Introducing… Chris Speier

A former first round pick by the San Francisco Giants, Speier was taken as the second player in the nation in the January phase of the 1970 amateur draft.  The tall, rangy shortstop had a quick route to the Majors.  By 1971, he was the Giants everyday shortstop and he led them to an NL West pennant as a rookie.  Speier enjoyed a long career, spent predominately with the Giants and Expos in the 1970s.  Late in his career he was a valuable reserve for the Cubs and Giants in the mid to late 1980s.

As a rookie in 1971, only Larry Bowa played more games at short in the National League than Speier.  Chris topped senior circuit shortstops in homeruns that season while he led the Giants to the top of the NL West.  Although San Fran lost to the Clemente/Blass led Pirates in the NLCS, Chris hit a lusty .357 during the series.  Many youngsters who enjoy initial success at the highest level suffer from the dreaded Sophomore Jinx in their second campaign, but not Speier.  In fact his 1972 season was his best at the Major League level.  Chris clubbed fifteen homers and drove in 71 runs–both totals were easily the best among Major League shortstops.  But it wasn’t all brawny bashing for Speier.  He fielded his position at a solid .974 clip, finished first with 517 assists and was named to the first of three consecutive All-Star Teams.

For the second straight year, Chris was the only Major League shortstop to post a double-digit homerun total when he swatted eleven long balls in 1973.  He also chased 71 runs across the plate as no other NL shortstop reached 60 RBI.  He finished second in putouts among shortstops and made his second trip to the All-Star Game.  An All-Star again in 1974, Speier’s Giants fell into the second division after the departure of Hall of Fame slugger Willie McCovey.  Chris banged out nine homers and drew 62 walks.  The following year he led NL shortstops in homeruns and RBI again.  The rangy shortstop also posted 30 doubles and had a terrific 70 walks to 50 strikeouts.

But the 1975 season would be the last time Chris would reach double-digits in homeruns until the late 1980s. When his bat went south in 1976 the Giants traded him to the Expos early in 1977 for Tim “Crazy Horse” Foli.  Speier and Ivan DeJesus were the only two National League shortstops to post 30 doubles in ’77.  Although his bat was no longer capable of ten-plus homeruns a season, his leather didn’t suffer.  In 1978, Chris fielded his position at a .975 clip–nine points above league average for shortstops.

Under Hall of Fame skipper Dick Williams, the forever dormant Expos climbed up to second place in 1979.  During the strike-shortened season of 1981, Montreal actually made the postseason and Chris hit a robust .400 in the Division Series against the Phillies.  The following year Speier had one of his last good run-production years.  He drove in 60 runs for the ’82 Expos.  In 1983, Chris began to lose playing time to a younger Bryan Little.  In July of ’84 the Expos traded Chris to the Cardinals but he would finish the year in Minnesota–his only trip to the American League.

In his mid 30s, Chris returned to familiar surroundings when he came home to the National League.  He signed a free agent deal with the Chicago Cubs to serve as a reserve for Shawon Dunston and Ryne Sandberg.  Speier’s best single season batting average came in his final Wrigley Field campaign when he hit .284 for the ’86 Cubs.  After the 1986 season Chris returned home to the Giants and became a very handy reserve for Roger Craig’s squad.  As a 37-year-old veteran, Speier played 55 games at second, 44 at third and 22 at shortstop.  The Giants won the NL West but were defeated by the Cardinals in the NLCS.  Chris would play two more seasons before hanging up his spikes.

THE NUMBERS

G 2,260/R 770/H 1,759/2B 302/3B 50/HR 112/RBI 720/SB 42/BB 847/SO 988/BA .246/OBP .327/SA .349

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