Card: 1992 Conlon34 #517
“He was a little bit strange, a little weird at times, hard to figure. He sort of kept to himself." - Bob Feller
Johnny Broaca was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts. He was a major league star who left baseball suddenly and abruptly at the height of his career. When Broaca was a boy, his family lived in an eight-family tenement in the Italian section of Lawrence on Middle Street. It is likely that Broaca's name, often thought to be Italian, is Lithuanian, and the spelling of the name was changed when his father, John, and mother, Anna, came here as immigrants. It was originally "Brauka." The anglo-translation was "Broaca."
Johnny graduated from Yale University, and in college he was a heavyweight boxing champ and ran the 600 yard race. He spent 1933 in the high minors at Newark, going 7-2. His family was poor, however, compared to those of his classmates, which meant he had to work a regular job as a waiter at a Yale fraternity to help pay for school. That alienated him from many of his teammates and classmates.
In Johnny's rookie year with the 1934 New York Yankees, he went 12-9 as a starter. It was Babe Ruth's last year with the team. In 1935 he went 15-7, and, with the pennant-winning 1936 Yankees, he was 12-7. Lefty Gomez, a year older, went 13-7. In 1937 he started 1-4. He jumped the Yankees during the season and sat out the rest of the year as well as all of 1938.
It appears his troubles may have involved a bitter marriage and divorce. It had been announced a week before his abrupt departure that he had an arm injury. During his baseball absence, rumors abounded he was to train to become a professional boxer. Eventually, he went back to his hometown of Lawrence, MA, to work as a laborer. Another source says that Broaca left baseball because his wife divorced him and he worked for Tyer Rubber at low wages because he refused to let his wife get any alimony. The New York Yankees voted a World Series share to Johnny's estranged wife (the first time a share was ever voted to a woman) after he left the team.
He came back in 1939 with the Cleveland Indians, going 4-2 primarily as a reliever. All of Broaca's major league teams finished well over .500, and two of them won the pennant.
The December 1957 Baseball Digest relates a story where Lefty Gomez (HoF), unhappy that Broaca was saving his arm and refused to throw balls before a game, played a practical joke on him by calling the bullpen, pretending to be the manager, and ordering Broaca to warm up for nine innings straight. The story goes that Joe McCarthy did not know for many years why Johnny claimed to be unable to start the next day's game.
The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract tells another story about Gomez getting upset at Broaca for calling him "Goofy". When asked why Gomez was upset when other players such as Pat Malone also called him "Goofy", Gomez said "Malone didn't go to Yale".
After working on the home front in World War II, Johnny spent most of the rest of his life as a common laborer on road construction crews. His coworkers learned early on never to ask him about baseball. He died in 1985, having not spoken to his son in almost half a century even though he lived only 25 miles away. He died of a heart attack in May 1985.
His lifetime major league record was 44-29 with 42 complete games in 121 appearances.
Johnny is part of the New York Yankee Players Tour – Go To the Next Stop
Johnny is also part of the Cleveland Indians Players Tour – Go To the Next Stop
Johnny is also part of the Italian Ancestry Unsure/Doubtful Tour – Next Page
See Broaca’s baseball cards at TCDB
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