The Glove Club: Vic Power
As talented as he was as a hitter, Vic Power’s legacy came from his glove and his then-unique fielding style that has redefined how first base is played today.
Vic Power revolutionized first base defense on his way to winning 7 consecutive Gold Gloves.
Power was born Victor Pellot in Puerto Rico and was signed by the New York Yankees in 1951. Despite his success in the Yankees’ minor league system (hitting .331 in Triple-A in 1952 and .349 in 1953 – with no “call up” either season), the Yankees never played Power but sent him to the Philadelphia Athletics in December 1953 as part of an 11-player deal. He batted .255 as an outfielder in his 1954 rookie season. In 1955, the A’s moved to Kansas City, and Power moved from the outfield to first base. He batted .319 (second in the American League to Al Kaline) 2ith 19 home runs and 76 RBIs. He also had 34 doubles and 10 triples in 1955.
Power followed up in 1956 with a .309 batting average. After hitting .259 in 1957, Power batted .312 in 1958 in a season split between Kansas City and the Cleveland Indians. Power was traded to the Indians with shortstop Woodie Held in the deal that brought Roger Maris to the A’s (en route to the New York Yankees). Power led the American League with 10 triples that season, and drove in 80 runs.
The 1958 season was also the first season that the Gold Glove awarded, and Power won the first one for his play at first base. He would win it that year and for each of the next six seasons. He established the style of catching the ball one-handed, increasing his reach on throws to first base. It’s the standard for first base play today, but was considered flamboyant when Power introduced this style, though it seemed natural to him.
In an era when teams typically used first base as a defensive default for less than athletic sluggers, Power showed what athleticism at first base could do for an infield’s defense. He shares the record for two unassisted double plays in the same game (as well as being one of the few major league players to steal home twice in a single game). He also led the league in assists at first base a record six consecutive years.
Power spent four seasons in Cleveland, batting a combined .288 and setting his career high with 84 RBIs in 1960. In 1962, Power was traded with Dick Stigman to the Minnesota Twins for Pedro Ramos. He batted .290 for the Twins in 1962 with 16 home runs and 63 RBIs, and was selected as the team’s Most Valuable Player. In 1964, he was involved in a major trade that sent him to the California Angels (with Lenny Green). Power hit .249 as a part-time player for the Angels, and was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies (for pitcher Marcelino Lopez) at the end of the 1964 season. The Angels re-acquired Power and he hit .259 in 1965, his last year in the majors.
Power played for 12 seasons in the major leagues, batting .284 for his career with 1,716 hits. He was selected for the American League All-Star team four times.
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