Thursday, February 6, 2014

#639 - Joe Lovitto

This appears to be a spring training shot of Joe Lovitto at home, which I believe would back then make it Pompano Beach. If I am correct in the time then Joe here should have a more hopeful countenance than he shows since he had a good enough spring to be named the Rangers starting third baseman. Granted that status didn’t last too long and after hitting .152 in that role in April Joe suffered a back injury that took him out of the line-up a couple weeks and then after a month or so of back-up work contributed to a return to Triple A where he spent time at both third and center, hence his card designation. Joe was the first in what would ultimately be six guys who had significant third base time for the Rangers in ’73, just another one of a list of elements that would lead to another horrible finish in Whitey Herzog’s only (partial) year of managing the club. Whitey was an optimist, which was hard to be for this team back then and it looks like Joe agrees with that assessment.

Joe Lovitto was a San Pedro, California kid who attended a couple high schools and was a football and baseball star at both of them. He was good enough in the latter sport to get drafted as a first rounder by the Senators in ’69 and that summer got off to a bit of a slow start in A ball, though he did steal 22 bases while splitting time between the outfield and catcher. He picked up his average significantly at that level the following year when he moved to second base supplemented with a bit of outfield time. In ’71 he lost time to his reserve military hitch but when around did well in Double A and even better at Triple A Denver, where he put up an OBA of .414 while again playing second and center. In ’72 he came up in time for the team’s move to Texas and to be managed by Ted Williams in his last season. Joe won the starting gig in center but had a tough time cracking Mendoza levels the first half of the season and would give up some at bats to Elliott Maddox. But Joe put up a .254 average with twelve stolen bases in the second half which looked real good next to that team average of .217 and he seemed to be on the way to some good stuff until ’73 stepped in. In ’74 he returned to the regular spot in center but nagging shoulder and back injuries kept his average low and reduced his playing time just when the team was making a real run for the division title. He would pretty much split time in center that year with the rejuvenated Cesar Tovar and the next year give way to Lenny Randle and David Moates when the low average and a summer missed to injury really crimped his playing time. In December he was traded to the Mets for Gene Clines but his injuries were pretty debilitating by then and he was released before spring training was over. Joe finished with a .216 MLB average and hit .266 in the minors.

I am not clear at all as to what Joe Lovitto did after playing but it appears that whatever it was he did it in the Arlington area. I want to say it was something related to sports fishing because I have seen photos of him in that activity. Unfortunately one activity that took up a large chunk of Joe’s time in the Nineties was his battles against various cancers. Initially nailed by testicular cancer in ’91 Joe spent the better part of that decade fighting that and successive diseases, battles he ultimately lost when in 2001 he passed away at age 50.

Joe is another seemingly warm weather guy who liked to hit the slopes. He seems to have received a bit of face time in a book called “Seasons in Hell” by Mike Shropshire which may be excerpted in a few sites on the web. The book appears to be pretty hilarious and in one instance during his ’72 rookie season Joe is told by manager Ted Williams that he could be a great hitter if he worked harder. Joe politely responded to Ted to “F___ off” and slammed the door on him. He certainly had guts.

Watergate goings on were happening miles from Arlington, but they were happening:

7/24/74 – The Supreme Court finally handed down its decision in United States v Nixon and ordered the President to turn over all the requested White House tapes. “The Court held that neither the doctrine of separation of powers nor the generalized need for confidentiality of high-level communications, without more, can sustain an absolute, unqualified, presidential privilege. While there was a limited executive privilege in areas of military or diplomatic affairs, preference must be given to the fundamental demands of due process of law in the fair administration of justice. The President must obey the subpoena and produce the tapes and documents.” Nixon reluctantly complied.

7/27/74 – Partly emboldened by the Supreme Court decision, over the next three days the House Judiciary Committee adopted three Articles of Impeachment against President Nixon. The three were: obstructing the Watergate investigation; misuse of power and violating the oath of office; and failure to comply with House subpoenas. The Committee’s vote this day was televised and the call was actually quite stirring, particularly that of Committee Chairman Peter Rodino who looked close to tears when voicing a quavering “Aye.”

Sanders didn’t have any Texas time but he was an AL guy, which helps here:

1. Lovitto and Clyde Wright ’75 Rangers;
2. Wright and Dave May ’74 Brewers;
3. May and Ken Sanders ’70 to ’72 Brewers.


  1. Seasons in Hell is one of the best baseball books i have ever read.