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Tommie Agee
Center fielder
Born: August 9, 1942(1942-08-09)
Magnolia, Alabama
Died: January 22, 2001 (aged 58)
Manhattan, New York
Batted: Right Threw: Right 
MLB debut
September 14, 1962 for the Cleveland Indians
Last MLB appearance
September 30, 1973 for the St. Louis Cardinals
Career statistics
Batting average     .255
Home runs     130
Runs batted in     433
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Tommie Lee Agee (August 9, 1942 - January 22, 2001) was a Major League Baseball center fielder most noted for making two of the greatest catches in World Series history, both of which occurred in game three of the 1969 World Series.

Contents

Cleveland Indians

Agee was born in Magnolia, Alabama and played baseball and football at Mobile County Training High School with future New York Mets teammate Cleon Jones. After one season at Grambling State University (1961), Agee signed with the Cleveland Indians for a $60,000 bonus.

After two seasons in the Indians' farm system, Agee received a September call-up to Cleveland in 1962. With the Indians already behind 11-1 to the Minnesota Twins, Agee made his major league debut on September 14 at Metropolitan Stadium pinch-hitting for pitcher Bill Dailey in the ninth inning.[2] He received September call-ups to the majors the following two seasons as well, playing a total of 31 games with the Indians in which he batted .170 with one home run and five runs batted in. Following the 1964 season, he was dealt to the Chicago White Sox with Tommy John as part of a three team blockbuster trade between the Indians, ChiSox and Kansas City Athletics that returned All-Star Rocky Colavito to the Indians.

Chicago White Sox

Agee batted just .226 with the Pacific Coast League's Indianapolis Indians, and .158 in ten games with the White Sox in 1965. After earning the starting center fielder job in Spring training 1966, he hit a two-run home run in the season opener,[3] and was batting .264 with nine home runs and 38 RBIs to be named the White Sox's sole representative at the 1966 Major League Baseball All-Star Game.[4] He ended the season with a .273 batting average, 22 home runs and 86 RBIs to earn American League Rookie of the Year honors, while his defense in center field earned him a Gold Glove.

Agee was batting .247 with ten home runs and 35 RBIs to earn his second consecutive All-Star selection in 1967. His production fell off considerably in the second half of the season (he hit only four home runs after the All-Star break), and ended the season batting .234 with 52 RBIs. Though they finished the season in fourth place, Chicago finished only three games back of the first place Boston Red Sox, and battled Boston, the Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins until the final week of the season. On a team loaded with pitching and short on offense (no regular batted over .241), the team's lack of offense possibly cost the White Sox the American League pennant.

To alleviate this problem, the White Sox imported perennial .300 hitter Tommy Davis, along with pitcher Jack Fisher and two minor leaguers, from the New York Mets for Agee and Al Weis.

New York Mets[5]

The spot where Agee's home run landed at Shea Stadium. The marker was removed during the demolition of Shea Stadium and was sold to a private collector, who has it on display in his backyard

Agee was beaned by Bob Gibson on the very first pitch thrown to a Mets batter in Spring training 1968. At the beginning of the regular season, he went 0 for 10 in a 24 inning affair with the Houston Astros[6] that saw his batting average go from .313 to .192. It led to an 0 for 34 slump that brought his average all the way down to .102. For the season, he batted .217 with five home runs and only 17 RBIs.

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Amazin' Mets

Agee got off to an immediate, and hot start in 1969. He enjoyed his first career multi-home run game in the third game of the season,[7] against the Montreal Expos, one of which went halfway up in section 48 of the left field upper deck at Shea Stadium, a feat that was never matched. Expos right fielder Mack Jones says the ball was still rising when it came into contact with the stands. To commemorate the homer, there was a painted sign in that section of the stadium with Agee's name, uniform number, and the date. He also had his first four hit game on May 2 (4 for 4 with a walk and a home run).[8]

By May 21, Agee was batting over .300, and the Mets won their third game in a row for a .500 winning percentage 36 games into the season for the first time in franchise history. This was followed by a five game losing streak that saw the Mets fall into fourth place in the newly aligned National League East.

The Mets then went on an eleven game winning streak that included a two home run, four hit performance by Agee against the San Francisco Giants in the final game of the streak.[9] By this point, the Mets were in second place, seven games back of the Chicago Cubs.

The Mets were two and a half games back on September 8 when the Cubs came to Shea to open a crucial two game series with the Mets. Cubs starter Bill Hands knocked down the first batter he faced, Agee, who had been moved into the lead-off spot in the line-up, in the bottom half of the first inning. Jerry Koosman hit the next Cubs batter he faced, Ron Santo, in the hand, breaking it. Agee himself retaliated by hitting a two run home run in the third, and scored the winning run of the game on a Wayne Garrett single in the sixth inning.[10]

The Mets swept the Expos in a double header on September 10. Coupled with a Cubs loss, the Mets moved into first place for the first time ever during the 1969 season. The Mets will not relinquish their lead from this point. On September 24, the New York Mets clinch the NL East as Donn Clendenon hit two home runs in a 6-0 Mets win over Steve Carlton and the St. Louis Cardinals (who struck out a record nineteen Mets nine days earlier in a losing effort). For the season, Agee batted .271 while leading his team with 26 home runs, 97 runs scored and 76 RBIs. Along with Cy Young Award winner Tom Seaver and Cleon Jones, he was one of three Mets to finish in the top ten in NL MVP balloting, and was named the NL Comeback Player of the Year.

1969 World Series

Agee batted .357 with two home runs and four RBIs in the Mets' three game sweep of the Atlanta Braves in the 1969 National League Championship Series. The Mets were heavy underdogs heading into the World Series against the mighty Baltimore Orioles, and following a 4-1 loss in the series opener with Seaver on the mound,[11] it seemed as if the Mets had little chance against the Orioles.

This was not the case, as the Mets won the second game of the series in Baltimore.[12] In game three, Agee had what Sports Illustrated called the greatest single performance by a center fielder in World Series history.[13] In the first inning, Agee hit a leadoff home run off Jim Palmer for what would eventually be the game winning hit and RBI, as the Mets shut out the Orioles, 5-0 (Interestingly, two other Mets would also hit Game 3 lead-off home runs in subsequent World Series: Wayne Garrett in the 1973 World Series and Lenny Dykstra in the 1986 World Series).[14]

In the same game, Agee also made two incredible catches that potentially saved five runs. The first was a two-on, two out liner to left center by Elrod Hendricks, for which Agee had to sprint across the outfield and snare the drive in the webbing of his glove, a millisecond before he hit the wall. The second catch was on a fly ball hit by Paul Blair with the bases loaded in the seventh inning, for which Agee had to sprint toward the right center field warning track. As Agee zeroed in on the ball, the wind blew it down and away from him, forcing him to lunge into a headfirst dive to snare the sinking liner, after which he rolled in the warning track but held onto the ball. At that moment, Blair was rounding second. Had Agee missed the ball, the Orioles might have had an inside the park grand slam home run. On an historical note, Blair's drive came off Nolan Ryan, who had just entered the game in relief of Mets' starting pitcher Gary Gentry. This would be the only time Ryan would appear in a Fall Classic game in his 27-year career.

1970-1972

Agee began the 1970 season by going on a twenty game hitting streak from April 16 to May 9. He enjoyed one of the finest games of his career on June 12, when he went four for five with two home runs and four runs scored,[15] and hit for the cycle on July 6.[16] For the season, Agee batted .286, and established a Mets season record for hits with 182, runs with 107, and stolen bases with 31. He also won his second Gold Glove award, making him the first African-American to win a Gold Glove in both leagues.

Chronic knee injuries hampered Agee in 1971 and 1972, though he still batted .285 and tied for the Mets lead with fourteen home runs in 1971. In 1972, he finished second on the Mets with 47 RBIs despite batting only .227.

Astros, Cards & Dodgers

Following the 1972 season, Agee was traded to the Houston Astros for Rich Chiles and Buddy Harris. He faced the Mets for the first time in his career on April 24, and went two for three with a walk and a run scored in the Astros' 4-2 victory.[17] He was batting .235 with eight home runs and fifteen RBIs when the Astros dealt him to the St. Louis Cardinals on August 18, who were in a battle with the Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL East. Following the season, he was dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers, but was released during Spring training. Though he never made a regular season appearance with the Dodgers, his final baseball card was #630T in the 1974 Topps Traded series, which depicted him as a Dodger.

Retirement

After retirement, he operated the Outfielder's Lounge near Shea Stadium. Agee was also known as the most active former Met, taking part in many charitable events and children's baseball clinics around both the New York area and Mobile.

Agee had a heart attack while leaving a Midtown Manhattan office building in the late morning on January 22, 2001, and died of at Bellevue Hospital Center in Manhattan, New York at age 58. He is survived by his wife, Maxine, and a daughter, Janelle.[18] He was posthumously inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame in 2002.

Preceded by
Curt Blefary
American League Rookie of the Year
1966
Succeeded by
Rod Carew
Preceded by
Alex Johnson
NL Comeback Player of the Year
1969
Succeeded by
Jim Hickman
Preceded by
Rico Carty
Major League Player of the Month
June, 1970
Succeeded by
Bill Singer

See also

References

  1. ^ "Alabama Sports Hall of Fame". http://www.ashof.org/index.php?src=directory&srctype=display&id=275&submenu=Inductees&view=company_detail. Retrieved 2010-01-02.  
  2. ^ "Minnesota Twins 11, Cleveland Indians 1". Baseball-reference.com. 1962-09-14. http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/MIN/MIN196209140.shtml.  
  3. ^ "Chicago White Sox 3, California Angels 2". Baseball-reference.com. 1966-04-12. http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CHA/CHA196604120.shtml.  
  4. ^ "1966 All-Star Game". Baseball-reference.com. 1966-07-12. http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NLS/NLS196607120.shtml.  
  5. ^ "Tommie Agee". Ultimate Mets Database. http://www.ultimatemets.com/profile.php?PlayerCode=0160. Retrieved 2009-01-02.  
  6. ^ "Houston Astros 1, New York Mets 0". Baseball-reference.com. 1968-04-15. http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/HOU/HOU196804150.shtml.  
  7. ^ "New York Mets 4, Montreal Expos 2". Baseball-reference.com. 1969-04-10. http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYN/NYN196904100.shtml.  
  8. ^ "Chicago Cubs 6, New York Mets 4". Baseball-reference.com. 1969-05-02. http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CHN/CHN196905020.shtml.  
  9. ^ "New York Mets 9, San Francisco Giants 4". Baseball-reference.com. 1969-06-10. http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/SFN/SFN196906100.shtml.  
  10. ^ "New York Mets 3, Chicago Cubs 2". Baseball-reference.com. 1969-09-08. http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYN/NYN196909080.shtml.  
  11. ^ "1969 World Series Game One". Baseball-reference.com. 1969-10-11. http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/BAL/BAL196910110.shtml.  
  12. ^ "1969 World Series Game Two". Baseball-reference.com. 1969-10-12. http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/BAL/BAL196910120.shtml.  
  13. ^ "Agee steals the show in four-hit shutout by Gentry & Ryan". 1969-10-14. http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/baseballs_best/mlb_bb_gamepage.jsp?story_page=bb_69ws_gm3_balnym.  
  14. ^ "Tommie Agee". Armchair GM. http://armchairgm.wikia.com/index.php?title=Tommie_Agee. Retrieved 2009-01-02.  
  15. ^ "New York Mets 6, Atlanta Braves 1". Baseball-reference.com. 1970-06-12. http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYN/NYN197006120.shtml.  
  16. ^ "New York Mets 10, St. Louis Cardinals 3". Baseball-reference.com. 1970-07-06. http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYN/NYN197007060.shtml.  
  17. ^ "Houston Astros 4, New York Mets 2". Baseball-reference.com. 1973-04-24. http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/HOU/HOU197304240.shtml.  
  18. ^ "Tommie Agee, of Miracle Mets, Dies at 58". New York Times. 2001-01-23. http://www.nytimes.com/2001/01/23/sports/tommie-agee-of-miracle-mets-dies-at-58.html.  

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