- CF, LF, OF, RF
- August 9, 1942
- 5' 11"
- 195 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 9-14-1962 with CLE
- Allstar Selections:
- 1966 GG, 1966 ROOK, 1970 GG
The speedy outfielder originally signed with the Indians for a $60,000 bonus. He was later sent to the White Sox along with Tommy John in a three-team trade. In 1966, his first full season, he hit 22 homers and led AL outfielders in putouts to earn Rookie of the Year honors. Traded to the Mets two years later, Agee helped them win the 1969 pennant with his leadoff hitting, including a career-high 26 homers. In the WS, he starred in the Mets' Game Three victory with a home run and two outstanding catches.
Tommie Lee Agee (August 9, 1942 — January 22, 2001) was a Major League Baseball center fielder most noted for making two of the greatest catches in World Series history, both of which occurred in game three of the 1969 World Series.
Agee was born in Magnolia, Alabama and played baseball and football at Mobile County Training School with future New York Mets teammate Cleon Jones. After one season at Grambling State University (1961), Agee signed with the Cleveland Indians for a $60,000 bonus.
After two seasons in the Indians' farm system, Agee received a September call-up to Cleveland in 1962. With the Indians already behind 11-1 to the Minnesota Twins, Agee made his major league debut on September 14 at Metropolitan Stadium pinch-hitting for pitcher Bill Dailey in the ninth inning. He received September call-ups to the majors the following two seasons as well, playing a total of 31 games with the Indians in which he batted .170 with one home run and five runs batted in. Following the 1964 season, he was dealt to the Chicago White Sox with Tommy John as part of a three team blockbuster trade between the Indians, ChiSox and Kansas City Athletics that returned All-Star Rocky Colavito to the Indians.
Chicago White Sox
Agee batted just .226 with the Pacific Coast League's Indianapolis Indians, and .158 in ten games with the White Sox in 1965. After earning the starting center fielder job in Spring training 1966, he hit a two-run home run in the season opener, and was batting .264 with nine home runs and 38 RBIs to be named the White Sox's sole representative at the 1966 Major League Baseball All-Star Game. He ended the season with a .273 batting average, 22 home runs and 86 RBIs to earn American League Rookie of the Year honors, while his defense in center field earned him a Gold Glove. Although he was technically in his 5th major league season, MLB's classification of a rookie is determined by plate appearances and time on a major league roster. Agee's September call-ups had been so brief and his playing time so scarce that he was still eligible for the award.
Agee was batting .247 with ten home runs and 35 RBIs to earn his second consecutive All-Star selection in 1967. His production fell off considerably in the second half of the season (he hit only four home runs after the All-Star break), and ended the season batting .234 with 52 RBIs. Though they finished the season in fourth place, Chicago finished only three games back of the first place Boston Red Sox, and battled Boston, the Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins until the final week of the season. On a team loaded with pitching and short on offense (no regular batted over .241), the team's lack of offense possibly cost the White Sox the American League pennant.
To alleviate this problem, the White Sox imported perennial .300 hitter Tommy Davis, along with pitcher Jack Fisher and two minor leaguers, from the New York Mets for Agee and Al Weis.
New York Mets
Agee was beaned by Bob Gibson on the very first pitch thrown to a Mets batter in spring training 1968. At the beginning of the regular season, he went 0 for 10 in a 24-inning affair with the Houston Astros that saw his batting average go from .313 to .192. It led to an 0 for 34 slump that brought his average down to .102. For the season, he batted .217 with five home runs and 17 RBIs.
Agee got off to a hot start in 1969. He enjoyed his first career multi-home run game in the third game of the season, against the Montreal Expos, one of which went halfway up in section 48 of the left field upper deck at Shea Stadium, a feat that was never matched. Expos right fielder Mack Jones says the ball was still rising when it came into contact with the stands. To commemorate the homer, there was a painted sign in that section of the stadium with Agee's name, uniform number, and the date. He also had his first four hit game on May 2 (4 for 4 with a walk and a home run).
By May 21, Agee was batting over .300, and the Mets won their third game in a row for a .500 winning percentage 36 games into the season for the first time in franchise history. This was followed by a five- game-losing streak that saw the Mets fall into fourth place in the newly aligned National League East.
The Mets then went on an eleven-game-winning streak that included a two-home run, four-hit performance by Agee against the San Francisco Giants in the final game of the streak. By this point, the Mets were in second place, seven games back of the Chicago Cubs.
The Mets were two and a-half games back on September 8 when the Cubs came to Shea to open a crucial two game series with the Mets. Cubs starter Bill Hands knocked down the first batter he faced, Agee, who had been moved into the lead-off spot in the line-up, in the bottom half of the first inning. Jerry Koosman hit the next Cubs batter he faced, Ron Santo, in the hand, breaking it. Agee himself retaliated by hitting a two-run home run in the third, and scored the winning run of the game on a Wayne Garrett single in the sixth inning.
The Mets swept the Expos in a double header on September 10. Coupled with a Cubs loss, the Mets moved into first place for the first time ever during the 1969 season. The Mets would not relinquish their lead from this point. On September 24, the New York Mets clinched the NL East as Donn Clendenon hit two home runs in a 6-0 Mets win over Steve Carlton and the St. Louis Cardinals (who struck out a record nineteen Mets nine days earlier in a losing effort). For the season, Agee batted .271 while leading his team with 26 home runs, 97 runs scored and 76 RBIs. Along with Cy Young Award winner Tom Seaver and Cleon Jones, he was one of three Mets to finish in the top ten in NL MVP balloting, and was named the Sporting News' NL Comeback Player of the Year.
1969 World Series
Agee batted .357 with two home runs and four RBIs in the Mets' three game sweep of the Atlanta Braves in the 1969 National League Championship Series. The Mets were heavy underdogs heading into the World Series against the Baltimore Orioles. In Game 3, with the series tied 1-1, Agee had what Sports Illustrated called the greatest single performance by a center fielder in World Series history. In the first inning, Agee hit a leadoff home run off Jim Palmer for what would eventually be the game winning hit and RBI, as the Mets shut out the Orioles, 5-0 (Interestingly, two other Mets would also hit Game 3 lead-off home runs in subsequent World Series: Wayne Garrett in the 1973 World Series and Lenny Dykstra in the 1986 World Series). In the same game, Agee also made two incredible catches that potentially saved five runs. The first was on a two-out line drive to left center field by Elrod Hendricks with two runners on base. Agee sprinted across the outfield and caught the ball in the webbing of his glove just before crashing into the wall. The second catch was on a fly ball hit by Paul Blair with the bases loaded in the seventh inning off Nolan Ryan (the only time Ryan appeared in a World Series game in his 27-year Hall of Fame career). Agee sprinted towards the right center field warning track. When the wind blew the ball down and away from him he lunged into a headfirst dive for the catch. He rolled on the warning track but held on to the ball. With Blair rounding second base moments after the catch, Agee may have saved an inside the park grand slam home run.
Agee began the 1970 season by going on a twenty-game hitting streak from April 16 to May 9. He enjoyed one of the finest games of his career on June 12, when he went four for five with two home runs and four runs scored, and hit for the cycle on July 6. Agee displayed his spectacular and daring base running in the 10th inning in the NY Mets 2-1 win over the LA Dodgers when he stole second, took third on a wild pitch and surprised every one when he stole home for the victory! For the season, Agee batted .286, and established a Mets season record for hits with 182, runs with 107, and stolen bases with 31. He also won his second Gold Glove award, making him the first African-American to win a Gold Glove in both leagues.
Chronic knee injuries hampered Agee in 1971 and 1972, though he still batted .285 and tied for the Mets lead with fourteen home runs in 1971. In 1972, he finished second on the Mets with 47 RBIs despite batting only .227.
Astros, Cards & Dodgers
Following the 1972 season, Agee was traded to the Houston Astros for Rich Chiles and Buddy Harris. He faced the Mets for the first time in his career on April 24, and went two for three with a walk and a run scored in the Astros' 4-2 victory. He was batting .235 with eight home runs and fifteen RBIs when the Astros dealt him to the St. Louis Cardinals on August 18, who were in a battle with the Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL East. Following the season, he was dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers, but was released during Spring training. Though he never made a regular season appearance with the Dodgers, his final baseball card was #630T in the 1974 Topps Traded series, which depicted him as a Dodger.
After retirement, he operated the Outfielder's Lounge near Shea Stadium. Agee was also known as the most active former Met, taking part in many charitable events and children's baseball clinics around both the New York area and Mobile. He appeared as himself in a 1999 episode of Everybody Loves Raymond along with several other members of the 1969 Mets.
Agee had a heart attack while leaving a Midtown Manhattan office building in the late morning on January 22, 2001, and died of at Bellevue Hospital Center in Manhattan, New York at age 58. He is survived by his wife, Maxine, and a daughter, Janelle. He was posthumously inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame in 2002.
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- Tommie Agee