Thursday, April 28, 2011

#150 - John Mayberry

Boy, when the photographer of the Royals cards took action shots, he really liked to blur the background, didn't he? I think those are a bunch of fans behind Big John wearing yellow shirts but I can't really tell. This shot is taken at either Yankee Stadium or Comiskey, which is where the other Royals action shots were taken. My nod is Comiskey since NY dugouts had a big vertical cement beam in them and the Yankees typically used the first base dugout. Anyway, it's a pretty good action shot and shows how wide Mayberry's stance was. One commentary from back then said his right foot was halfway out to the mound. '73 was a big year for John as he continued the roll he was on since moving to KC. He led the league with 122 walks - he was the only true home run hitter on the team so he got pitched around a bunch - and OBA with .417. He also ended up being an excellent fielder and the Royals infield for the rest of the decade was one of the league's best. John made the All-Star team in '73 and provided most of the AL offense in the game.

John Mayberry grew up in Michigan and in '66, when he was 16, he was on the Sophomore Champion NABF (National Amateur Baseball Federation) team and in '67 he would be drafted and signed by the Astros for a $40,000 bonus. A big guy, John would show some power in the minors (he topped out at 23 homers and 82 RBI's), but he was much more adept at getting on base and as he bounced back and forth between Triple A and Houston from '69 to '71, he was getting tutored on being a line drive hitter. While he put up real good OBA numbers those years at Oklahoma City - well over .400 - he couldn't stick in Houston and was putting up a few too many strikeouts. After the '71 season, then, he was traded essentially even-up to the Royals for Jim York, a reliever. That trade came on the heels of the big one where Houston basically guaranteed the Reds the pennant the next few seasons. Both are viewed as two of the worst trades in baseball history.

At Kansas City, Big John flourished. Given the first baseman job upon Bob Oliver's trade to California, John showed his stuff as he became one of the AL's premier power guys and really amped up the walks. In '72 he had his first 100-RBI season and got some MVP votes.  In '74 he again was an All-Star but spent a bunch of time on the DL and his RBI totals and average fell. He bounced back in '75, putting up his best offensive numbers - a .291 average with a .416 OBA, 34 homers, 38 doubles, and 106 RBIs - and came in second to Fred Lynn in MVP votes. But the next two years, while the power numbers were respectable - 95 and 82 RBIs - the average plummeted to the .230 level. He did, however, hit for the cycle against the White Sox in '77. But in that year Pete LaCock and Clint Hurdle were pushing for time at first and after the season John was sold to the Blue Jays.

In Toronto, while Mayberry didn't exactly have a resurgence, he did provide the team with great fielding at first and was the team's most consistent hitter, hitting .260 and averaging 24 homers and 75 RBIs over the next four full seasons. His first year he moved his average up to .290 but therefter it fell every season. In '80 he hit 30 homers, setting the Blue Jays record. By '82 he was giving up time to Willie Upshaw and was spending more time at DH. Later that season he was traded to the Yankees where he finished out the year and his career. John finished with a .253 average, a .360 OBA, 255 homers, and 879 RBIs. He also has one of the best career fielding percentages at first base with a .994. In the post-season he hit .200 with 2 homers and six RBIs in nine games.

After his career, Mayberry coached for Toronto and KC and then moved to community affairs work for the Royals. His son, John Jr., is currently trying to break into the Phillies lineup after playing ball at Stanford.

Mayberry was an enthusiastic player and when he first came up to Houston he got to play against Atlanta and had Hank Aaron at first base after a single. He was a big fan and after the pitcher threw over to him to hold Hank on, John yelled back, "Throw that ball back over here. I want the chance to touch his man again!"

The homer was hit during those NABF playoffs. While John was involved in one big trade, he was nearly involved in two more. Following the '71 season, Montreal tried to trade for John even up by dangling Mike Marshall before the Astros. Houston shot them down, apparently preferring Jim York. That really helps secure the infamy of that trade. In '78 before being sold to Toronto, John was almost sent to the Mets for Jerry Koosman. I don't know which side shot that deal down, but given Koosman's '78 for the Twins, that big NY comeback might have ended in the AL playoffs.

This one will be all NL:

1. Mayberry and Jesus Alou '70 to '71 Astros;
2. Alou and Del Unser '75 Mets.
3. Unser and Mac Scarce '73 to '74 Phillies.


  1. The box seats appear to be pretty far from home plate. To get any better focus on the fans, the photographer would have had to use a smaller aperture and slower shutter speed, which wouldn't really work for an action shot where faster shutter speeds are required.

    Sorry about the photo geekery.

  2. Interesting you would post this at this point as John Mayberry Jr. went 2-for-4 with a game-tying home run in the seventh inning in Saturday's 2-1 victory for his Phillies over the Mets at Citizens Bank Park.

    Mayberry started in left field in place of Raul Ibanez.

    John is currently hitting .345 (10-for-29) with two doubles, one home run and three RBIs in 29 at-bats to this point in the early season.