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.
Buford not only knew how to stay out of trouble, but he made trouble for nearly a decade of opposing American League pitchers. A dual-sport star (football and baseball) at the University of Southern California, Buford was signed by the Chicago White Sox in 1959. After leading the International League in hitting in 1963, Buford made the White Sox squad in 1964, hitting .262 as the team’s second baseman.
Buford batted .283 in 1965 and then moved to third base, hitting .244 in 1966. That season, he had a career high in stolen bases (his 51 steals put him second in the American League to Bert Campaneris). His 52 RBIs were second on the team to Tommie Agee (with 86).
After hitting .241 in 1967, Buford was traded with Bruce Howard and Roger Nelson to the Baltimore Orioles for Luis Aparicio, John Matias and Russ Snyder. In Baltimore, his offensive numbers improved dramatically, thanks in part to the improved quality of the hitting that followed him in the Orioles’ batting order. Buford batted .282 with 15 home runs and 46 runs batted in while playing both infield and outfield positions for the Orioles in 1968.
In 1969, he hit .291 with 11 home runs and 64 RBIs as the Orioles’ lead-off hitter. From 1969 through 1971, he scored 99 runs each season, leading the league in runs scored in 1971. That season, he batted .290 and had a career-high 19 home runs with 54 RBIs. He was also an All-Star that season.
Buford played one more season in the major leagues, batting .206 in 1972 and then played for four seasons in Japan. In 10 major league seasons, Buford batted .264 with 1,203 hits.