Once upon a time, George Bamberger was a 27-year-old rookie for the New York Giants, grabbing a late cup of coffee look that featured two home runs allowed in two innings over two games.
That was 1951.
His ERA was 18.00.
Yet, somehow, the righty got another look in 1952.
He lowered his ERA to 9.00 in five appearances.
And then, in 1959, Bambi got one more shot, posting a 7.56 ERA for the Baltimore Orioles in three games after a long, long stint in the minor leagues.
He would head back to the minors for the rest of his career, which wrapped up in 1963, but Bamberger had already made the connections that would later return him to the Major League limelight.
See, Orioles general manager Harry Dalton helped Bamberger get started on his coaching career and even hired him as the O’s pitching coach in 1967.
Then, when Dalton moved on to the Milwaukee Brewers in the winter of 1977-78, one of his first moves was to bring in George Bamberger as his manager.
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That decision paid off, as Bamberger guided his young charges — including Hall-of-Famers-to-be Paul Molitor and Robin Yount — to a 26-game turnaround and a third place finish in the old American League east.
Bambi remained skipper through the 1980 season, when heart troubles and a so-so record after a return from heart surgery prompted him to retire.
But the wheels for something big were already in motion, and the Brew Crew made the playoffs after the strike-shortened 1981 season under Buck Rodgers and then became an all-time favorite band of characters with a cult following by winning the East under Harvey Kuenn in 1982.
After a year away, in 1981, Bamberger found he wasn’t quite ready to leave baseball behind, so he stepped into the abyss to manage the 1982 Mets, watching his former charges rise to glory from across the chasm of league boundaries.
Alas, even the Bambi magic couldn’t save the Amazin’s, and he resigned after the 1983 season.
Meanwhile, the Brewers slid from their glory of 1982 in 1983 and then tumbled all the way to the cellar of the division in 1984.
Dalton called up his old friend that offseason, convinced him that maybe together they could bring the Brewers back to life, pronto.
In his two-year return engagement, Bamberger led Milwaukee to two sixth-place finishes (there were seven teams in the AL East) before retiring with nine games left in the 1986 season.
Not a storybook ending.
The reunion did give Brewers fans something they missed out on the first time around — a Bamberger baseball card showing skip in a Milwaukee uniform.
Actually, Bambi made a few appearances in cardboard for those mid-80s Brewers teams, including 1986 and 1987 Topps cards.
But the first, and maybe the oddballiest, was the 1985 Gardner’s Bakery card.
After a standard orientation in 1983 and 1984, Gardner’s showed up in 1985 with a colorful horizontal design, somewhat reminiscent of the 1955 Bowman set, sans the wood grain.
Produced by Topps, these cards were distributed by — surprise! — Gardner’s, a Wisconsin bakery.
And, who do you think leads off the 1985 set, grabbing card #1.
Yep, it’s the skipper.
And just like that, George Bamberger had his first solo Brewers card.
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