Thursday, August 4, 2011

#219 - Doug Griffin

Doug Griffin looks a little peeved in Oakland, despite the relaxed stance. Doug had reason to be leery. Although he was in the middle of what was arguably the peak of his career, he was also in the midst of some painful experiences. In '73 he was hitting .289 when he broke his hand and missed nearly two months. In '74 he took a Nolan Ryan heater square in the melon and needed to be hospitalized. All that on top of a bad back and his relatively short career doesn't require too much explaining.

Doug Griffin played football and basketball, ran track, and was an all-county baseball player in high school in California. He attended Jackson State Community College in Tennessee and was drafted out of there by the Angels in '65. He spent a brief time in Rookie ball the rest of that season and followed that up in '66 as an all-star in Single A. But before that season ended he pulled his military hitch, which sent him to Pearl Harbor to work on submarines. That gig lasted through the '68 season. In '69 he played both A and Double A ball, elevating his average to above .300 at the higher level. In '70 he returned to Hawaii to play Triple A and had an excellent season, scoring 119 runs and cementing his reputation as a superior fielder. He also got in a few games up top for the Angels.

Before the '71 season Griffin was part of an interesting trade in which a lot of names got reused. He, Jarvis Tatum, and Ken Tatum (not related) went to the Red Sox for Jerry Moses, Ray Jarvis, and the premium piece of the deal, Tony Conigliaro. Ironically Doug, the only non-major leaguer of the bunch, turned out to be the best new acquisition of the group by either team. Handed the starting second baseman job he was taken under the wing of the other new infield acquisition Luis Aparacio. Little Looie worked long hours with Doug on both hitting and defense, especially on the double play. As a result, Doug became aggressive on both sides which would be both bad and good. On the plus side he had an excellent defensive rookie year, enabling him to win Rookie All-Star honors from Topps and the Baseball Digest and come in fourth place in AL ROY voting. In '72 he would win a Gold Glove. On the downside Doug got nailed a lot by baserunners while turning the DP, which would result in a constantly aggravated back. He also tended to dig in at the plate, thus the Ryan beaning. He would recover and put up his best offensive numbers in '74, hitting .266. In '75 the back pain caught up to him and Doug's back fragility would move the Sox to acquire Denny Doyle who would go on to have a career season during the playoff run while he was platooned with Doug at second. Doug would see almost no post-season action and in '76 would hit sub-.200 as Doyle's backup. He also got beaned again, this time by Dick Bosman. After a couple games in early '77 he was released. He finished with a .245 average and a very good .981 fielding average.

After baseball, Doug returned to California where he hooked up with a neighbor to build and sell houses. he then did the same thing in Florida for Buddy Leroux, who was part of the syndicate that bought the Sox in the late '70s. In '90 or so he returned to California to manage a painting business, motels, and storage units until he retired in the mid-'90s. He has a nice SABR bio linked to here. I also have linked another recent interview with him here.
Doug once had pretty good wheels and had additional fielding honors in '72. I believe he is the first guy in the set so far linked to his team for extra work. His nickname in Boston was Dude since as a true Californian that was how he addressed everybody. Ross Grimsley, a teammate on the '71 rookie team, also played ball at Jackson State.

Boston and Milwaukee used to do lots of trades so this should be quick:

1. Griffin and Billy Conigliaro '71 Red Sox;
2. Conigliaro and Johnny Briggs '72 Brewers.

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