Bob Sebra

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Robert Bush Sebra

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Biographical Information[edit]

Bob Sebra pitched six seasons in the major leagues for five different teams from 1985 to 1990. He is mainly remembered for being part of a trade that had major consequences.

Originally from New Jersey, he was a 4th-round selection by the Detroit Tigers in the 1980 amateur draft but did not sign, and then a 5th-round pick by the Texas Rangers in 1983, out of the University of Nebraska. He progressed quickly through the Rangers system, as he made his major league debut only two years later, on June 26, 1985, giving up 2 runs in 5 innings in a start that ended with a no-decision against the Seattle Mariners. The Rangers were a very weak team that season, losing 99 games, and gave a number of young pitchers a look as a result. Bob ended up making 7 appearances, including 4 starts, going 0-2, 7.52. In the minors, he was 10-6, 3.83 in 22 starts with the Oklahoma City 89ers of the American Association. It was his second straight solid season in the high minors, as he had gone 14-9, 3.40 in AA and AAA in 1984.

On November 2, 1985, Sebra was traded to the Montreal Expos along with veteran utility infielder Jim Anderson in return for Pete Incaviglia. Incaviglia had been the Expos' top pick in the 1985 amateur draft after a brilliant college career, but he insisted on skipping the minors and going straight to the majors. The Expos were not ready to do this, and not wanting to lose Incaviglia without compensation if they failed to sign him, worked out a deal with the Rangers, who were ready to accede to the young slugger's demands. Sebra was clearly the key counterpart, as Anderson was released at the end of spring training in 1986 and never played in the majors again. Meanwhile, other owners were furious at the deal, as they felt it would give top draft choices too much bargaining power in the future if they could force a trade. Therefore, they passed a rule banning the trade of any draft pick until one year had elapsed following his signing, a rule that remained in effect until after the Trea Turner trade in 2015 showed that it had become an absurd relic that no longer served a purpose. In any case, Sebra was assigned to the AAA Indianapolis Indians to begin the 1986 season and pitched very well, going 9-2, 3.43 in 20 starts. He was called up to Montreal on July 24th and continued to pitch well, quickly securing a spot in the starting rotation after making his first four appearances out of the bullpen. In his penultimate start of the year, on September 30th, he pitched a complete game two-hit shutout to blank the New York Mets, the future World Champions, 1-0. Overall, he went 5-5, 3.55 in 17 games for the Expos.

With Dennis Martinez and Bryn Smith unavailable to start the 1987 season, Sebra had no trouble maintaining his spot in the starting rotation, and held it until the end of August, when the arrival of Pascual Perez pushed him to a swingman role. He had some good stretches, but it was generally a frustrating season, as even though he usually kept his team in the game, he was rarely on the winning side of the decision. His start against the Chicago Cubs on July 1st summed up the frustrations of that season: he pitched 8 scoreless innings, giving up just 2 hits and a walk, but then after striking out the first batter in the 9th for his 14th whiff of the game, he allowed a solo homer to Jerry Mumphrey and was saddled with a 1-0 loss as his teammates failed to score in the bottom half of the inning. His game score of 90 was the highest by any losing pitcher in the majors that year, and one of the highest by any pitcher in Expos history. He ended the year at 6-15, 4.42 in 36 games (27 starts) and led the team in strikeouts with 156. But the badly lopsided record was a major factor in the Expos falling 4 games short of the first-place St. Louis Cardinals in the NL East.

He failed to win a job on the major league team in 1988 and was sent back to Indianapolis, where he had an outstanding season. He was named the Pitcher of the Year in the American Association when he went 12-6, 2.94. Ironically, he succeeded Pascual Perez, the man who had taken his place in the Expos' starting rotation, in earning that distinction. On September 1st, instead of being called back to Montreal as rosters expanded, he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for a meager return, career minor league pitcher Travis Chambers. He started 3 games for the Phillies in September, going 1-2, 7.94. That bought him a return ticket to AAA at the start of 1989 and he went 3-4, 4.73 in 11 starts for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons of the International League. The Phillies gave him another chance in May/June and in 6 games, 5 of them starts, he was an unimpressive 2-3, 4.46. On July 13th, he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds for reliever Jeff Gray and was used in relief by the Reds, putting up an ERA of 6.43 with no decisions in 15 games. He started 1990 back in the minors, going 2-0, 1.88 with 13 saves in 23 games as a reliever for the Nashville Sounds. The Reds had plenty of pitching, but needed to strengthen their bench as they found themselves in first place that year and on June 9th they sent him and fellow pitcher Ron Robinson to the Milwaukee Brewers in return for OF Glenn Braggs and IF Billy Bates, both of whom would turn out to be useful parts in their World Series win. Robinson went on a huge tear when he joined the Brewers, but Bob struggled to a 1-2 record and an ERA of 8.18 in 10 games. He made what turned out to be his final big league appearance on June 30th, then was sent back to AAA where he went 2-3, 4.41 with the Denver Bears.

He was released by the Brewers at the end of the 1990 season and kicked around the minor leagues for a few more years, mainly in the American Association, spending 1991 in the Houston Astros organization, 1992 between the minor league affiliates of the Rangers and Chicago Cubs, and 1993 with the Louisville Redbirds, the top farm team of the St. Louis Cardinals, where he was 9-12, 4.90 as a full-time starter. He was out of baseball for the next few years, then resurfaced briefly in the independent leagues in 1998, when he was 1-4, 6.03 in 9 starts for the Somerset Patriots of the independent Atlantic League at 36.

He passed away at 58 on July 22, 2020, a victim of multiple organ failure. He had been hospitalized in the intensive care unit at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, FL for a full year.

Sebra's son, Ryan Sebra, has been a minor league player and coach.

Notable Achievements[edit]

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