Ken Sanders
Relief Pitcher
Born: (1941-07-08) July 8, 1941 (age 80)
St. Louis, Missouri
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
August 6, 1964, for the Kansas City Athletics
Last MLB appearance
September 27, 1976, for the Kansas City Royals
MLB statistics
Win–loss record29–45
Earned run average2.97
Career highlights and awards

Kenneth George Sanders (born July 8, 1941) is an American former professional baseball relief pitcher. He played in Major League Baseball (MLB) from 1964 to 1976 for the Kansas City Athletics, Boston Red Sox, Oakland Athletics, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins, Cleveland Indians, California Angels, New York Mets, and Kansas City Royals. The right-hander was nicknamed "Bulldog" by Milwaukee Brewers manager Dave Bristol in 1970 because he was "so mean, tough and stubborn out on the mound".[1]

Early years

Sanders attended St. Louis University High School in St. Louis, Missouri, and was a standout in soccer, football and baseball. After a month at St. Louis University, he signed with the Kansas City Athletics as an amateur free agent in 1960.

He went 19-10 with a 3.21 earned run average as a starting pitcher his first professional season with the Florida State League's Sanford Greyhounds. He split his time between starts and relief appearances until 1964, when he was converted to a full-time reliever with the Birmingham Barons. He made his major league debut against the New York Yankees later that season, pitching 1.2 innings without giving up a run.[2] For the season, Sanders went 0-2 with a 3.67 ERA and one save.

After spending all of 1965 in triple A, Sanders was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 1965 rule 5 draft. In 1966, he went 3-6 with two saves and a 3.80 ERA for the Bosox before being dealt back to Kansas City with Jim Gosger and Guido Grilli for Rollie Sheldon, Jose Tartabull and John Wyatt.[3] He made his only major league start upon his return to the A's, pitching four innings of one run ball against the California Angels before giving way to the bullpen.[4]

With the exception of a brief one month call-up in 1968 by the Oakland Athletics, Sanders spent the next three seasons in the minors. Just prior to Spring training 1970, he, Mike Hershberger, Lew Krausse and Phil Roof were traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for Don Mincher and Ron Clark.[5]

Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers lost 97 games their first season in Milwaukee (after having spent one season in Seattle as the Pilots). One of the few bright spots on the team was Sanders' emergence as a legitimate major league closer. Sanders set a club record with 13 saves to go along with a 5-2 record and 1.75 ERA. His 1971 season was even more impressive as he led Major League Baseball with 83 appearances on the mound (his closest competitor was Cincinnati Reds pitcher Wayne Granger with 70), and set a major league record by finishing 77 of them.[6] He also led the major leagues with 31 saves. Coupled with his seven wins, Sanders figured in 38 of the Brewers' 69 wins.

He began the 1972 season as the Brewers' closer, pitching 18.2 innings and earning four saves before giving up his first earned run of the season. From there, things went south for Sanders, as he found himself at 1-7 with a 3.45 ERA and 13 saves at the All-Star break. He lost the confidence of new Brewers manager Del Crandall, and only picked up four more saves for the rest of the season. Following the campaign, Sanders was traded twice in a span of 32 days. First, to the Philadelphia Phillies along with Jim Lonborg, Ken Brett and Earl Stephenson for Don Money, John Vukovich and Bill Champion on October 31.[7] Then, to the Minnesota Twins along with Ken Reynolds and Joe Lis for César Tovar on December 1.[8]


Sanders earned eight saves for the Twins by the end of May 1973 despite a relatively high 5.60 ERA. He lost the closer's job to Ray Corbin, and was placed on waivers. He was soon claimed by the Cleveland Indians, and pitched far more respectably with his new club, going 5-1 with a 1.65 ERA and five saves. Back-to-back poor performances against the Boston Red Sox[9] and Baltimore Orioles[10] led to his release in 1974.

He soon signed a minor league deal with the California Angels, and was promoted to the big league club after 19 games at triple A. He appeared in nine games with the Angels, earning one save. During the off season, he was traded to the New York Mets for catcher Ike Hampton.

Though the Mets finished in third in the National League East in 1975, it was not out of a lack of pitching. Sanders, along with former Brewers teammate Skip Lockwood and Bob Apodaca, gave the Mets one of the more formidable bullpens in the division. For his part, Sanders went 1-1 with a 2.30 ERA and five saves. Toward the end of the 1976 season, his contract was sold to the Kansas City Royals. He started the 1977 season playing minor league ball for the Brewers before retiring,[11] and moving into real estate.[12]

Career stats

29 45 .392 2.97 408 285 86 656.2 564 217 240 50 258 360 9 17 .115 .958

As a reliever, Sanders only had 67 plate appearances. One of his two career RBIs came against Hall of Famer Jim Palmer in 1966.[13]

Preceded byRon Perranoski American League Saves Champion1971 Succeeded bySparky Lyle

Personal life

He and his wife, Mary Ann, have three children, Leanne, Steven and Laura, and five grandchildren.


  1. ^ Jack Pearson (June 24, 2009). "Ken 'Bulldog' Sanders was the first great Brewers' reliever". 50 Plus News Magazine.
  2. ^ "New York Yankees 5, Kansas City A's 3". August 6, 1964.
  3. ^ "After Cleveland Rainout Sox Ship Gosger, Grilli, Sanders to KC in Exchange for Sheldon, Wyatt, Tartabull". Nashua Telegraph. June 14, 1966.
  4. ^ "California Angels 6, Kansas City A's 5". August 27, 1966.
  5. ^ "Pilots Send Don Mincher to A's in Six-Man Deal". Lewiston Morning Tribune. January 16, 1970.
  6. ^ Gary Bedingfield. "Ken Sanders". Archived from the original on 2012-10-25.
  7. ^ "Phillies Obtain Jim Lonborg In 7‐Man Deal With Brewers," United Press International (UPI), Tuesday, October 31, 1972. Retrieved April 13, 2020
  8. ^ Durso, Joseph. "A's Send Epstein to Rangers; Scheinblum, Nelson to Reds," The New York Times, Saturday, December 2, 1972. Retrieved April 13, 2020
  9. ^ "Boston Red Sox 6, Cleveland Indians 5". April 21, 1974.
  10. ^ "Baltimore Orioles 12, Cleveland Indians 1". May 11, 1974.
  11. ^ "A Significant Addition". Spokane Daily Chronicle. June 14, 1977.
  12. ^ Adam McCalvy (April 10, 2002). "Where have you gone, Ken Sanders?".
  13. ^ "Kansas City A's 4, Baltimore Orioles 3". June 28, 1966.