Glancing Back, and Remembering Rico Carty
Rico Carty was born to hit. He had a powerful upper body that suggested home run power, but his slashing compact swing was better suited to blistering line drives that produced plenty of runs – and one National League batting title – during his 15-year major league career.
Carty was signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1959 as a catcher, but his limitations defensively caused him to be converted to being an outfielder, his bat being so potent that he had to be in the lineup. Carty spent four years in the Braves’ minor league system, and he made a smashing rookie debut in 1964, hitting .330 (second in the National League to Roberto Clemente) with 22 home runs and 88 RBIs. He was runner-up to Dick Allen for Rookie of the Year honors that season.
Carty hit .310 for the Braves in 1965 and followed with a .326 batting average in 1966. A shoulder injury limited his hitting to .255 in 1967, and he sat out the entire 1968 season battling tuberculosis. He came back strong in 1969 with a .342 batting average, and he followed up with his best season in 1970: leading the National League with a .366 average while blasting 25 home runs with 101 RBIs.
During the winter season in 1970, Carty severely injured his knee while playing in the Dominican League and missed the entire 1971 season. He came back in 1972 hitting .277, which would be his best performance at the plate over the next five seasons, making stops with the Chicago Cubs, the Texas Rangers and the Oakland Athletics during that period.
His career rebounded as he became a designated hitter with the Cleveland Indians, hitting .308 with 64 RBIs in 1975 and .310 with 83 RBIs in 1976. He split the 1978 season with Toronto and Oakland, hitting a combined .282 with 99 RBIs and a career-high 31 home runs. Carty retired after hitting .256 for Toronto in 1979.
Carty collected 1,677 hits with a career batting average of .299. He was an All-Star only once, in 1970, when he was voted into the starting outfield (along with Willie Mays and Hank Aaron) despite not even being listed on the All-Star ballot.