Wednesday, April 13, 2011

#137 - Al Bumbry

Here's Al Bumbry, 1973 AL Rookie of the Year, at Yankee Stadium, showing his Felix Millan-like stance. Al made the team in spring training and moved into left field, swapping time with Don Baylor, to replace the recently-departed Don Buford. Al started strongly and never looked back. In mid-season he hit three triples in a week. In September he hit three in a GAME and he would lead the AL that year with eleven, despite less than 400 plate appearances. His .337 average and .398 OBA would get him the ROY award and he would get some playoff action that fall. Does this mean we have the second outfielder on the Topps 1973 Rookie All-Star Team? Nope. Topps dissed Al for a couple other guys, one a teammate. Pretty wiggy stuff. But Al doesn't seem too concerned; there weren't any trophies on the cards anyway. Plus he'd dealt with much more serious stuff before.

Al Bumbry continues the recent theme of being a more-or-less local kid, he from Virginia, who was nabbed by Baltimore in '68. He was drafted out of Virgina State University which he attended on a basketball scholarship. The school didn't even have a baseball team until his senior year; he joined and hit .578 with tons of speed. He was able to get in about 35 games for Stockton, the Orioles team in the California League, when he got drafted again, this time into the Marines. Al pulled an 11-month hitch in Viet Nam, where as a lieutenant he led a platoon, won a Bronze Star, and didn't lose a man in his command. He DID lose almost two years of baseball, however, and returned at 24 to Single A in '71, this time at Aberdeen in South Dakota, where he hit .336. In '72 he moved from Double to Triple A and didn't miss a beat, hitting over .340 in both stops with a total of 19 triples and 32 stolen bases. He brought his hitting with him for his few games up top that year. In '73 he made the O's squad and had his big year.

In '74 Bumbry had a horrible sophomore season, his average dropping by over 100 points. Basically, his opponents wisened up. In '73 Al was a big off-speed gap hitter and in '74 the pitchers threw their off-speed stuff away which Al chased for strikes and the outfielders played deeper to cut off the gaps. But a strong second half - he hit .293 from July on - was succeeded by a winter in which he killed the ball in Venezuela, where he played off-season a bunch of years, and when he returned in '75 he raised his average over 30 points. In '76 Don Baylor went to Oakland in the Reggie trade and Al saw the most action to date in his career. He also saw a bunch of time in center which turned out to be a more natural position for him and though his offensive numbers still didn't approach those of '73 he was becoming one of the league's better fielders. Plus he stole 42 bases. In '77 he took over center full time (Paul Blair had gone to NY) and pushed his average to .317 and his OBA to above .370. In '78 he broke his leg and the season was a wash. He came back strong in '79 and filled a prominent role on the O's first Series team since '71. But after posting a .400 OBA against California in the playoffs his Series run was pretty lame and Baltimore would reprise '71, losing to the Pirates in seven.

In 1980 Bumbry had his best season, hitting .318 with a .392 OBA, scoring 118 runs, and bagging 44 stolen bases. He would be the first Oriole to record 200 hits and get his only All-Star appearance that year. He would remain Baltimore's starting center fielder through the '84 season, hitting around .270 over that time. In '83 he won his only Series. After '84 he left as a free agent for the Padres for whom he played a few games before hanging them up. Al ended up a .281 hitter with 254 stolen bases. Defensively he is in the top 50 for fielding percentage in center and the top 100 for putouts. In the post-season he hit .141 in his 22 games. When he finished he was a top ten guy on a bunch of Orioles career leader categories, including stolen bases for which he was number one.

After playing, Bumbry became a coach: for Boston ('88 to '93), Baltimore ('95 to '97), and Cleveland a couple times. He taught Manny Ramirez how to run the bases. He still does community work for the Orioles and does a bunch of work for Vet fund-raisers.

Al was a small guy at 5'8" and fast, thus the nickname in the cartoon. He called his bat the South Pole and gets some good props for his excellent '72 season. The front of this card is almost exactly the same as his '77 card. In fact it's eerily similar, despite the fact that in '77 he is in a home uniform. It is linked to here.

A step or two more this time:

1. Bumbry and Don Stanhouse '78 to '79 Orioles;
2. Stanhouse and Andre Thornton '76 Expos;
3. Thornton and Rick Reuschel '74 to '76 Cubs.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post,minor note,Don Buford didnt "retire".He went to play ball in Japan.