Tuesday, February 15, 2011

#97 - Bob Bailey

Here is a placid Bob Bailey at Shea. I find it funny to see such low-lying buildings outside the fence; it looks almost suburban. I cannot tell who the Met is in the background, though my guess is John Milner. Bob's '73 was a bit interesting. On the plus side he recorded a nice bounce from his dip in '72 and his RBI revival and .380 OBA helped keep Montreal in contention until the final week of the season. But the flip side was that the perception of him as a defensive liability at third base sort of came home to roost when reliever Mike Marshall complained about it to the press. So being a mellow guy was probably a good thing for Bob. 

Bob Bailey was a very big deal when his career started. An All-American in high school in California, he was signed by the Pirates in '61 for $175,000 which I am pretty sure was the biggest signing bonus ever at the time. He didn't start off terribly well in the minors - further confusing me on the '60's version of a bonus baby - in '61 hitting only .220 and getting 27 errors in 71 games at shortstop in A ball. He came back nicely in '62, hitting .299 with 28 homers and 108 RBI's in Triple A, winning TSN's Minor League Player of the Year. He moved to third base that year, a position he would keep when he came up to the Pirates in '63. To make way for Bob, Pittsburgh got rid of fan favorite Don Hoak. Bailey had some decent moments in Forbes but for the most part his iffy fielding and not great power numbers produced numbers that were discounts to Hoak's and that coupled with some poor Pittsburgh records didn't exactly endear Bob to the Pirates fans. Or management. So prior to the '67 season, when LA was looking to dump Maury Wills because he was viewed as too old, Pittsburgh took a flier and gave up Bob and Gene Michael for him. In LA Bob's numbers slid further - a .227 average with 12 homers and 67 RBIs in two seasons - further diluting his early promise. Following the '68 season he would be sold to the new Montreal Expos.

In '69 Bailey played first and the outfield, grabbing more time at the infield corner after Donn Clendenon went to the Mets. He also set a personal high with an RBI total of 53. The numbers took off in '70 when he hit 28 out and grabbed 84 ribbies in only 352 at bats. He also hit .287 with a .407 OBA. At that point he was back at third base after Coco LaBoy, the NL's '69 Rookie of the Year initiated what became a multi-season sophomore jinx. Bob would take over that position as Montreal's regular through '73. In '72 he got hurt and his numbers fell a bit. After his bounce in '73, manager Gene Mauch moved Bailey to the outfield for two-third's of the season, mostly to quell criticism over Bob's fielding, though ironically Marshall had been traded to LA. In '74 Bob put up over 100 walks and closed in on the .400 OBA again, while recording 20 homers and 73 RBI's. In '75 Bob relinquished third for good to Larry Parrish and his at bats came down pretty hard, though his on base and other numbers were still quite good. Following that season went to the Reds for Clay Kirby. For Cincinnati Bob got a few starts at the infield corners and left field and did a bit of pinch hitting and did pretty well in that role, recording a .308 average. Late in '77 he went to Boston where he remained his final season of '78 as a DH. Lifetime he hit .257 with 189 homers and 773 RBIs. And despite all the noise about his fielding he is in the top 75 for lifetime assists and double plays at the hot corner.

After his playing career ended, Bailey did some managing and coaching in the minors for Montreal ('79-'83), Houston ('84-'85), and the White Sox ('86). As a manager he went 303-225. He then sold time shares.

In '71 Bailey was involved in a pretty surreal experience. He was a runner on third base in a game in Montreal against the Cards when it started to pour. The bases were loaded and the pitcher walked the batter, forcing Bob home. The Expos at the time were down by a run and Bob's run would have tied the game, about to be called because of the rain. Before he could score, Gene Mauch came running out and started pushing him away from home plate. After a while Bob relented and the two walked off the field without Bailey having scored. What had happened was that since he assumed the game would be called and he had done his homework, Mauch wanted a win rather than a tie. Since the game was called in mid-inning, the rule basically stated that if the home team was not able to TIE or go ahead, the score would be reverted to the last complete inning. The Cards had scored twice in the top of the called inning, so the score reverted back an inning and the Expos won the game. Pretty wild.

The rookie award from the second star bullet was also '62, not '63. Bob's dad played minor league ball for a few seasons. Those three seasons of 80-plus RBI's look pretty good. He is still ranked highly in a bunch of offensive categories for the franchise.

This one will be fun:

1. Bailey and Tom Seaver '77 Reds;
2. Seaver and Jerry Hairston '84 to '86 White Sox.

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