Saturday, December 10, 2011

DAHOF Top 100 -- #89 Ralph Garr

Continuing the series of posts featuring my favorite top 100 ballplayers of all-time.

Ralph Garr was the speedy leadoff hitter for the 1977 Chicago White Sox, affectionately known as the "South Side Hitmen". He came to the Sox before the '76 season after spending his first eight years in the majors with the Braves. Garr was one of the many "cast-offs" that new owner Bill Veeck pieced together in an effort to revitalize the Sox franchise and keep them in Chicago.

A native of Louisiana, Garr played college football at Grambling for legendary coach Eddie Robinson. However, it was as a Grambling baseball player that he gained the attention of professional scouts when he hit an astounding .582 in 1967. He was drafted by the Braves in the 3rd round and by 1971 was the everyday leftfielder in Atlanta. He hit .343 and stole 30 bases as a rookie. He collected more than 800 hits in his first four full seasons in the major leagues.

Known as Gator by his friends, the Braves saw a marketing opportunity with Garr’s speed. The club signed an agreement with Warner Brothers for exclusive rights to nickname their new star Road Runner. It was the first licensed nickname for a major league ballplayer.

The 1974 season started off with a bang for Ralph Garr, he was on second base when Hank Aaron hit the record tying 714th HR of his career in Cincinnati. He continued to hit and had 149 of them heading into the All-Star game, a record that stands to this day. He earned a spot on that All-Star team and eventually won the National League batting title with a .353 average. After winning his salary arbitration case to become the highest paid Brave, his average dropped 70 points in 1975 he was unceremoniously shipped north to Chicago.

As a regular with the Sox Ralph Garr was a solid performer batting exactly .300 in both 1976 and 1977, but he never returned to his peak performance period in Atlanta. However, he was at the top of the order in that magical "Hit Man" summer of 1977... where he led Sox with 163 hits. On an interesting historical note: he was the first ever batter to face the new expansion Toronto Blue Jays on April 7th, 1977, he walked, stole second and went to third on the catchers throwing error and scored on Jorge Orta's sacrifice fly.


Post a Comment