Too Good to Double Up


Glancing Back, and Remembering Don Buford

Don Buford combined speed and bat control to end his 10-year major league career as the player least likely to hit into a double play – among all players in major league history. In 4,553 official at-bats, Buford grounded into double plays only 34 times in his career. He averaged 1 GDP for every 138 at-bats. Continue reading

Third and Long Ball


Glancing Back, and Remembering Max Alvis

When Max Alvis broke in with the Cleveland Indians in 1963, he seemed destined for stardom. A good-hitting, good-fielding third baseman with power, Alvis was, throughout his brief career, a true professional who could not completely overcome the virus that shortened his stay in the majors.

The Jasper, Texas native was signed by the Indians in 1958. He opened the Tribe’s 1963 season as the team’s starting third baseman, and put up solid offensive numbers: a .274 batting average, 32 doubles, 22 home runs and 67 RBIs. He led the Indians in home runs in 1963, and led all American League third basemen in putouts.

Max Alvis had a solid rookie season for the Cleveland Indians in 1963. He batted .274 with 22 home runs and 67 RBIs.

Max Alvis had a solid rookie season for the Cleveland Indians in 1963. He batted .274 with 22 home runs and 67 RBIs.

Alvis was on his way to an even-better season in 1964. By the end of June, he was batting .251 with 12 home runs and 29 RBIs. Traveling with the team to Boston, he was struck with an intense headache that only got worse with time. He was hospitalized and diagnosed with spiral meningitis. He was told that the illness had been caught in time, and upon his return in August that seemed to be the case. Alvis finished the year batting .252 with 18 home runs and 53 RBIs — in a season shortened for him by nearly six weeks.

Alvis had made a remarkable recovery, though he was never quite the same player afterward.

In 1965 Alvis hit 21 home runs and drove in 61 runs, both fourth best on the team. He was named to the American League All-Star team that season, as he would be again in 1967 when he hit 21 home runs with 70 RBIs. Then over the following two seasons, his numbers declined steadily. By 1969, he was relegated to a part-time role, batting .225 with one home run and 15 RBIs.

After eight seasons with the Indians, Alvis was traded with Russ Snyder to the Milwaukee Brewers for Frank Coggins, Roy Foster and cash. He spent one season with the Brewers, batting .183 in 62 games, before retiring at age 32.

In nine major league seasons, Alvis batted .247 with 111 home runs and 373 RBIs. He was an All-Star twice. He ranks 59th among home run hitters in the 1960s.



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Glancing Back, and Remembering Russ Snyder

Russ Snyder could find many ways to help his team, starting with his ability to play any outfield position with equal skill. But he was more than just a defensive replacement. Snyder batted .280 or better in half of his 12 major league seasons, with a .300 or better on-base percentage in 10 of the first 11 seasons that he played.

Snyder played 7 seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, hitting .305 in 1962 and .306 in 1966

Snyder played 7 seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, hitting .305 in 1962 and .306 in 1966

Snyder was signed by the New York Yankees in 1953 and toiled for six years in the Yankees’ farm system until he was acquired by the Kansas City Athletics in 1959. He opened the season with his new team and played 73 games in his rookie campaign, batting .313 and finishing third in the balloting for American League Rookie of the Year (won in 1959 by Bob Allison). He hit .260 for the A’s in 1960, and after the season’s end was traded with Whitey Herzog to the Baltimore Orioles for Jim Archer, Bob Boyd, Wayne Causey, Clint Courtney and Al Pilarcik.

Snyder played seven seasons in Baltimore, hitting .305 in 1962 and .306 in 1966, the same year that he set personal highs in doubles (21) and RBIs (41). He batted a combined .280 during his tour in Baltimore.

In November of 1967, the Orioles traded Snyder with Luis Aparicio and John Matias to the Chicago White Sox for Don Buford, Bruce Howard and Roger Nelson. He played only a little more than two months in Chicago when he was traded to the Cleveland Indians for Leon Wagner. Snyder hit a combined .241 for Chicago and Cleveland in 1968, and then batted .248 in a full season in Cleveland for 1969. In the off-season he was traded one more time: with Max Alvis to the Milwaukee Brewers for Frank Coggins, Roy Foster and cash. Snyder hit .232 for the Brewers in 1970, and retired with 984 hits and a career batting average of .271.


Who’s Your Daddy Wags?


Homer Happy: Leon Wagner

Leon Wagner was signed by the New York Giants as an amateur free agent in 1954, and joined the big league club for 74 games in the 1958 season, batting .317 with 13 home runs and 35 RBIs in only 221 at-bats.

Leon Wagner and Mickey Mantle were All-Star teammates in 1963.

Leon Wagner and Mickey Mantle were All-Star teammates in 1963.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, it wasn’t that hard for a talented ballplayer – especially one who could hit with power – to get lost in the San Francisco Giants outfield. When Wagner joined the Giants in 1958 after spending the previous six years in the minors and in the Army, he saw the likes of Willie Mays, Felipe Alou, Jackie Brandt and even a youngster named Willie McCovey ahead of him. There was no room in the lineup on a team loaded with power, and no room in the outfield for a player who occasionally had trouble judging fly balls.

Wagner was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1960, but there was little opportunity to break into an outfield that featured Stan Musial, Curt Flood and Joe Cunningham.

Wagner’s break came in 1961. Traded by the Cardinals to Toronto in the International League, he was then dealt to the expansion Los Angeles Angels for outfielder Lou Johnson. As the everyday left fielder for the Angels, Wagner hit .280 with 28 home runs and 79 RBIs in 1961. He followed up in 1962 with 37 home runs and 107 RBIs as the Angels surprised the baseball world by finishing third in the American League. In 1963, Wagner hit .291 for the Angels with 26 home runs and 90 RBIs, making the All-Star team for the second consecutive year.

Following the 1963 season, the Angels traded Wagner to the Cleveland Indians for pitcher Barry Latman and first baseman Joe Adcock. Wagner had his best seasons with the Tribe, hitting 34 home runs with 100 RBIs in 1964. In 4-plus campaigns with Cleveland, Wagner averaged 24 home runs and 75 RBIs per season. In 1968, Cleveland dealt Wagner to the Chicago White Sox for outfielder Russ Snyder. He served mostly as a pinch hitter for the White Sox in 1968 and for the San Francisco Giants in 1969, retiring after the 1969 season.

A fan and media favorite throughout his 12-season career, “Daddy Wags” batted a career .272 with 211 home runs and 669 RBIs.