Monday, July 30, 2012

#407 - Jim Wohlford

Contrary to some recent post subjects this guy had a pretty long career, certainly much longer then I would have expected when he started. Jim Wohlford is fresh off his rookie year, during which he is photographed in Oakland with Gail Hopkins behind him. After half a season of Triple A ball Jim came up to KC where he had a season very indicative of his career: an average a bit north of .260; a little speed without much power; and lots of defensive replacement time in the outfield. But his time in the field certainly made an impression on management since they traded Lou Piniella in order to give Jim a shot at the regular left field job. I guess it seemed like a good idea at the time. Oops.

Jim Wohlford grew up in Visalia, California where he was an infielder and was drafted by the Angels after high school. He shot them down and instead went to the College of the Seqoias where he played ball for a year and made the juco All-American team before he was drafted by the Royals in 1970. This time he bit and he was able to hit above or near .300 at Rookie, Single A, and Triple A stops his first three seasons in the minors. At those levels he played mostly infield and his few games up in ’72 he played second base. When he came up for good the next year he DH’d a bunch and in the field was strictly an outfielder.

In ’74 Wohlford got his shot at left field as the guy to replace Piniella. While his .271 with a .327 OBA was certainly no disaster, it didn’t come close to Lou’s best seasons and the speed he brought to the lineup, while it was evident in higher stolen base totals, didn’t exactly wow people since he got picked off 44% of the time. So in ’75 Hal McRae got the lion’s share of work in left while Jim split right with Al Cowens. The next year Cowens took over right solo and Jim returned to left where he split time with rookie Tom Poquette. Though he got starting post-season time – he hit .167 with a .333 OBA and two steals in five games against NY – his .249 vs. Poquette’s .302 gave the nod to the new guy and after the season Jim went to Milwaukee with Jamie Quirk and Bob McClure for Jim Colborn and Darrell Porter. In ’77 he was the primary guy in left but he hit .248 with an OBA under .300 and when the Brewers brought in Larry Hisle as a free agent and Ben Oglivie in a trade, Jim’s at bats dropped by nearly three-quarters even though he upped his average to nearly .300. In ’79 it was more of the same and after that season he left as a free agent.

Wohlford signed with San Francisco, switching leagues though returning to his old haunt in left field. He hit .280 in 193 at bats in ’80 but rarely played in ’81, his average dropping to .162 in only 68 at bats, mostly as a pinch hitter. In ’82 he hit .256 in 250 at bats and at the end of that season went to Montreal for Chris Smith. For the Expos Jim had one of his best years in ’84 when he hit .300 in 213 at bats with five homers and a .342 OBA. After two more back-up seasons the Expos released him and for ’87 he hooked up with Cincinnati. For the Reds he hit .210 in Triple A and was then done. Jim finished with an MLB average of .260 with 21 homers and 305 RBI’s. '76 was his only post-season experience.

After playing Wohlford returned to Visalia where he has been working as a financial advisor, most recently with Wells Fargo. During his career he returned to school to finish his degree at the College of the Sequoias, for whom he has hosted an annual golf tournament for a bunch of years.

Jim went five for five in a game for the Giants also. I think he is the third guy in the set to like “rock-n-roll” records on his card. A couple more and we have enough for a pretty good band.

Speaking of music, there is a bunch of items to post. July 28, 1973 was a busy day. In the UK Gary Glitter had a new Number One with “I’m the Leader of the Band, I Am.” It’s more typical over-the-top performance stuff which is now difficult for me to watch in light of his later transgressions. Also on this date back in the States a group by the name of Lynyrd Skynyrd announced the release of its debut album. A bit north at Watkins Glen a concert seen by over 600,000 people featured the Allman Brothers, the Grateful Dead, and the Band. On July 30 Led Zeppelin performed at Madison Square Garden in the concert used for their movie “The Song Remains the Same” – I always though that concert was from ’75 – which had to be a better night than their last one when they were ripped off of $180,000 in proceeds from that night’s show. In 1974, July 27 featured two new Number Ones. In the US, John Denver’s “Annie’s Song” was written for his wife, with whom he was going through a rough patch. In the UK “Rock Your Baby”, just replaced by “Annie’s Song” in the States, took over for a three-week run. On July 29, 1974 Cass Elliot, former singer from The Mamas and the Papas passed away from a heart attack in London. She was 32.

A near-Cy winner helps in this hook-up:

1. Wohlford and Mike Caldwell ’77 to ’79 Brewers;
2. Caldwell and Steve Arlin ’71 to ’73 Padres.

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