Wednesday, November 7, 2012

#454 - Kurt Bevacqua

Geez. You take a weekend off and then Sandy comes along and that weekend turns into a week-plus. Almost half of my town is without power and the poor Jersey shore is devastated. Any readers from that neck of the woods – my former stomping ground – you have my sympathy and best wishes for recovery.

So if you were a kid of a certain age that collected baseball cards it is quite possible that the first time this guy hit your line of sight was in ’76 when Topps issued that bubble-blowing contest card featuring him with a mammoth Bazooka bubble in his mouth. Later, at least if you were from my neck of the woods – NYC and its suburbs – Kurt again grabbed some attention by catching baseballs dropped off The Empire State Building. Finally, in ’84 he raised his profile yet again by turning in a show-stopping performance in the ’84 Series. Kurt Bevacqua made a mighty long career out of diversity, almost never starting but playing just about every position on the field. In lots of ways ’73 was one of his best seasons as he got to play a bunch more than normal, partly because of the transition at third base for KC from Paul Schaal to George Brett and at second from Cookie Rojas to Frank White (though that one took years), and partly because KC really didn’t have an every day DH back then. In ’73 Kurt posted the most RBI’s and runs of his career, second most at bats, and an average that would top his career one by about 20 points. Plus he brings back the first Traded card in a while, though his trade would be short-lived as he’d be back in Kansas City before the ’74 season was over. He was pretty itinerant for a long while until he finally settled on the west coast and contributed to one of the funniest YouTube videos ever.

Kurt Bevacqua grew up in Miami and after graduating high school in ’65 opted for Miami-Dade Junior College. He dropped out his first semester and then returned in time to play ball and lead his team to the JUCO finals – they lost – while earning all-JUCO with a .393 season. Future Royal Bob Stinson was also on that team. Kurt was drafted by the Mets but opted to stay in school which he also did after being picked by the Braves the following January. After his sophomore/senior year of ’67 in which he hit over .400 he was drafted by Cincinnati and this time signed but had a not-great summer in A ball. He remained at that level in ’68 and raised his average 30 points around some military time. In ’69 he moved up to Double A and had excellent offensive numbers while playing primarily third after specializing in second base since college. His RBI tallies moved down a notch as he moved up to Triple A in ’70 but his other stats were pretty good. Unfortunately back then Tony Perez was the man at third up top and so early in the ’71 season Kurt was sent to Cleveland for Buddy Bradford. The change of scenery helped as he boosted his average to .338 for the Tribe’s Triple A team and got promoted to Cleveland that June. There he returned primarily to second as a back-up. In ’72 it was back to Triple A where he banged out some more nice numbers splitting time between second and third and a few token at bats up top. After that season he went to the Royals for pitcher Mike Hedlund.

After this trade Bevacqua barely played for the Pirates and in July he was basically sold back to KC for whom he split time between the infield corners with not too much offense the rest of the way. During spring training of ’75 he was sold to the Brewers where he hit .229 while doing relief work at second and third. He then spent nearly all of ’76 back in the minors where he hit .337 while working at shortstop and third. He was then sold to the new Seattle franchise prior to the expansion draft – in ’77 he had an airbrushed Mariners card – but was released by them late in spring training and then picked up by Texas. For the Rangers that year Kurt did well at every level, hitting .352 with 76 RBI’s as a Triple A third baseman and .333 up top while adding the outfield to his repertoire. In ’78 it was all up top and he got a bunch more at bats but his average fell to .222. After the season he joined Mike Hargrove and Bill Fahey in going to San Diego for Oscar Gamble, Dave Roberts, and cash.

From ’79 on it was all-NL for Bevacqua. In his first stint for the Padres he got his most playing time that year and did well enough, hitting .253 while filling in at third base. In ’80 he was having a pretty good season with limited at bats when in August he and Mark Lee were sent to Pittsburgh for Luis Salazar and Rick Lancellotti. This time around he only got a little more playing time with the Pirates – 70 at bats as a pinch hitter in a season-and-a-half – but a bunch more notoriety as he pretty much instigated a brawl in spring training agaist the Tigers after Bill Robinson got beaned. Kurt was released following the ’81 season and the following spring was picked up again by the Padres. This time around he stuck in San Diego for four seasons. He did a pretty good job offensively – except, ironically, in ’84 – as he again took to the infield corners. In ’84 he got into a verbal flap with Tommy Lasorda – Tommy’s response is the YouTube moment and is linked to here – after another brawl and also went into the stands after a Braves fan who threw a full beer can at him during yet another fight. But his stand-out moment was the ’84 Series when he hit .412 with two homers and four RBI’s in five games as the team’s DH. After one more year in San Diego he was done. Kurt was a lifetime .236 hitter and in the minors hit .295 with a .354 OBA. In the post-season he hit .368 in seven games.

Since he finished playing Bevacqua has been involved with his own businesses, primarily in the San Diego area. From ’87 to ’94 he did various radio gigs there related to the Padres, including his own show in the early Nineties. In ’91 he founded Major League Security, a company that sells auto security products to car dealers. In 2008 he founded Recovery Systems, another security firm that is sort of like Lo-Jack. He continues to run both of them. He is also involved big in local golfing events – he is a scratch golfer – and charity events.

Kurt gets some nice defensive props on the card back which is pretty impressive since he had to move around so much on defense. With that mustache of his – shades of Dal Maxvill’s – I could easily see him as a pool hustler.

The Traded card back is a little random and the trade itself included a player – Fernando Gonzales – who barely played up top in ’73. That final sentence is interesting since those stats don’t seem particularly good given that Kurt DH’d in 18 games.

Kansas City’s big moment that it contributed to the ’76 baseball centennial celebration was Steve Busby’s first no-hitter which occurred April 27, 1973 at Detroit, which is weird because most of these events happened in home parks. Busby walked six and struck out four while taking his record to 2-2. KC won the game 3-0 on homers by Amos Otis and Ed Kirkpatrick. The only real nail-biters in the game were in the fourth inning when two guys were on via walks but Busby got Gates Brown to hit into an inning-ending double play; and the seventh when Bill Freehan got to third but Busby got a K and a fly out. Seven balls made it to the outfield during the game for Detroit.

I am going to use Kurt’s former teammate (high school and college) for this exercise:

1. Bevacqua and Hal McRae ’73 to ’74 Royals;
2. McRae and Bob Stinson ’75 to ’76 Royals;
3. Stinson and Balor Moore ’73 to ’74 Expos.

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