Monday, May 11, 2015

Card #147: Denny Walling

Who Can It Be Now?
Dennis Martin Walling was born on April 17, 1954 in Neptune, New Jersey. He attended community college in New Jersey before attending a second community, Clemson University in South Carolina. 

He was drafted initially after his junior college days in the 8th round by the San Francisco Giants in 1974.  He did not sign and went to Clemson for a year where his efforts and ability made him the first pick overall in the 1975 June Secondary Draft by the Oakland Athletics. After signing with the A's, he went straight to the major leagues, going 1-for-8 in limited duty in September of 1975 for the AL West Champions.

Perhaps due to their "win-now" mentality, or maybe Walling just wasn't what they thought he was when they drafted him, but the A's gave Walling a grand total of 19 plate appearances over two year before trading him with cash to the Houston Astros at the trade deadline in 1977 for Willie Crawford.  

Crawford played the rest of 1977 with the A's, played two years in Mexico, and was out of baseball.  In comparison, Walling became a long-time Astro pinch-hitter for those Houston clubs of the late 1970s through the mid-1980s.  He averaged less than three plate appearances per game played for Houston (1072 G, 2929 PA) over eleven-and-a-half seasons (not counting his 3 game cameo in 1992 at the very end of his career).

Walling was never much of a power hitter, and he hit just 49 homers in his entire career. Some of that had to do with the cavernous Astrodome, certainly, but Walling was a guy who would come to bat and be willing to take a walk or, often, get the bat on the ball.  He struck out in less than 10% of his plate appearances in his career.

During the 1988 season, Walling was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Bob Forsch. Apparently, the teams wanted to swap a hitter near the end of his career for a pitcher near the end of his career.  Walling stuck in St. Louis as a bat off the bench through 1990, played in Texas a little in 1991, then hung up his spikes after the 3-game, 3-plate appearance performance in Houston in 1992.

Mustache Check: Mr. Ginger, oh your mustache has grown. Don't you know that you're the only one to say, OK.  (Figure out that reference...)

Family Ties
According to the Bullpen, Denny Walling's older brother Gregory Walling played 47 games for Covington in the Appalachian League in 1967 in the Astros system. He walked a lot, but Gregory's .225/.363/.265 slash line did not convince the Astros to keep him beyond that one season.

A Few Minutes with Tony L.
Yes, I am going to resurrect this blog a bit.  I miss the history aspects of it.  

I remember Denny Walling from watching the postseason in the early 1980s and again in 1986.  Walling struggled mightily against the Mets in the National League Championship Series in 1986 -- .158/.158/.211 in 19 AB -- but he was far from the only one who struggled. Of players with more than 10 at bats for the Astros, only Craig Reynolds -- 4 for 12 -- hit better than .300.  Walling ended up picking up four at-bats in the epic game 6 of that NLCS -- the one that went 16 innings and finished with the Astros coming up one run short in their rally to tie the game again after the Mets scored 3 in the top of the 16th off Aurelio Lopez and Jeff Calhoun.

Since his retirement as a player, Walling has been a coach. He spent time with the Oakland A's and New York Mets when old pal Art Howe was the manager.  After that and from 2007 to 2014, Walling was a hitting instructor in the Orioles system -- first as a roving instructor, and then as the Triple-A Norfolk Tides batting coach from 2012 through 2014.  After the 2014 season, Walling -- now 60 years old -- decided to retire.

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