Something about holiday season just has me wanting to break out the ol’ Brubaker book, dust off that Ancestry.com subscription, and do some genealogical hunting.
I’d done a little digging around Bruce Ellsworth Brubaker, who got into a few games in the 60s and hails from the right region. From what I can tell he likely traces to a separate early Brubaker in America – possibly the first known Brubaker to arrive, but not our ancestor. There is a possibility that his ancestor is related to ours, but if so that connection predates their arrival in the United States and the trail of records is too foggy at the moment. Both would have come from the same area in Switzerland, and he may indeed an older brother or a cousin of the John Brubaker whose name is on the cover of our genealogical tome here. For the moment, that one is a dead end.
So where to next, if that’s not the answer?
Well, you may be aware that there is currently a Brubaker pitching in this day and age, for the Pirates to boot. That’s JT Brubaker* of course – Jonathan Trey Brubaker, to be precise. I figured I might dig into his family tree and figure out if it connects to ours. I had gone looking for cards of John Franklin Brubaker, his father, who spent two seasons in the minors. Unfortunately, info on him is a bit scarce on Ancestry – in some records he’s John, in some he’s Frank, and the couple cards I found did not produce more leads to help me trace his branch.
*He’s just posted two great starts in a row!
How did I find those cards? Well, I searched TCDB, of course! When I did so, I indeed found John/John Franklin and his two minor league cards. However, there was a new name in the results, which I hadn’t seen before: Ray Brubaker.
I clicked through to look, expecting some random minor leaguer with a card or three from team sets in the 90s. What? Ray had 12 cards, and they were all Zeenuts! Hm, I thought, those would be fun adds even if there isn’t a relationship.
So I looked into Ray a little bit, not expecting too much but still hopeful there might be a connection. To my surprise, I found a matching record in the book right away! It wasn’t even like Wilbur, where I had to piece together the missing information, he was right there, on page 580 – just two pages away from my great-great grandfather. He even stems from the same branch of the tree as Wilbur and I.
Hello second cousin three times removed!* That means Ray is actually a closer relative than Wilbur. This was quite a discovery!
*A quick reminder: three times removed means that there is a three generation gap in the relationship. So he’s my second cousin, but we are separated by three generations.
That, of course, led to some hunting to see what else I could find out about Ray. The PCL was no slouch of a league, a step below the majors but quite notable. A dozen Zeenuts meant that Ray had played baseball in one of the best leagues of his time, and for a good while!
Baseball was indeed Ray’s life – and his death. He was an infielder, playing over 2300 games in 23 seasons of minor league ball, including 15 years in the Pacific Coast League for the Oakland Oaks. He was a fine hitter, rapping out over 2100 hits and posting 9 seasons in the PCL with an average above .300 (and one at .299). When his playing days were winding down, he turned to managing. In 1933 & 1934, his final two seasons with Oakland, he was a player-manager. From there he went on to a string of managing gigs in the lower minors, putting in another 11 years in dugouts, until he eventually died in one.
Yes, you read that right – he died in a dugout. Ray had spent the 1946 season at the helm of the Terre Haute Phillies, leading them to the playoffs. The team brought him back for 1947, but on May 1st, in the ninth inning of a tense 3-3 ballgame against the Waterloo White Hawks, Brubaker collapsed in the visitor’s dugout. The game was halted and he was carried to the clubhouse, where he was pronounced dead of a heart attack.
That was quite a discovery indeed – and I already knew what I needed to do. I searched eBay high and low, and watched every Brubaker Zeenut I could find, hoping to get a few offers from sellers. Evenutally, I threw a bid in on one that looked as if it might go for a low price. Lo and behold, I wound up with a 1929 Zeenut card of Ray for just fifteen bucks. This, as Nick and Jeff would say, is fantastic condition for a Zeenut. I was unfamiliar with these regional cards until welcoming this Brubaker into my collection, and I must say they are incredibly charming. They came with a coupon attached at the bottom, and it’s pretty darn rare to find a “complete” Zeenut. They’re also smaller than I anticipated, slightly smaller than a 51 Bowman – although size varies greatly thanks to the hand-trimmed nature of these.
She’s a true beauty.
Thanks to some more sleuthing and searching, I’ve since added two more Brubakers, giving me 3* of his 12 cards. The 1926 seems to be much more in line with typical Zeenut condition – several creases, rounded corners, more “character” – although it lacks clipped corners, which I’ve seen quite a bit. The 1930, however – that’s practically mint! I snagged that one in an auction where the “auto-background” feature on eBay made it look like a chunk of the card was missing. I didn’t expect it to be missing anything, but I certainly wasn’t expecting it to look this nice! I also certainly didn’t anticipate having 25% of Ray’s cards so quickly! I’ve picked up a couple nice little lots of Zees at this point, but that’s a story for another post.
*Okay, this number is already outdated, but this draft was a little old, so you’ll have to wait for an update.
I’ll leave you with a little gallery of some other shots of Ray. The first two are clipped from Newspapers.com, which makes me wonder just what might be out there in terms of stories and other photos. The latter two are nice examples of his 1924 and 1933 Zeenut cards, including a full coupon on the latter.
I’ll probably do some further digging on Ray in the future, but for now it’s just really cool to know that there was another pro ballplayer in the family.
And yes, perhaps this place is back. There are certainly more fun posts akin to this one to be written (although not quite as spectacular), so I’ll try to keep writing.