Wednesday, August 3, 2011

#218 - Johnny Briggs

This is a pretty prosaic card of Johnny Briggs. I liked his cards better in the mid-'70s when he used to sport some puka shells on his neck and some pretty good facial hair. Here he looks like he's toting some decent guns under his shirts in what I believe is Oakland. Johnny became a bit of a power hitter with the Brewers so he needed the requisite equipment.

Johnny Briggs grew up in East Paterson NJ and would attend Seton Hall University. He was signed by the Phillies after a year at school, late in '62. In '63 he went out to Cali to play Single A ball and did well, hitting .297 with 21 homers. They brought him up in '64 where as a pinch hitter and runner he got to watch as the Phillies blew their big lead down the stretch. In '65 he began to get some starting time in the outfield but he lost some games due to a nasty collision and he got his hand hurt by one of Frank Thomas's faux handshakes (it was that incident that led to Thomas' fight with Dick Allen). Over the next bunch of seasons Johhny would be mostly an outfield starter putting up average offensive stats. Early in the '71 season he was traded to the Brewers for Pete Koegel and Ray Peters.

In Milwaukee Briggs would up his profile considerably, also playing some first base. In Philly he was averaging a homer and four RBIs every 50 at bats. In his first three seasons for the Brewers he upped that to three and eight, respectively. In '74 he had his busiest season, getting over 500 at bats for the only time in his career. In '75 after a hot start he was sent to the Twins - they needed a first baseman the year before Carew's move - for Bobby Darwin. While his average faded a bit down the stretch his OBA number was still pretty good. But with the pending Carew relocation he was released the following February. Johnny then signed a two-year contract with the Orions in Japan but early in the '77 season he got sick from a parasite infestation, spent some time in a hospital, and came home. He then decided to pass on his second season. For his career in the States Johnny hit .253 with 139 homers and 507 RBIs. His OBA was .355.

Briggs returned to NJ after his Japanese experience and was a recreation manager there for a few years. In '82 he got a job as a corrections officer which he did until retiring in 2008. He still resides in Paterson where a local Pony League and its field are named after him. His wife is a detective. I guess that is one family with which you don't mess. There is a very nice recent interview with him here.

Johnny had a busy month in July of '72. I am pretty sure his homer won a "game" not "fame" in the first star bullet but, then again, maybe he really was low profile before that game. I'm from Jersey and I will say that not too many Paterson guys rode horses so that would have been a sight.

Johnny was sort of famously mellow. Now he gets hooked up to a hothead:

1. Briggs and Rod Carew '75 Twins;
2. Carew and Tim Foli '82 to '83 Angels.

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