|ONE WHO DIDN'T MAKE IT AND ANOTHER WHO DID.|
|NETTLES BECAME A FULL-TIME THIRD BASEMAN IN '71.|
THE FRONT PAGE
- With apologies to Danny Morris, who pitched 16 innings in six games over two seasons, this is the rookie card of six-time All-Star
Greg CraigGraig Nettles. It's easy to forget he came up with the Twins before establishing himself as an everyday player with the Indians and an All-Star with the Yankees. He holds the record for most homers by a third baseman with 319. That left-handed home-run stroke was perfectly suited for Yankee Stadium.
THE BACK PAGE
- Morris was a career minor-leaguer, playing nine seasons. Nettles showed in the minors pretty much what he would become: a .250ish hitter with good pop from the left side.
- Morris models that classic Twins cap, Nettles the flapless batting helmet.
- Morris, who had a mid-90s fastball, twice won 16 games in the minors and started two games for the Twins in '68, going 0-1, and one in '69, losing that decision as well.
- Nettles had a few more bullet points during his 22-year career.
- In December '69, the Twins dealt him to the Indians with Dean Chance, Bob Miller and Ted Uhlaender for Luis Tiant and Stan Williams.
- After averaging 25 homers in three seasons with the Indians, Nettles was on the move again in November '72, acquired by the Yankees with Jerry Moses for John Ellis, Jerry Kenney, Charlie Spikes and Rusty Torres. Is it any wonder why the Indians were considered a Yankees' farm team?
- Named AL Player of the Month for April in '74; in September, he was caught with a bat corked with superballs. And here I thought they were just for bouncing off door stoops.
- On Sept. 14, 1974, Nettles and younger brother Jim Nettles became the seventh pair of brothers to homer in the same game. Jim was playing for the Tigers, who lost to the Yankees 10-7. Combined, the Nettles brothers went 5-for-7 with three runs scored and three RBI.
- Graig, who received his distinctive name from his mom who combined Craig and Greg, was named to his first AL All-Star team in '75, hitting .267 with 21 homers and 91 RBI.
- Reached the 30-homer plateau for the first time in '76 before having his career season in '77. Hit a career-high 37 homers and drove in 107 runs to help the Yankees win their first World Series in 14 years. He also won his first Gold Glove.
- Nettles was known as a scrapper and got into two classics. In '76 against the Red Sox, Nettles and Bill Lee mixed it up twice in the same donnybrook. It ended when Nettles landed on top of Lee, whose collarbone was broken.
- In '84 with the Padres, Nettles was part of the famous beanball game against the Braves, charging the mound after Donnie Moore hit him with a pitch in the ninth. All told, nine players, the managers and replacement managers were ejected.
- My most vivid memories of Nettles occurred in Game 3 of the '78 World Series against the Dodgers. While pulling for the Dodgers, I was still mesmerized by Nettles' play at third, stirring memories of Brooks Robinson from the '70 World Series. Because of Nettles' defensive play, the Yankees, down two games to none, won the first of four straight to defend their title.
- Robinson and Nettles pretty much are the gold standard for third base fielding excellence. They have four of the six 400-assist seasons at third base.
- From reading Sparky Lyle's Bronx Zoo and Nettles' own Balls, you get a pretty favorable impression of Nettles: extremely talented yet intelligent with a wicked sense of humor that earned him the nickname "Puff'' for how he disappeared into the woodwork after pulling a practical joke.
- Nettles also starred in a music video in '85. Well, not quite. But he got a mention. At the end of Bruce Springsteen's Glory Days, Springsteen's character laments losing an imaginary game against the Padres because "Nettles got me, bottom of the ninth.'' The video was directed by John Sayles, who also did the marvelous Eight Men Out in '88.
- This sums up Nettles' 11-year tenure with the Yanks: "When I was a little boy, I wanted to be a baseball player and join a circus. With the Yankees, I've accomplished both.''