Tuesday, April 23, 2013

#536 - Duffy Dyer

Duffy Dyer was generally a happy guy, at least on most of his cards. Here he looks less than enamored, possibly because there appear to be a couple of dark-shrouded people coming his way. ’73 wasn’t too hot of a year for Duffy. He’d had the biggest season of his career in ’72 when an injury to Jerry Grote gave Duffy the starting gig behind the plate and he had his biggest offensive season. Grote got hurt again in May, breaking his wrist, and again Duffy stepped in. But a short time later he got plunked in the wrist also and though he didn’t miss any time he did miss his ’72 stats in a big way as his average hovered around .100 the early part of the season. Eventually the Mets went after Jerry May from Kansas City – who would have problems of his own – and then brought up Ron Hodges, who was hitting under .200 in A ball. Duffy would get his average up – if “up” is the appropriate word – to .185 by season’s end but by the time Grote came back full-time Duffy was pretty much done and the poor guy got zero post-season work. I guess he had no shortage of reasons for looking so serious.

Duffy Dyer was born in Ohio and relocated to Arizona as a kid. There he helped take his high school baseball team to a state championship and was all-area as a quarterback. Back then he was principally an outfielder and after graduating in ’63 he went to Arizona State on a baseball scholarship. In his sophomore season of ’65 he hit .338 on a team with Rick Monday and Sal Bando that won the CLS. He was drafted by the Braves but instead returned to ASU for his junior year. That season he switched to catcher, hit .326, and was second team All-American. That time after being drafted as a first rounder by the Mets he signed. He didn’t exactly start off with a bang that summer, hitting .174 in Double A before moving down to A ball where he bounced to .246. In ’67 he stuck in Double A even though he still hit below .200. But he was pretty good with the pitchers and in ’68 he moved up to Triple A and was an all-star with his 16 homers though he only hit .230. He got his first look in NY that September.

In ’69 Dyer made the Mets as the third-string guy behind Grote and JC Martin. He had a great debut that year, belting a three-run homer in a pinch at bat on opening day. The rest of the season he shuttled between NY and Triple A Tidewater – where he hit .313 with 26 RBI’s in 112 at bats - and got into the Series against Baltimore. In ’70 the Mets traded Martin to the Cubs and Duffy became the number two guy behind the plate. Each year he got a little more plate time which was maxed out in ’72 when he also picked off more than half the guys who tried to steal on him. In ’74 he got less time behind the plate but rebounded a bit offensively, batting .211 and putting up more walks than K’s his only season in NY. After that year he went to Pittsburgh for Gene Clines.

For his first couple seasons with the Pirates, Dyer again did his back-up thing, this time behind Manny Sanguillen. His offense was a bit better as he became more discriminating at the plate. Prior to the ’77 season Sanguillen was traded to Oakland and that year Duffy and Ed Ott – who had to have the two shortest names sharing a position – took turns behind the plate. That year competed with ’72 for his best as he put up less RBI’s – 19 – but compensated with a higher average of .241, was perfect with six steals, and way outdid himself in OBA with a .370. In ’78 Ott won the starting job with his better bat and after hitting .211 that season Duffy went to Montreal as a free agent. He hit .243 in ’79 but on not too many at bats as he worked behind Gary Carter. In ’80 he moved on to Detroit for Jerry Manuel where he hit .185 behind Lance Parrish before retiring a couple games into the ’81 season. Duffy finished with a .221 average on 30 homers and got on base at a .500 clip in the post-season (two appearances).

Dyer took a couple years off before he returned to baseball, kicking things off as a Cubs coach in ’83. He then moved to the Minnesota system as an A ball manager for two seasons, winning a title in ’85. The next three seasons he managed in the Milwaukee chain, twice winning titles, before coming up to coach from ’89 to ’95. He then coached for Oakland (’96-’98) before returning to the minors to manage, first for Baltimore (’99-2000), and then for the independent Bridgeport Bluefish (’01-’02). He then returned to the Mets as an advance scout (’03 to ’04) before returning to manage in the Detroit system (’05 to ’06). Since 2007 he has been the minor league catching coordinator for the Padres. His managing record is 697-656.

Duffy had an excellent fielding season in ’72, his only season as a de facto starter. He fielded at a .992 clip and led the NL in double plays and runners picked off. In ’77, when he split time as the starter, he led the NL in fielding with a .996. That hit in September was a big deal as it sent the game into extra innings and was a big win for the Mets. The game featured the “ball off the wall play” that nailed Richie Zisk at home before the Mets won the game in the bottom of the 13th. It was Duffy’s final at bat for the season. He also has a SABR page that gives a pretty funny origin story for his nickname.

These two actually played together at Pittsburgh in ’77 but Tolan only got a few plate appearances that year so let’s make the hook-up more solid:

1. Dyer and Ed Kirkpatrick ’75 to ’77 Pirates;
2. Kirkpatrick and Hal McRae ’73 Royals;
3. McRae and Bobby Tolan ’70 to ’72 Reds.

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