Tuesday, October 24, 2017
Whatever Happened to the NEXT Mickey Mantle?
TRIVIA QUESTION: The 1968 Detroit Tigers had a 31 game winner in Denny McLain, but who led the team in Saves?
ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION IN THE PREVIOUS COLUMN: In 1962 the Cleveland Indians finished in sixth place, 43 games behind the pennant winning New York Yankees. Winning only 80 games that year, ace Dick Donovan won 20 of them while losing 10, he completed 16 of his 34 starts and tossed five shutouts. While his ERA was a respectable 3.59 over 250 innings his control was amazing. He walked only 47 batters over the season including five intentionally.
Roger Repoz came up with the New York Yankees in 1964, hailed as the next Mickey Mantle. By June 1966 Yankee brass decided they would look for the next-next Mickey Mantle. Repoz possessed lots of power, a sweet swing, an amazing arm and strong prowess in the outfield and at first base. He was smooth. Despite those attributes his batting average left management cold. Remember, this was the 60's and the BA was important.
In his first full season with New York he hit .220 with 12 homers in 79 games. The following year he played in 138 games and hit fewer homers (11) and only batted .232. His strike outs were high but not abnormally high for a power hitter. Of course if he was supplying the power they projected, he might have stayed with the Bronx Bombers.
The end for Repoz came in June, 1966. Relegated to pinch-hitting (43 at bats in 37 games) he was actually batting well. His average was .349 but he didn't hit any home runs and he was striking out at a rate of one in six at bats. Defensively he played in almost every game at least as a late inning replacement and made just two errors in the outfield. Come June 8th however he batted for the last time as a Yankee. Batting for Mel Stottlemyre in the 8th he popped out to short. The next day the Yanks sent the future Mickey Mantle to Kansas City along with Gil Blanco and Bill Stafford for catcher Billy Bryan and pitcher Fred Talbot. The great experiment was over.
For Repoz it wasn't the end. It was just the finish to a season which looked so promising. With the Athletics he was competing for a spot with Joe Nossek, Larry Stahl and Mike Hershberger. All three were good defenders but with no power and journeyman batting averages in the .250 range. In his first game with the A's, inserted into the line-up in center field for Larry Stahl, he quickly banged out two hits against the Angels in a losing effort. He must have impressed someone in the Angel's brass. Despite going 5 for 24 the rest of the season against the Angels and despite batting a lowly .216 with 11 home runs for the A's, he was shipped to California the next season.
Midway through the 1967 season he was sent to the Angeles for Jack Sanford and Jackie Warner. June was usually a terrible month for Repoz. The Yankees traded him on June 10th, the A's traded him on June 15th and later in 1972 the Angeles traded him on June 10th.
With California he seemed to gain new life. Over the next four seasons he hit double figures in homers three times including a career high 18 in 1970. His average never climbed above ..247 however and by the time his career came to an end in Anaheim, he decided Japan was the place he could finish out his career. The Angels sent him to Baltimore who sent him to Triple A and by now he'd had enough.
In five seasons in Japan, the former "Next Mickey Mantle" found his stroke. He slugged 122 homers, hitting a high of 36 for Yakult in 1976 and batted a foreign career .262. The amazing thing about Repoz however, was he probably fielded better than Mantle in their prime. In a major league career which covered 730 games he made a grand total of just 18 errors in nearly 2000 chances. Only 107 of those games were at First Base and that is where one third of those errors took place. In other words as an outfielder he played in 623 games and committed just 12 errors or one in every 52 games. He also threw out 27 base runners over that time.
Roger Repoz had the sweet swing and he had the gun. He was never able to put it all together.
In 1971, Repoz became the first player in Major League Baseball history to compile an OPS of greater than .700 while putting up a batting average of under .200 and playing in a minimum of 100 games.
Please pick up a copy of my book "Tales of My Baseball Youth; A Child of the 60's" at www.bobbrillbooks.com, or on Amazon.