Orioles Card "O" the Day

An intersection of two of my passions: baseball cards and the Baltimore Orioles. Updated daily?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Vintage Fridays: Earl Williams, 1974 Topps #375

When examining the worst trades in Orioles history, there's a temptation to begin and end with Glenn Davis. Actually, it's usually necessary to stop at Glenn Davis, because the mere mention of his name causes foaming at the mouth and blackouts. But I'm here to give the devil his due...and that devil is Earl Williams.

It's been 37 years since the O's acquired the moody catcher, and Earl Weaver is still refusing to accept blame for the deal. That should tell you everything you need to know. Still, legend has it that the Hall of Fame manager lobbied for Williams to be the offensive force that the Birds were missing behind the plate. So the team surrendered four players, including former 20-game winner Pat Dobson and All-Star second baseman Davey Johnson, to the Braves to land their man. They banked on Williams replicating his fine 1971 season, when he won Rookie of the Year honors with a 33 home run, 87 RBI effort. But they got more than they bargained for.

Earl turned off many of his teammates with his cocky attitude. While he dubbed himself "Big Money", others referred to him as "Small Change" behind his back. Once during spring training, he entered the clubhouse to find his name penciled into the starting lineup for the third straight game. He moaned, "Aren't there any other catchers on this damn team?". As you might suspect, that work ethic was reflected on the field. In his first season with the Orioles, he batted just .237 with 22 home runs and he slugged .425, 66 points lower than his peak. The O's won the East but were dispatched in the ALCS by Oakland. What of the departed Davey Johnson? He hit 43 homers and slugged .543 in one of the all-time fluke seasons.

Williams' game further deteriorated in 1974. Weaver used him in only 118 games and his production dipped to 14 home runs and 52 RBI with a paltry .395 slugging percentage. Once again, Oakland bounced the Birds in the postseason. That was all of Earl Williams that Baltimore cared to see, as they parted ways with the malcontent that offseason. He would play for three teams over the next three seasons, and his career was over at age 28.

If there is a lesson here, I think it's to steer clear of guys who give themselves nicknames.

No comments: