Thursday, October 25, 2012

#452 - Gene Hiser

It goes like this sometimes. We move from a guy who had an extended career to one who barely had one, at least in terms of MLB at bats. This is Gene Hiser’s first and only solo card. He had a rookie one – with Burt Hooton – in the ’72 set. Gene is giving us the old extended bat pose while at least one guy in the background looks impressed at Candlestick. ’73 was by far his busiest year up top as it was his only season with over 100 at bats and no time in the minors. He also parked his only homer that year and it was meaningful as it tied up a game the Cubbies went on to win. Defensively, he got into 64 games split pretty evenly between all three outfield spots and made only one error. It was the only error of his career.

Gene Hiser grew up outside Baltimore where he played soccer and baseball at Towser High and then continued in both sports at the University of Maryland. He was all-ACC in baseball for three years and in his senior year of ’70 led the conference with a school-record eleven homers while being named first team All-American. That year the Cubs drafted him in the first round and he went right to Triple A where he had an OK season. After pounding the ball in ’71 spring training he split the season between a short stint of A ball, Triple A – he was loaned to the Houston organization for that run - and his debut season for the Cubs. In ’72 it was back to Triple A where he put up a nice average, showed pretty good speed at the top of the order, and posted a .396 OBA. After again getting into a few games in Chicago, ’73 was all Cubbies. In ’74 and ’75 he reprised the back and forth between Triple A and up top, fading to a .247 season at the lower level the first year but rebounding to hit .320 with a .394 OBA the second year. In Chicago he continued his reserve role, hitting .235 in ’74 and .242 in ’75 in his final MLB season. ‘76 was split between the Cubs and the White Sox in Triple A where he hit a combined .248 and closed out his career. Gene hit .202 for the Cubs and .267 with a .356 OBA in the minors.

Hiser has had a pretty good run since playing. He graduated Maryland with a degree in education and initially continued his off-season job of running a sporting goods store which he did through ’79. He then became an insurance rep for MassMutual and settled in Hoffman Estates, MD. In ’83 he and another MassMutual guy opened a financial advisory business named Barrett and Hiser which in ’97 was bought by GCG Financial. Gene remains there as a principal. For about 17 years he was also a local travel soccer coach at which he apparently had a pretty good run. He organizes and participates in various golf outings.

There are Gene’s monster ’71 spring training numbers. Too bad he couldn’t follow through on them. At Maryland he was a teammate of future Indian Jim Norris and he shared all-ACC honors with Tom Bradley, who’ll be coming up in a few posts.

Let’s use the guy with whom Gene shared his rookie card for this exercise:

1. Hiser and Burt Hooton ’71 to ’75 Cubs;
2. Hooton and Tommy John ’76 to ’78 Dodgers.

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