Tuesday, March 8, 2011

#109 - Bobby Grich

Back to the action shots and this one is a good one. It is taken in Baltimore and it looks like Pedro Garcia of the Brewers slid in to second base just as the ball was entering Bobby Grich's glove. After a few seasons of bopping all over the Baltimore infield, Bobby sure took advantage of the pre-season deal that sent incumbent second baseman Davey Johnson to Atlanta.He played every game, overcame a hand injury to post a great OBA of .373, and won his first Gold Glove. But in this particular game, as in the Sal Bando shot in Oakland, however, there are damn few fans around to see any of Bobby's achievemants. I don't know how these teams made money back then.

Bobby Grich - the name was inadvertently shortened from Gurgich when his grandfather checked in at Ellis Island - was a sought-after property in the late '60s. At Woodrow Wilson High in Long Beach he was an All-State quarterback and UCLA's coach Tommy Prothro went after him bad. But the Orioles drafted him in '67 before he committed to the school and he was on his way. He started off at Bluefield of the Appalachian League and two games in was wishing he was getting sacked in LA; that league did that to a lot of people. He began his career as a shortstop and while his first couple seasons were nothing special offensively he impressed everyone with his defense. In '69 he moved up to Double A and his hitting came around. In '70 he moved to Triple A Rochester and his .383 average prompted a call-up, where the bulk of his time was at shortstop as well. In '71 every regular infielder was pulling a Cal Ripken so Bobby returned to Rochester for seasoning. That year he put up enormous numbers and won the Minor League Player of the Year award from TSN. In '72 he came up for good and spelled every spot in the infield, putting in serious time at both second and short since Davey Johnson and Mark Belanger were both injured. Then Johnson got traded to the Braves, allowing Bobby to settle in at second base. He resnponded with four consecutive Gold Glove years and pretty good offensive numbers, especially in '74 when he hit 19 homers with 82 RBIs. He also was selected as an All-Star three times with Baltimore. In '73 and '74 he saw post-season action. He also had awfully good OBA numbers and had a good eye even though he was a pretty aggressive swinger.

Following the '76 season, Grich would leave Baltimore to sign as a free agent with the Angels. Year one was a bust as he got hurt fairly early in the season and the loaded Angels disappointed. Bobby came back slowly in '78 but the next year recorded his best offensive season: a .294 average with 30 homers and 101 RBIs, the only time he would top 30 and 100, respectively. He and Don Baylor, another former Oriole, led the Angels to their first playoff. In '81, the strike year, Bobby led the league in homers with 22, earning a Silver Slugger. He continued to produce through two more playoff years, '82 and '86. In that last series he was part of a team that was up 3 to 1 on Boston and then lost three straight. There was an endearing photo of Bobby losing it in the dugout at the end of the final game. He had had enough and retired on the spot. For his career he hit .266 with 224 homers and 864 RBIs as well as a .371 OBA and over 100 stolen bases. He is currently 80th all-time in walks. In his 24 post-season games Bobby hit .188 with three homers and nine RBI's. Defensively among second basemen he is 17th all-time in putouts and 18th in assists. Twice he led the league in fielding percentage.

Like Alex Johnson, Grich has a "Catching up with..." SI Article. It is linked to here. After he finished playing he played a bunch of golf and currently does speaking engagements.

I covered a bunch of this on top. The cartoon is incorrect. Gary Beban was the UCLA quarterback who won the Heisman in '67. While he was a California kid, he did not attend Woodrow Wilson. The 1970 quarterback for UCLA - the year Grich would have been a senior - was Dennis Dummit with whom Grich DID play in high school.

Bobby and Al were both Cali kids. Here's how we get them together:

1. Grich and Freddie Patek '80 to '81 Angels;
2. Patek and Al Hrabosky '78 to '79 Royals.

1 comment:

  1. This is an all time classic - one of many great cards in this set.