Saturday, October 8, 2011

#257 - Buddy Bell

Like Larry Bowa of a couple posts ago, Buddy Bell here is a baseball lifer. His dad played in the majors. His kids played in the majors. He is still affiliated with baseball. Also like Bowa, Buddy was a rookie all-star guy, he in '72. That makes three out of the last four posts (and Tom Griffin should have been). Finally, like many teammates in this set, Buddy gets his photo taken at Yankee Stadium. I guess he was just a guy who liked to fit in.

Buddy Bell grew up just outside of Cincinnati - his dad had played for the Reds - and was drafted out of high school by the Indians in '69. After a slow start that summer in Rookie ball he ramped things up in A ball the next year, switching from second base to third. In '71 he jumped up to Triple A, preserving his numbers. In '72, then, he was a heralded rookie when he made the cut. That season was Graig Nettles' last one in Cleveland so Buddy began his major league career as a right fielder for a terrible team. So even though his offensive numbers weren't great he made the Topps team that season, as well as the Baseball Digest one. Then in '73 he made a pretty seamless transition to third after Nettles was traded. Buddy enjoyed a pretty significant uptick in all his offensive stats and got an invitation to the All-Star game. In '74 he missed some games due to knee problems but kept his stats up and in '75 he returned to a full healthy season. From '76 to '78 Buddy would hit .283 with an average of 62 RBI's at third as one of a young team's leaders. After the '78 season he would be traded to the Rangers even up for Toby Harrah.

In Texas Bell cruised. In '79 he had an offensive breakout, hitting .299 with 200 hits, 42 doubles, and 101 RBI's and won his first of six successive Gold Gloves. In '80 he missed over a month to more knee stuff but put up his highest average of .329 and returned to the All-Star game, which would also be an annual occurrence the next two years. In '81 he put up 64 RBI's in the strike season, '82 and '83 were reminiscent of his best years in Cleveland, and in '84 he made his final All-Star team while winning his first Silver Slugger for a .315/11/83 and personal best .382 OBA season. His full years with the Rangers Buddy averaged .297 with 18 homers and 83 RBI's. After a slow start to the '85 season he was traded to Cincinnati for Jeff Russell and Duane Walker. He finished the season hitting .219 for the Reds but after off-season knee surgery he returned in '86 to post a .278 average with 75 RBI's and a career-best 20 homers. After a similar season in '87 Buddy missed a bunch of games to start the '88 season because of his knees and was sent to the Astros that June, for whom he put up OK numbers the rest of the season. After Houston released him that December he signed as a free agent back with the Rangers and played a bit of DH but by then the six knee operations had reduced his mobility and he retired mid-season. Buddy hit .279 for his career with 2,514 hits, 201 homers, and 1,106 RBIs. His OBA was over .340. On the defense side he won three fielding titles and is fourth all-time in assists for a third baseman.

As indicated above Bell got right into coaching after playing. After coaching in the White Sox system in '90 he became their head of minor league instruction from '91 to '93, a role he reprised in 2008 and which he is still doing. In between he has coached in the minors: Reds ('99); coached up top: Indians ('94-'95 and '03-'05); and managed: Tigers ('96-'98), Rockies (2000-'02), and Royals ('05-'07). As a manager he has a lifetime record of 519-724.

Buddy got shut out from the post season in the majors but he had a good run right before his career began. The '71 mvp was at the Triple A level. That's a pretty interesting off-season job for a baseball player.

This hook-up will be all NL:

1. Bell and Cesar Cedeno '85 Reds;
2. Cedeno and Tom Griffin '70 to '76 Astros.

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