Tuesday, September 25, 2012

#436 - Don Hood

Here is a rookie card and it’s a spring training shot which means it’s about as rookie as you can get. When Doyle Alexander got hurt in July of ’73, Don Hood was the guy that got pulled up and he went to work fast, shutting down Oakland in a long relief appearance. Long relief would be his stock in trade a bunch of his years up top which generally back then meant not too many coveted stats, at least not at contract time. That career would also cover a decent amount of territory since he would play for five teams and would include a bunch of drama, most of it off the field, and some of it just plain odd. For instance the way he ended his first season with Baltimore: in game two of the AL playoffs as a pinch runner.

Don Hood came out of Florence, South Carolina where as a high school pitcher he went 28-1 for his career including an 11-0 senior year in which he pitched his team to a state title. The summer of his graduation – he was 19 – in 1969 he was drafted by Baltimore in the first round. In high school he was all heat and he continued to be primarily a fastball guy his first couple years in the minors, including his first summer in Rookie ball and ’70 in A ball, both of which he averaged well over a strikeout an inning. As he moved up the ladder he continued to add and refine his pitches – mostly in winter ball – and though his K totals subsided, his numbers in Double A in ’71 and Triple A the next couple years were generally pretty good, outside of his record. By ’72 he started working on his new pitch, a forkball, which he would incorporate more and more into his rotation. After a shutout in a start in July in ’73 he was moved up to Baltimore when Alexander went down.

Hood spent all of ’74 on the O’s roster but only got in 57 innings since Baltimore still had a bunch of starters who liked to complete games. He wasn’t real happy about not being used and during the season his mom was found drowned in a stream that ran behind his childhood home after she’d been missing a bunch of days. That must have been terrible and probably fueled Don’s fire about his non-usage which he apparently verbalized quite a bit. After the season he got traded to Cleveland with Boog Powell for Dave Duncan and a minor leaguer. With the Indians Don got to pitch a bunch more and spent a considerable amount of time in the rotation. But that year his walks topped his strikeouts and his ERA was well over 4.00, so the next year he returned to his long relief role which didn’t help too much since both stats got worse. In ’77 he reversed things and went 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA in 105 innings, nearly all in relief, as his K’s once more topped his BB’s. '78 saw him back in the rotation a bunch but his numbers were very comparable to his ’75 ones. In ’79 after a pretty good start he went to the Yankees in June for Cliff Johnson to help fix the mess Johnson made when he put Goose Gossage on the DL wrestling in the clubhouse.

In New York Hood didn’t become the new closer but he did assume a set-up role, allowing Ron Davis – and for a bit Ron Guidry – to fill the Gossage role while Goose was out. Don had one of the better runs of his career that summer, going 3-1 with a save and a 3.07 ERA though his walks continued to top his strikeouts. After that season he signed with St. Louis as a free agent and for the Cards did pretty well as a swing guy, getting eight starts and going 4-6 with a 3.39 ERA. He was released after the season and went the winter without being signed until KC picked him up just before spring training of ’81. He spent all that year in Triple A as a swing guy, putting up a season very much like his one with the Cards. After a few games at that level in ’82 he returned to The Show and went 4-0 the rest of the way. In ’83 he did the back and forth again and his numbers in KC were quite good – 2-3 with a 2.27 ERA in 48 innings – but he again chafed loudly about his lack of playing time which at one point led to a scuffle on the team bus with manager Dick Howser. That wasn’t a good career move and after the season Don was released, finishing his career. He went 34-35 with a 3.79 ERA, six complete games, and six saves.

Hood resided in his hometown during his career and was still there when he played a season in the Senior League in ’89. He got some negative publicity in ’85 when one of the coke dealers nabbed in the big sting operation from earlier in the decade named Don as a frequent customer. At some point thereafter he relocated for good to Florida though there is virtually no media at all about what he had done since his career ended professionally or otherwise. Even his family was in the dark on that if a sequence of posts on the 1980 blog are to be believed. I have linked to them here.

Most of the back of the card stuff was covered above. Note the big dropoff in K’s after his second season. During his high school career he won 25 straight beginning his freshman year.

Now to catch up on the music scene in ’74. It eerily resembles that of the prior year. On September 14, the new Number One in the States is Eric Clapton’s cover of Bob Marley’s “I Shot The Sheriff.” It is followed in the top spot on September 21 by Barry White’s “Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love Babe.” In the UK on that second date Number One is taken over by Carl Douglass’ “Kung Fu Fighting.” On September 23 another rocker passes when the Average White Band’s drummer Robbie McIntosh went into cardiac arrest after snorting some coke that turned out to be heroin laced with strychnine. That happened at a party for Greg Allman at which Allman’s wife at the time – Cher – kept another AWB member, singer Alan Gorrie, from going south by making him stay conscious.

Concepcion didn’t travel but Hood did so that should help:

1. Hood and Hal McRae ’82 to ’83 Royals;
2. McRae and Dave Concepcion ’70 to ’72 Reds.

1 comment:

  1. If you look at his 1975 card, it doesn't even look like the same guy.