Thursday, October 4, 2012

#443 - Tom Hutton

Tommy Hutton was in the second year of his quasi-regular status as first baseman when this photo was snapped at Shea. After his trade from LA he split duties there in ’72 with Deron Johnson and in ’73 with Willie Montanez. Then from ’74 on it was all back-up all the time, a normally thankless job at which he performed quite well. He was an excellent defender and was adept at getting on base – his OBA for his Phillies years was .350 – and was a good clubhouse guy, a skill he would put to use down the road. Like Alan Foster of the previous post he began his career as a southern Cal glory boy and heartthrob who was able to settle in nicely to whatever role his career brought him. His ’73 highlight was probably his two homers and four RBI’s against the Mets at the end of June which took the Phillies to within a game of second place, the highest they’d be all season outside of the first week or so. Tommy was hitting .344 at the time but both he and his team would cool off considerably as they headed to another last-place finish. This was Tommy’s last card sans mustache so maybe its appearance helped propel his team in a new direction.

Tommy Hutton was a big Pasadena High School athlete. When he finished there he was the school record holder in career points in hoops and won the 1964 California Interscholastic Federation (“CIF”) award his senior year in baseball. The following year the award was won by his cousin, Bill Seinsoth, another Dodger-to-be who was a CWS MVP at USC and then was killed in a car accident in ’69 after his only year in pro ball. Tom signed with the Dodgers in late ’64 while attending Pasadena City College and then had a big season in A ball in ’65. He slowed down not at all the next year when he won his Double A league’s player of the year award, continued to hit pretty well in Triple A, and then made his debut for LA behind Sandy Koufax. The next few years he missed some time for military duty and his ’67 offensive numbers sagged a bit. But his defense sure didn’t as he posted only one error all year. That year he also had the first of what would be three Topps rookie cards (’69 and ’72 would be his other years). In ’68 his average revived a bit as it would continue to do the next few seasons at Triple A. He spent a bunch of time on the LA roster – and bench – in ’69 and after returning to the plus side of .300 in ’70 won his second player of the year award in ’71 as he rediscovered his power and put up huge numbers at Spokane.

By then the Dodgers had two new kids to battle it out for first in the wake of Wes Parker’s expected retirement in Billy Buckner and Steve Garvey and rather than lose him to a $25,000 veteran draft, the Dodgers sent Hutton and his big numbers to the Phillies for Larry Hisle. Tommy had hit .303 with a .378 OBA in the minors altogether so Philly, dealing with its own older first sacker in Deron Johnson, was willing to take a flier. Tommy did pretty well, showing some diversity while also playing in the outfield, although he pretty much left his power back in the minors. Each of the next four seasons in Philly he saw a declining amount of at bats as first Montanez and then Dick Allen took the regular first base spot. He hit .309, mostly in the pinch, in ’77 and in both ’76 and ’77 got some post-season action. While with the Phillies he developed an uncanny knack to hit Tom Seaver – by mid-‘77 he was .432 with three homers and 14 RBI’s in 37 career at bats against him – and so when the Phillies went up against NY Tommy started the Seaver games. After the ’77 season he was sold twice: first to the Blue Jays for whom he did the first base/outfield thing; and in July ’78 to the Expos for whom he primarily pinch hit. He would stay up north the rest of his career, filling in the pinch through the ’81 season for Montreal. Tommy finished with a .248 average with a .339 OBA and had 234 career walks against only 140 strikeouts. In the post-season he went hitless in four at bats.

After playing Hutton began a long career in the broadcast booth, starting right away with Montreal. He was with the Expos from ’82 to ’86 and then moved to the Yankees (’87-’89) and Toronto (’90-’96). Since ’97 he has been broadcasting for the Florida Marlins.

Tommy gets a good informative card back, at least for me since I can expound on all this stuff. He is the second-to-last guy in this set who was on that ’72 Topps rookie team. On the Baseball Digest rookie team he got a spot in the outfield because the magazine named John Milner first baseman. In ’73 he met pitcher Dick Ruthven which means he also met his future wife since she was Ruthven’s sister. And the cartoon is interesting since it is so flighty. But not incredibly so because Tommy was still doing the nightclub thing as a singer/musician which he began back in his Dodger days with his ’69 card-mate Alan Foster.

So while these two were best buds and spent lots of baseball time together almost none of it was up top:

1. Hutton and Bobby Tolan ’76 to ’77 Phillies;
2. Tolan and Alan Foster ’75 Padres.

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