Monday, December 2, 2013

#615 - Johnny Jeter

Back to another final card, Yankee Stadium is the setting for a guy with a last name that would be right up there with Ruth and Gehrig a couple generations down the road. This Jeter wouldn’t exactly put up the same career numbers but he’d have his moments. Johnny came to the AL before the ’73 season – he was airbrushed on his ’73 card – to take over the lead-off role in what should have been a dynamic line-up that would challenge for the division title. He was also supposed to be the starting center fielder but both those plans changed at the beginning of the season. In the field other NL transplant Ken Henderson won the starting role in center and at the plate Johnny’s hot start was trumped by another one by Pat Kelly, whose early numbers led to an All-Star selection. So Johnny became a role player, getting time at all three outfield spots in what was a pretty streaky season. He had a bunch of multi-hit games but as many hit-less ones and struck out 74 times in his under 300 at bats. He was also supposed to steal bases but only put up four during the season so his time in Chicago was pretty short and after the season he would be moving on again. Topps seems to have caught Johnny here in a verbose moment. I wish he had more of those because he has been a tough guy to fill in the blanks for bio-wise.

Johnny Jeter grew up in Louisiana where he was a center fielder for both his high school team and then at Grambling University. There he starred in the outfield with John Wyatt, who would go on to be a Red Sox pitcher, and helped take the Tigers to the NAIA tournament in ’64. After the tournament Johnny was involved in some controversy when he and the team’s catcher, Wilbur Hammond, signed with the Pirates and the school subsequently accused Pittsburgh of raiding the team’s talent pool. That signing looked justified when in ’64 Johnny hit .335 in Rookie ball and in ’65 .291 with 13 homers from the top spot in A ball. He slowed down a bit in ’66 with a .249 combined with zero homers on two A teams. But he bounced nicely at that level the next two years with enviable stat lines: .315/18/73 in ’67 and .296/18/79 in ’68. That former year he led his league in homers, triples – with nine – and total bases. In ’68 he put up eleven triples. After a false start in Double A at the tail end of ’67 Johnny finally managed to bring his hitting props to a higher level in ’69 when he hit .285 with 25 homers and 60 RBI’s around his June debut in Pittsburgh. He then spent all of the ’70 season with the Pirates as the team’s fifth outfielder before returning to Triple A in ‘71 where he posted a .324/17/84 line with 36 stolen bases, 30 doubles, nine triples, and a .378 OBA. That August he went to the Padres with pitcher Ed Acosta for pitcher Bob Miller.

Jeter spent the rest of the ’71 season in San Diego where he hit pretty well down the stretch while playing center. But Johnny had two constants that would be big hurdles in his MLB career: he hit much better in reserve roles; and his strikeout totals were way too high. Both were accented in ’72 when San Diego made him the team’s starter in center and in his busiest season up top he put up his lowest average and 92 K’s in his 326 at bats. After the season he was sent to the White Sox for reliever Vicente Romo. He improved on those ’72 numbers but after the ’73 season Johnny was on the move again, this time to Cleveland for a minor leaguer. True to form Johnny hit .353 for the Tribe, but in only 17 at bats. He spent nearly the whole season in Triple A where he hit .285. He then goes missing from baseball the next two years before resurfacing in ’77 with Tampico in the Mexican leagues. After another year away in ’78 he closed things out with a .258 season for Santo Domingo in the Inter-American League in ’79 before that league’s collapse ended things for Johnny as a player. He hit .244 during his MLB time and .294 with over 100 stolen bases in the minors. In the ’70 post-season he went hitless in his two at bats.

Jeter seems to have returned to Louisiana after playing, indicated by his son Shawn being drafted in ’85 after starring in high school ball in Shreveport. Shawn would later have a cup of coffee with the ChiSox – fitting for this post – and played about as long as his dad did in the minors. But Johnny goes MIA. It’s pretty tough to search for him without that other Jeter guy taking up all the results.

Johnny or Johnnie or John had some pretty memorable moments in the minors. He had a nice one too in ’72 when he homered twice in a game but he also had a bad one that year as well. In a game against the Giants he successfully stole second when Chris Speier informed him he could go back because the batter hit a foul ball. Neither Speier nor Tito Fuentes had the ball because Johnny got such a jump there was no throw. But then Dave Rader fired the ball to first as Johnny was walking back and he got tagged for an out. Oops.

Back to the Watergate timeline:

3/26/73 – By now John McCord had been testifying before the Grand Jury for three days. On this date it was reported that McCord told the Jury that both John Dean, counsel to the President, and Jeb Stuart Magruder, former deputy campaign manager of CREEP and current Assistant Commerce Secretary, had known about the plot to bug the Watergate Hotel headquarters in advance of the bugging. Both Dean and Magruder denied this.

3/28/73 – John McCord implicates former Attorney General John Mitchell in the Watergate bugging as well. Mitchell, now back in private practice, also denies McCord’s assertions. It was around this time that Michell’s estranged wife Martha became newsworthy in her own right. Nicknamed “The Mouth of the South” Martha Mitchell was outspoken and unfiltered and was beloved by the press for her candor, particularly in regard to her husband. She would relate details about John Mitchell’s personal as well as professional life that would help build a case against him. They would formally divorce later in ’74 and she would pass away from cancer in ’76.

 Let’s go the NL route for the hook-up:

1. Jeter and Clarence Gaston ’71 to ’72 Padres;
2. Gaston and Adrian Devine ’75 to ’76 and ’78 Braves.

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