Wednesday, February 6, 2013

#497 - Bobby Mitchell

Like Tom Murphy of the last post, Bobby Mitchell revives something. With Bobby it’s his own card. After getting a rookie card in ’71 he got nothing from Topps the next two years and he returned with this shot in Oakland. He’d get cards the next two seasons as well and then he wouldn’t get another one – that I know of – until ’79 and that one was from Japan. But that’s how things worked out for this guy. It took him a long time to get up top and he has some pretty big bio holes which will get illustrated below. But in ’73 he was around a bit. After hitting pretty well in Triple A he returned to Milwaukee in early July and then split time between outfield and DH. Bobby wasn’t the best fielder and he tended to have trouble with inside fastballs which helped contribute to pretty high strikeout totals. But he was fast and the Brewers weren’t exactly rife with outfield All-Stars. He’d get increasing at bats the next couple years and then a lot more after he did his big move overseas.

Bobby Mitchell grew up in Norristown, PA, and in high school he was a big deal basketball, baseball, and track star. His senior year of ’61 he was all-state as a guard in hoops with his 13.8 ppg. In baseball as a shortstop and relief pitcher he was all-district with a .313 average. And in track he broke the school and district record for high jump his first time out with a 6’4.5” leap. After his graduation he...frankly, I have no idea. In ’65 he pops up again when he qualifies for the AAU high jump championship with a 6’9”. And he gets signed by Boston just prior to that summer. He could have been in school I suppose, though there’s no record of that, or maybe the military, but that would be an awfully long hitch. The rest of that summer he played outfield in Rookie ball and did pretty well. In ’66 and ’67 he showed pretty good speed in Double A, particularly the latter year when he swiped 36 bases. But he was also averaging over 100 K’s a season and in ’68 when he moved up to Triple A his average fell a bunch and even though he put up some fat triple and stolen base (42) totals, the Sox left him unprotected in the Rule 5 draft and the Yankees snapped him up. For the next three seasons he stayed in Triple A for NY. ’69 was a mixed bag because he hit real well but made a slow recovery from some knee damage the prior year and missed some time. In ’70 he showed some decent power but his average fell a bunch. He made his MLB debut that summer. In ’71 it was all Triple A with a revived average until a June trade sent him to the Brewers with Frank Tepedino for Danny Walton.

Once Mitchell went to the Brewers he moved to Milwaukee the rest of the season. He started a few games all over the outfield but outside of a big day in which he had two homers and five RBI’s his offense was a tad light and he didn’t get too many looks. After the season he was sent back down where in ’72 he reported huge numbers in Triple A but missed over five weeks from a car accident and then more time due to cartilage damage to his knee. His OBA was a huge .459 but again his high K totals – 76 in 273 at bats – scared the brass. But he made it back up the next year and stayed in ’74 and ’75. That first year he got a few starts in right and center but was used mostly as a DH and pinch hitter, raising his average to .243. In ’75 he put in a bunch of time in left to kick off the season because regular guy Johnny Briggs was injured. In mid-May he was hitting .333. His power numbers had a pretty big move up also, but over the course of a bad season for the team, his average and his playing time fell, the former to .249. He spent ’76 in Milwaukee’s spring training and then shortly after the season began he moved to Japan to play for the Nippon Ham Fighters. There he joined Walt Williams for a couple seasons and Gene Locklear and Sam Ewing for a season apiece. His first two seasons there he accumulated 57 homers and 141 RBI’s while hitting about .244. He had his biggest year in ’78 when he led the league with 36 homers and put up 93 RBI’s while hitting .274 in an all-star season. In ’79 he hit 22 out in his last year as a player. Up top he finished with a .235 average in 609 at bats with 86 runs, 21 homers, and 91 RBI’s. In the minors ex-Japan he hit .286 with 82 homers and over 150 stolen bases.

When Mitchell returned from Asia he moved to California where for many years he was a corrections officer. He also led baseball clinics for local kids and made his high school’s hall of fame. He still resides in central California.

Bobby could have gone 0 for 47 and still won that batting title. He’s another guy who sort of half scripts and half prints his signature. I’m sorta dying to know what he did those four years after high school.

By the time submissions needed to be made for the baseball centennial of 1976 the Brewers hadn’t really done very much milestone-wise. Tommy Harper in ’70 had put up the first ever AL 30-30 season which was nice, but Milwaukee opted for a different event from that year: the return of baseball to the city for the first time since the Braves split following the ’65 season. They got their big crowd of over 37,000 at County Stadium and the fans were certainly zealous enough, but the highlights really end there as the team continued its Seattle ways and lost its April 7 home opener 12-0 to Andy Messersmith and the Angels. Steve Hovley had three hits but there was understandably few other big Brewer moments from that day.

This one’s easy because these two obviously played together:

1. Mitchell and Tom Murphy ’74 to ’75 Brewers.

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