Thursday, June 7, 2012

#381 - Charlie Sands

You gotta admire eternal optimism. Charlie Sands has a big smile on his face even though he only got a whopping 33 at bats in ’73. Plus he is air-brushed into an Angels uniform, presumably  from a Pirate one. But he hit a homer in his first Angel start and it was a big year in the minors and it would seem that his stats there - .302 with 22 homers, 71 RBI’s, and a .444 OBA – would have been enough to have elevated him to the top. California in ’73 wasn’t exactly awash in great catchers; in fact the three guys who got the most time would be out of the majors in ’74. But Charlie wouldn’t. In fact though he was yet again relegated to third-string, he’d get his most time behind the plate that year. Plus he had to love the guys at Topps. Like Vicente Romo, a pitcher from many posts back, Charlie was in a good run with cards per at bats at this point in his career. He had two to represent his 60 at bats. And he’d get another one in ’75.

Charlie Sands was a big kid out of Newport News, Virginia where he played football and baseball in high school. In ’65 he was drafted and signed by Baltimore but then had to do some military time. He came back in ’66 and hit .245 in A ball. After that season Lee MacPhail, who had been with the O’s, moved to the Yankees and had Charlie taken with that year’s Rule 5 draft. That meant he had to stay all the next year on the NY roster which he did, getting one at bat and zero time in the field, even though NY was pretty hurting for catchers. In ’68 he was able to return to the minors and he went back to A ball where though he missed some time with a broken hand he hit .268 with 37 RBI’s in 261 at bats. In ’69 more pain came in the form of appendicitis and a shattered kneecap so Charlie only got into 40 games split between Double and Triple A. By ’70 he was relatively healthy and he hit .226 – but with a .374 OBA – again spread between the two leagues. After that season he was traded to Pittsburgh in a minor league trade.

The 1971 Sands experienced was not terribly different from his ’67. Coming off an excellent spring training – he would specialize in those – he made the Pirates roster as the third-string guy behind Manny Sanguillen and Milt May. Though in his second and third at bats that year he hit pinch-homers, he got almost zero playing time. He did get a Series at bat though – he struck out – and a ring. In ’72 May got more time but Charlie didn’t up top and he spent most of the season putting up nice numbers back in Triple A: .283 with 12 homers, 44 RBI’s, and a .443 OBA in 219 at bats. Before the start of the ’73 season he was traded to Detroit for pitcher Chris Zachary and two weeks later went to California for pitcher Mike Strahler. After another excellent Triple A year in ’73 he spent all of ’74 with the Angels, now behind Ellie Rodriguez and Tom Egan. In 83 at bats he got four homers and 13 RBI’s and had an OBA of .370 but only hit .193. Given that he also DH’d that last stat didn’t work too well and in spring training of ’75 he was released. He hooked up with Oakland and spent nearly all the next two seasons at Tucson, their Triple A club. Combined those years he hit .287 with 37 homers, 124 RBI’s, and a .472 OBA in 536 at bats. He was released after the latter season which is a bit of a mystery given the hodgepodge Oakland’s ’77 catching became. Charlie finished with an average of .270 in the minors with 87 homers and 300 RBI’s in just over 2,000 at bats and a .385 OBA. Up top he hit .214 with a .372 OBA.

After he finished playing Charlie moved back to Virginia where by ’78 he started his own Charley’s Restaurant. It did pretty well and beginning in ’80 he began adding more sites to an expanding chain. The most successful of them seems to be in Lynchburg where it has been in continuing operation for over 30 years.

I believe the game mentioned in Charlie’s first star bullet remained the longest uninterrupted game in history. It’s a wonder he was able to play at all after that one.  Charlie had a brother Paul who pitched in the minors for five seasons in the early to mid-Seventies who had a similar career although he never cracked a Major League roster.

So Charlie played with Wayne Garrett’s brother but that doesn’t help here. Let’s see what does:

1. Sands and Nolan Ryan – duh! – ’73 to ’74 Angels;
2. Ryan and Bud Harrelson ’68 to ’71 Mets.

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