Thursday, December 22, 2011

#297 - Hal Breeden

In our first action shot in about forever - although another one will be coming up pretty quickly - Hal Breeden gets set at first base as a pitch is unloaded at what I believe is Candlestick, judging by those big vertical post things on the outfield wall. That looks like a black guy behind Hal in center field which means it is most likely Ron Woods. Like other recent post subjects, Hal had a career season in '73, joining a bunch of other Montreal starters and role players in leading the Expos to their best season and highest finish to date. Hal has had a pretty interesting run of things, so lets get to it.

Hal Breeden was born in Albany, Georgia and grew up in neighboring Leesburg which would remain his home base throughout his life. At Albany High Hal was an infielder and outfielder while his older brother Danny (who played a few games with the Cubs in '71) was a catcher. Both were signed in '63, Danny by the Cards and Hal by the Braves. Hal began what would be a long minor league career that summer in A ball, getting off to a great start. In '64 after hitting over .400 at that level, he moved up to Double A Austin where he would stay through '66. Never able to generate consistently good offensive numbers at that level in '67 he was moved back to A ball where he returned to over .300 in a couple leagues. In '68 he moved back to Double A finally matching his lower level stats with a big - although short - season. That got him promoted to Triple A Richmond where he spent the next two seasons and had his biggest full offensive year in '70, adding a .406 OBA to his homer and RBI totals. That November he was traded to the Cubs for Hoyt Wilhelm who was still going strong. After a couple games for the Cubbies at Triple A Tacoma, Hal came up top to do some late-inning work for Chicago and while not getting much work, did get to reside on a Major League roster for about half a season with his brother. Then, prior to the '72 season, he was sent with Hector Torres to the Expos for Dan McGinn.

With Montreal Breeden reprised his late-innings specialist role, again not seeing too much time, but pushing up his stats considerably. Then in '73 Ron Fairly became primarily an outfielder and Hal and Mike Jorgensen pretty much split time at first. Hal responded in a big way, pushing his average up 45 points and adding some pretty good power along with fine defensive work. He also posted a .353 OBA. In '74 it was pretty much the same deal but Hal's numbers came down hard, especially on the power side where he only put up two homers and 20 RBI's in 190 at bats. In '75 the Expos began employing Jose Morales, an awfully good pinch hitter, more in the late innings role, and Hal only got a few at bats, spending most of the season back in Triple A where his stats were eerily similar - 15 homers and 43 RBI's in 224 at bats - to those from '73. Just prior to the '76 season he was released by Montreal so he could go play ball in Japan. That ended Hal's time up top and he hit .243 with 21 homers and 76 RBI's in what amounted to just over a full season.

Over in Japan, Breeden enjoyed a resurgence. His first year there he hit 40 homers for the Hanshin Tigers while playing first. In '77 he hit 37 homers and he remained with the Tigers through part of the '78 season. In '79 he returned to the States where he played, coached, and managed - when Davey Johnson had to get a back operation - the Miami franchise in the new and short-lived Inter-American League. He may have done more coaching thereafter. What he definitely did was return to Albany where by '88 he was the sheriff, a position he held for the next 20 years (there are a bunch of articles on Google about his time at that position if you search with his given name). Since 2008 he has been retired.

Hal has such a long minor league jaunt - lifetime he hit .293 with 144 homers and 650 RBI's - that he only gets room for one star bullet, but it's a good one. That was a big season for him and he needed to get across the Pacific to reach those power numbers again. In his two-plus seasons in Japan Hal hit .251 with 79 homers and 194 RBI's.

When there are two guys who had short careers with one club this can be a tricky exercise, but one big-time reliever helps a bunch:

1. Breeden and Mike Marshall '72 to '73 Expos;
2. Marshall and Rod Carew '78 Twins;
3. Carew and Ray Corbin '71 to '75 Twins.

1 comment:

  1. I think that's Jack Murphy Stadium; Candlestick had artificial turf in '73.