Monday, April 1, 2013

#524 - Bill Plummer

On just about every card during his career, Bill Plummer had a huge wad of chaw in his mouth (check out his ’76 card). That wasn’t crazy unusual back then but I do believe this is the first card on which we’ve seen an actual pack of Red Man bulging out of a guy’s pocket. I used to chew that stuff too – it was actually kind of sweet – but not for eight years running. I sure hope Bill has no lasting impact from it. Back in ’73 he was smack in his second season as a regular and that term is relative since what he did was succeed Pat Corrales as Johnny Bench’s back-up. Bill was a big strong guy who worked pretty well with pitchers, which was a good couple of characteristics to bring to his role in Cincinnati. He’d spend nearly his whole playing career there, at least up top. But down the road his Reds time would be dwarfed by the years he spent with Seattle. Here he shows his stance at Shea. His ’75 card would be pretty much the exact same shot except that Bill had long sleeves. And no bulging pocket.

Bill Plummer grew up in Anderson, California, outside of Oakland where his dad was a cop. His dad and uncle both played a bunch of minor league ball and Bill caught and played hoops in high school. Signed by St. Louis in ’65 he hit .265 that summer in rookie ball. In ’66 he did his military hitch and when around hit only .144 in A ball. He picked up things a bunch at that level in ’67 when he hit .234 with eleven homers and 56 RBI’s. After that season he was taken by the Cubs in the Rule 5 draft and then spent the whole year on the Chicago roster behind Randy Hundley, getting only two at bats. After that season he went to Cincinnati in a trade for Ted Abernathy. He spent the next three years behind the plate for Indianapolis, the team’s Triple A franchise. There he did solid defensive work and improved offensively, peaking in ’71 with a .266/17/65 season. In both ’70 and ’71 he got some short looks up top with the Reds.

Since Johnny Bench came up in ’68 he pretty much never sat and for just about all that time Pat Corrales worked behind him. Corrales was traded to San Diego prior to the ’72 season and Plummer was pulled up to replace him. Through June Bill only had a couple hits in 18 at bats but then Bench hurt his finger and for a three-week stretch Bill took over catching. He hit .250 during that span and at one point had six RBI’s in eight games so he stepped up pretty well, solidifying himself in manager Sparky Anderson’s eyes. While the ensuing years wouldn’t provide a lot of playing time they worked pretty well financially for Bill since he got regular cuts of post-season pay. In ’74 he upped his average to .225 and had a big day against Steve Carlton with two homers, his only ones of the season. In ’75 he maxed out his at bats and runs, with 159 and 17 respectively as Bench put in some outfield time. ’76 was his biggest offensive season with a .248 average and 19 RBI’s and included a huge day in which he had seven RBI’s in a game against St. Louis. In ’77 his stats fell a bunch and during ’78 spring training he was released by Cincinnati.

Shortly after his release Plummer was picked up by the Mariners and that year he would do a little Triple A time while up top he caught behind Bob Stinson and hit .215. It would be his final work at that level. After becoming a free agent he re-signed with Seattle and spent all of ’79 as a player-coach for the team’s Triple A franchise in the PCL where his dad and uncle had played 50 years earlier. After hitting .255 as his team’s starting catcher and helping to develop pitchers his career path was pretty laid out for him. It was his final year as a player and he finished with a .186 average in The Show and .242 in the minors. Despite all the Cincinnati post-season success during his career he was shut out in any plate appearances.

Plummer continued what would be a long association with Seattle right after his playing time ended. He managed for its system from ’80 to ’81 and ’84 to ’89, going 582-568 during that time. From both ’82 to ’83 (bullpen) and ’90 to ’91 (third base) he coached for the Mariners. In ’92 he became manager, succeeding Jim Lefebrve at many players behest. But after going 68-94 he was replaced by Lou Piniella. In ’93 and ’94 he was Colorado’s bullpen coach. He then returned to managing, going 114-99 in a year-plus in the Detroit system and 13-24 on an interim role in Cincinnati’s. From ’97 to 2001 he managed independent teams, going 255-192 during that time and winning a league championship. In ’02 he hooked up with Arizona and went 412-403 in seven seasons. From ’09 to ’12 he was the Diamondbacks minor league catching instructor. Early in 2013 he became manager of Visalia.

Bill has a nice signature. This is the second card in a row that mentions his hunting so I guess it was a big deal to him. In off-seasons while playing he worked his dad’s cattle ranch. I didn’t know they had those so close to Oakland.

Bill and Cecil were on opposite sides of the ’75 Series:

1. Plummer and Johnny Bench – why not – ’70 to ’77 Reds;
2. Bench and Bernie Carbo ’70 to ’72 Reds;
3. Carbo and Cecil Cooper – they’d be traded for each other – ’74 to ’76 Red Sox.

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