Tagged: outfielder

April 30 – Happy Birthday Randy Kutcher

kutcherSlim pickings when it comes to members of the Red Sox’ all-time roster who were born on April 30. Randy Kutcher saw action, mostly as an outfielder in five big league seasons from 1986 through 1990. 

He was a fourth-round selection of the Giants in the 1979 amateur draft. It then took him seven years to make his big league debut with San Francisco. It was a good one. In his first game he hit a home run off of Padres’ reliever Craig Lefferts. In fact, Kutcher hit seven home runs in his first 25 games as a rookie but then not another in his final 46 that year and then just three more his entire career.

In December of 1987, he was sent to the Red Sox as the player to be named later in in the trade that sent Dave Henderson from Boston to San Francisco. He then spent most of his first season in the Red Sox organization playing for Pawtucket. In 1990, Boston skipper Joe Morgan used him in 77 games as both a spare outfielder and utility infielder. He appeared in two games in that year’s ALCS versus Oakland but did not get to make a plate appearance in either contest. He continued in that dual-utility role for Morgan the following year as well and then got released.

Kutcher does hold the distinction of being the only position player in Red Sox history to be born in the state of Alaska. The only other member of Boston’s all time roster to be born in America’s northern most state was pitcher Curt Schilling. The only other Red Sox born on April 30th was a long-ago first baseman named Babe Danzig who saw just 6 games of action during the 1909 season.

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April 19 – Happy Birthday Jackie Bradley

bradleyjAfter the 2013 postseason ended and fall turned to winter, it became apparent to most baseball observers that the new World Champion Red Sox were not going to re-sign their free-agent All Star center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury. Their biggest reason had to be his high price tag. Boston’s ownership just didn’t want to spend the $160 million or so it would have taken to keep Ellsbury’s uniform socks red for his entire big league career. The second biggest reason had to be today’s Beantown Baseball Birthday Celebrant.

The Red Sox front office thinks Jackie Bradley is going to be something special. They selected this native of Richmond, Virginia as the 40th overall selection in the first round of the 2011 draft. He had an outstanding collegiate career at South Carolina and then put together two strong seasons in Boston’s farm system. He really got himself noticed with a stellar performance during the Red Sox 2013 exhibition system and made the Club’s Opening Day roster, starting in left field.

But the kid has yet to prove he can hit big league pitching. His weak bat (.189 batting average in 2013) got him sent back down to Pawtucket last year but with Ellsbury gone, you have to figure Boston will give him a lot longer leash than the 37 games and 107 plate appearances he got with the parent club in in 2013.

Bradley turns just 24-years-old today. His career is all ahead of him. But with Ellsbury off to a hot start in his first season in New York and Bradley again struggling through his second straight April against big league pitching, I am starting to wonder just how patient Red Sox fans will be with their new center fielder.

April 18 – Happy Birthday Duffy Lewis

t205-lewis-frontDuffy Lewis was a native of San Francisco who cut his baseball teeth in the Pacific Coast League. His real first name was George and he had made his big league debut with Boston in 1910, when he joined Tris Speaker and Harry Hopper to form one of the great outfields in Red Sox franchise history. Lewis helped Boston win World Series in 1912, ’15 and ’16 and he added lots of luster to his reputation as a clutch hitter when he averaged .444 against the Phillies in the 1915 Fall Classic and .353 the following fall against Brooklyn.

In actuality, Lewis was pretty much a singles hitter who was blessed to be part of one of baseball’s all-time best lineups. Back when Lewis patrolled left field in then brand new Fenway Park, steep inclines of dirt were used in big league parks place of warning tracks to help  outfielders know they were getting close to bone-jarring fence collisions. Lewis became so proficient at scaling the left-field incline at Fenway, the area became known as “Duffy’s Cliff.”

Lewis became one of the first Boston players team owner Harry Frazee sold to the Yankees at the very end of the Dead Ball Era. He and the highly regarded Boston pitcher Ernie Shore had both joined the Navy in 1918 and missed an entire season. Before they returned from service in 1919, the duo had been traded to New York along with another very good veteran Boston pitcher named Dutch Leonard in exchange for four players and $15,000. When the deal was announced, Yankee Manager Miller Huggins told the press the trade would put the Yankees in the thick of the 1919 AL Pennant race.

As it turned out Huggins’ high hopes for both Lewis and Shore (Leonard was sold to the Tigers before he pitched a game as a Yankee) proved to be unfounded. Shore caught the mumps during his first New York spring training camp and would never amount to much of anything in pinstripes. Duffy started in left field for New York in 1919 and averaged just .272, which was 17 points below his career average with Boston. He did drive in 89 run but he was overly aggressive at the plate for a guy with little power and not a good base-runner.

A little over a year after the big trade Huggins pulled a perfect “if at first you don’t succeed try again” maneuver by  convincing the Yankee owner Jake Ruppert to go back to Boston owner Harry Frazee and pay him whatever it takes to purchase Babe Ruth’s contract. The “Big Bang” then joined Lewis and Ping Bodie to form the starting outfield for a 1920 Yankee team that won 95 games, which was only good enough for a third place finish in the 1920 AL Pennant race. Lewis, however, had seen his playing time decrease during his second season in New York thanks to the emergence of a Yankee rookie outfielder by the name of Bob Meusel.

New York then traded Lewis, to Washington in December of 1920. He was out of the big leagues for good the following year but he did not hang up his spikes. Instead he returned to the Pacific Coast League, where he continued playing another six years, finally retiring as a player at the age of 39. Duffy would eventually become the long-time traveling secretary of the Boston Braves.

April 14 – Happy Birthday Joe Lahoud

lahoudAfter their Splendid Splinter ended his Hall of Fame career with a home run on his last-ever at bat in 1960, Red Sox Nation quickly realized the players they had left offered few if any compelling reasons to travel to Fenway for a game. Truth was, those Red Sox teams of the early sixties were not very good.

That probably explains better than anything why Boston’s brain trust decided to rush young 19-year-old Tony Conigliaro to the big leagues in 1964. The hype was that the kid could hit like a young Williams, plus he was born and raised in nearby Revere, had Hollywood good looks and unlike “Teddy Ballgame,” he actually smiled at fans and even signed autographs.

So when young “Tony C” went on to belt 24 home runs during his expedited 1965 big league debut season, it convinced the Boston brass that a youth movement was the best path to both a pennant and lots of ticket sales. In the next few years, Red Sox fans were introduced to Rico Petrocelli, George Scott, Reggie Smith, Joe Foy and  Mike Andrews. By 1967, the “Baby Sox” had pulled off the “Impossible Dream” pennant of 1967 and had Boston fans wondering who would be the next star flash-produced by the team’s incredible minor league system.

His name was Joe Lahoud, Ironically, his last name was pronounced la-Who, which was the exact reaction most Red Sox fans had when they heard this 20-year-old native of Danbury, Connecticut had made Boston’s Opening Day lineup against the Tigers in 1968. Batting sixth between Scott and Petrocelli, the young outfielder singled, walked three times and scored his first Major League run in that afternoon’s game, a 7-3 Boston victory.

The next day the kid hit his first big league home run against Detroit’s ace, Denny McLain and for a brief moment, it really did seem that Boston’s incredibly successful lightening quick youth movement had really struck again in the form of the young LaHoud. By the end of that April however, he was hitting just .206 and got sent down to Louisville for more grooming. He then spent the entire 1969 season with the parent club.

Since Lahoud’s ancestors were born in Lebanon, I guess we could call him the Lebanese God of Walks. Like Kevin Youklis a few generations later, Lahoud did not swing at bad pitches. It was his ability to earn frequent free passes to first base that kept him on that ’69 Red Sox roster because he hit just .188 in 257 plate appearances but his 43 walks pushed his on base percentage up to .317.

His good eye was not enough to keep him on the big league roster the following season but he did get a second chance with the parent club in 1971. Though he did hit 14 home runs that year, not an easy accomplishment for any left-handed hitter who plays half of his games in Fenway, his .215 batting average was his undoing. That October, he was one of ten players involved in a trade between Boston and the Brewers.

Lahoud would end up spending whole or parts of 11 seasons in the Major Leagues. He put together his best season as a fourth outfielder for the 1974 Caifornia Angels, when he hit a career high .271 and smacked 13 round-trippers. His final season was 1978 and when he quit he had a lifetime batting average of .223 with an on base percentage that was one hunted and ten points higher.

March 22 – Happy Birthday Billy Goodman

Billy Goodman FrontThe reporters covering Red Sox baseball back in the late forties and early fifties used to call it “the Goodman problem.” Each year, when Boston opened its spring training camp in Sarasota, Florida, whoever happened to be managing the club that year was bound to be asked the same question during his first interview with the press, “Where you going to play Billy Goodman this season?” As one Boston manager after another found out, it was a great problem to have.

The son of a North Carolina farmer, Goodman was a three-sport star in high school and a veteran of WWII. After he put together two great seasons in the Southern Assocoiation, the Red Sox signed him for $75,000, which was a huge amount of money back in 1947. He made the parent club’s roster permanently by 1948 and began a 15-year big league career as one of the most versatile position players of all-time. During his decade as a Red Sox he started at every position except pitcher and catcher and played them all well.

But Goodman’s calling card was his crafty work at the plate. He had little power but he could hit the ball hard and he rarely struck out. In 1950 he won the AL batting title with a .354 average, the only player in big league history to do so without playing as many as 50 games in any one position on the field. Boston had an all-star-laden lineup back then and Goodman was used to back up most of them. During his days at Fenway he filled in long stretches for Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr and Walt Dropo.

When he was traded to the Orioles for pitcher Mike Fornieles in June of 1957, Goodman’s career lifetime average as a Red Sox was .306 and his on-base-percentage for Boston was a robust .386, good enough to place him 13th and 14th respectively on the franchise’s all-time leader lists in those two categories. He continued playing until 1962 and then became a long-time coach and instructor at the minor league level. He died from skin cancer at the age of 58 in 1984.

March 21 – Happy Birthday Bill Lamar

Lamar2If Marvin Miller or Scott Boras had been around in the 1920′s, I might have a lot more to tell you about today’s Beantown Baseball Birthday Celebrant. Unfortunately, however, for guys like William Harmong Lamar, ballplayers did all of their own labor-lawyer-ing and contract negotiations for many many years and Lamar simply wasn’t very good at it.

As the only member of the all-time Red Sox roster to be born on this date, Lamar did not get the opportunity to play much baseball in in Boston. Born in Maryland, near Washington DC, he became a high school baseball star who in 1916, signed a contract to play for the Baltimore Orioles in the International League. By the following year, the US had entered WWI and the military draft began in May of that year. Every big league team was probably looking for bodies to replace players lost to the army when the Yankees purchased the contracts of Lamar and two of his Oriole teammates toward the end of the 1917 season. Lamar’s first appearance in a big league game was on September 19th of that season. He played a total of 11 games that year and just 28 the next before he himself was drafted.

From the research I did on his career, it appears as if Lamar was a very fast runner but not much of a hitter or defensive outfielder during his days with the Yankees. Neither of his two Yankee Managers, Wild Bill Donovan or  Miller Huggins played him much during the 1917 and ’18 seasons and the kid averaged less than .230 in the Yankee action he did experience. That explains why Huggins did not invite Lamar to the Yankees’ 1919 spring training camp but he showed up anyway. Not wanting to disrespect a returning soldier, Huggins let him stay and brought him north with the team, but only for a short while. On June 10, 1919, Huggins ended Lamar’s Yankee career by putting him on waivers.

The Red Sox picked him up immediately and he managed to hit .291 for Boston during the second half of the 1919 season. He shared an outfield position with Braggo Roth and played alongside Babe Ruth during the Bambino’s final Red Sox season. Lamar was then traded for an International League outfielder and it would take him another five years before he actually got a regular job as a big leaguer. That was in 1924, when he joined Connie Mack’s Philadelphia A’s as a 27-year-old left-fielder.

Lamar hit .330 in 1924 and then an even more robust .356 in 1925 with 202 hits. It looked as if his train had finally arrived at the station. But Lamar had also developed a propensity to party. In fact, his nickname was “Good Time Bill.”  His batting average and his playing time dropped in ’26 and even though he was hitting .299 at the time, Lamar was put on waivers by the A’s in early August of the 1927 season. accompanied by rumors that he had a difficult time complying with Connie Mack’s team rules. The Senators immediately picked up his contract but that’s when Lamar started getting a bit too cute. The Washington newspapers had played up the fact that the newest Senator would be starting in the outfield in an upcoming series against the Yankees. He decided to try and leverage the anticipation of Washington fans for his arrival into a bonus for reporting  from the famously tight-fisted Senators’ owner Clark Griffith. How’d that little ploy turn out for “Good Time Bill?” He lost the balance of his salary for 1927  and he never again played in a big league came.

Much of the information used for this post came from an article about Lamar, written by Bill Nowlin, as part of the SABR Baseball Biography Project. You can find that article online, here.

March 20 – Happy Birthday Stan Spence

SpenceStanIt took Stanley Orville Spence six seasons to work his way through the glut of outfielders the Red Sox had stocked in their farm system during the late 1930s and make the parent club’s roster. Then when he finally got to Fenway in 1940, he found three three-hundred hitters, Ted Williams, Dom DiMaggio and Doc Cramer, starting in right, center and left respectively. Even Lou Finney, the fourth outfielder on that team’s depth chart hit .320 that season. That all translated into plenty of time on the pine for Spence, who was already 25 years old and upset that he couldn’t get a chance to prove he belonged in the team’s starting outfield.

When he was lucky enough to get some at bats he hit well, averaging .279 in 72 plate appearances that first year. But it didn’t matter. When the 1941 season began, Spence was still the fifth outfielder on Boston’s depth chart and though he saw a lot more action that year (86 games and 227 plate appearances) the lengthy absences from live at bats was playing havoc with his swing and he averaged just .232.

His big break came six days after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, when he was traded to the Senators. Unlike Boston, the Senator starting outfield lacked all stars and with WWII about to make good major league caliber outfielders even scarcer, playing time would no longer be an issue for Spence. Since he was married with two children he would be one of the last to be called into active service, so for the next three seasons he got the chance to establish himself as a .300 hitter and a strong defensive center-fielder. He did eventually get called to duty at the very tail end of the War but missed just one season of play. When he rejoined the Senators in 1946, he put together two more all-star seasons, proving he was not just a good war-time player and that he could compete against the best players in the game.

In December of 1947 he was traded back to Boston and finally got a chance to start in the same outfield as Williams and the younger DiMaggio. Unfortunately, he hit just .235 that year and when he got off to a slow start the following season, the Red Sox traded the native of Kinson, North Carolina to the Browns. His nine-year big league career ended after that 1949 season. He left the game with a .282 lifetime batting average.