The Obit For Mel Brookey

Former N.O. catcher passes away

Played with Pelicans, lived in N.O. area

Thursday, July 17, 2008 By Pierce W. Huff

Mel Brookey was ahead of his time, according to former major league pitcher and scout Lenny Yochim.

When Brookey was playing in the minor leagues in the late 1940s and the 1950s, major league baseball teams "were looking for catchers who had over-the-fence power and not line-drive hitters," Yochim said.

Brookey was a good line-drive hitter, a strong receiver and a good thrower, but his skills just weren't what teams in the majors were looking for.

Still, that didn't stop Brookey from getting the most out of baseball. While playing for the New Orleans Pelicans, he met the woman who became his wife of 55 years, and he built a comfortable life in New Orleans when his playing days were over.

Brookey died of cardiac arrest at his Kenner home Sunday. He was 83.

Because baseball teams no longer emphasize power-hitting catchers as they used to, Yochim said, Brookey would have had a long career if he played catcher today.

"In today's market for major league catchers, because especially the way catching has changed in the last 15 to 20 years, Mel definitely would have caught in the big leagues," Yochim said. "You've got guys who are playing catcher batting .215 and .230, and nobody is burning it up with the bat."

Brookey played for the Marines' team after he was drafted. He then signed with the Philadelphia Phillies and played for the Salina Blue Jays for two seasons. He batted .294 in 1946 and was a Western Association All-Star in 1947. Then he played two years for the Terre Haute Phillies in the Three-I league.

Brookey played three years with the Pelicans, 1950-52, where he caught for Yochim and played with former major league manager Jack McKeon.

Brookey finished his minor league career with the Denver Bears in the Western League in 1954.

"He was a good receiver, had good hands and stayed behind the plate," said Yochim, who calls Brookey one of the two best catchers he ever threw to in his career.

Pam Lolan, one of Brookey's four daughters, said her father loved baseball.

Brookey met his future wife, the former Patricia Laumann, at a party when he was playing with the Pelicans. He used to take his family on annual trips to Houston Astros games and attended home games for the New Orleans Zephyrs almost every Friday. Lolan said her father taught his five grandsons how to pitch and play catcher.

"He was a quiet person and humble, except when he was on the baseball field dealing with an opponent, and then he was real aggressive, because he loved the game of baseball," Yochim said.

Lolan said Brookey's surviving family members ask that donations in his honor be made to the Tulane Baseball Athletic Fund and to the American Heart Association.