Tuesday, October 25, 2011

#268 - Tom Grieve

In another serious pose we get Tom Grieve in Oakland holding onto his bat at this point as hard as he's trying to hold on to the Major Leagues. Tom was experiencing his third try up top when this photo was taken. He would end up sticking for an exceptionally long career as a Ranger, but not as a player.

Tom Grieve was a huge deal when he was selected by the Senators as a first-rounder in the '66 draft. He had led his high school team to the state championship and then played Cape Cod ball in the summer, hitting .416 in 89 at bats with 19 RBIs. He began the following spring in A ball and while producing a low average did knock in 44 runs in just 58 games. He had some trouble in his few games when moved to a better league, however. Then in '68 he lost time to the military but would hike his average up at the same level. In '69 he jumped to Triple A and had an OK year before he improved things at that level significantly in '70. He was then pulled up to Washington where he continued to play outfield in a supporting role. After a poor spring in '71 he spent the whole season back at Triple A Denver. He then returned up top, this time in Texas, for good in '72, where he raised his average a bit in a reserve role.

In '73 Grieve wouldn't get too much playing time in a young outfield, but he did make the most of it, hitting .317 with 22 RBIs in 123 at bats. That season would lead to increasingly more playing time, both in the outfield and at DH. He also escalated his offensive numbers the next three seasons. His homer totals moved from nine to 14 to 20, his RBIs from 32 to 61 to 81, and his average from .255 to .276 and back to .255. In '77 the Rangers traded Jeff Burroughs to Atlanta and Tom lost his starting role in the new outfield of Claudell Washington, Juan Beniquez, and Dave May while Willie Horton put a stranglehold on DH. After hitting .225 in just 236 at bats he was part of the huge multi-team trade that took him and Ken Henderson to the Mets and brought Jon Matlack to the Rangers. But with no DH time his at bats continued to drop and before the '79 season he was sent to the Cards for pitcher Pete Falcone. After a few at bats for St. Louis he was released whereupon he re-signed with the Rangers. For Texas he finished things up playing outfield and first base for their Triple A Tucson club. Tom finished with a .249 average with 65 homers and 254 RBIs.

But Grieve wasn't done with baseball, nor with Texas. In 1980 he did a bit of radio color work while also becoming director of group sales. In '81 he moved to assistant director of player development and after the '82 season was named director. In '84 he became the Texas GM, a position he held for 11 seasons. He brought Nolan Ryan and Rafael Palmeiro to the Rangers (but famously gave up Sammy Sosa). Upon stepping down in '94 he returned to the booth where he has been the local color guy ever since.

Regarding the first star bullet, Tom initially wasn't getting the bonus he wanted from Washington which is why he opted for Cape Cod ball. He also signed a letter of intent to go to Michigan which pressured the Nats into paying up. He was recently inducted into the Cape Cod League's hall of fame. Tom homered twice in the infamous "25 cent beer game" in Cleveland and as he crossed the plate after the second one, a naked fan slid into second base. Tom's son Ben would follow his dad as a first rounder, win AL Rookie of the Year in '98 and post some big seasons for Oakland in the late Nineties. The book "Seasons in Hell" notes that Ben's signing bonus was more than Tom made his whole MLB career.

Another Angel helps this hook-up:

1. Grieve and Jim Spencer '73 to '75 Rangers;
2. Spencer and Andy Messersmith '68 to '72 Angels.

So Joe Rudi was the 40% mark of this set and I'd like to throw some milestones out there from the set at that point, although I'm a tad late. So here goes:

Post-Seasons: like the last milestone, every season is represented by at least one player from a post-season team that year from 1957 to 1989 except 1960. 1974 still leads the way with 41 players.

Awards: There are 14 MVPs in the set and ten Cy Young winners. There are also 15 Rookie of the Year winners, 15 Comeback Player of the Year winners, and seven guys who have won The Sporting News Minor League Player of the Year. Managers of the Year have jumped to twelve but Fireman of the Year is stuck at nine.

Milestones: There has only been one rookie card in the last 66 making a total of 25. There are now 27 Hall of Famers and 27 official or unofficial Traded cards. There are 15 guys whose card in the '74 set is the final ones of their careers and 26 players who have since deceased.

Rookies: The Topps Rookie All-Star Team for '73 remains stuck at six. The other years have been represented as follows:
'59-2 '61-2 '64-3 '65-3 '66-4 '67-2
'68-4 '69-3 '70-4 '71-3 '72-6

Random: There have been 67 action shots, 89 photos of home uniforms, and 144 of away uniforms. There have been 21 players with the parenthetic names. Both the ugly cards and the cards of players that served in Viet Nam remain the same at five and four, respectively.

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