Thursday, October 23, 2008

#61 Chris Cannizzaro

Chris Cannizzaro by you.
In what's becoming something of a recurring theme on this blog, today's player was well-traveled in his career. I speak of catcher Chris Cannizzaro - or "Canzaroni", as former manager Casey Stengel mangled it. Of course, the Ol' Perfesser wasn't alone in his malapropisms; Hall of Fame Indians shortstop-turned-broadcaster Lou Boudreau knew him as "Canzanaro".

Whatever you might call him, Cannizzaro was a player who owed much of his staying power to baseball's Expansion Era. After six seasons in the Cardinals organization with an unlucky 13 games to show for it, Chris was claimed by the Mets in the expansion draft. He was a talented defensive catcher, but usually didn't hit much. 1964 was an exception to this rule, as he batted .311 in limited duty. The Mets tried to reward his performance by using him in 114 games the following year, and he thanked them by dipping to .183 with 7 RBI in 251 at bats. The most significant thing Chris did that year was to surrender his uniform number 8 to incoming player-coach Yogi Berra.

Cannizzaro's putrid 1965 campaign earned him a two-and-a-half year odyssey through four minor league organizations (Braves to Red Sox to Tigers to Pirates). The Pirates used him regularly in August and September of 1968, and he was serviceable. The next year, the San Diego Padres entered the league and acquired Chris, making him their starting catcher. Despite a .220 average on the season, he was chosen as the club's first-ever All-Star (it was also his only All-Star selection). Incidentally, the following season he was much better: .279, 5 HR and a career-high 42 RBI, with a nearly even strikeout-to-walk ratio (49:48).

In 1971, Chris' bat tanked again and he was back to reserve duty. In the final four seasons of his career, he wandered the National League: San Diego to Chicago to Los Angeles to San Diego once more. Following his retirement, Cannizzaro has proven to be a baseball lifer, coaching for the Braves for three years before managing in the Angels chain and coaching at the University of San Diego. He is currently the school's Director of Baseball Operations.

Fun fact: Chris was a legendarily slow player. The only category in which he ever appeared on the National League top ten list was Ground Into Double Plays (1969 and 1971), and he never scored more than 27 runs, despite three seasons with over 100 games played. According to the Baseball Reference Bullpen wiki, he once failed to score from second base on a clean double!

Chris Cannizzaro (back) by you.

1 comment:

  1. If only he could have hung on until the Blue Jays and Mariners started play. He may have found a 3rd team to start for!