Friday, October 1, 2010
Vintage Fridays: Bob Boyd, 1958 Topps #279
Bob, who was known as "Rope" for his ability to spray line drives, finally got his opportunity with the developing Orioles club in 1956. It was manager Paul Richards, who was familiar with Boyd from his previous post as White Sox skipper, who put him in the lineup. He took full advantage of the situation, hitting .357 until missing nearly three months with an injury. He returned in mid-August and was still at .357 as late as September 6, but fell off a bit and finished at .311. He played a career-high 141 games in 1957 and finished fourth in the American League with a .318 average and eight triples. He also placed seventh with a .388 on-base percentage, and seems to have been one of the better defensive first basemen in the league. Not bad for a 37-year-old. He continued to hit 'em where they weren't in 1958, rapping out a .309 average and a personal-best seven home runs (so power wasn't his game). That year he also hit safely in seven consecutive at-bats in a doubleheader against the Indians. Bob slipped to .265 the following year, and lost his starting job to Jim Gentile. In 1960, the 40-year-old Boyd capped his O's career with a .317 average while serving mostly as a pinch hitter.
The Orioles traded Boyd to the Athletics in 1961, and he split his final big league season between the A's and Braves. But he wasn't done playing baseball by a long shot. He played minor league ball for parts of three more seasons, and reportedly spent several years playing semi-pro ball for the highly competitive Wichita Dreamliners. He also worked as a bus driver for some time. Bob retired to Wichita, Kansas, where he passed away in 2004 at age 84. Consider this a tip of the cap to the first African American everyday starter in Orioles history, someone who deserved better.