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Sunday, September 1, 2013

Brian Givens, Talked About - 537

Originally published Oct. 3, 2010
The performance was really good, the crowd that saw it was really small.

Brian Givens had just pitched a complete game, five-hit shutout for single-A Columbia in June 1986 at Spartanburg before a crowd that could only be described by the Spartanburg Herald-Journal as sparse: all of 58 people were in the stands.

"It felt great," Givens told The Herald-Journal afterward. "It's been a long time since I've thrown with that much confidence. In the first half of the season, I haven't been smooth. I've been struggling and fighting myself and tonight, I didn't want to overthrow."

Givens would eventually play in front of bigger crowds. But the biggest crowds, those of the majors, Givens would have to wait a longer time for. He would see those crowds, but not until nine years later, in his 12th season of professional baseball.

Givens' career began in 1984, taken by the Mets in the 10th round of the January draft. He played that year at rookie league Kingsport. He hit short-season Little Falls and Columbia in 1985. With Columbia, Givens pitched a four-hitter in his first start. He returned to Columbia in 1986.

Givens didn't see AA action until 1988 and then consistant AAA action until 1990, his seventh season of pro ball. That was also his last season with the Mets, joining the Mariners system late in the year.

Givens would go through the Royals and then the White Sox systems, getting him through 1994/ With the White Sox, Givens played at AA Birmingham, along side Michael Jordan.

Then came spring 1995 with the strike on and Givens eventually signed on for replacement ball. Givens hadn't made the majors in 11 seasons. But that wasn't it. He had a mortgage to play, he told Baseball America.

By that time, Givens had also undergone multiple arm surgeries - five to be exact. One of the surgeries was Tommy John surgery, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

"I'd rather not think about replacement stuff," he told The Journal Sentinel that June. "I just did what I had to do. I'm 29 years old and had five arm operations. My career could be over at any time."

Fortunately for Givens, his career continued into that month. He spoke to The Journal Sentinel after making his major league debut. In that debut, Givens struck out seven in 4.1 innings, giving up three earned runs.

"I made a few mistakes," Givens told The Journal Sentinel in the game story. "That's the difference between here and the minor leagues. If you make a mistake here, it's a hit."

Givens got his first major league win in July. "I'm probably going to spend $70 tonight on the phone," Givens told The Associated Press afterward.

Givens finished his 12 professional season with a total of 19 major league appearances for the Brewers, losing his final six decisions. He returned for 1996, slowed in spring by a strained back muscle. He was back in Milwaukee by June, pitching in four more games, ending his major league career.

Givens played 1997 in Japan and 1998 at independent Newark, ending his professional career after 15 seasons.

But Givens made it to the majors. And he was talked about.

In late September 1995, as the Yankees looked forward to the playoffs, none other than Don Mattingly tried to bring them back down to that night's game and that night's starter: Brian Givens, according to The New York Daily News.

"He stood up and said, 'Enough,' " Mike Stanley recalled to The Daily News of Mattingly. "He said we should be talking about (Brewers' starter) Brian Givens. And that was it."

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