Tuesday, September 27, 2011

#247 - Rick Miller

This is Rick Miller's first solo card and first card with his signature 'stache. He had a clean-shaven rookie card in the '72 set. Rick would have some pretty good action shots later in his career but for the immediate future he favored the bat-on-the-shoulder pose which he does here in front of an enormous batting cage in what I'm guessing is a spring training shot. With the mustache Rick shows a passing resemblance to another Michigan State alum-to-be Kirk Gibson, but maybe I'm reaching. I will say that the old flannel he's wearing reminds me of lots of itchy uniforms from when I was a kid.

Rick Miller grew up an all-around athlete in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and went on to play hoops and baseball at Michigan State. There he was a teammate of Ted Simmons and in his junior year of '69 he was drafted and signed by the Sox. Initially Boston wanted him to pitch but Rick said no thanks and took his place in the outfield where he moved from Double A to Triple A the next three seasons with gradual increases in power accompanied by excellent defensive skills. At the end of '71 he got some time up top and hit .333. In '72 he scored some time as Tommie Harper's back-up in center but still saw a lot of bench time also. In '73 he played significantly more as Reggie Smith was hurt and Yaz was pressed into infield duty. Rick upped his average almost 50 points and maintained it in '74, a year he was projected to start upon Smith's trade to St. Louis and Ben Oglivie's to Detroit. But Bernie Carbo ended up getting a lot of time which cut Rick's at bats by over a third. Then in '75 the young trio of Fred Lynn, Jim Rice, and Dwight Evans made it difficult for anyone else to penetrate the order and Rick only got up about 100 times as his average fell below .200. In '76 Lynn got hurt, Rice put in more time at DH, and Rick rebounded to get 270 at bats and upped his average to .283. After a '77 in which his playing time again declined Rick played out his contract and signed with the Angels as a free agent.

For California Miller would become the starting center fielder the next three seasons, grabbing over 400 at bats each one. In '78 he won a Gold Glove while boosting his average ten points and in '79 he hit .293 while recording his career high in OBA of .367. After one more season he was sent back to the Sox with Mark Clear and Carney Lansford for his old teammates Rick Burleson and Butch Hobson. Back in Boston Rick was the primary center fielder for two seasons - Lynn had been sent to the Angels earlier - and then in '83 got moved to backup upon the acquisition of Tony Armas. He also solidified his role as the Sox' top pinch hitter, a role he continued the next two seasons, finishing up in '85. For his career Rick hit .269 while posting a .986 fielding average. In the post-season he hit .222 in seven games.

After playing Miller did some work in the financial advisory business, then ran a company that managed autograph shows. He also managed a season in the minors in '08 and has done some college coaching and run baseball clinics for various groups, many on a volunteer basis. His managing record is 41-52.

The last star bullet is nice but one of those vague space-fillers. He also led the IL in K's in '71, his best power season. His '69 average at Michigan State was .429. Rick's baseball coach there, Danny Litwiler, passed away a couple days ago at 95. That cartoon is pretty archaic; I wonder if anyone plays paddle ball any more. Here's a tidbit: Rick is the only guy Nolan Ryan admits he threw at during his career; he hit Miller in the hip.

Here's the hookup:

1. Miller and Joe Rudi '78 to '80 Angels and '81 Red Sox;
2. Rudi was on the '73 A's.

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