Friday, July 31, 2009

Bobby Shantz as the original Tim Lincecum

First, I have to apologize to Mr. Shantz for making a reference to his size in the title. I recently finished his 1953 bio The Bobby Shantz Story, and he's pretty adamant about the fact that he doesn't want people to focus on his size because he is, first and foremost, a ballplayer, and a heck of a ballplayer at that. However, the media is constantly talking about the 5' 11'' "Tiny" Tim and how he's overcome his diminutive size to be a dominant force among the big boys. Shantz, by comparison, is 5' 6''. That's right, "Tiny" Tim has about 1/2 a foot on Mr. Shantz, so make of that what you will.

What this post is about is the really awesome player and person that Bobby Shantz is. As a player his finest years were perhaps 1951 and 1952. Playing for the A's in 1952, Shantz went 24-7 with a 2.48 ERA and 1.048 WHIP. He sported a 159 ERA+. Dude was flat out dominant and won the MVP that year pretty handily over second place Allie Reynolds. In the bio he talks about persistent back troubles that nag him in his ascent to the Majors, and I'm guessing that those and other injuries plagued him, limiting his starts over the ensuing years.

Shantz remained a force for the rest of his career. For example, in 1957 he has traded to the Yankis, and he went 11-5 with a 2.45 ERA, and the best ERA+ in the league at 147. In other words, one of the best, most effective pitchers in the league. My dad remembers Shantz pitching for the Yanks in those years, and says he was awesome.

For his career he finished 119-99 with a 3.38 ERA and 119 ERA+. He was also a 3x All-Star and 8x Gold Glove winner.

He's feature prominently in two bios of the A's great and HOFer Charles Albert Bender. Bender was Shantz's pitching coach in 1951, leading up to the phenomenal 1952 season, and was a great mentor and influence. As Bender's health deteriorated in 1954, Shantz wrote him a touching letter, the complete text of which is unfortunately not on-line (lines here).

Since I am a HUGE Bender fan, I decided to write Mr. Shantz and request an auto. I grabbed a '52 Topps from his MVP season and hoped for the best. He sent it back in record time and I am very thankful!
I also sent him a small sheet with a few questions about his career, again hoping for the best. Mr. Shantz came through much bigger than I could have reasonably expected. I asked him for his favorite memory of "Chief" Bender, and he wrote the following:

"Chief Bender and I always went fishing together at West Palm Beach, where we had Spring Training. Chief was a very fine pitching coach and a great fisherman!"

I hope Mr. Shantz doesn't mind my sharing that. At any rate, it was incredible to receive those words from such an amazing player and person who is directly linked to one of my favorite players, Bender. I am also now a HUGE fan of Mr. Shantz. Many thanks, sir! That really made my day.

On a personal note, in-laws are leaving tomorrow and I'll be getting to handing out more overdue "thank you"'s. Have a good one!


  1. When I was little my father gave me his old baseball glove. It was a Bobby Shantz model. I still have it. I figured he must have been a good player since he was featured on one of those Topps "MVP" cards in 1975. He had a nice career.

  2. That's an awesome memory! I'm writing Shantz a thank you and included it.