Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Lots of Hart

TRIVIA QUESTION: Jim Hart, Willie Mays and Willie McCovey were the most feared middle three of the NL line-ups during the stretch of 1965-1967, with a total of 302 homers. Which team finished second behind the Giants using the same three players in all three years?   

ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION IN THE PREVIOUS COLUMN:   While the 1962 Detroit Tigers led the American League in home runs with 209, they just barely outpaced the San Francisco Giants who led the NL with 204.

One of the more feared hitters in the middle 1960's, Jim Ray Hart, was the third cog in the San Francisco Giants wheel behind Willie Mays and Willie McCovey. He was the model of consistency for four years, derailed only by his defensive play which eventually moved him off the position where he nearly became rookie of the year; Third Base.
 When Hart arrived on the scene in 1964, so did Dick Allen. Allen also played third base. Hart tied Rico Carty for second place behind Allen who was also know for his defensive lapses. In fact, if truth be told, all three of these players could hit, none could field above average at best.
Hart's consistency looked like this from 1964-1967:

Games played 153, 160, 156, 158
ABats 625, 649, 636, 665,
HR 31, 23, 33, 29
RBI 81, 96, 93, 99
BA .286, 299, .285, 289

His other stats for those years, Hits, Runs, OPS, OBP, Slugging, nearly everything was within a few points of exactness.

However, in one month in particular he was amazing. In July, 1967 his numbers read: .355, 13 HR, 30 RBI. The Giants were only 14-15 in July, however.

On July 7th he single handedly beat the Dodgers and Bill Singer with a two-run homer, 2-1. The next day, against the hated Dodgers, Hart banged two homers and drove in five runs in an 8-4 win. One of the blasts came off Don Drysdale. Five days later he was a one-man wrecking crew blasting two more homers and driving in three in a 5-4 win over the Astros. The following day he belted another.

A few days later in a 3-2 loss to the Cubs he hit no. 18 on the season. Number 19 came against Steve Blass of the Pirates in a loss. On the 22nd he cracked home run no. 20 on the year as they lost to the Cubs. Then he hit two off Fergie Jenkins in a 5-2 win, Hart driving in three of the five, with nos. 21 & 22. No. 23 was offered up by Joe Niekro, no. 24 was Jack Fisher's turn as Hart drove in three runs in a 5-4 Giants win over the Mets. And that was it. Hart garnered only 4 more hits the rest of the month.
Hart was far from adequate at third base and starting in 1968 began stints in the outfield. Jim Davenport was a much better defender and a key cog in the Giants arsenal as well.

Hart's career numbers after the 1968 season never again achieved what he did over the four year mid-60's span. His MLB career ended in the mid 1970's after a closing session with the Yankees, followed by a brief showing in the Mexican League.

After baseball he worked at Safeway Markets as a ware houseman in northern California, retired in 2006 and passed away in 2016. He compiled 170 homers and a lifetime .278 BA. He also had 134 errors at third base in 13 seasons for a .929 fielding average. He was a four time all-star.  

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