Garrabrant (Brant) Ryerson Alyea was born in Passaic, New Jersey and will turn 73 on December 8th. His father’ s family was Dutch. Brant attended Rutherford High School, where he was famous for his long home runs. The 6’5″ right-handed hitting Alyea received a scholarship to Hofstra University and played for Hofstra from 1959 to 1962. Brant also played for the basketball team coached by Butch van Breda Kolff, leading Hofstra in rebounding in 1960–61. The 1959-1960 Hofstra team went 23-1.
The Cincinnati Reds signed Alyea as an amateur free agent in 1962 and assigned him to the class D Geneva Redlegs where he hit 32 home runs, knocked in 116 while hitting at a .319 clip. In his spare time he appeared as a pitcher in 2 games but after walking 3, giving up 3 hits and 3 runs in just 2 innings he decided his pitching career was over. In November of 1962 the Washington Senators selected Alyea from the Reds in the first-year player draft. Brant worked his way up the Senators minor league chain and was about to make his major league debut as a pinch-hitter against the California Angels on September 11, 1965 at D.C. Stadium when the Angels changed pitchers and Alyea was pinch-hit for before getting a plate appearance. The next day with an announced crowd of 840 in the stands, Senators manager Gil Hodges again called on Alyea to pinch-hit and this time he stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the sixth inning with one out and two runners on and on the very first pitch from Angels hurler Rudy May he hit a three run home run in his first big league at bat and became the first American Leaguer to make such an auspicious debut.
Although Alyea could hit for power, hitting for average was not so easy and it kept Alyea in the minors. Alyea spent all of 1966 and 1967 in the minors. In 1968 he had 150 at bats for the Senators and 237 more in 1969 and during those two season he had 17 home runs with a .259 batting average. Brant stayed sharp and picked up some extra money playing winter ball. He was the top home run hitter in Nicaragua in 1965–66 and set a record for home runs in the Venezuelan Winter League in 1968–69, blasting 18 in 50 games.
Twins owner Calvin Griffith was intrigued with the power hitting Alyea and offered Senators owner Bob Short a young infielder by the name of Graig Nettles but Short passed on the offer. On March 21, 1970 Griffith finally got his man and the Washington Senators traded Brant Alyea to the Twins for pitchers Joe Grzenda and Charlie Walters. Yes, that would be the same Charlie Walters that still writes for the St. Paul Pioneer Press today.
Alyea was the Twins opening day left fielder in 1970 at White Sox Park and what a day he had in a Twins 12-0 pasting of the mighty whitey’s. Brant went 4 for 4 with 2 runs scored, 2 home runs and had a club record tying 7 RBI. But that was just the beginning, Alyea had a torrid April. Playing in 17 games Alyea hit .415 with 5 home runs, 23 RBI with a 1.257 OPS. Alyea cooled off but still finished 1970 with a very respectable 16 home runs, 61 RBI and a .291 average in 258 at bats. Alyea appeared in all 3 of the 1970 ALCS games against the Baltimore Orioles but went 0 for 7 in what would turn out to be his only playoff experience. The rest of the Twins didn’t do much better, hitting just .238 and lost 3 straight games.
Alyea was also involved in a bizarre strikeout that ended in a 7-6-7 put out (yes, that’s left fielder to shortstop to left fielder!). Here’s how it happened, according to the Project Retrosheet (www.retrosheet.org) newsletter of May 1997: “From Dave Smith: How about a strikeout with the batter being retired 767? In the game of April 25, 1970, Tigers pitcher Earl Wilson struck out to end the seventh inning in the Twin Cities. Or so it appeared to everyone except Detroit third base coach Grover Resinger. He saw that Twins catcher Paul Ratliff trapped the pitch in the dirt, did not tag Wilson and rolled the ball to the mound. Resinger told Wilson to start running as most of the Twins entered the dugout. Earl got to first easily and headed for second. Since no one interfered with him, he started for third. By this time, Brant Alyea, who was trotting in from left field, heard Resinger shouting at Wilson. Alyea hustled to the mound but had trouble picking up the ball. Wilson headed for home where Twins Leo Cardenas and Ratliff had returned. Alyea finally picked up the ball and threw to Cardenas. Wilson turned back to third but was tagged out by Alyea for a K767. Rookie catcher Ratliff was charged with an error. After the game, Detroit catcher Bill Freehan said “If Alyea had been hustling, Earl might have made it [home]. Tell him [Alyea] to start coming in and off the field a little quicker.” The aftermath of the story is that Wilson pulled a hamstring muscle running the bases and had to leave the game.”
In 1971 Alyea seemed to lose his power although he was hitting .316 and didn’t hit his first home run until May 14. Manager Bill Rigney was losing confidence in Alyea and as his playing time decreased so did his performance and he finished the 1971 season with a dismal .177 average and just 2 home runs in 158 at bats. In November 1971 the Twins lost Brant Alyea to the Oakland A’s in the Rule 5 draft.
Alyea started the 1972 season in Oakland appearing in 10 games before being traded to the St. Louis Cardinals. After appearing in just 13 games as a Cardinal, Alyea for some unknown reason is returned to Oakland on July 23. Playing for the A’s in September Alyea pulls a muscle legging out a hit and ends up spending the 1972 postseason on the DL as his team beats the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS and the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series 4 games to 3. In November 1972 Oakland sent Brant Alyea to the Texas Rangers as the PTBNL in an earlier trade for Paul Lindblad. After failing to make the Texas Rangers team out of spring training in 1973 Alyea spent what turned out to be his final pro season with the Red Sox AAA team in Pawtucket. He hit just .212 with 6 home runs in 48 games and his baseball career was over at the age of 32.
The time that Brant Alyea spent with the Twins was short, just 173 games spread over two seasons. In 416 at bats he hit .248 with 18 home runs and 76 RBI. Nothing special about these numbers but yet he managed to have 7 RBI in a game twice. Twins players have only had 7 or more RBI’s in a game 17 times in 53 years but yet Brant accomplished this feat twice and the only other Twins player to do this twice is HOF Kirby Puckett. Puckett had 7,244 at bats and Alyea had just 416….
Alyea had a son Brant Alyea Jr., born out-of-wedlock in Nicaragua where Brant Sr. played winter ball. There is a wonderful piece that Peter Gammons wrote for Sports Illustrated back in June of 1986 about father and son meeting for the first time in many years that you can read here. The younger Alyea played in the minor leagues from 1985 to 1990 for the Blue Jays, Rangers and Mets but never achieved his goal of playing in the big leagues like his Dad did before him.