Introducing… Chris Chambliss

A former number 1 draft pick, American League Rookie of the Year and postseason hero, Chris Chambliss had quite a career in baseball.  But his career is far from over.  The former first baseman has served as a well-respected hitting instructor and currently is a minor league manager.  Chambliss is best remembered for his years with the Yankees in the late 1970s when he was a constant terror against the Kansas City Royals in the classic ALCS showdowns that KC and NY had in the decade.

Originally drafted by the Reds in both 1967 and ’68, Chambliss refused to sign each time but placed his John Hancock on the dotted line when the Indians made him the number one pick in the nation in the 1970 draft.  The left-handed slugger didn’t need much time learning his trade in the bushes.  Cleveland called Chris up to stay in 1971.  He hit .275 as a rookie and won the AL Rookie of the Year Award.  He was even better as a sophomore.  In 1972, he raised his batting average up to .292.

In 1973, Chambliss tied for the most doubles by an American League first baseman with 30 two-baggers.  Although Chris had showed to be a solid .275-.280 hitter with about ten homers, the Indians wanted more thunder at the power position Chris was manning and packaged him in a deal to the Yankees early in the 1974 season.  Joining Chris in New York were solid relief pitchers Dick Tidrow and Cecil Upshaw while the Indians acquired southpaw Fritz Peterson and three other players.  In his first full season with the Yankees, Chambliss was the only .300 hitting first baseman in the American League.

Chris led the Yankees to the postseason in 1976  when he led AL first basemen in doubles and made his lone All-Star team.  In the ALCS, Chris was the man that powered the Yankee offense, as he hit Royals pitching to the tune of a .524 batting average.  He clubbed a pair of homers, drove in eight runs and slugged at a monstrous .952 clip.  The Yankees were swept in the World Series but Chris hit a fine .313. 

The Yankees won the AL East again in 1977 with Chris scoring and driving in 90 runs apiece.  He socked a homerun in the World Series against the Dodgers, hitting LA pitchers at a .292 clip.  For the third straight year, the Yankees copped the AL East flag in 1978 and Chris once again owned Kansas City pitching, hitting them at a .400 clip.  After the ’79 season, the Yankees, in need of a catcher due to the tragic death of Thurman Munson, sent Chris to Toronto for backstop Rick Cerone.  But Chris never suited up for the Blue Jays who quickly packaged him in a deal to Atlanta for outfielder Barry Bonnell and shortstop Pat Rockett.

Never known for much power, Chambliss had his best long ball years in Georgia.  He clubbed 20 homeruns in 1982 and followed that up with an equal 20 in 1983.  His power abandoned him in 1984 and he lost his job to big slugger Bob Horner in 1985.  His last Major League action came with the Yankees in 1988.

THE NUMBERS

G 2,173/R 912/H 2,103/2B 392/3B 42/HR 185/RBI 972/BB 632/SO 926/SB 40/BA .279/SA .415

www.sportsillustrated.com

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1 comment
  1. brettkiser said:

    Chris Chambliss has what appears to be the strongest case for enshrinement on his side: he played for a dynasty. But Chris was a relatively weak hitter at a power post. His homerun total is far too modest for a HOF first baseman from the 1970s. Willie McCovey cracked over 500 career long balls and Chris played right after him, when pitching wasn’t as strong as it was in McCovey’s day. Chambliss’ HOF chances are weak.

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