Tuesday, December 16, 2008

#168 Dick Green

Dick Green by you.
Back-to-back Dicks? It may sound like the punch line to a dirty joke, but that's the way the cards are being dealt. Today's special is second baseman Richard Larry Green, who spanned two very different eras as an Athletic. As you can see, he also has a healthy amount of self esteem: he is damned certain that he is #1, and he's gone so far as to iron a number one on his sleeve to make sure that everyone else knows. Good for you, Dick!

Iowa-born Dick Green signed with the Kansas City A's in 1960, and debuted with the big club in 1963. In 13 games, he managed 10 hits, including his first big-league home run. It was a two-run shot off of Boston's Jack Lamabe in front of 909 ravenous fans at Fenway Park! The following year Dick earned the starting second base job and acquitted himself well, batting .264 with 11 home runs. Defensively, he made only six errors, fielding .990! Though his power numbers increased in 1965 (15 HR, 55 RBI), his average dropped to .232. His .250 mark in 1966 wasn't too much better, but he proved resilient elsewhere, boosting his 1966 totals to 24 doubles and 62 RBI, both new personal bests. The year after that was a disaster, however; Green dipped below the Mendoza Line (.198) and couldn't even top .300 in slugging average. Perhaps he was distracted by a move to third base, where he logged over half of his games played in 1967.

1968 brought a fresh start for both Dick and the Athletics as a whole, as the team moved west to Oakland. In their first season in California, the A's added 20 wins to their total and Green, now the backup at second base to John Donaldson, added 35 points to his batting average. It was a small gain in the big picture, but even better things were around the corner. The next year, he regained his starting job with a .275 average, 12 homers, and career highs in doubles (25) and RBI (64). He even received an MVP vote as Oakland surged to second place in the West.

Unfortunately, Dick's roller coaster raged on in 1970. He bottomed out at .190 with four home runs. Nevertheless, the A's trusted his steady glove at second base and he was still the starter for their division championship club in 1971. He also managed a .244-12-49 line. Green played only 38 games in the ensuing season, but a dozen of them were in the postseason. He hit .333 in the team's first of three straight World Series wins. He played on all three of those championship clubs, and went out on top; his final season was 1974, when he won the BBWAA's Babe Ruth Award for outstanding play in the World Series despite going 0-for-13 at bat. That should tell you just how valued his defense was! He turned the pivot on a dazzling eighth-inning play to nail Bill Buckner at third base, helping to preserve Oakland's one-run lead in the clinching Game Five. He retired as the A's all-time leader in home runs by a second baseman, having socked 76 in his 12 seasons in green and gold. Currently, Mark Ellis is right behind him with 68.

Fun fact: Dick Green was part of the Athletics' color guard in 1971-1972, along with Larry Brown, Vida Blue, and Johnny "Blue Moon" Odom.

Dick Green (back) by you.

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