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Graig Nettles

Third baseman
Born: August 20, 1944 (1944-08-20) (age 65)
San Diego, California
Batted: Left Threw: Right 
MLB debut
September 6, 1967 for the Minnesota Twins
Last MLB appearance
October 1, 1988 for the Montreal Expos
Career statistics
Batting average     .248
Home runs     390
Runs batted in     1,314
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Graig Nettles (born August 20, 1944, in San Diego, California) (nicknamed Puff) is a former Major League Baseball third baseman and left-handed batter who played for the Minnesota Twins (1967-69), Cleveland Indians (1970-72), New York Yankees (1973-83), San Diego Padres (1984-86), Atlanta Braves (1987) and Montreal Expos (1988).

Nettles was one of the best defensive third basemen of all time, and despite his relatively low career batting average, he was an excellent offensive contributor, setting an American League record for career home runs by a third baseman. As a part of four pennant-winning Yankee teams, Nettles enjoyed his best season in 1977 when he won the Gold Glove Award and had career-highs in home runs (37) and runs batted in (107) in leading the Yankees to the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Contents

Early life

His unusual name derives from his mother's dislike of the names Greg and Craig - and her combining the two to produce 'Graig'. "My Dad was away at the war, so he didn't have any say".[1]

He played collegiate baseball with the Aztecs of San Diego State University where he was a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.

Career

Nettles' most clutch performance came in the field, during Game 3 of the 1978 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Yankee Stadium in back of 25-game-winning lefty Ron Guidry. With the Dodgers leading two games to none, Nettles made several plays at the hot corner to stop potential run-scoring hits, and helping the Yankees gain a key win in the series. New York went on to win the next three contests and clinch the world championship.

In his 22-season career, Nettles hit .248 with 390 home runs and 1,314 RBI in 2,700 games. He had a career fielding percentage of .964, exceptional for the hot corner (third base). After retiring at age 43, Nettles coached for the Yankees (1991) and Padres (1995).

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Illegal bat

On September 7, 1974, Nettles, then with the New York Yankees, was caught using a bat that had six superballs inside it. He said that he had received the bat from a Yankees fan in Chicago and did not know that the bat had been altered. [1]

Brothers' milestone

On September 14, 1974, Nettles and his brother Jim homered in the same game, joining a select club that includes Bret and Aaron Boone, José and Héctor Cruz, Felipe and César Crespo, Al and Tony Cuccinello, Joe and Dom DiMaggio, and Rick and Wes Ferrell. The seven sets of brothers hit their homers playing for opposing teams.

After baseball

On March 21, 2008 he announced that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer in late November 2007 and would undergo surgery at Manhattan's Sloan Kettering Hospital on April 8.

He now resides in Lenoir City, Tennessee, a suburb of Knoxville, Tennessee. Graig and his wife Ginger have four children: Mike, Barrie, Tim and Jeff.

Facts

  • The controversial book Balls (Putnam, 1984) is a memoir of Nettles's baseball career written in collaboration with Peter Golenbock, in which the player criticizes George Steinbrenner, the ostentatious Yankees owner, and some players as well. When the book's advance promotion came to Steinbrenner's attention in March 1984, Nettles was summarily traded to the San Diego Padres.
  • During a brawl in a game against the Boston Red Sox in 1976, Nettles, who was on second base at the onset of the brawl, tackled Boston pitcher Bill Lee from behind. When it appeared that the dust had settled and the brawl was over, Lee confronted Nettles for tackling him from behind. The fracas resumed when Nettles swung at Lee. More players joined in the fray and Nettles broke Lee's collarbone when they went down in the pile. He was arguably never the same pitcher he was before the incident, though he continued to be a thorn in the Yankees' side for a few more years with Boston. However, the Yankees continued to win the division during this time and the incident added to the storied Yankees–Red Sox rivalry.
  • Baseball writer Bill James noted in his 1984 Baseball Abstract that Nettles is arguably the best position player. i.e. non-pitcher, in major league history whose surname begins with the letter "N." As of 2009 this judgment appears to hold up: the only 3 players elected to the baseball Hall of Fame with "N" surnames are pitchers Hal Newhouser, Kid Nichols and Phil Niekro.
  • As of 2008, Nettles holds the single-season Major League record for assists by a third baseman, and is tied with Brooks Robinson for second-most. His 412 assists in 1971 broke the record shared by Harlond Clift in 1937 and Robinson in 1967. In 1973 he recorded 410 assists, breaking Clete Boyer's New York Yankee record of 396 in 1962; Robinson would tie this mark in 1974. To date, Nettles and Robinson have four of the six 400-assist seasons by a third baseman in Major League history.
  • He is a big fan of comedian Artie Lange. Apparently when Lange stays at hotels he uses Nettles's name. He was mentioned several times by the comedian on Howard Stern's Sirius show on July 21, 2008.

Quotations

Graig Nettles was known for having a quick, sardonic wit. Among his remarks were:

  • When I was a little boy, I wanted to be a baseball player and join the circus. With the Yankees I have accomplished both. [2]
  • [On George Steinbrenner's 1970s habit of appearing in the Yankee locker room to deliver pep talks] "The more we lose, the more Steinbrenner will fly in. And the more he flies, the better the chance there will be for a plane crash."[3]
  • [Discussing reliever Sparky Lyle's abrupt displacement in the bullpen by Goose Gossage] In one year, Sparky Lyle went from Cy Young to sayonara.
  • "The best thing about being a Yankee is getting to watch Reggie Jackson play every day. The worst thing about being a Yankee? Getting to watch Reggie Jackson play every day."
  • (another shot at former teammate Reggie Jackson) "If Babe Ruth were alive today, he wouldn't be able to bat cleanup. He didn't strike out enough. I guess I'm not able to bat cleanup because I don't strike out enough."
  • Nettles was also on the receiving end of teammates' wit. While riding through Cleveland (his previous town) on the team bus, Oscar Gamble announced that Clevelanders must still remember and appreciate Nettles, because they named a street after him. Nettles looked out the window to see the sign: "E5." (the term for an error by the third baseman)

See also

References

  1. ^ Paperback 'Balls' by Graig Nettles and Peter Golenbock, page 19
  2. ^ Today in Baseball History - December 27
  3. ^ Damn Yankees

External links

Preceded by
Reggie Jackson & George Scott
American League Home Run Champion
1976
Succeeded by
Jim Rice
Preceded by
Frank White
American League Championship Series MVP
1981
Succeeded by
Fred Lynn
Preceded by
Thurman Munson
New York Yankees team captain
January 29, 1982 to March 30, 1984
Succeeded by
Willie Randolph & Ron Guidry

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