Foul Ball

Baseball coach Jim Brady has been fighting his bosses in the UMSL athletic department for seven years. And he thought colon cancer was a pain in the ass.

The couple has two sons, both of whom are in high school.

Skip Erwin, who broadcast UMSL basketball games from 1981 to 1997, describes Brady as "consumed" by baseball. "He's a hard worker," says Erwin, who now hosts a local sports-talk show host on WGNU (920 AM). "That's all he thinks about. He sleeps, eats and drinks baseball. That's it. I can't understand why they're making it so difficult for him. I can't understand why they don't appreciate what he's done. I've known him for twenty years. He could coach anywhere on the college or professional level."

Ric Lessman, baseball coach at Washington University for the past ten years, coached at St. Louis Community College-Meramec for 27 years, including two years when Brady played outfield for him.

Jennifer Silverberg
Brady poses with UMSL athletic director Pat Dolan earlier this season, after Dolan presented him with a plaque commemorating his 500th career victory.
Brady poses with UMSL athletic director Pat Dolan earlier this season, after Dolan presented him with a plaque commemorating his 500th career victory.

"There are a lot of people who like baseball, but they don't know how it works. Jim knows how it works. He can recognize good players. He knows how to put together a lineup. He knows where his good players should be playing," Lessman says. "There are smart managers and other managers who aren't quite as smart. He fits in the category where he has the aptitude, the instinct for the game. He's absolutely a good coach."

Gary "Bo" Collins, who has coached at UMSL rival Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville for 25 years and won 740 games, echoes Lessman's analysis and adds, "Jim doesn't deserve the treatment he got. To take a guy's health insurance away -- that's hitting below the belt. His players play hard for him. That's a telling sign for a coach. When your players hustle and play hard, if they do that and they win, too, what else do you want of a coach?"

Lately Brady has been getting up at 5 a.m. some days to put in a few hours working for his brother's landscaping business. He has also filed a grievance with the university alleging that the cut to part-time pay was retaliatory.

"We think there's a pattern," says attorney Jerome Dobson. "They claim it's part-time, they have made his pay part-time. The question is: What is the motivation? Is that truly a cost-saving measure, a de-emphasis on baseball, or is it really a way to retaliate against Coach Brady and eventually get rid of him? I don't think they thought he'd stay for half the pay he was making before."

Another potential factor: If Brady's post were to revert to full-time within a year of his being switched to part-time, the university's employment guidelines dictate that he would be automatically reinstated. If a switch were to be made after a year passed, however, Brady would enjoy no special preference. In other words, if UMSL changes the baseball coach's position back to full-time after June, Brady will have to reapply for his own job.

That scenario is reminiscent of what happened to Tom Redmond, who had been the head coach of the men's soccer team as a part-time employee for nine years when Dolan decided to make the position full-time. Though Redmond applied for the full-time position, he wasn't hired.

According to spokesman Robert Samples, UMSL has no plans to reverse the decision to make Brady's job part-time.

Whatever might transpire, Brady says, he will be there for the fight -- which leads to the unavoidable question: Why doesn't Brady simply leave UMSL? He says he promised his sons he'd stay in town until they finish high school. Another reason may stem from the fact that he's a South Sider through and through: His house on Lansdowne Avenue is precisely six blocks away from the house he grew up in.

"They look on my personality as being abrasive," he says. "You can take off all my clothes and I'll beat you naked. They can't deal with the fact that despite all they've tried to do to decimate the program, the more that they attempt to do it, the more resilient we become. It has to gall them to see us be successful in spite of all their efforts."

Brady admits that "in a sick way, there's a part of me that thrives on it." He compares it to a chronic problem he once had with ingrown toenails. "It used to just kill me. It would get to a point where I wouldn't go to a doctor; it would be so bad I would have to cut it out myself. In a sick way, I would look forward to pulling that thing out, because I'd know how good it would feel once I pulled it out. I remember doing it for the umpteenth time and thinking, 'Brady, you are fucking sick.' It was painful, but I knew the relief I would feel once it was out."

Pat Dolan expresses surprise that Brady's pay cut has caused financial duress.

"I didn't know his finances were bad," the athletic director says. "I haven't talked to him about that. He's never said anything. He has other jobs; he's doing other things. I don't know, because that's not my venue with him."

Dolan also seems to want to distance herself from her past differences with Brady. The UMSL athletic department's Web site features a photo of Dolan presenting the coach with a plaque commemorating his 500th win. When asked whether she considers Brady a problem employee, the athletic director says, "Oh, no. He's a baseball coach, busy doing baseball."

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