A selective power hitter, Big John Mayberry wasn’t like many free-swinging sluggers of his day. The hulking first baseman led the American League twice in walks drawn and topped the circuit in on-base percentage once. Although he wasn’t a high average hitter, Big John posted above average on-base percentages and fine power totals. He topped 20 homeruns in eight separate seasons.
Mayberry was originally drafted in the first round by the Houston Astros in 1967. Houston gave the left-handed hitter cups of coffee in 1968 and ’69. He got into 50 games in 1970 as a 21-year-old, and slightly fewer contests in 1971. However, in the latter campaign, Mayberry showed his power potential by swatting seven homers in under 140 at-bats. But, Big John’s batting average was a measly .182 and since Houston had a young Bob Watson in town, they traded Mayberry to the Kansas City Royals for the 1972 season.
The Royals made out like bandits as Big John came into his own in Kansas City. He exploded onto the scene in 1972 when he became the first Kansas City Royals player to reach 100 RBI. Of all the first basemen in the American League, only slugger Dick Allen reached 100 RBI with Big John. But he was just getting warmed up. Near the top of his game in ’73, Mayberry was named to his first All-Star Game as he led the league in walks, on-base percentage and intentional free passes. His 26 long balls topped AL first basemen and he fashioned another 100 RBI season.
Mayberry struggled through the 1974 season but he bounced back nicely to enjoy his best season in 1975. As the MVP runner-up to Freddie Lynn, John led the AL with 119 walks. The master blaster was clearly the top first baseman in the junior circuit, indicated by leading his position peers in doubles, runs and slugging average. He also had career highs in homeruns (34) and RBI (106). More importantly, the young Royals were becoming a force in the American League.
The Royals captured the AL West flag in 1976 and had the first of many ALCS showdowns with the New York Yankees. In the ’76 ALCS, Mayberry blasted a homerun, but the Bronx Bombers were victorious. The following year Big John blasted 23 homeruns and added another in an ALCS loss to the Yankees. After hitting .232 in 1976 and just .230 in 1977, the Royals decided to go in another direction and sold Mayberry’s contract to the Toronto Blue Jays.
North of the border, Mayberry got back on track, raising his batting average 20 points in 1978 and another 24 points in 1979. In 1980, Mayberry had one of his best power seasons when he socked 30 homeruns–Hall of Famer Eddie Murray was the only other Major League first baseman to reach the 30 homerun plateau. He finished seventh in homeruns in the strike shortened 1981 campaign–his last good year. He split the ’82 season between the Blue Jays and Yankees before ending his career.
G 1,620/R 733/H 1,379/2B 211/3B 19/HR 255/RBI 879/SB 20/BB 881/SO 810/BA .253/SA .439/OBP .360