A Trip Down (Draft) Memory Lane

By Blaidd Drwg

The baseball draft has passed, and, while it will be a few years before you know how well your favorite team did, there are a ton of great “hindsight” stories that have come out of the draft. Dave Schoenfield hit on a few of them in a recent article. Here are a few of my favorites:

1966: Reggie Jackson falls into A’s lap
In one of the more famous draft blunders, the Mets’ had the No. 1 pick and passed on Arizona State outfielder Jackson to select a high school catcher named Steve Chilcott, who would battle injuries and never reach the majors. “It was a position pick,” said Joe McDonald, a Mets executive at the time. “We did not feel we had an adequate catching prospect in the organization.”

Position pick my butt – the real story behind this was that the Mets were concerned about Jackson (who is actually half black-half Mexican) having a white girlfriend. Keep in mind this was 1966 at the height of the civil rights movement.

1966: Braves draft Tom Seaver
The Braves? Yep. Atlanta selected Seaver in the now non-existent January secondary phase of the draft (for players who had previously been drafted). Seaver, pitching at USC, had been drafted the previous June by the Dodgers, but didn’t sign after the Dodgers turned down his $70,000 asking price. The Braves took him with the 20th pick of the January phase, setting off a weird chain of events. The Braves signed Seaver for $40,000, but commissioner Spike Eckert ruled Seaver was ineligible to sign because USC had already played two exhibition games (Seaver didn’t pitch). But the NCAA then declared Seaver ineligible, because he had signed a pro contract. So Eckert ruled that any team willing to match the Braves’ offer would enter a lottery. The Mets, Phillies and Indians matched, and the Mets won the lottery.

This one is little known. Talk about a big SNAFU – the signing disaster probably cost the Braves a couple of pennants and is directly responsible for the Mets winning a couple of them and for one of the most memorable teams ever – the 1969 Miracle Mets. Yes, Seaver was that good. It kind of made up for not drafting Reggie.

1976: Trammell and Morris … and Ozzie (sort of)
In 1976, the Tigers had one of the great drafts ever, selecting Steve Kemp in the January phase and then Alan Trammell (second round), Dan Petry (fourth round), and Jack Morris (fifth round). Trammell and Morris aren’t in the Hall of Fame yet, but both could get there someday. No team has ever drafted (and signed) two future Hall of Famers in the same draft. The kicker: They also drafted Ozzie Smith in the seventh round, but he didn’t sign, and the Padres selected him the following year.

I had no idea about this one. That is one hell of a draft even if Ozzie did not sign. I don’t think Morris is a HOFer, but he was one heck of a 5th round pick.

1988: Dodgers draft Mike Piazza … in 62nd round
Maybe the most famous late-round pick, Piazza was the Dodgers’ final pick that year — the 1,390th pick overall out of 1,395.

Yep, 5 players drafted after him and the Dodgers only picked him as a favor to his father. Spent 4 seasons in the minors raking the ball and got called up in late 1992 and stuck around the majors for another 15 seasons. Had a career 59.2 WAR according to baseball-reference.com, and posted a higher career WAR than any player taken in the first round of the 1988 draft. Only Robin Ventura was close at 55.9. The next highest was Brian Jordan at 32.7. How did no one scout this guy?

2 comments to A Trip Down (Draft) Memory Lane

  • A.J. Coltrane

    I think Piazza was drafted as a favor to Tommy Lasorda. He was related to somebody, somehow.

    Wikipedia:
    “Piazza was born in Norristown, Pennsylvania and grew up in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. Of Italian ancestry, he is the second-oldest son of Vince and Veronica, with brothers Vince, Jr., Danny, Tony, and Tommy.
    Vince Piazza earned a fortune of more than $100 million in used cars and real estate, and attempted several times to purchase a Major League Baseball franchise. When the Dodgers—managed by Vince Piazza’s childhood friend Tommy Lasorda, Tommy Piazza’s godfather—visited Philadelphia, Piazza visited the Dodger clubhouse and served as a bat boy in the dugout.”

    So he had a rich dad who knew people.

  • Blaidd Drwg

    Lasorda asked the Dodgers to draft Piazza since he was a family friend. That may be the only time in history that a move like that has ever worked out.

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