew Sr. had retired from playing and had become a scout with the Kansas City Athletics. Father was able to sign son to a $125,000 bonus contract with the A’s.
Krausse made his MLB debut on June 16, 1961. He was just 18 years of age at the time, but got attention for something else besides his young age after throwing a six hit shutout against the expansion Los Angeles Angels.
Krausse says, “My father and I pitched back to back shutouts. Figure that out!”
Lew Sr. pitched for the Philadelphia Athletics in parts of the 1931 and 1932 seasons, mostly appearing in relief. His final appearance would be quite memorable – a 15-0 win over the Red Sox. It took 29 years for his son to shut out the Los Angeles Angels 4-0 in his debut with the A’s.
Unfortunately Krausse went backward after that. After some rough starts he was sent to the bullpen and then to the minors, where he went back and forth for the next four years until sticking around for good. When he was in the minors he had an elbow injury and it was feared that he would never pitch again. Surgery corrected the issue and he returned to the mound with more determination than ever to again pitch in the big leagues.
When Krausse got back to the A’s he had arguably his best career season. In 1966 he posted a 14-9 record with a 2.99 ERA. One theme came up that recurred throughout Krausse’s career – he was the victim of low run support. The A’s in that era were not known for plating a lot of runs, so it was on the pitching staff to pitch a great game and hope the team scratched out enough runs for a victory.
A’s owner Charley Finley suspended Krausse in 1967 for “conduct unbecoming a major league player” after “rowdiness” on a team flight and fined him $500. This set off a chain of events between the team’s players and owner that later were mostly resolved through hearings. Yet some bitterness remained between the players and Finley as the team moved to Oakland for the 1968 season.
Krausse was traded to the expansion Seattle Pilots on January 15, 1970, along with Mike Hershberger, Ken Sanders, and Phil Roof for slugger Don Mincher and Ron Clark. He played for the Pilots in spring training, but not in the regular season since the team was sold to Bud Selig and moved to Milwaukee before the 1970 season started. Krausse could say he was on the roster of two teams that relocated to different cities – Kansas City to Oakland and Seattle to Milwaukee. The abrupt franchise move took many of the Pilots players by surprise, including Krausse. He says it took “forever” to get things straightened out, adding “We had a baby and all his stuff was in Seattle!”
The expansion Pilots turned Brewers were about as good at scoring runs as the A’s – not very. Krausse became a key member of the Brewers starting rotation, and initially was part of a 1-2 punch with Marty Pattin. Later Skip Lockwood emerged as a viable starter and the team looked to have a pretty decent rotation, with John Morris, Al Downing, and others turning in a good start from time to time. Krausse says that Pattin and reliever Ken Sanders became his closest friends on the new Brewers team.
The Brewers were trounced 12-0 on their first opening day, and Krausse took the loss. Unfortunately this game is what often comes up when someone mentions Krausse’s time with the Brewers, but he had far better moments ahead. Many of the players were still adjusting to the spring (more like winter) weather in Wisconsin, Krausse being one of them. Krausse simply recalls, “The home opener was cold!” He did enjoy his surroundings, saying “Milwaukee was a great place with great fans.”
The Brewers had two veteran catchers that were great defenders in Jerry McNertney and former Milwaukee Brave Phil Roof. They split time at the position all season and were instrumental in getting the most out of the team’s pitching staff. Roof says, “My fondest memory was being the starting catcher in the month of May. I thought I worked well with all the pitchers, but especially Lew Krausse and Ken Sanders (after he came up from the minors).”
In June after Krausse lost 4-0 to California and his record fell to 6-10, he blew a gasket over the lack of hitting. He admittedly had given up runs in the first inning of many games, but to his credit had then settled down and pitched deep into those contests. Krausse’s frustration had reached a peak and he talked about either retiring or being traded. But neither happened and he remained a Brewer for the entire season. His name was often brought up as the subject of trade rumors as he was one of the better pitchers on the team.
Krausse said at the time, “We’ve got a lot of guys who are sitting around waiting for someone else to do it. Take away my first inning and I still haven’t beaten anybody. I can’t take pitching like this any longer and getting no runs.”
The Brewers put together a modest four game winning streak in early July, and the final game of the streak was a 1-0 victory over the Chicago White Sox in the second game of a doubleheader. Krausse threw a complete game shutout and gave up just four hits with one walk. It was the first shutout in Milwaukee Brewers history – but the low score was not lost on Krausse, who had been vocal about not getting run support.
Krausse was simply pointing out the obvious – the Brewers had a hard time scoring runs and drew most of their offensive power from Danny Walton and Tommy Harper. Walton, however, was hobbled by a knee injury in the second half of the season and went on the disabled list by September.
The team wound up getting shut out 11 times that year, but could only manage to hold opposing teams scoreless two times – and one of those times was the Krausse shutout. Milwaukee played in a lot of close games and by the end of 1970 they were on the losing end of 33 games decided by one run. They did, however, manage to win 28 one-run games.
Looking back on his shutout and the potential to be traded, Krausse says, “The season finally came together with the shutout. No one remembers good things! Milwaukee was a great place but I wish I had been traded. That was very disappointing to me. I heard I was going everywhere!”
Of course in baseball not every manager and coach gets rave reviews from their players. Starter Lew Krausse was clearly not a fan of his coaching staff, and says “(They were) terrible – manager Dave Bristol and pitching coach Wes Stock.”
Bristol did credit Stock for working with Krausse to improve that August. Bristol said, “He’s (Krausse) pushing off the rubber more and trying not to throw as many curves.” Krausse eyed the possibility of winning 20 games that season after winning seven of eight contests. “If I can get enough starts I just might make it.”
On a team such as the powerhouse Minnesota Twins, both Krausse and Pattin would have probably been 20 game winners. On the 65-97 Brewers things were much different. Pattin threw a complete game to end the season with a personal 14-12 record, and Krausse was just behind him with 13 wins.
Krausse had high hopes for 1971, but again had a slow start with little run support. By June he had a 2-8 record, but the offense only put up 11 total runs in his losses. Manager Dave Bristol moved him to the bullpen soon afterward where he posted a 2.08 earned run average in 21 appearances.
Frank “Trader” Lane was the Brewers General Manager in 1971, taking over the team from Marvin Milkes. Lane didn’t get his nickname for nothing – he was well known for dealing players like cards – sometimes to the chagrin of team owners and fans. His time in Milwaukee was no exception, as he pretty much dealt away the entire original 1970 roster.
After the season Lane pulled off his biggest trade of the year – he dealt Krausse and Pattin along with outfielder Tommy Harper and minor leaguer Pat Skrable to Boston for infielder George Scott, catcher Don Pavletich, pitchers Ken Brett and Jim Lonborg, plus outfielders Billy Conigliaro and Joe Lahoud.
Krausse spent just the 1972 season in Boston and bounced between starting and relieving games. His ERA suffered and he was told he’d be starting the 1973 season in the minors. At the end of spring training the Red Sox relented and sold him to the A’s. He spent the season in the minors and was then sold to the St. Louis Cardinals in September. The Cardinals used him in just one game before the season ended.
The Atlanta Braves purchased his services for the following season, and Krausse responded by lowering his ERA to 4.19 over the course of 29 games – all but four in relief. He was resigned by the A’s in 1975 but missed getting a spot on the team. He had a rough year in Tuscon with the A’s minor league affiliate that season and called it a career at age 32.
In his career as both a starter and reliever he appeared in 321 games overall – 167 as a starting pitcher and the rest out of the bullpen. He is credited with a lifetime 68-91 record with an even 4.00 ERA.
After retiring from baseball Krausse operated a metal business in the Kansas City area. He has been inducted into the Delaware County (Pennsylvania) Sports Hall of Fame. In 2010 he recreated the 1970 Opening Day first pitch with catcher Jerry McNertney at Miller Park in honor of the Brewers 40th anniversary.
Krausse says, “We never made enough money playing. I entered into the business world and made millions!”
My thanks to Lew Krausse for taking the time to answer my questions about his time with the Milwaukee Brewers!
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My book Building the Brewers: Bud Selig and the Return of Major League Baseball to Milwaukee is available to be ordered on the McFarland website.