Forgotten Player of the Moment – AMOS OTIS
Requested by Pieman
Because Pieman is a hundred million-billion-zillion years old and he won some week of our NOT-HTW dealie – and MOSTLY because I found the totally bitching pic of Otis with Luke from General Hospital and frickin’ McGyver – I present to you Amos Joseph Otis.
The story of Amos Otis begins as far too many baseball stories do – with the stupidity of the Mets. Now, granted, starting off a baseball piece with “the Mets are stupid” is pretty much akin to starting off a fairy tale with “once upon a time,” but bear with me. Or not. Whatever. Anyway, the Mets are stupid. That’s pretty much one of the only certainties in sports life, right behind “the Raiders are highly penalized” and “the Celtics have some white players.” But yeah, the Mets are stupid.
So Otis was drafted in the 5th round of the very first baseball draft (1965 for those not as ancient as Pieman) by the Boston Red Sox. But Otis was – and is – black so obviously, the Red Sox drafted him by accident and thus allowed the Mets to steal him from them after the 1966 season. This would be when Whitey Herzog was running the Mets farm system. Ergo, this was the period in which the Mets were less stupid and the system was stocked with talent. Now and again, even the eternally stupid stumble across lucidity.
So, Otis…Otis was pretty darned good. And the Mets were loaded with all sorts of talent in the late-60’s thanks to Herzog. Of course, as has been the Mets wont over their history, they were loaded with talent everywhere but…c’mon, you can guess it. That’s right, 3rd base. And even though Otis was a fleet-footed CF, the Mets got this crazy idea to make him into a 3rd baseman for the ‘69 season. Remember, these are the Mets. So that worked out as well as expected, and the experiment was nixed early on, leaving Otis as a bench player stuck listening to Tom Seaver talk about himself, watching coach Yogi rub his booboo over the cold cuts in the post-game spread and cut out of playing in the World Series.
Again, these are the Mets. They score an improbable World Series win behind a team with no offense. They have talent in the minors, they have pitching, they have an aging line-up with no pop. What do you think they would do? Remember: these are the Mets we’re talking about. If you say trade a young kid who could cover half of Queens to Kansas City for Joe Foy, you clearly know your Mets. To call this a horrible trade, would be a bit of an understatement – it’s a horrible trade with horrible repercussions as the Mets had to then replace the horrible Foy with another 3rd baseman…a third baseman by the name of Jim Fregosi…who cost the Mets Nolan Ryan. And you thought Omar Minaya was bad.
In my mind, when I was thinking through this, I kept wanting to start this by telling a long involved story about how I thought Jerry Reed’s “Amos Moses” song was really “Amos Otis” and how I thought Otis was a huge star because of that. But only Dean would get the reference, probably…if he reads this. And Pieman would get confused by the Moses reference and think it was the guy who parted the Red Sea with whom he attended high school. So I’ll just move on.
So on to KC, where the Royals, full of youngsters and with nowhere to go, just let Otis play CF every day. And did I mention that Otis was pretty darned good? Oh yeah. He had speed and pop and could get on base and, if range stats can be believed, the only thing that covered more of Kansas City than Otis was boredom and blight. He was an All Star from 1970-73 and again in ’76. A Gold Glove winner in ’71, ’73 and ’74. And finished in the top ten in MVP voting four different times.
You could make a real good argument that Otis was the best CF in the AL throughout the ‘70’s when the Royals made themselves into the class of the AL West. But of course, Otis was bland to the nth degree. So while Otis just played excellently, colorful CF’ers like Mickey Rivers or SCRAPPY CF’ers like Fred Lynn got all the press. Or maybe it was…all because of…the dreaded…EAST COAST BIAS!!! Duh-duh-duh! Whatever. Point is, Otis was and is horribly ignored…except by Pieman…who is just old and forgetful.
And along came the ‘80s. And while the Royals were finally ready to make the move to the world championship stage, Otis was old and broken down. So the man who helped carry the franchise through the 70’s became more of a secondary figure – though he did have an absolutely lights out 1980 World Series – until he was forced to peddle his craft in Pittsburgh to end out his career in 1984. But, that was not the end for Otis. Oh no. In ’89 Otis partook in the inaugural – and only – year of the Senior Professional Baseball Association, where he hit .332 with 11 dongs…and the whole team looked to Pieman for veteran spark as their number one old-timer fan, telling them all stories of when he saw the great Cobb play.
(You’ll wanna ignore the completely unrelated Fast Facts at the bottom of the page)
Bill James Waxes Poetic About Amos
(Go to the end of that story)