ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION IN THE PREVIOUS COLUMN: In1964 the San Francisco Giants had an abundance of outfielders and decided to trade Matty Alou to Pittsburgh. The one guy they decided to keep for another year was Orlando Cepeda. The following year when they sent Cepeda to St. Louis, he won the MVP award. They trade Alou and he wins the NL batting crown, they trade Cepeda and he wins the NL MVP.
Few position players who reach the major leagues and stay for "a career" ever go through that entire career without hitting a home run. Woody Woodward was that guy; almost. When Woodward broke into the big leagues in 1963 with the "then" Milwaukee Braves no one figured him to break Babe Ruth's records or even challenge teammate Henry Aaron. He was known as a decent field-no hit infielder in a group of lesser fielding players who were on the team rotating around the second sack.
Mike de la Hoz, Frank Bolling, Denis Menke, Sandy Alomar and Roy McMillan. None of them would drive fear into opposing pitchers and none of them, save McMillan possibly, would hold out hope for a gold glove. Woodward himself would fit right in. Between them in 1964 they would smack 24 home runs. Twenty of them by Menke. The 1960's Braves could hit with the likes of Aaron, Joe Torre, Felipe Alou, Eddie Mathews and at times players such as Rico Carty, Mack Jones and Gene Oliver. Hitting was not their problem and even the pitching was at times outstanding.
On the mound they had stalwarts such as Tony Clonigar, Denny Lemaster, Wade Blasingame and an aging Warren Spahn. These Braves were good but what they lacked was that strong middle infield duo to back the pitching and get on base ahead of the hitters. They traded for players, they worked the farm system and really nothing much happened.
Woodward himself was a sort of strange case. He was adequate in the field. As a hitter he was serviceable. Dependable probably is more the word Braves fans might use to describe him. The interesting thing about Woodward though was his lack of power. He spent the 1960's without a home run.
In 1964 he batted 123 times without a dinger. Forgivable since he really was a rookie getting his feet wet. The following season he played in 112 games and came to the plate 280 times. Still no homers. In 1966 he became a regular, playing in 144 games and reaching his lifetime best 516 plate appearances. Of his 26 extra base hits that season, none left the park. The following year, 1967 at age 24, it was pretty much the same scenario. Limited to 80 games in 1968 the Braves sent him to Cincinnati who needed an infielder and thought Woodward would be their guy. No home runs there either. When 1969 rolled around he would close out the decade playing in 644 games and still never leaving the park.
WoodyWoodward has spent nearly the entire decade of the 1969's, seven seasons and 1825 plate appearances without ever hitting a home run. Today, in the days of launch levels and "lift" he may not even make the major league club; any major league club.
Then on July 10, 1970 after nearly 2000 trips to the plate, he would hit his first and only home run. Ironically it came as a two run shot off Ron Reed of the Atlanta Braves, the team which he played for until two years earlier. Woodward would say afterwards "If I hit one home run for every seven seasons, it will take me 4,998 seasons to catch babe Ruth."
While Woodward was never the Babe Ruth of anything he did end up being a pretty good general manager. Early in his GM career he didn't last long with the Yankees or the Phillies, but as head of the Seattle Mariners he took the team to the playoffs in 1995 and 1997. During that time he drafted Alex Rodriguez, Jason Varitek, Bret Boone and Derek Lowe. He also acquired Randy Johnson from Montreal. He also traded away David Ortiz who became of the greatest clutch home run hitters in baseball. Then again, Woody Woodward never did know much about home runs.
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.