04/10/2002 5:05 AM ET
Where have you gone, Ken Sanders?
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- As Major League Baseball officials
waded through the sport's most turbulent off-season in
years, a former Brewers reliever and current Players
Alumni Association board member watched and
Ken Sanders has seen worse, and he has a
30-year-old photograph on his desk to prove it. It
pictures Sanders, then a right-handed Brewers
reliever, manager Dave Bristol, general manager Frank
Lane and then-Brewers owner Bud Selig.
"We're leaning over Bud's desk and Bud had a rotary
phone up to his head," said Sanders, now 60. "The
importance of that picture -- and I don't know how I
ever got it -- it was 1972 and we were waiting for the
phone call that the first strike had ended."
Thirty years later, Sanders hopes baseball never gets
to that point again.
He has been on the board of the Major League
Baseball Players Alumni Association (MLBPAA) for
nearly two decades, so Sanders watched the
off-season wrangling closely. The players and union
chief Donald Fehr are working with Commissioner Selig
toward a new basic agreement. Sanders, in his role
with the MLBPAA, is involved in planning for players'
futures once they leave baseball.
"As I think about the basic agreement and the dollars
involved, I've had this feeling that if we were smart
back then we would have had some provisions to go
back and taken care of some of the former players,"
Sanders said. "If we had known that salaries were
going to get to $250,000 or $500,000 -- we never
thought they'd get to $1 million -- we would have done
"We have some former players who are in their 60s,
70s, and 80s who are vested pension earners, and
they don't get enough money per month to pay for
their medical expenses."
The MLBPAA and the Baseball Assistance Team (BAT)
can often help former players and their families.
Sanders said he once got a call from former Brewer
Brabender's sister in Black Earth, Wis. Brabender,
a Wisconsin native who pitched five seasons and won a
championship with the 1966 Baltimore Orioles, died
that morning and the woman said she could not afford
"He had fallen on tough times," Sanders said. "He had
to sell his World Series ring and fortunately we were
able to help."
Sanders also chairs a fundraising golf tournament in
the Milwaukee area, with past participants including
Ferguson Jenkins, Tom Seaver, Carlton Fisk, Harmon
Killebrew, Tony Olivia and former Brewers like Lew
Krause, Cecil Cooper, Gorman Thomas and Robin
Yount. The 17th annual "Swing With the Legends",
scheduled for June 16-17 at the Grand Geneva Resort
and Spa in Lake Geneva, Wis., is one of about 30 of
tournaments staged by the MLBPAA around the U.S.
Sanders also works in more informal capacities,
attending Brewers fantasy camps and offering advice
to some current Major Leaguers. Infielder Mark Loretta
is the Brewers union representative, and said it can be
"fascinating" to learn from former big leaguers.
"I see it as an opportunity to broaden my horizons and
it's interesting, yeah," Loretta said. "There are some
very, very, very intelligent people on both sides. It's
great just to listen to some of their ideas and some of
Sanders gained his insight over 10 Major League
seasons with nine different clubs in eight different
cities, including a three-year stay with the Brewers
He posted a career-best 1.75 ERA in 50 games after
coming to Milwaukee from the Oakland A's, and
followed up with a 1.91 ERA while leading the league
with 83 relief appearances and 31 saves in 1971. He
won Fireman of the Year and Brewers Most Valuable
Player honors that season, and still holds the franchise
record for appearances in a season.
By the time Sanders' career ended after the 1976
season, he had already decided to make Milwaukee
"After the '71 season I said, 'let's buy a house, we'll be
here forever,'" he said. "I was traded nine months later
and then another two months after that. But we
decided to raise our family here, and we adopted two
babies here so obviously Milwaukee has been an
important part of our life."
Since his playing career ended, Sanders has become a
prominent real estate man in the area. He currently
serves as vice president of corporate services for
Milwaukee- and Chicago-based Coldwell Banker
Residential Brokerage, selling corporate relocation
"I love real estate," Sanders said. "But it's been crazy
this past year."
The same can be said of his other love.
Adam McCalvy and Brad Girsch cover the Brewers
for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the
approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
|Ken Sanders pitched 10 Major League seasons with nine different clubs in eight different
cities, including a three-year stay with the Brewers from 1970-72.