When the Pirates signed Bob Bailey, they handed him the largest signing bonus at the time. Needless to say, expectations were high for the young third baseman and he ultimately failed to live up to those lofty demands placed on his future. Although he never became a star in Pittsburgh, Bailey came to prominence north of the border with the expansion Expos. A good power hitter with fine plate discipline, Bailey was occasionally among the league leaders in free passes accepted.
The Pirates gave their highly touted prospect his first look at the Major League level in 1962 with a 14 game trial. With his hefty bonus and the Sporting News’ Minor League Player of the Year tag, Bucco fans were expecting a huge return. An everyday player in ’63, Bob led National League third basemen in stolen bases but his batting average, slugging average and on-base percentages were all relatively weak. He raised his batting average from .228 to .281 in 1964–the highest it would ever reach in Pittsburgh.
In 1965, Bailey was one of just three National League infielders to reach double digits in both homeruns and stolen bases. Although he reached new heights in on-base percentage and slugging average in 1966, the Pirates traded him after the season to his hometown Los Angeles Dodgers for veteran speedster Maury Wills. Bailey’s return trip home was a disaster. Bob hit .227 his first year with the Dodgers and when he posted an identical .227 mark in 1968, the Dodgers practically handed him to the expansion Montreal Expos for the 1969 season.
Bob finally achieved the stardom that he was expected to obtain in Pittsburgh with the Expos in 1970. Never a star with the leather, Bob saw action at the infield corners and in left field, as skipper Gene Mauch tried different methods to get Bob’s booming bat in the lineup. In his breakout 1970 season, Bailey blasted 28 homeruns, drove in 84 runs and posted a .407 on-base percentage. His slugging average flirted with the .600 plateau before settling in at .597 at season’s end.
By the early 1970s, Bob began to show a keen batting eye. He led National League infielders with 97 walks in 1971. After a down year with 16 homeruns in 1972, he bounced back in ’73 by blasting 26 long balls and driving in 86 runs. In top form in 1974, Bailey drew 100 walks, hit .280 and had a nifty .396 on-base percentage–third highest mark in the senior circuit. His 1975 season was limited by injury and afterwards he was never again a regular.
Bailey was traded to the defending champion Reds for Clay Kirby for the 1976 season and he served as a powerful bat off the Reds bench. Cincy romped their way to another World Series title in ’76 and since they swept the Fall Classic, Bob wasn’t used in a single game. He ended his career two years later as a reserve with the Boston Red Sox.
G 1,931,R 772/H 1,564/2B 234/3B 43/HR 189/RBI 773/SB 85/BB 852/SO 1,126/BA .257/SA .403/OBP .347