Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Card #114: Ken Landreaux



Who Can It Be Now?
Kenneth Francis Landreaux was born on December 22, 1954, in Los Angeles. He grew up in Compton in a time when baseball was flourishing in that Los Angeles neighborhood, with guys like Ozzie Smith, Eddie Murray, Reggie Smith, Chet Lemon, Lyman Bostock, Dan Ford, and Darryl Strawberry, among others, playing baseball in and around Compton at that time.

Landreaux was a good baseball player even at Dominguez High School. He was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 8th Round of the 1973 June Draft, but he chose not to sign. As he put it recently, he felt he was "way too small" at 155 pounds to jump into minor league baseball, so he chose instead to attend Arizona State University on a baseball scholarship. 

With Arizona State, he played in the 1975 and 1976 College World Series and was named to the All-Tournament Team in 1976. The 1975 team set a record for having the most future major leaguers on it at thirteen, and the 1976 team matched that record -- Gary Allenson, Chris Bando, Floyd Bannister, Ken Phelps, and Bob Horner, just to name 5. Yet, ASU did not win the College World Series in either season.

Just before the 1976 College World Series began, Landreaux was drafted by the California Angels with the sixth pick overall in the 1976 June Draft. He was picked 5 spots after college teammate Floyd Bannister was selected by the Astros. The Angels recognized that Landreaux was an advanced hitting prospect and, once they got him to sign, they sent him to Double-A El Paso in the Texas League in 1976.  

After a 21-game introduction to professional baseball in 1976, Landreaux split his 1977 season between El Paso and Triple-A Salt Lake City. Between those two stops -- both of which were excellent hitters' environments -- Landreaux hit .357/.429/.637 with 27 HR, 116 RBI, 20 SB (11 CS), 33 2B, and 8 3B. No matter where you hit, you will get recognition if you hit .357 over a full season. For his efforts, Landreaux was named The Sporting News Minor League Player of the Year in 1977. He also earned his first major league call-up to the big club.

In 1978, the Angels were trying to contend for the AL West pennant. Having signed free agents Lyman Bostock and Rick Miller in the offseason, the Angels decided to have Landreaux serve as their fourth outfielder to give Bostock, Miller, and Joe Rudi days off (though Don Baylor did that some as well in left field) in addition to providing a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner off the bench. Landreaux started just 57 games that season.

In today's game, perhaps Landreaux would have split time in 1978 between Triple-A and the majors, because he struggled at the plate that year (.223/.284/.346). Looking ahead to 1979, though, one might have assumed that the Angels would have pushed Landreaux into the starting lineup to replace Bostock, who was murdered in Gary, Indiana, in late September of 1978. 

Either the Angels did not trust Landreaux, or they viewed him as more of a chit to be traded rather than kept. In December of 1978, the Angels traded Danny Goodwin and Ron Jackson to the Twins in exchange for Dan Ford. Ford was installed as the starting right fielder,  Then, in February of 1979, Landreaux was traded to the Angels Triple-A team in Minneapolis, I mean, the Twins, with catcher Dave Engle and pitchers Paul Hartzell and Brad Havens in exchange for Rod Carew. 

Landreaux benefited from the trade greatly. Getting to play nearly every day, he hit .305/.347/.450 with 15 HR, 10 SB, and 15 3Bs.  Indeed, that season at the age of 24 made many think that Landreaux would live up to the advance billing from his 1977 minor league season.

Because he was toiling in relative anonymity in Minnesota, that .305 season did not necessarily draw all that much acclaim to Landreaux. But, early in 1980, every baseball fan knew the name Ken Landreaux. 

On April 23, Landreaux went 1-for-4 in a game in which the Twins were annihilated by Landreaux's former team, the California Angels. In hitting a double off Bruce Kison with one out in the 9th inning, Landreaux broke up Kison's bid for a no-hitter. Landreaux then proceed to get a hit in every game in which he appeared (except 1, in which he walked) from that day until May 31, when he went o-for-4 against lefty Scott McGregor. In between, Landreaux hit in 31 consecutive games, going 49-for-125 with 2 HR with a slash line of .392/.445/.496.

The news stories started appearing about the new superstar in Minnesota. As this AP article started:
When the Minnesota Twins dealt Rod Carew to California two years ago, they hoped they were trading one bonafide superstar for a potential one -- Ken Landreaux.
Gene Mauch, the Twins manager at the time, was similarly exuberant, stating that he thought the trade "could turn out to be the best trade that was ever made in the history of the game" for the Twins. Landreaux was also named as the Twins representative to the All-Star Game in 1980.

Yet, outside of the hitting streak, Landreaux had a terrible year. He finished the season hitting .281/.334/.417. To put that into context, when he was not on the 31-game streak, he went 87-for-359 -- just .242. From May 31 to the end of the season, he hit just .238/.291/.384. 

So, about 9 months after Gene Mauch went into full Sparky-Anderson-talking-about-Chris-Pittaro mode, the Twins sent Landreaux back to the Greater Los Angeles area in exchange for two minor leaguers and outfielder Mickey Hatcher at the end of spring training in 1981. 

The move worked out well for Landreaux in many respects, not the least of which was leaving a terribly run Twins organization behind and joining a winning team in the Dodgers. While his hitting did not improve -- it regressed, in fact -- I believe Landreaux would tell you himself that it was all worth it when he caught the final out to win the 1981 World Series against the New York Yankees.

Landreaux played the last 7 seasons of his career with the Dodgers, first as a regular and later as a regular pinch hitter and pinch runner. He became one of Tommy Lasorda's favorite players, even though by the end of 1987 the Dodgers appeared to be actively trying to push him aside. Perhaps he became one of Tommy's favorites by being willing to do things like pinch hit even if Landreaux did not believe that pinch hitting was his "type of baseball" and that he played "best -- [and] hit best -- when [he was] playing every day." Landreaux's rationale for accepting it? "I'll do whatever Lasorda wants, but it's not what I want." Lasorda's response was, "Listen, the General (Landreaux's nickname) has been with me a long time, and he knows that I respect him as a player."

After the 1987 season, Landreaux's contract with the Dodgers ended. He hooked on with Baltimore's Triple-A affiliate in Rochester for 1988. He then played in Triple-A Albuquerque in the Dodgers organization and for Aguascalientes in the Mexican League in 1989 before calling time on his playing career.

Mustache Check: Yup, Landreaux has a thick mustache on this card.

Family Ties
Landreaux grew up about 15 minutes away from his cousin, Enos Cabell. Cabell's Baseball Reference page mentions that Cabell had another cousin -- Dick Davis -- who played in the major leagues. Davis must have been a cousin on the other side of Cabell's family from Landreaux. But geez, that must have been one hell of a family reunion softball game back in the 1970s.

Pass The Dutchie
Perhaps Landreaux never fulfilled his promise with the Twins due to drug and alcohol problems. Shortly after Steve Howe emerged from the first of his attempts at rehab, Landreaux checked into rehab himself. That story notes that Landreaux was receiving criticism at the end of the 1982 season for a "lack of stamina . . . amid rumors of an impending trade."

A Few Minutes with Tony L.
I was only 8 years old when Ken Landreaux went on his 31-game hitting streak in 1980, yet I was well aware of it. I had no idea that his 1980 season had ended so poorly, though. 

Surprisingly, he was the first player in major league history to have a hitting streak of thirty or more games in one season and finish the season with a batting average under .300. That feat has since been matched by Dan Uggla in 2011 (who had to hit in 33 straight games to get his batting average up to .233), Jerome Walton in 1989, Willy Tavares in 2006, Ryan Zimmerman in 2009, and Andre Ethier in 2011.  The last four guys all hit for exactly thirty games in a row, for what that's worth.

After his playing career ended, Landreaux continued to struggle with drug and alcohol problems. Eventually, he worked at it and became sober. As a result, he ended up being a family and drug-abuse counselor at Bellwood Health Center in Bellflower, California.

In 2000 to 2002, he worked as a hitting coach in the Toronto Blue Jays organization -- first at Single-A Hagerstown and then for two years at Triple-A Syracuse. Since then, he has served in an ambassadorial role for the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. 

More importantly, he has worked regularly with the Compton Urban Youth Academy. The Compton Academy brings in good players from the surrounding neighborhoods to help teach baseball and softball but also to teach life skills. As Landreaux himself put it, "I'm trying to teach these kids how to handle adversity and deal with any situation in life. Through baseball and the importance of learning the fundamentals, they can learn the discipline to become educated, to be good, productive citizens. That's what we're striving for here." 

The Academy has seen success already. In the 2013 Major League Draft, Academy graduate Dominic Smith was drafted 11th overall by the New York Mets. If you're interested in finding out more about the Compton Urban Youth Academy, you can visit its blog. It is one of many MLB Urban Youth Academies across the country.

Hats off to Ken Landreaux for his involvement with the Academy.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Card #113: Steve McCatty



Who Can It Be Now?
Steven Earl McCatty was born on March 20, 1954, in Detroit, Michigan. McCatty attended high school in Troy, Michigan, where he was an All-League, All-Detroit North, and All-Oakland County baseball player and also played basketball. 

Despite all the recognition locally, major league scouts did not warm to McCatty's talents. As a result, he was not drafted. Instead, the Oakland A's picked him up as an amateur free agent before the 1973 minor league season. McCatty was assigned to Lewiston in the Northwest League and pitched mostly in relief that year. Then, in 1974, he spent a second season at Lewiston and started 15 games. 

The A's liked what they saw, so they pushed McCatty to the Single-A California League at Modesto. Oakland did not have a lot of talent at Modesto that year, and, to be fair, McCatty didn't exactly look like a great find there -- 4-8 record, 4.57 ERA (league ERA of 4.12). 

Even so, the A's pushed McCatty to Double-A Chattanooga for the 1976 season. Whether it was a matter of fortuitous scoring or just plain luck, McCatty looked decent in a relief role there -- 2 starts in 36 appearances with a 5-4 record and a 3.16 ERA (deflated by 17 unearned runs out of 44 total runs allowed). That performance earned him a short look at Triple-A Tucson in 1976 as well. Not too bad for an undrafted free agent.

The Oakland A's entering 1977 were in full fire sale mode. Charlie Finley had thrown a fit about free agency generally. He and Bowie Kuhn were at odds over Finley's ability to sell player contracts and, more to the point, the amount for which such contracts could be sold. When Finley couldn't sell all the contracts, he started "trading" for minor leaguers and cash. In any event, after the 1976 season, the A's lost Sal Bando, Don Baylor, Bert Campaneris, Nate Colbert, Rollie Fingers, Willie McCovey, Joe Rudi, Gene Tenace, Larry Haney, Billy Williams, Gary Woods, Glenn Abbott, Ron Fairly, Ken McMullen, Jim Todd, and a host of others to "trades" and free agency. This opened up the door for all the young players in the Oakland system. 

This helped guys like McCatty who, under normal circumstances, might not have been promoted otherwise.  McCatty spent 14 games in Double-A in 1977 before a 1.93 ERA convinced the A's to promote him to San Jose in Triple-A.  In San Jose, McCatty got battered around, but, no matter -- he received a September call-up in 1977 and made the first appearance of his major-league career in a losing effort against the Milwaukee Brewers.

McCatty's 1978 season was not much different. He spent most of the year in Triple-A -- this time in Vancouver. This time, though, McCatty was called up for a mid-season look through June and July. He didn't pitch terribly or terribly well either, and the A's didn't exactly trust him too much -- McCatty appeared in only one game in which the teams in the game were 2 runs apart.

In 1979, McCatty once again did not make the club out of spring training. But, when the A's needed a pitcher at the beginning of May, the call went to Triple-A Ogden and McCatty joined the A's bullpen. He made his first major league start on May 27 against the Milwaukee Brewers and held them to just 1 run on 6 hits and 3 walks in 8-2/3 innings. Even so, the 1979 A's were a terrible team under manager Jim Marshall, who was fired after that season. McCatty finished the year with pedestrian numbers -- 4.22 ERA (19 unearned Runs) in 185-2/3 innings, giving up 207 hits, walking 80 and striking out 87.  

Then, 1980 happened. Billy Martin took over as the manager, and Art Fowler was his pitching coach. Some people claim that Fowler taught his pitchers a spitball. Others claim only that Billy and his competitive fire would make any team a better team. Perhaps a pitching philosophy was at play, as one of Martin's defenders (his biographer, David Falkner) claimed. He argues that these guys all were incredibly efficient breaking-ball pitchers who pitched to contact. For what it's worth, neither I nor Rob Neyer believe that.

For his part, McCatty did not necessarily receive the brunt of Billy's "pitch them till their arms fall off" philosophy. McCatty also didn't pitch all that well in 1980. At the age of 26, he went 14-14 with a 3.86 ERA, completing 11 of his 31 starts. His control was his biggest bugaboo -- he walked 99 hitters in 221-2/3 innings against 114 strikeouts (the only year he topped the 100 K mark). He was, in essence, a very average pitcher.

Then 1981 came along. Even though McCatty really wasn't the ERA title winner, he was (longer explanation here). McCatty tied with Jack Morris, Dennis Martinez, and Pete Vuckovich for the league lead in wins with 14. McCatty threw 16 complete games (second in the league) and 4 shutouts (league leader) while allowing just 140 hits over 185-2/3 innings. He was even 9th in the league in strikeouts with 91.  These overall numbers led to his coming in second behind Rollie Fingers for the AL Cy Young Award and, to be fair, WAR says he should have won it.

Entering 1982, then, McCatty was turning 28 years old -- the beginning of the prime of a pitcher's career. To avoid arbitration and free agency, the A's decided to sign McCatty to a four-year contract with two option years. It turned out poorly. McCatty started having arm troubles and went on the DL in 1982 for those troubles. Newspapers even then -- Murray Chass in particular -- questioned whether Billy Martin burned out the A's staff in 1980. By July 4, McCatty visited Dr. Frank Jobe and learned that he had slight adhesions in his shoulder. He received a cortisone shot and came back later that year.

Still, after 1981, McCatty's career went spiraling downward into an abyss of bad pitching, behavior issues, and shoulder problems.  In the end and for their investment, the A's got 561 innings out of McCatty over 4 seasons with a 24-30 record, a 4.48 ERA (4.91 FIP), 264 walks against 230 strikeouts, and just 10 complete games. After the 1985 season, McCatty was let go. 

The next spring, he tried to make the Chicago White Sox. He was still bitter about being released by the A's and made this comment:
Sandy Alderson (A's general manager) calls me up and asks how my golf swing is. Then he says, "We're not going to pick up your option." I thought of all the times I was told not to throw, then two days later I'd be out there. They couldn't even face me. Thirteen years with the team. I think they owed me more than "how's your golf swing, see you later." It was just a bad situation.
McCatty did not make the White Sox that season, and ended up on waivers after putting up a 9.64 ERA at Triple-A Buffalo. He pitched the rest of that year and in 1987 for the independent San Jose Bees in the California League before calling it a career.

Mustache Check: The picture isn't the best, but he does not have one on any of his other cards in this set so I'm saying no mustache.

Family Ties
McCatty's son Shane McCatty was drafted in the 34th Round of the 2009 June draft out of Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, by the Washington Nationals. It appears that Shane is no longer pitching in the Nats' system, though, since his last stats came in 2012 and were pretty bad -- 7.17 ERA in 21-1/3 innings in High-A and Rookie Level ball at the age of 25.

McCatty's younger son Luke McCatty is a redshirt junior at Oakland University. Last season, Luke pitched 7 innings in 8 appearances after making 11 appearances the year before. 

The Verdict 
Okay, it's not much, but it did make me laugh. In 1984, McCatty -- along with pitcher Bill Caudill and coach Clete Boyer -- were arrested in Cleveland for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. The reason: the threesome did not want to leave their hotel bar at the hotel at which they were staying when the bar was closing.

Freeze-Frame
While IMDB doesn't have any reference to it, McCatty's biography on the Washington Nationals website claims that he "served as technical consultant for Disney movie 'Angels in the Outfield'." I'm wondering why IMDB does not list that, since they even list the "Transportation Department" for the movie, including the driver.

A Few Minutes with Tony L.
Because he was a contender for the Cy Young in 1981, I was definitely aware of McCatty at that point in time. He always did really well against the Brewers too, it seemed. His career numbers support that as well. In 17 games (13 starts), McCatty had a 2.39 ERA, a 7-5 record, 1 shutout, and gave up just 93 hits in 101 2/3-innings. Considering he finished his career at 63-63 with a 3.99 ERA, that's a pretty significant difference.

After his retirement, McCatty started worked in broadcasting for three years as a broadcaster for the Oakland A's and, then, as an analyst on ESPN for a season. So, I could have done a "This Is Radio Clash" item for him too. But I liked the idea of him getting arrested for not wanting to leave the bar.

In 1996, McCatty got his first job as the pitching coach for the Visalia Oaks in the Detroit Tigers' system. He made it to the Majors as the pitching coach in 2002 with the Tigers in its car-crash of a 55-106 season. After that, the Tigers cleaned house, and McCatty hooked on with the Ottawa Lynx in the Baltimore organization.  

Then, in 2006, he joined the Washington Nationals organization, where he has been ever since. As you may know, McCatty has been the pitching coach for the Washington Nationals since the end of 2009. He has been a constant for the Nationals since that time despite the fact that the Nationals have gone from Manny Acta to Jim Riggleman to Davey Johnson to Matt Williams as their managers.  

In that time and through the power of the Internet, McCatty's pitching staff discovered that McCatty modeled in swim trunks for Playgirl. As a result, they made t-shirts. I guess it's the baseball equivalent of a sorority party t-shirt. This happened last year, so perhaps that's why the Nationals didn't make the playoffs last year -- they were distracted by McCatty's manliness all season.

Let's hope for their sake that the distraction won't resurface in this postseason.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Card #112: Billy Sample



Who Can It Be Now?
William Amos Sample was born on April 2, 1955, in Roanoke, Virginia. According to Billy's own webpage biography, Billy spent all but two years of his childhood in Salem, Virginia (a town just outside Roanoke) where he attended high school. His classmates there voted him "Most Versatile" after he lettered in three sports, was on the debate team his freshman year, and acted in two plays during his junior year. 

The Texas Rangers drafted Sample twice. The first time he was drafted was in the 28th round of the 1973 June draft -- straight out of high school. He chose instead to make the 108-mile trip north on I-81 to Harrisonburg to attend James Madison University, where he majored in psychology. After his junior year at JMU, the Rangers drafted Sample again in June of 1976 -- this time in the 10th Round

Sample signed after this second time being drafted and was assigned to the Rangers Rookie League team in the Gulf Coast League. Being a man among boys -- 1.2 years older than the average player in the league -- Sample destroyed the league. He hit .382/.505/.566 -- yes, .505 OBP -- in a league which averaged .237/.340/.306 overall. Unsurprisingly, he led the league in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging, finished second in steals with 27 (behind his teammate Greg Jemison's 32), led the league in triples with 9, tied for 9th in doubles with 7, and tied for twelfth in homeruns with just 1.  

Those video-game-style numbers led the Rangers to push Sample to a more age-appropriate league in 1977 -- the Double-A Texas League. He still looked to be a hitting star in Tulsa, slashing at .348/.426/.527, which was good enough for third in the league in hitting (first in the league in the non-El Paso standings), fifth in OBP, and seventh in SLG.  

Thus, in 1978, Sample moved up to Triple-A Tucson. Once again placed in a great hitting environment, Sample took advantage and increased his HR from 7 in Tulsa to 18 in Tucson with a .352/.471/.573 line in a league that hit .291/.369/.422 overall. Once again, placed in context, these numbers still were excellent -- 5th in hitting, 1st in OBP, 4th in SLG (and first among players who appeared in more than 100 games.

That impressive season in Triple-A earned Sample a call-up in September of 1978 to the big club. Then, in 1979, Sample made the Rangers out of spring training and never played in the minors again aside from a three-game stint on an injury rehab in 1981. 

Sample hit reasonably well in 1979 -- .292/.365/.415 -- but the Rangers had a stocked outfield that season. Sample played the most out of 6 players -- who included Al Oliver, Johnny Grubb, Richie Zisk, Mike Jorgensen, and Dave Roberts -- to record an appearance in left field that year. Never shy to express his opinion, Sample noted exactly that issue in a UPI wire story in 1979:
I can't make any excuses. I'll wind up with about 325 to 330 at-bats so I can't complain about the way I've been played. I wanted to hit better than .270 but I'd like to have a few more home runs and RBI. I'm not content, but this is good for starters. I didn't expect to come in here and tear up the league.  
Sure, everyone wants to play every day, but we've got a Mickey Rivers and an Al Oliver and a Richie Zisk in the outfield and those are tough people to move out. But push will come to shove someday.
Instead of pushing others out, however, the Rangers did exactly the opposite -- bringing in Mickey Rivers from the Yankees while trading away DH Oscar Gamble. Yes, that cleared a spot for Zisk to move to DH, but it put yet another player in Rivers ahead of Sample in the Rangers outfield. Add in the fact that the Rangers simply did not appear to be sold on Sample as a right fielder or left fielder -- putting Oliver in left most of the year and rotating 7 different players through right field including Grubb, Jim Norris, Zisk, Oliver, Rusty Staub, Roberts, and Sample. 

Then, throw in the other fact -- Sample was pretty bad at the plate for most of 1980, when he hit .323 in September to pull his average up from . 230 to .260. Of course, that coincided with his most regular playing time of the year. 1981 was not much better for Sample in terms of playing time either but that had to do with injuries as much as it did with players in the way.  Of course, as I mentioned back when I discussed their team checklist, the Rangers were not exactly a well-run organization. Still, why would the Rangers screw around like this with a guy who appeared to be a pretty good prospect with a good batting eye in the minor leagues? (Maybe it was because Sample was the players' rep for 5 years with the club?)

1982 wasn't much better. That year, Sample watched as the team promoted switch hitter George Wright directly from Double-A to be the regular centerfielder. The Rangers brought in third baseman Larry Parrish from Montreal and promptly made him a right fielder. Pushed back to left field, Sample played 85 games there while Johnny Grubb (still around after all these years), Leon Roberts, Lee Mazzilli, and even Pete O'Brien got playing time in left. 

To be fair, it wasn't like Sample's production at the plate was screaming "play me now!" Being as bad at the plate as the 1982 Rangers were (AL ranks: 12th in HR, 13th in AVG, 14th in OBP and SLG) was a team effort, but Sample's OPS+ put him squarely at league average.

Finally, though, in 1983 and 1984, Sample got the opportunity to play on a daily basis in Texas. He put up his best season in the majors in 1983 -- .274/.331/.401, 44 SB (only 8 CS), 12 HR, and 57 RBI. He did this despite hitting in every single spot in the order. His 1984 was less encouraging though, as his batting eye and his OBP deserted him. 

Thus, when the opportunity to get rid of Sample arose, the Rangers did just that. On February 27, 1985, the Rangers sent Sample and a minor leaguer to the Yankees in exchange for former Ranger Toby Harrah. Sample spent one entirely underwhelming season with the Yankees -- coming to the plate just 154 times. 

Despite this less-than-impressive year, he did provide one of the best lines I've come across so far. When asked what kind of guy he is, he said, "I'm like Daffy Duck in the cartoons. I'm black. I've got big feet, and I'm always bitching."

After the 1985 season, he was traded for a second time in his career -- this time to the Atlanta Braves. The Braves played him a little bit as a fourth/fifth outfielder type, but after the season, they let him go. He signed as a free agent with the Twins in February of 1987, but he did not make the team. Thus ended his major league playing career.

Mustache Check: Look closely...do you see it? Billy's got just a hint of a mustache, but he has one.

This Is Radio Clash
From 1988 to 1989, Sample served as a broadcaster for the Atlanta Braves. Then, in 1992, he was a broadcaster with the Seattle Mariners. After that year, he joined the broadcast team for the California Angels for two seasons.  When that ended, he signed on to work for the MLB.TV and MLB.com for 8 years as a writer and commentator.  He was also writing for USA Today and Sports Illustrated in that time as well.

Freeze-Frame
Sample's unique talents in his post-baseball career are best shown by his IMDB page. In 2012, he appeared in a slasher pic called The Meat Puppet. In 2013, he joined the same writers from The Meat Puppet (Billy and Joseph Pepitone, who are the nephews of former Yankee Joe Pepitone) as well as former major leaguers Brian McRae and Jim Leyritz in another horror film called Gravedigger

Once that acting bug bit, Sample had to carry out his own dream. He wrote, directed, produced, and starred in a film called Reunion 108.  The film has been rated pretty highly by IMDB users -- 8.2 out of 10 -- though it's not available on Amazon Prime quite yet.  The screenplay for his film won an award at the Hoboken International Film Festival in 2011, and that's what spurred him on to make the film.

With his own film in the can, he's now in two more indie films scheduled for release in 2015. There's Sugar, for which the IMDB synopsis is "A housewife of a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate secretly forms an all-women [sic] rock band turning her entire world up side down [sic]." And, then, Sample is scheduled to appear in another horror film called Amygdala. You can click through to read the plot summary yourself on that one.

Family Ties
Billy's son Ian was a wide receiver for the University of Hawaii about 10 years ago now -- the year before Hawaii got into the Sugar Bowl with Colt Brennan so that they could get exposed by Georgia.  Ian even wrote a book about being a football player.

A Few Minutes with Tony L.
Sample absolutely owned the Brewers. In 198 plate appearances, he slashed at .353/.388/.500 with 4 HR, 6 SB (5 CS, though) and 13 doubles. That line compares to his career line -- .272/.329/.384 with 46 HR. Geez.

During his career, Sample was the target for some crazy racist jerks who threatened his life and his wife with phone calls (in the days before caller identification). They did this because Billy Sample married a white woman. Among the stunts they pulled, they called the ballpark and told the Rangers' traveling secretary Dan Schimek that Billy's wife had been shot. That was untrue. They also left a note cut out of magazine headlines that formed a death threat. To Sample's credit, he recognized that it was not endemic to Dallas: "But no matter how much hatred is involved, I'm going to refrain from bad-mouthing the whole (Arlington) area."

These days, Sample is busy with his film work. He is also represented by the same agency who represents Rick Cerone -- which means that yes, you can hire Billy Sample to join you at your birthday party for $750 or to play a pick-up game for $500.  Oddly, on his bio on that page, the tags listed for him are fitness, women's issues, health and wellness, arthritis, knee injuries, multiple sclerosis, and foodie.

When he's not busy acting or addressing women's issues through pick-up games or attending your live fantasy draft (only $500 guys!), he appears to spend a decent amount of time on Facebook. Other than commenting about the call on the game-deciding fourth-down measurement in the South Carolina v. Georgia football game a couple of weeks ago, Sample appears to spend a lot of time finding news stories about "neocons playbook of bullsh*t" in Iraq and, mostly, about how Israel is the cause of all the problems in the Middle East.

I'm not going to argue with him on those news stories. I don't know enough to do it. But to share a video that accuses Israel of "ethnic cleansing, colonialism, and apartheid" is pretty strong stuff. 

Click through if you wish to read them.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Card #111: Carlton Fisk In Action



Who Can It Be Now?
It's still Carlton Ernest Fisk. This card always perplexed me as a youth because it was about the only card in the set that is properly displaying horizontally -- as above -- rather than vertically:

When we left off last week at the end of Fisk's Red Sox career and at the start of his White Sox career, I mentioned that the contract to which the White Sox and Fisk agreed looked like it had the potential to be an albatross around the White Sox's collective necks due to its length and Fisk's age.  

There is no doubt, though, that the contract turned out well for both Fisk and for the Sox. The five seasons on that initial contract were five of Fisk's most productive years. He averaged 125 games a season, 21 HR, 69 RBI, 10 SB, and slashed at .258/.332/.454. The most productive season of the five by WAR was 1983 (26 HR, 86 RBI, .289/.355/.518) -- a year in which Fisk finished third in the MVP race behind Cal Ripken and Eddie Murray and helped lead the White Sox to the ALCS where they lost to those Orioles.

After the 1985 season, Fisk signed back up with the White Sox for two seasons. He re-signed with the Sox for four more seasons before the 1988 season, re-signed for one year after the 1991 season, and then signed again in 1993. 

During his much of his White Sox career, however, Fisk had a rocky relationship with White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf. The issues may have started back in 1985, when the White Sox were trying to sign Fisk to a contract and then trade him to the New York Yankees. For the Sox to trade Fisk, they needed his permission, and he would not give it freely. Indeed, both he and Don Baylor (for whom Fisk was to be traded) wanted money to waive their no-trade clauses. That never happened, so the Sox were content to swap Ron Hassey and Britt Burns instead. Later, in January, Fisk simply re-signed with the White Sox since, after all, this was the era of collusion.

Despite all that, Fisk did not complain about the size of his contract. He felt that renegotiating a contract was a character flaw and that those guys wanting to renegotiate were crybabies. By his last two seasons in baseball, however, the White Sox had committed to starting Ron Karkovice. Fisk played only 62 games in 1992 (aged 44), and his hitting was commensurate with being a backup catcher -- .229/.313/.309.

Recognizing Fisk's decline, the White Sox organization wanted to protect itself -- and its future -- by signing Fisk to a minor-league deal for the 1993 season. Fisk balked at signing the deal because it was a minor-league contract, whereas the organization pointed out that that was a technicality so that the Sox would not have to use a 40-man roster spot on Fisk. The result: Jerry Reinsdorf took to the media. He was quoted as saying:
He's 45 years old; it's time he grew up. I'm sick and tired of him acting like a baby. He believes he has been mistreated, but nobody has ever been catered to here more than Carlton Fisk. He's a prima donna. He must think he's Michael Jackson.  
Here's a guy who doesn't like anybody and is always unhappy, yet no one ever writes it. Everyone is afraid of him. I don't know why.
Fisk wanted to hang around one more year at the age of 45 for at least one personal reason, though, so eventually he caved and signed a contract. The reason, of course, was that he wanted to set the record for most appearances at catcher. On June 22, 1993, he did that, making his 2,226th appearance behind the plate in his major league career. That game served as a going away party of sorts, as his White Sox teammates chipped in and bought him a motorcycle, which Bo Jackson drove onto the field for him. Fisk's wife Linda also received a diamond bracelet from the team, and the White Sox made a $25,000 donation to the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Then, a week later, the White Sox were in Cleveland to play the Indians when the decided that that was the time to release Fisk. As the AP wire story put it, that move was "long expected because of the 45-year-old's feud with management over his diminished playing time as he chased the ironman catching record." So, one game past Bob Boone, Fisk was done.

The hurt over his treatment in 1993 -- and possibly his New England background -- led Fisk to choose to be inducted into the Hall of Fame as a member of the Boston Red Sox.  He and the White Sox eventually patched things up, however -- first, retiring his number 72 (the reverse of the 27 he wore in Boston, which is also retired) in 1997, then erecting a statue outside Comiskey Park/U.S. Cellular Field of him in 2005. Finally, in 2008, the White Sox hired Fisk as a "team ambassador," a position in which Fisk still serves today.

Mustache Check: See, I let 5 days go by and I forget to cover this. Of course, it doesn't matter.

Family Ties 
In my haste last week to write the long tale of all of Carlton's athletic nieces and nephews, I neglected to mention Carlton's own daughter, Carlyn. She played volleyball at the University of Illinois-Chicago in the early 1990s even though she was just 5'7" tall.

Freeze-Frame
Carlton appeared in a 2009 documentary called The Lost Son of Havana about former Red Sox pitcher and teammate Luis Tiant. The documentary featured Tiant returning to Cuba after 46 years in exile.

A Few Minutes with Tony L.
It seems these second cards of Hall of Famers are more difficult to write than the first ones are. Or, at least they take longer.

So, today, two items. First, an interesting tidbit about Carlton Fisk's most famous TV moment.  Everyone knows the clip:



The interesting tidbit to me is that this homerun changed the way that TV covered sports wholly by happenstance.  As reported at The Sporting News in April of 2012, up to that time, the cameras focused on the ball and the game play. Player reactions were ignored. But everyone knows Fisk's reaction -- with him waving the ball fair -- because of a rat. The cameraman, Lou Gerard, tells this story:
There were some rats running around. With Fisk coming up, Harry Coyle, who was the director at the time, he told me, "Lou, you have to follow the ball if he hits it." I said, "Harry, I can't, I've got a rat on my leg that's as big as a cat. It's staring me in the face. I'm blocked by a piece of metal on my right." So he said, "What are we going to do?" I said, "How about if we stay with Fisk, see what happens?"
The second item is simply whether Carlton Fisk belongs in the Hall of Fame. Stories in 1993 -- such as this one from the Chicago Tribune -- took it as a fait accompli that Fisk was an automatic for induction when his time came around. 

Bill James's statistical measures for induction are not as convinced. The "Black Ink" measure of leading the league in categories results in Fisk getting just 1 point (average HOFer -- 27). The "Gray Ink" measure is similarly lukewarm, with Fisk totaling 54 points for finishing in the top 10 in offensive categories -- and the average HOFer is around 144 points. On the other hand, the James Hall of Fame Monitor puts Fisk at 120, with a likely HOFer at 100; the James Hall of Fame Standards has him at 49 (average HOFer is 50).  

JAWS is kinder to Fisk, in large part due to the fact that JAWS compares him to catchers. Fisk also was helped by some intangible measures -- retiring as the all-time leader in home runs among catchers (since passed by Mike Piazza) and as the all-time leader in games played at catcher (since passed by Ivan Rodriguez).

It's difficult to believe that Fisk came up just two years after Johnny Bench and 5 years before Gary Carter -- Fisk retired after both of them.  Fisk's numbers place him squarely third of those three in the conversation of "best ever" at the position.  Still, being third of the three best of all time -- perhaps now behind Ivan Rodriguez -- is nothing to sneeze at.

While I don't think it was ever a "no-brainer", I do believe that Carlton Fisk is a deserving member of the Hall of Fame.  It does not matter if I liked the guy or not -- he was an excellent, though irascible, player who always gave everything he had to win. He made his teams better -- and the stats prove this.

So, yes, Carlton Fisk is an easy HOFer.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Card #110: Carlton Fisk



Who Can It Be Now?
Carlton Ernest Fisk was born in Bellows Falls, Vermont, on December 26, 1947, which makes him 3 days younger than my mother. Fisk actually grew up five miles away from Bellows Falls in Charlestown, New Hampshire. As with many things in his life, Fisk was adamant about his being a New Hampster, I mean, a New Hampshirite. This point was driven home by way of a story told in his SABR biography.  Fisk forced the Red Sox to recast his $3,000 plaque for the Red Sox Hall of Fame to change the reference of being a "native of Vermont" to reflect that he was raised in New Hampshire. So, don't call Carlton a Vermonter.

Anyway, Fisk was one of six children of Cecil and Leona Fisk. Cecil was a tool-and-dye engineer and a farmer, and Leona was a champion in candlepin bowling. That's about as New England as it gets, I think.  Carlton was tall already as a youth, and he excelled in basketball as well as baseball, leading his high school to the Class M Semifinals in 1965 before losing to Hopkinton. Fisk scored 42 points and pulled down 39 rebounds in that semifinal game before fouling out with a minute to go. His school lost by 2 points, and Fisk's dad was upset with Carlton for missing four free throws in the loss.

Even in high school, Fisk played baseball as well. He spent his summers playing American Legion ball -- first for Claremont, New Hampshire, for a year in 1964 before switching over to Bellows Falls in Vermont (which had won the Vermont American Legion title the previous year). Despite his success as a player in both high school and American Legion, Fisk was not drafted out of high school. Instead, he accepted a basketball scholarship to attend the University of New Hampshire, where his older brother was the All-Yankee Conference sweeper for the soccer team.

Fisk spent a year and a half at UNH before the Red Sox drafted him with the fourth pick overall in the January Regular Draft in 1967. Fisk signed with the Red Sox because, as he put it, "I could never be a six-foot-two power forward and play for the Celtics."

Baseball-Reference has Fisk playing in the Florida Instructional League in 1967, while The Baseball Cube makes no reference to this (perhaps because stats don't seem to exist for that league) and the SABR biography skips right to Fisk's assignment for 1968 in Waterloo, Iowa. I will too. Fisk went to Iowa and hit well -- .338/.403/.600, 12 HR in 195 AB -- but apparently was "despondent" over the fact that the Waterloo team sucked, finishing 12 games under .500 and 26.5 games out of first. 

Fisk played both in the Florida Instructional League and in Double-A with Pittsfield in 1969. Here, my sources differ on Pittsfield's level of play; I'm going with Baseball-Reference because I trust their historical facts more than The Baseball Cube, which says Pittsfield was a low-A ball team. Anyway, Fisk didn't exactly hit well -- between those two stops, he hit .243/.328/.418 with 14 HR in 465 plate appearances. Still, it was enough for the Red Sox to give Fisk 5 at-bats in September of 1969. Of course, making his major league debut hitting 8th against eventual 1969 Cy Young Award winner (undeserved, mind you, but still) Mike Cuellar didn't help Fisk. He went 0-for-4 in that game and did not get a hit that September.

Fisk went back down to Double-A, this time in Pawtucket, in 1970. His hitting was decent, as Fisk got on base and hit with power -- .229/.337/.426 versus league averages of .253/.345/.374.  He then moved up to Triple-A Louisville in 1971 and got a call-up to the big leagues in September. This time, he went up to the plate flailing -- 1 walk in 49 plate appearances but .313/.327/.521 overall.  

Before I leave his minor league time behind, what strikes me as somewhat odd was the fact that the Red Sox had Fisk catch over 100 games just one minor league season out of four, and that was when he spent time in the Florida Instructional League and in Double-A in 1969. Otherwise, it was about 95 games a year and 350 plate appearances. I guess they wanted to save his knees.

Whereas Fisk's minor league career might be seen as somewhat disappointing at the plate, he was an instant star in the major leagues. He was an All-Star, won a Gold Glove, and finished fourth in the MVP race in 1972 -- oh, and he did that as a rookie. He was named Rookie of the Year, and did it by winning every single vote.

Overall, though, his time in Boston was up and down. He played 130 or more games in 6 seasons of the 9 full seasons in Boston. In those other 3 seasons, however, he played in 52 (1974), 79 (1975), and 91 (1979). Then again, perhaps it was more remarkable that he was disabled more.  He hit the DL in 1974 due to a groin injury and a knee injury. He spent most of the first half of 1975 on the DL as well after being hit by a pitch in spring training. He was disabled in 1979 for what was called a persistent right elbow ailment, which caused him to catch just 35 games that season.

And yet, despite having been born and raised as a New Englander, and despite wearing a Red Sox hat on his Hall of Fame plaque, he left the Red Sox before the 1981 season. The reason he left was due to a paperwork technicality. The Red Sox sent Fisk a contract for his option year two days too late after the 1980 season. The same happened with Fred Lynn's contract. 

As the AP wire story linked above mentions, the issue came about under the 1976 collective bargaining agreement and was unique to Lynn, Fisk, and two other players at that point. But, to enforce the collective bargaining provision, Marvin Miller and the MLB Players Association filed a grievance on the players' behalf, alleging that missing this deadline meant that the Red Sox were required to arbitrate the players' salaries or the players would become free agents.  any rights to the players' services that they may have had. 

Now, in 1981, the Red Sox were seen as cheap bastards -- just ask Rick Burleson -- so the Red Sox traded their rights to Lynn to the Angels and, further, let Fisk leave in free agency. Fisk signed a 5-year, $2.9 million contract with the Chisox, keeping him on the South Side through at least the age of 37.  

In his first year with the White Sox, Fisk played 96 games and hit reasonably well. Still, a 5-year contract for a 33-year-old catcher seemed like a foolish decision by the White Sox. How would his knees hold up? Would he even be in the league at the end of the contract?

With Carlton having an In Action card, we'll talk about those White Sox years tomorrow.

Mustache check: Fisk breaks the streak. I think he took the game too seriously to grow a mustache. I mean, I can't even find a Fisk photo with him wearing a mustache.

Family Ties
As I mentioned, Fisk came from an athletic family. Saying it and showing it, though, are two different things.

His father Cecil was an excellent tennis player and played semi-pro baseball and basketball. Mother Leona was a fast-pitch softball pitcher in Minnesota before moving east. She later became the high school softball coach for her daughters.

His brother Calvin was drafted in the 49th round of the 1965 draft with the 758th pick overall by the Baltimore Orioles. He came back from Vietnam at the age of 25, and the Orioles were no longer interested in his services.

Calvin's daughter Erica played tennis at Ohio State University in the early 2000s, graduating in 2003.

Carlton's brother Cedric played baseball and hockey in high school but, according to his parents, did not care much about baseball.

Another brother, Conrad, played baseball at Keene State, graduating in 1972. He had helped lead his high school, Fall Mountain, to back-to-back state titles in baseball in 1968 and 1969.

Carlton's nephew (and Conrad's son) Carrington Fisk (a name which sounds like he should have some sort of trust fund "back east") pitched collegiately at Indiana University and at the University of Tampa after being drafted in the 39th round of the 1999 June Draft by the New York Mets. Carrington now serves as the Executive Director of the Fisk Foundation.  

Carrington's brother Cameron played football at the University of New Hampshire before transferring to play basketball at Keene State College. Cameron was named girls' basketball coach for Keene High in 2012.

Carrington's and Cameron's sister Carrah Fisk-Hennessey played softball and soccer at Keene State as well. She is now the head softball coach and assistant athletic director at New England College.

Carlton's son Casey played at Illinois State University as a pitcher, catcher, and first baseman in the early 1990s. He eventually got his degree and started a performance training center for athletes with professional ambitions located in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Carlton's youngest sister, Janet, also has ties to sports. She was a high school tennis player, and she helped lead her high school to four straight state titles in basketball. In one of them, he made clutch free throws to win the final game. In addition, she married into sports as well by marrying Carlton's teammate Rick Miller.

The Verdict
In 2012, Carlton Fisk was charged with DUI when he was found unconscious behind the wheel of his Ford F-150 pickup truck. The jokes write themselves about the "Field of Dreams" scenario here, but Fisk's truck was found in the middle of a corn field near New Lenox, Illinois, outside Joliet. 

Granted, it was in late October, so I'm pretty sure that the corn field had been harvested at that point. He ended up resolving the case by pleading guilty to a misdemeanor drunken-driving charge. He was assessed court costs of $1250, received one year "court supervision" (probation), and had to undergo a drug and alcohol evaluation and counseling.

A Few Minutes with Tony L.
Full disclosure: I never liked Carlton Fisk. Despite my love for catchers, which has manifested itself in my baseball card collecting to include collecting Gary Carter cards and cards for Brewers catchers Charlie Moore, Ted Simmons, Dave Nilsson, Jonathan Lucroy, and B.J. Surhoff, I could never warm to Fisk.  

Certainly, this is the result of the teams for which he played in combination with Fisk being the slowest damn catcher on the face of the planet.  Setting aside his playing for Boston (a Milwaukee divisional rival) and the White Sox (with whom the Brewers had a mutual hate relationship spilling over from the Packers-Bears rivalry in the NFL), let's talk about how slow Fisk was. None other than friend and former teammate Bill Lee said this about Fisk in Lee's book, The Wrong Stuff:
(In Single-A Waterloo,) Carlton Fisk and I shared an apartment in town with a couple of outfielders from Massachusetts. Fisk was always late, the last one to get to the ballpark, the last one to leave. Very methodical. He was also slow at putting down signs. I used to think, Jesus, what's taking him so long? I've only got two pitches. I had my revenge later on, when we were both on the Red Sox. During one game I shook him off six consecutive times. He came out to the mound and yelled, "How the hell can you shake me off six times! I've only got five fingers!" My point exactly.
Carlton still catches the longest games in the majors. That's because he takes things in stride and likes to consider all options. He'll live to be a hundred and five, there's no doubt about it. Fisk comes from hardy stock and never gets frazzled. 
Maybe so. Lee might be on to something about how long Fisk will live, though -- Fisk's father Cecil lived to be 97 years old

Fisk also got on my nerves a bit as one of those self-appointed "protectors of the game." I know a lot of folks probably appreciated his send-up of Deion Sanders back in 1989 (here's a link to an interview between Fisk and his fellow self-appointed protector of the game Joe Morgan from last year about it). 

I mean, this started back in 1973. As Bill Lee again tells the story:
Young and idealistic when he first joined us, Carlton had a utopian view of the game, viewing the majors as a large-scale version of the minors. He could not understand the clique situation on our club. The social polarization that occurs on a team is not an unusual or even necessarily a bad thing. Twenty-five guys can only stay in the same room with each other for so long. But Fisk didn't understand this. He thought everybody would be going out to eat together and be more of a group off the field. It upset him when he discovered that things weren't like that up here. He also expected Yaz and [Reggie] Smith, the team's two biggest stars, to be the club's leaders. When he didn't see them taking up the reins, he really let them have it in the papers. 
Speaking out like that is okay, I suppose. But, did Fisk's mother have to pop off about Reggie Smith too? Well, she did.

His "protecting the game" did not end when he retired, either. He spoke out -- and completely messed up the facts -- about Mark McGwire's and Barry Bonds's use of steroids back in 2010. 

Getting back to the Deion Sanders thing for a moment, Fisk complained to Joe Morgan about how Deion drew dollar signs in the batters' box before hitting and lollygagged to first base on a popup.  As a result, Fisk screamed at Sanders that "There's right way and a wrong way to play this game." The next time up, Sanders -- and if you have seen Deion on TV, you know that he's not the wittiest guy on the planet -- says as his retort that "slavery ended years ago."  That set Fisk off and started a brawl.

The only problem I have with that whole scenario is this: why the hell should Fisk want his opponent to run balls out? Wouldn't it be better for Fisk's team for Sanders to loaf around and not take things seriously? I mean, only if Sanders is on Fisk's team should Fisk care about how Sanders acts.

That's one of my problems here. Why does Carlton Fisk -- or Kirk Gibson, or Gerrit Cole, or Brian McCann, or Joe Morgan -- get to be the arbiter on what these unwritten rules of "the right way" to play the game is? 

It's a game. It's not fighting ebola or the so-called Islamic State or Al-Qaeda. Lives are not lost if Deion Sanders draws a dollar sign in the batters' box or loafs when he pops out, nor are they lost if Yasiel Puig flips his bat, nor are they lost if Carlos Gomez watches a home run for its entire flight over the fence.

It's just a game.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Card #109: Dave Revering



Who Can It Be Now?
David Allen Revering was born on February 12, 1953, in Roseville, California. He was a prodigious slugger in his youth baseball days, being named to multiple all-star teams while playing for Bella Vista High School in Fair Oaks in suburban Sacramento. His play in high school gained attention from scouts, and he was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds with the final pick in the 7th Round of the 1971 June Draft. 

The Reds sent Revering to their Gulf Coast League affiliate in Bradenton to start his career, and immediately Revering made an impact. As you might be able to make out on the back of the card above, Revering hit 8 homers and walked 28 times in 167 plate appearances at Bradenton, slashing at .271/.398/.556.  Those are pretty impressive numbers anywhere you go. But, what all does not show you is that Revering put those numbers up in a league in which batters as a whole had a slash line of .238/.333/.302. Let me put it this way: Revering's 8 home runs represented 17.8% of all homeruns hit league-wide that season. He hit more homeruns than every team except the Royals and his own Reds (the rest of the Reds' team had 5 homers). In every respect, it was a very impressive debut.

While Revering could not and did not keep up the paces as a slugger as he moved up to Single-A Tampa the next season, he still showed impressive patience at the plate, a good batting eye, and good pop. He moved up to Double-A in 1973 and to Triple-A in 1974 -- all with the same skills all the way up the ladder.  

But then, at the ages of 21, 22, 23, and 24 covering the years 1974 through 1977, Revering was stuck at Triple-A. His 1975 season was not great, but 1976 and 1977 both were excellent years.  Why didn't he move up? 

That answer is pretty easy. He was in the Cincinnati organization. Cincy had eventual Hall of Famer Tony Perez at first. One year older than Revering -- and able to play third base credibly -- was Dan Driessen. Driessen became the starter in 1977 when Perez moved on to the Expos. Revering was stashed and stuck behind these guys, and in the age of "no free agents", Revering sat in Triple-A for over three full seasons.  His Triple-A Totals? In 465 games: 1795 Plate appearances, 92 HR, 318 RBI, 236 BB, 288 Ks, and a slash line of .279/.375/.523.  

These days, that would probably not happen. Revering was the type of player who was undervalued in the 1970s because his batting average did not reflect the hitting skills like OBP and SLG that are important in scoring runs.  I mean, what strikes me about Revering's skills in the minors is how high his OBP was every single year -- his worst year was in 1974 at Indianapolis when, at the age of 21 (4.1 years younger than the average player in the American Association that season), Revering had a .344 OBP (league average was .349). By 1975, a "Free Dave Revering" movement would have started up among the statheads of the baseball worlds to get Revering a chance to play somewhere.

His chance to play did come, eventually, in Oakland in 1978. Indeed, the only reason that his chance came was because he was out of options and would have to pass through waivers to return to Triple-A. Knowing this, the Reds tried to trade Revering to Oakland twice, essentially (more on that below), but in reality he was sent there in exchange for Doug Bair. On a very bad Oakland team saved from last place by the expansion Mariners, the now 25-year Revering appeared to leave his on-base skills at Triple-A -- .271/.303/.415. Yes, he slugged better than league average (which was .385) but he got on base less frequently (league OBP: .326).

1978 was Revering only 150+ game season in the majors. When Billy Martin took over, he employed something of a platoon system involving Revering and catcher/1B Jeff Newman. Revering also did not make any friends in the organization after the 1979 season. He was asked by Tom Weir of The Sporting News what the problem with the A's in 1979 was. His answer: "Our biggest problem is lack of talent. We have about five men who can play every day in the Major Leagues." When Weir asked for personal goals, Revering said, "to get out of here."

His wish was granted in May of 1981. Revering was sent to the Yankees with two minor leaguers in exchange for Jim Spencer and Tom Underwood. This trade led to a nice little short-printed oddity in the Granny Goose Oakland A's baseball card set that the San Jose Fuji finally chased down about a year ago, and it made Revering a little happier.

Revering, like Bob Lacey before him, had clashed with Billy Martin over playing time. Martin had buried Revering on the bench against both lefties and righties, using him only against tough righties. In the New York Times on his trade to the Yankees, Revering said that Martin had not played him against lefties or righties prior to the trade, "[t]hen he would pinch-hit me in the ninth against [Goose] Gossage. Have you ever tried hitting Gossage when you haven't played in a week? Have you ever tried hitting Gossage when you play every day?"

He had a point, but Revering did not capitalize on the opportunity with the Yankees either. Both his on-base skills and his power evaporated, and he struggled to make contact with the ball. Over the course of his Yankee career -- 45 games in 1981, 14 games in 1982 -- Revering slashed at .214/.276/.302. 

That inability to hit led the Yankees to seek help elsewhere for first base. Revering was sent to Toronto with minor leaguer Jeff Reynolds and third-baseman Tom Dodd in exchange for John Mayberry. Leading up to the trade, the New York Times noted that Revering had been unhappy due to his "uncertain status" with the club.  On the way out of town, Revering was quoted as saying "I'm happy to go. Now I'll get some playing time."

But, as Mayberry had found out already, Toronto had Willie Upshaw playing first base literally every day -- 160 games worth -- so Revering found at-bats almost exclusively at designated hitter

In August, though, the Blue Jays decided to go in another direction. They designated Revering for assignment, assuming that he would report to Triple-A to continue collecting his $250,000 a year salary. The Blue Jays were wrong. Revering instead gave up the contract and became a free agent. 

A few days later, he signed with the Seattle Mariners. He again struggled to make contact and struggled to get on base. The Mariners chose not to renew his contract after that season, so Revering signed a minor-league deal to compete for the first base job with the Detroit Tigers. He did not win the job and told the Tigers that he did not want to play in the minors. So, the Tigers released him, and Revering left baseball.

Mustache Check: Yes, Revering makes it 10 cards in a row with a stache involved.

Trivial Pursuit
When the onset of free agency came in the mid-1970s, Charlie O. Finley threw a hissy fit about the whole deal. He decided to sell his players off to the highest bidder. When Bowie Kuhn stepped in and said that Finley couldn't just sell off his players, Finley started "trading" them away in de facto sales. 

One of the "trades" that Finley made was with Cincinnati after the 1977 season. Finley sent Vida Blue to the Reds in exchange for Dave Revering and $1.75 million. Kuhn was not amused and determined that this trade too violated his suddenly established rule of sorts against such sales. Therefore, Revering came over to the Reds for Doug Bair and a dollar value just under Kuhn's established limit of $400,000.

A Few Minutes with Tony L.
Dave Revering just abused Milwaukee pitching. He killed us.  Yes, it was only in 134 plate appearances, but he hit .298/.346/.484 against Milwaukee. He hit better against only the two 1977 expansion teams of Seattle and Toronto.  I definitely remember him abusing the Brew Crew, and, as it turns out, two of his career four homers against Milwaukee came against the closer on the 1981-1982 Brewers -- Rollie Fingers. In other words, those two homers had to have hurt.

Revering seemed to wear out his welcome quickly in a lot of places in the majors. In the discussion after the Vida Blue trade, a wire story ran about how he was going to refuse to go to the minor leagues no matter what Bowie Kuhn said about the Blue deal. We've seen some of his negativity and agitations about wanting to be on a different team above.

To me, the most telling story about Revering came in 1999. Bobby Cox had managed Revering with the Blue Jays. In 1999, Cox was trying to manage the ball of rage known as John Rocker. When asked about whether Cox had ever managed a "crazier" player (that was the word Cox used) than Rocker, Cox could not.  But, as SFGate put it, "the closest he came to coming up with a name was Dave Revering . . . ."  The same discussion was carried in the New York Daily News; in that story, it mentioned that Cox really didn't know if Rocker was crazy. But, as to Revering:
That was not the case with onetime Yankee Dave Revering, whom Cox had briefly in Toronto. "Revering I knew was crazy," Cox said. "I finally had enough of him when he swung at a 3-2 pitch that was a foot over his head and wound up getting Cecil Upshaw thrown out at third. After the game, I had a shouting match with him in the shower and released him right there."
Cox's memory isn't 100% wrong, but it's not 100% right. Revering's final at-bat in Toronto was a base hit in the first game of a doubleheader against Boston on July 28, when Revering pinch hit for Leon Roberts and singled off Bob Stanley. But there is a plausible situation in the first game of that series on July 26 against Boston in the top of the 4th inning. Upshaw was caught stealing on the front end of a double steal with Revering at the plate in an at-bat that ended in a strikeout against Red Sox starter Dennis Eckersley. Maybe Bobby made up his mind at that point to get rid of Revering.

So, what's Dave Revering up to these days? I know he lives in Utah, as many online autograph forum regulars probably know, and he's pretty good about returning cards autographed.  It appears that he is involved with HumaniTerra Designs in Las Vegas now, according to this LinkedIn profile.

Otherwise, he likes to hunt, fish, and shoot guns. Seriously, that's what I've got. For example, here are two videos of Dave Revering showing off a product called the D.O.A. Tactical Bench:


In terms of hunting and fishing, here are a few stories to review. First, Revering is buddies with Kent Danjanovich, the Senior Editor of Sportsman's News, which promotes itself as the official publication of Sportsman's Warehouse. Revering and Danjanovich -- who calls Revering his "fellow Pro-Staffer" -- went fishing in northern Manitoba at Big Sand Lake Lodge in 2009.

They also went goose and mallard hunting in Alberta in the Peace River area. They went fishing in Mexico at Hotel Buena Vista Beach ResortHe went on a big-game hunt in Namibia in Africa (his photo is about 2/3 of the way down the page). Finally, here's a photo in which Revering killed a zebra and a gemsbuck. The write-up there also mentions that Revering killed a jackal, a warthog, and a kudu; indeed, there is even an ad showing Revering as the US contact for the South African hunting trips.

I have to admit -- I am not a hunter.  I don't have any problem with people who do it, though, and in many cases it is necessary for the preservation of the animals (such as whitetailed deer in the U.S.). But, it was tough for me to see photos on that African safari page of animals that I have only seen in zoos sitting there dead with a guy or gal with a gun roosting behind them. 

I couldn't do it, and it's not for me. As long as we're not killing off endangered species -- and the meat of the edible animals is eaten -- I don't have a problem with it.