Thursday, April 7, 2011

#132 - Felix Millan

So this time Topps stuck a Phillie in between the '73 Series opponents so we had to wait a card to get to a Met. This one is an action shot of Felix Millan at Shea watching a hit to left-center it looks like. Felix was always moving at the plate; the guy only struck out between 20 and 30 times a season. He used a heavy bat that he choked up on about a third and was a good contact hitter. In '73 he came over to stabilize the NY middle infield. He did that, provided timely hits, and was probably the only regular not to go out with injury that year. That's John Milner in the background wearing what appears to be a powder-blue batting glove. It's very bright.

Felix Millan is the first guy in the last few posts who did not play college ball. Felix grew up in PR, one of nine kids in a pretty poor household. He played local ball after school and was scouted by a bunch of teams. The A's signed him in '64 and sent him to Single A ball in Florida where he did pretty well. But they left him unprotected and he was snatched by the Braves in that year's first year draft. They sent him to Yakima - that must have been fun for a warm weather kid - where he hit well over .300 and was in Double A before the season was out. He did the same thing up a level in '66 and saw some time in Atlanta at the end of the year. The Braves were ready for him to be their number one guy at second in '67 but Felix tore his Achilles and they sent him to Triple A to recover. He would win his league's player of the year award, hitting .310 with nine triples for the league champs. In '68 he came up to Atlanta for good and made an immediate impact. When he went down with a hand injury in the middle of the season for 17 games, the Braves were a game under .500; when he returned they went 6 and 1. Felix batted close to the plate and would get plunked a few times. But he managed to stay more-or-less injury free the rest of his time in Atlanta. While there he made three All-Star appearances, including a start, and won two Gold Gloves. He had some amazingly low strikeout totals. His worst season was '69 when he had 35 Ks in 708 plate appearances. In '72 he injured a hamstring, lost some time, and his numbers declined. Before the '73 season he was sent to NY with George Stone for Danny Frisella and Gary Gentry.

Millan was a key player for NY during the '73 season and did well against the Reds in the playoffs but not so super in the Series. From '74 to '76 he would continue as the Mets regular second baseman posting around a .280 average with excellent defense and his habitually low strikeouts. In '77 Felix had a slow start and his season was shattered in a game in which he got in a fight with Pirates catcher Ed Ott who threw Millan on the ground, wrecking Felix' shoulder. That was it for the season and the Mets. The next three seasons he played in Japan and in '79 he would win the league batting title, hitting .346. He would hit .306 over there in total and after some nagging injuries that cut into his '80 playing time he retired. In the majors Felix hit .279 with only 242 Ks in almost 1,500 games. In the post-season he hit .254 with ten runs in 15 games.He is the top 50 for career DP's turned at second base.

After playing Millan returned to PR and got college and masters degrees (I do not know in what). He did some work for Atlanta and the Mets in various community-related capacities. He presently does speaking engagements.

That six-for-six record was broken by Rennie Stennett in '75. As noted above, Felix finished with a pretty good defensive record too. In addition to the DP work noted above, he is 31st in career putouts and 50th in career assists at second base and he was done up top when he was only 33.

Let's use a guy whose already had a post:

1. Millan and Del Unser '75 to '76 Mets;
2. Unser and Bob Boone '73 to '74 Phillies.

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