Saturday, April 16, 2011

#140 - Darrell Evans

Now here's a fat smile! And that can't possibly be a comfortable pose either. Darrell Evans should be smiling, though. He's about to have his huge '73 season if this is a spring training shot, which I believe it is. And '73 WAS huge for our boy here. He joined Hank Aaron and Davey Johnson as the first trio from the same team to hit 40 or more homers. He was also part of the record-setting infield in the same category (they had 108). He led the league with 124 walks and posted an over .400 OBA, earning his first All-Star slot. Darrell would show a pretty good eye throughout his career even though he was pretty blind - uncorrected he was about 20/80 - and needed contacts just to get out the front door. Here, while doing his best to stay in the frame, he gets to wear sky blue cleats and nobody can say anything because it matches his uniform. And he gets a "10" card.

Darrell Evans was a Cali kid. Born and raised in Pasadena he went to the Pasadena City College where he was a baseball and basketball star. His final season there he was the captain of the state champs in both sports. After being drafted by - and turning down - the Cubs, Yankees, Tigers, and Phillies, Darrell was drafted and signed by the A's in June of '67. He'd shot down all the other guys because the big plan was to play ball at USC. But he instead opted for KC/Oakland and its bonus and that year got off to a pretty good start, hitting over .320, mostly at the Single A level. He then got called into the marines for a six-month hitch. He was about 180 pounds when he went in and 240 when he came out. He started off '68 in Double A but hurt his arm. The Oakland guys got nervous about his physical issues and that winter left Darrell unprotected and he got plucked by the Braves in the Rule 5 draft. He got lucky because over the next two years while moving from Double to Triple A in the Atlanta system he ran into Eddie Matthews who taught him both how to field at third base and how to pull the ball. In '69 he hit .360 with some nice power at the higher level and in '70 he hit .300 with 20 homers and 83 RBIs and did much better in his late season call-up than he did the prior year. A fast start in '71 - .327 with 30 RBI's in just 101 at bats - got him up earlier in the season to be part of the revolving door at third. His timing was pretty good because incumbent Clete Boyer's offense declined every year since his big '67 and the succession of guys brought in to shore things up were either too old (Bob Aspromonte, Zoilo Versalles) or better positioned elsewhere (Earl Williams). So by the end of the season Darrell was the everyday guy.

In '72 Evans posted the best Brave numbers at third since Clete Boyer's '67 and in '73 he upped his performance and his profile considerably  In '74 he again led the league in walks while hitting 25 out and in '75 he topped 100 BB's with 22 homers, both times posting an average around .240.. In '76 Jerry Royster took over third base and Darrell moved to first. He started off horribly that year and in June went to San Francsisco with Marty Perez for Willie Montanez and Craig Robinson.

Evans took Montanez's place at first for San Francisco the rest of the '76 season. While his first day as a Giant he won both games of a double header with home runs, his offensive swoon really didn't abate all year and it would be by far the worst season of his career. In '77 he put some time in the outfield also, but for most of his time as a Giant Darrell played third. From '77 to '82 he averaged about 18 homers and 71 RBIs a full season. Late in '82 he was sitting on the bench at 35 contemplating the end of his career and when he got home that night he and his wife saw a UFO. To that sighting he attributed a career resurgence. It must have worked because in '83 he hit 30 homers and had 83 RBIs while hitting .277, about 25 points higher that his average while a Giant He also got his second All-Star nod that year. After that season he became a free agent.

In '84 Evans signed with Detroit and that year spent most of his time as a DH. While his numbers declined to just under his SF norm, he did get to the post-season and he would hit .300 against KC in the playoffs (although considerably worse in the Series). He was a happy winner and the next season he moved to first base and hit 40 homers with 94 RBIs. He became at the time the oldest player to ever lead a league in home runs at 38. The following two seasons he would average over 30 homers and 90 RBIs. In '87 he got 100 walks, becoming one of a few players to reach that total for three different teams. He played another season for the Tigers before wrapping things up in '89 back in Atlanta. He finished with a .248 average, 414 homers, and 1,354 RBIs. He posted a .361 OBA with over 1,600 walks (he is 12th all-time). He, like Reggie, hit 100 homers for three different teams. While he hit only .214 in the post-season, he got on base at a .365 clip in his 13 games.

After playing Evans did some coaching, including a stint with the Yankees in '90. From the late '90s through 2010 he managed teams off and on in the Golden Baseball League, an independent league in California. His record in that capacity is 421-498.

Bradenton was the A's Rookie League team, which is why the season was so short. Darrell became quite a good fielder, both at third and first.

We get to employ a couple Royals here which is nice because so far there have been so few of them:

1. Evans and Bruce Dal Canton '75 to '76 Braves;
2. Dal Canton and Bob Oliver '71 to '75 Royals;
3. Oliver and Aurelio Monteagudo '70 Royals.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, this is a West Palm Beach Spring Training image, taken out on the edge of one of the back fields where they were separated by these nice pine hedges ...

    Topps, along with many other photographers, often took pictures at Spring Training in this area as it was quiet and away from any bad background problems such as lights and other players ...

    In later years there were many Topps shots taken within the WPB stadium where too many people were in the background, even myself about 7 or 8 times in the stands / dugout / field.