Tuesday, August 16, 2011

#227 - Mike Lum

Mike Lum shows us his fielding chops at home in Atlanta. That's some crowd they got there. The ink ran on this one while the card was being pressed making it all dirty on the bottom. After an offensive setback in '72 Mike rallied to put up his best career numbers in the States in '73. He also put in a bunch of time at first base which had been and would continue to be a bit of a hodgepodge in the early to mid '70s for Atlanta after Orlando Cepeda's big season there in '70. Mike's homer total would allow his inclusion in the record setting infield for home runs, with a total of 108. Mike was one of the first Asian guys to play in the majors and one of the first Hawaiians. He was a pretty good player but was always dogged by people to show them his birth certificate. Wait... that was another guy from Hawaii.

Mike Lum played baseball and football equally well in high school in Honolulu. He would go to Brigham Young on a football scholarship but gave that up after his first year when he was signed by the Braves in '63. By '64 he was showing some pretty good power in A ball - 18 homers with a .307 average - and then put up some middling seasons the next three as he moved up to Triple A by '67. In the minors he was strictly an outfielder who was initially prone to some errors, but got that ironed out by his last season. He would come up to Atlanta the end of '67, putting up a few games in center.
His first couple seasons Lum would play back-up in left field and in '69 enjoyed a 40-point boost to his average. He also pinch-hit for Hank Aaron that year, becoming the first player to do that. In his first post-season play that fall he batted 1.000 with a double in two at bats. In '70 Felipe Alou went to Oakland allowing Mike to get more starting time and in '71 Rico Carty had to sit out the entire season so Mike was a full-timer and responded with his best offensive year to date. When Carty returned in '72 Mike's plate time cam in nd his average even more. After his big '73, in '74 and '75 Mike's numbers would tumble big as he lost playing time at first - to Davey Johnson in '74 and Darrell Evans in '75 - as a lack of 40-homer guys meant he wasn't seeing as good a pitching assortment and pitchers were staying in longer against him. After the '75 season he was sent to the Reds for Darell Chaney.

For Cincinnati the next three seasons Lum would play a little outfield but his primary role was as a pinch hitter, and he enjoyed his best success in that position in '78. In the meantime he got his first Series ring in '76 after making a sole appearance in the NL playoffs. In '79 Mike would return to Atlanta as a free agent, playing some back at first in addition to pinch hitting. He was released early in the '81 season, finished the year up with the Cubs, and was done in the States. In '82 he went to Japan to play for the Taiyo Whales where, according to one site, he had a monster season - over .300 with 40 homers and 120 RBIs - but I cannot confirm that elsewhere. But he was not invited back for '83 - hard to believe if those stats are accurate - and was done as a player. Stateside Mike hit .247 with 90 homers and 431 RBIs. His post-season average was .667.

After playing Lum jumped into coaching, enjoying a long career as a hitting coach. He began things with the Braves, invited by old friend Hank Aaron to do some coaching in the Atlanta system. In '85 he moved up top to the White Sox, and then became the team's minor league instructor from '86 to 2005 with a couple seasons in KC for the Royals in '88 to '89. In '05 he had hip replacement surgery, resumed coaching in '06 with the West Virginia Power, worked in the Brewers system for '08 to '09, and then moved to the Pirates system where he continues to work.
Mike's big '70 game gets star bullet treatment. The game was against the Padres and he walked in his fourth plate appearance with the bases loaded. With winning the Series it was his favorite moment in baseball. While Mike was in Japan he was present at perhaps the most violent incident in its history when two coaches for the opposing team, the Hanshin Tigers, objected to a call and beat up the umpire, even kicking him in the groin. Their excuse? Temporary insanity, which allowed them to only be suspended a couple weeks.

All NL here as Mike gets hooked up with the '73 Padres:

1. Lum and Clarence Gaston '75 Braves;
2. Gaston on the '73 Padres.

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