Monday, September 30, 2013

#598 - '74 Rookie Outfielders

At first glance this card seems to not have the snap of the first two but on closer inspection we get our first major award winner, a guy who played forever and had some pretty good genes, and two guys who figured in the ’73 pennant race. So maybe I need to stop taking first glances.

One of the biggest plays in the NL East in ’73 was the “ball off the wall play” that I’ve discussed on a couple Mets posts. Going into the September 20th games the Pirates were a game up in the division and the Mets a game and a half out. In the top of the 13th inning of a game tied 3-3 with two outs and Richie Zisk on first Dave Augustine came up and launched a fly off Ray Sadecki that for all the world looked like a home run. But a gust of wind caught the ball and it bounced off the top of the wall directly into the glove of Cleon Jones who fired to to Wayne Garrett who in turn fired it to Ron Hodges who nailed Zisk – a notoriously slow runner – trying to score. Dave got a double but Hodges won the game in the bottom of the inning and after another win by NY the next night the Mets moved into first place for good. Dave had been a pitcher/outfielder while growing up in West Virginia and was drafted by Cleveland in a late round his senior year of ’68. He passed to go to Miami Dade and after a year there was signed by the Pirates. That summer he hit .224 with a few too many K’s in a season split between A and Rookie ball. Dave was a speedster and a top of the order guy and in ’70 A ball he improved to .309 with a .360 OBA. In ’71 at that level his average fell to .247 but he stole 36 bases to get promoted to Double A. After hitting .301 with 12 homers, 52 RBI’s, and twelve steals at that level in ’72 he moved up to Triple A Charleston the next year when he began a long residency in that city. Over the next five years Dave would average .246 in Triple A ball for Pittsburgh around his couple looks up top in ’73 and ’74. In ’77 the franchise had moved to Columbus and after that year he was traded to Houston for outfielder Jim Fuller, who will be coming up in a while. With the Astros it was all Triple A as well in their new franchise in – where else? – Charleston. This time around he hit .280 in two seasons before in ’80 splitting time at that level between Texas and Kansas City. In ’81 he re-signed with the Pirates for whom he spent the last three seasons of his career in Triple A, finishing during the ’83 season. Dave hit .207 in his 29 at bats in Pittsburgh and .257 with almost 1,300 hits and 130 stolen bases in the minors. He would return to Charleston after his playing career where he has been a long-time employee of B Stanley Gill, a furniture manufacturer.

Back in the Seventies, Ken Griffey did not need to attach a “Sr.” to his name to differentiate him from his progeny. Ken was born in Donora, PA, not terribly far from Pittsburgh and his dad had played high school ball with Stan Musial. Ken was a big deal athlete at that level as well, scoring 152 points his last two years in football, mostly as an end, and setting school game records in hoops with 40 points and 27 rebounds as his team went 21-1 his senior year of ’69. That year he tried out for the Reds and got drafted in a late round. Ken was fast – at one time he had the MLB record for circling the bases – and his first summer in Rookie ball he hit .281 while stealing eleven bases. But he had a tough time in the outfield and would have to work hard on getting his defense to match his offense the next few years. A ball in ’70 was a step back as his average fell to .244 in a shortened season that was also impacted by a hostile environment. Ken then had a huge jump in A and Double A ball in ‘71 when he hit a combined .348 with 13 triples, 29 steals, and a .425 OBA. ’72 was then all Double A where he hit .318 with 14 homers, 96 runs scored, and 31 stolen bases in 34 attempts. He didn’t lose a step the next year in Triple A where he was hitting .327 with 88 runs and 43 stolen bases before he was called up in August. For the Reds he did a nice job the remainder of the year, helping to subdue the mess in right field by hitting .384 during the pennant drive. In ’74 he began the season in a big slump, spent most of May and June back in Triple A where he hit .333, and returned in early July to boost his average 100 points the rest of the way. By then he’d settled in as Cincinnati’s every day right fielder, a role he would keep through the ’81 season. While with the Reds Ken hit .303 while scoring over 700 runs and stealing over 150 bases in a run that included three All-Star seasons. In ’82 he went to the Yankees in a trade and spent the next four-plus seasons and hit .285 while playing all outfield spots, first base, and DH. In mid-’86 he went to Atlanta until late in ’88 a slow start had him move back to Cincinnati where he did some back-up work through a mid-year trade to Seattle in 1990. There he joined his son in the Seattle outfield and finished his career in style by hitting .327 mostly as a pinch hitter his final two seasons. Ken hit .296 for his career with 2,143 hits, 152 homers, 200 stolen bases, 859 RBI’s, and a .359 OBA. In the post-season he hit .240 with eleven RBI’s and eight steals in 20 games. After playing he remained in the Seattle system as a coach through ’95 before becoming the Rockies hitting coach in ’96. He then began a long affiliation back with the Reds as MLB coach (’97-2001); admin guy and broadcaster (2002-’09); minors coach (’10); and minors manager (’11-present). He has gone a combined 193-227 in that last role. And Junior is now 44 – how old does that make you feel?

Steve Ontiveros grew up on a hay farm in Bakersfield, California where he was all-everything in baseball and drafted by the Giants after his senior year of high school in ’69. He had a tough time playing third that summer in Rookie ball but hit .278 with a .449 OBA. In ’70 he moved to A ball where he hit roughly the same and his defense improved. The next year at that level he became a slugger with a .321/18/92 season and a .445 OBA and followed it up in ’72 with a Double A year of .287/12/75 in his first season of significant outfield time. Then in ’73 he amped things up huge by hitting .357 with ten homers and 84 RBI’s in a season cut short by his call-up to San Francisco. He won the TSN Minor League Player of the Year and the duration of the season hit .242 while subbing at first and in the outfield. In ’74 he became the closest thing the team had to a regular at third and hit .265 with a .375 OBA while starting 72 games there. In ’75 he improved to hit .289 with a .391 OBA in more starts but both seasons showed limited power so in ’76 when the Giants traded for Ken Rietz, Steve was the odd man out, only seeing scattered plate time and hitting .176 in 74 at bats. After the season he and Bobby Murcer went to the Cubs for Bill Madlock and Rob Sperring. In Chicago he re-claimed his regular position in his best season as he hit .299 with 68 RBI’s and a .390 OBA. In ’78 he suffered an early shoulder injury that nagged him until he had an operation in early August that finished his season. He came back the next year after hitting .243 to raise his average to .285 with better power but then lost the starting gig the next year to Lenny Randle. This time he acted on his demotion by signing a contract to play in Japan for Seibu as the first million dollar American. He got to Japan that June and stayed through ’85, hitting .312 with a .403 OBA during his stay. His best year was ’84 when he hit .338 with 20 homers and 101 RBI’s. Twice he led Seibu to the Japanese Series crown. The ’85 season was his final one as a player and he finished with an MLB average of .274 with a .365 OBA. He returned to The States and to San Diego where he then worked in advertising and as an operations manager for a delivery service. He returned to baseball first as a volunteer coach at his kids’ high school in the late Nineties and then in 2006 as the hitting coach for the independent San Diego Surf Dogs. He continues to reside in the area. This Steve is no relation to the pitcher a few years down the road with the same name.

James Tyrone and his brother Wayne helped take the University of Texas Pan American team to the CWS in ’71, James’ senior year. He was a fleet outfielder who grew up in Texas and was drafted and signed that year by the Cubs. He would hit well in the minors, beginning that year with an A ball summer of .303 with 14 homers, a .405 OBA, and 25 stolen bases in just 238 at bats. The next year he hit .282 with 16 homers in Double A before a couple late games in Chicago. He split ’73 between Double and Triple A, hitting .261. In ’74 a .366 average at the higher level got him elevated to Chicago for most of the season during which he was then seldom-used and hit .185 in 81 at bats. He would then spend almost all the next two seasons in Triple A, hitting .301 with 73 RBI’s in ’75 and .268 with 20 homers and 17 stolen bases in ’76. Early the next season he was traded to the A’s for infielder Gaylen Pitts and after hitting .347 in Triple A his first month-plus was moved up to Oakland where he had his only significant MLB season, hitting .245 with 32 runs in 294 at bats. The next year was all Triple A where he hit .261 with 61 RBI’s and 16 steals and gave pitching a shot. He did that as well the next year when he finished his stateside career in the short-lived Inter-American League. James hit .227 up top and in the minors hit .291 with a .375 OBA and 104 stolen bases. As a pitcher he was 0-1 with a 0.75 ERA in twelve innings. Halfway through the ’79 season he did exactly what card-mate Steve Ontiveros did and went to Japan to play for Seibu. After hitting .291 the balance of that season he hit .276 with 35 homers from the top of the order in ’80 before moving to Nankai the next two years where his power declined a bit and he finished his playing career with an overall .287 average with 74 homers. He then returned to Texas in the Arlington area where he eventually hooked up with Ray Burris and ran a baseball school for many years. In 2009 he was inducted into his college’s hall of fame.

Griffey’s first real name was George. I think he made the right choice opting for Ken. Tallying up the careers of these guys we get 26 years of MLB service, the TSNMLPOY award, and three All-Star seasons. We are still on a pretty good roll.

Now for the Hook-ups. First with the former card:

1. Dave Augustine and Gene Clines ’73 to ’74 Pirates;
2. Clines and Manny Trillo ‘’77 to ’78 Cubs.

Now around the card:

1. Dave Augustine and Dave Parker ’73 to ’74 Pirates;
2. Parker and Dave Concepcion – lots of Daves – ’84 to ’87 Reds;
3. Concepcion and Ken Griffey ’73 to ’81 Reds;
4. Griffey and Champ Summers ‘’77 to ’79 Reds;
5. Summers and Manny Trillo ’75 to ’76 Cubs;
6. Trillo and Steve Ontiveros ’77 to ’78 Cubs;
7. Ontiveros and Rodney Scott ’78 Cubs;
8. Scott and James Tyrone ’77 A’s.

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