Glancing Back, and Remembering Dick Nen
The distance between AAA baseball and the major leagues can be only a single step … or a huge gulf. The history of baseball is full of examples of superstars at the AAA level whose impact in the big show became negligible at best.
You’ll find no better example of that than Dick Nen. A first baseman for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Washington Senators and Chicago Cubs, Nen could never quite master major league pitchers after posting towering power numbers in the minors.
Nen was signed by the Dodgers in 1961 off the campus of California State University. His first year in the minors was eye-popping: batting .351 for Reno in the California league with 32 home runs and 144 RBIs. In 1963 he hit .288 with 84 RBIs for AAA Spokane before making his major league debut in Los Angeles, hitting a solo home run as his only hit in seven games with the Dodgers. He spent 1964 back with Spokane, hitting .280 with 18 homers and 67 runs batted in.
The Dodgers had another first base prospect named Wes Parker who was anointed the team’s regular first baseman for the 1965 season. Nen was sent to the Washington Senators to complete the deal that whisked Frank Howard, Ken McMullen and Pete Richert to the Senators and brought Claude Osteen to the Dodgers. Nen started the 1965 season at AAA Hawaii, batting .250 with 17 home runs and 36 RBIs in 82 games before being called up to Washington. He finished the 1965 season batting .260 with six home runs and 31 RBIs through the last 69 games of the season.
It would be his best season with the Senators. Nen batted .213 in 1966 and .218 in 1967, hitting six home runs in each of those seasons. He was purchased by the Chicago Cubs just prior to the 1968 season, hitting .181 for his only season in Chicago. He spent the next four years in the minors after being re-acquired by the Senators, appearing in six games with Washington in 1970.
Nen retired after the 1972 season with a career batting average of .224. He finished with 21 home runs and 107 RBIs in six major league seasons.