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Lobo and Duke Gig Brummell came back to his NM roots

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Born in Santa Fe, Bernard “Gig” Brummell could not forget his roots when it came time to choose a place to go to college.

Luckily, the University of New Mexico offered Brummell a basketball scholarship, which he chose over offers from the likes of Kansas and Duquesne.

Gig Brummell, left, a native of Santa Fe, is receiving an ‘Award of Distinction’ at the New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame banquet in April. He’s shown here in 2003 with fellow former Albuquerque Dukes pitchers Joe Behl, center, and Steve Lagomarsino. (Albuquerque Journal)

Brummell, 80, only lived in Santa Fe until he was five when his mother died, then went to live with his grandparents in Boonville, Mo.

“I didn’t have a great amount of memories of here but my dad did remarry and move back to Albuquerque,” he said. “I always considered New Mexico my home.”

A two-sport star in high school, Brummell was only too happy to accept a basketball scholarship from coach Bob Sweeney. He also went on to be a standout pitcher for the Lobos baseball team.

Bernard ‘Gig’ Brummell is shown here in his basketball prime.

“I had a couple of other opportunities that I did not pursue, once I realized that I wanted to come back out to New Mexico,” he said.

It was the start of what was a long and distinguished athletics career in New Mexico for Brummell.

So much so that Brummell will be honored with an “Award of Distinction” at the New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame’s annual banquet April 5.

He joins longtime local wrestling coach Michael Lujan, who is being honored with the same award, as well as St. Michael’s legendary basketball player Nick “The Stick” Pino, who is being inducted as a member. Pino died last year.

“I was very honored and grateful,” Brummell said. “I’ve been in the nomination pool for a few years. Every year you go through all that and wait to see what happens. When I heard it, I was thrilled. I thought it was absolutely great. I was very pleased.”

Although listed as just 5-foot, 11-inches, as a UNM senior Brummell led the Lobos in scoring during the 1960-61 season. But it was on the baseball hill that he really stood out, earning first-team, all-Skyline Conference recognition.

“It made it a little tough with classes because you had to make sure you were still strong academically,” he said. “And you had to travel and all of that. But most of the professors understood and helped us in that regard.”

His prowess at as a pitcher was so great that Brummell was offered contracts by both the Kansas City A’s and Chicago White Sox organizations.

Since the A’s had a minor league team in Albuquerque, he chose them. And he spent his first season of professional ball with the Albuquerque Dukes in what was the equivalent of Class A ball.

By 1963, Brummell was in the Northwest League, where he set a then single-game strikeout record of 14. It appeared his career was truly on the rise.

But he developed bursitis in his throwing shoulder toward the end of that season and landed on the disabled list. When Brummell couldn’t shake it, he fell back on his education, as he earned a master’s degree in economics.

He then went on to lead the Albuquerque branch of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, becoming one of the top 10 branches in the country.

Sports, however, was never far from his mind.

“One of the great benefits of athletics as we know it, once you’re an athlete, you’re always going to be an athlete,” Brummell said. “And having a diverse athletic background gives you an opportunity to participate at a competitive but fun level.”

Brummell played high-level adult-league basketball for a number of years, even teaming up with some of his former Lobos teammates to terrorize local leagues. He also played competitive softball, traveling across the country.

Now that he’s older, Brummell plays competitive tennis and enjoys a round of golf as often as he can.

“Playing at a competitive level, you never lose that competitive spirit,” he said. “It’s engaging and it’s fun. “It’s not like going out there for blood-and-guts type of things. You just want to do your very best.”