At the tender young age of 23 years and 296 days old, this first baseman made his major-league debut; the 12,735th player in the history of the game. That Tuesday afternoon in April, he went 1-for-5 — a seventh inning double off of Mike Moore in his fourth at-bat of the game. He would not score a run, being stranded at third after a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch drove the runner in front of him home (He also had a teammate with the last name Moore in that game). A surefire future Hall of Famer, Rod Carew, had retired during the offseason, clearing the way for the rookie to become the starting first baseman.
That year, he finished second in Rookie of the Year voting, eighth in the MVP race, and made his only All-Star appearance. He slashed .290/.348/.457 with an OPS+ of 119 in 154 games. With 22 dingers and 100 RBIs, he is still one of only 21 players in the Integration Era to post 100 or more RBIs in his rookie season (Pete Alonso is the most recent, as of this writing). He also had three more sacrifice flies than the guy who beat him for RoY honors. As fuel for the debate – if there still could be one – this first baseman bested the slugger who won the award by 50 points of average, 30 points of OBP, 30 points of OPS, and 0.1 bWAR.
In late August of his inaugural season, his team had wrapped up a two-game sweep of the New York Yankees and he was nearly skewered by a knife thrown from the throngs of brilliant Bronx fanatics.
After his twenties, he became a solid journeyman first baseman and occasional DH. He played for four different teams, including returning to his initial club for his farewell campaign. That season, he only played in 53 games with a 72 OPS+.
You could build a pretty respectable right side of the infield with alumni (including this first baseman) from Redan High School in Stone Mountain, GA, which also boasts Brandon Phillips as a graduate.
For his career, he had essentially identical walk and strikeout rates (10.3% and 10.2%, respectively) and a cool, even .300 Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP). Also, during the span of his career – 16 seasons – he is one of only five hitters with 200 or more homers, 1100+ RBIs, 400+ doubles, an OPS+ of 115 or higher, and 35+ bWAR.
In his final season, he was the sixth-oldest player in the American League. Can you identify this player with a nickname that links him to Chevy Chase?
Ever grateful to Baseball Reference (my StatHead subscription!), FanGraphs, and the SABR Bio Project for information that aided in formulating this trivia question!
If you’re ready to join in the fun, here’s the ANSWER!