Stephen Russell Braun was born in Trenton, New Jersey on May 8, 1948. Straight out of high school, Braun was drafted and signed by the Twins for a $5,000 bonus as a shortstop coming out of the 10th round of the June 1966 amateur draft. Braun, who batted left-handed and threw right-handed started to work his way up the Twins minor league chain as a 2B but hit a bump in the road in 1968-1969 when Uncle Sam called and Braun obliged by serving his country as a member of the U.S. Army stationed in Germany. Once his military obligation was behind him, Steve resumed his quest to become a major league ballplayer. With an All-Star 2B already on the Twins roster by the name of Rod Carew, the Twins moved Braun to 3B and Steve put up a nice .279 season in Lynchburg playing A ball. When he followed that up with some solid hitting in the Fall instructional league, he had himself an invite to the Twins 1971 spring training. Braun had a great spring and next thing you know, Twins manager Bill Rigney is asking Steve how he would like to play in the American league. Not many players jump from A ball to the big leagues.
The 5’10” and 180 pound Braun had a very nice rookie season hitting .254 in 128 games and 402 plate appearances playing primarily 3B but he also played some 2B, shortstop and even appeared in the outfield and was rewarded by making the 1971 Topps All-Rookie team. “Braunie” put in five more seasons in a Twins uniform playing in 751 games while hitting .284 and posting a .376 OBP. Still only 28 years old, Steve yearned for more playing time wanting to see what he could do if he had at least 500 at bats and asked Twins management to make him available for the 1976 expansion draft. The Twins granted his wish and Steve was picked by the new Seattle Mariners. Braun played for the Mariners in 1977 and part of 1978 before being traded to the Kansas City Royals. Braun played for the Royals in 1978-1980 before being released in June of 1980. Steve signed with the Toronto Blue Jays and spent the remainder of the 1980 season north of the border but he only played in 37 games and had only 55 at bats and when the season ended he was granted free agency. In March of 1981 Steve Braun signed on with the St. Louis Cardinals and he played there through the 1985 season and was lucky enough to get to the World Series in 1982 when the Cards beat the Brewers and again in 1985 but this time the Cards came up on the short end to the Kansas City Royals. In 1986 the MLB roster size was reduced from 25 to 24 and Steve Braun spent the entire season in Louisville in AAA waiting for the call back to St. Louis but the call never came. In addition; a mid-summer hamstring injury that lingered on way too long was also on Braun’s mind and Steve retired as an active player as one of the best pinch-hitters in big league history and went into coaching.
Steve Braun played in the major leagues for 15 seasons, participated in 1,425 games, had 4,295 plate appearances, 989 hits, 52 home runs, 45 stolen bases, hit .271 and had a .371 OBP and the only positions he did not play was catcher and pitcher but I think he would have played there too if he had been asked.
Steve Braun served as a hitting coach for the next 20 years or so with the Cardinals, Yankees, and Red Sox organizations before the wear and tear of the day to day travel finally took its toll and Braun left pro ball to run the Steve Braun Baseball School in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. When Braun is not teaching the youngsters how to play baseball and live life the right way, you can probably find Steve out on a golf course chasing that little white ball and enjoying the outdoors and of course, Steve will be walking.
I asked Frank Quilici who was one of three managers that Braun played for as Minnesota Twin to tell me about Steve Braun and here is what Frank said. “I love the guy. He had a quick bat that I likened to Rich Rollins. I played him all over the place to keep his bat in the line-up. He would try anything you wanted and he did anything to help the club, he was a real team guy. My favorite thing to do with Braun was to put him in the line-up whenever Vida Blue pitched; I recall that he always had success against Vida. I was especially pleased to see him team up with Whitey Herzog and move on into a career in the game as a pinch-hitter and hitting coach”.
The interview with Steve is 36 minutes in length and took place December 14, 2011