- 3B, SS, CF, LF, OF, RF, 1B, DH
- October 13, 1942
- 6' 1"
- 180 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 9-14-1962 with PIT
Bob Bailey came into the majors with the moniker of “Bonus Baby”, a nickname bestowed upon him for his record $175,000 bonus given to him by the Pirates in 1961 when he signed his first major league contract.
Bailey would go on to have a solid 17-year major league career, but with his record payout in ‘61 it was one that was considered full of unfulfilled potential.
He actually was a decent hitter, smacking 189 lifetime homers, including 28 with the Expos in 1970, but possessed a poor glove, which forever labeled him as good hit, no field.
Expo manager Gene Mauch once said of Bailey, that his nickname, beetle, after the comic strip character, should have been for his defense instead as he fielded not unlike a comic strip character.
When he first entered the Pirate farm system in 1961, Beetle made 27 errors in 75 games while playing shortstop, an experiment that was not repeated in the future. Bailey was moved to third the next season and responded by being named the Sporting News 1962 Minor League Player of the Year. Bob knocked in 108 runs while hitting .299 that season. His successful campaign resulted in his promotion to the majors that year which soon followed with his taking over the Pirates third base slot full time in his rookie year in 1963.
Beetle had a difficult rookie season, hitting only .227 despite hitting 12 home runs. Even though he had a quick promotion to the show, some Pirates were not enamored with Bailey’s potential. Hall of Famer Willie Stargell couldn’t understand how a man with limited range in the field an average arm and no speed was paid the record bonus. Slow footed was something Bailey certainly was as he hit into 216 double plays in his career.
Regardless, Bailey was an everyday player in the majors before his 21st birthday. Pirate pitcher Steve Blass, thought Bob was certainly one player who could handle the early promotion. “Bob was one of those guys who matured early and was ready to play in the majors earlier than others”.
The Long Beach native improved nicely in 1964 raising his batting average to .281 following that up at .256 and .279 the subsequent two seasons. Bailey was consistent in the home run department over his four seasons as the Pirate regular third baseman hitting between 11 and 13, which he attained his last season in the black and gold in 1966 when he also had a then career high .447 slugging percentage.
Traded to Los angeles Dodgers
He was a regular player for the Pirates until 1966, and though he did better than in his rookie year, he was considered a major disappointment as he never hit more then 13 home runs or drove in over 51 runs despite lots of playing time. What made it worse was that his play at third base was barely adequate, so that the Pirates were getting little production on either side of the ball. He was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in return for shortstop Maury Wills prior to the 1967 season, but if his new team thought that a return to his hometown would help him blossom, they were badly mistaken. His two years in Los Angeles were nightmarish, with identical averages of .227 both years and a grand total of 12 home runs in 221 games. By the end of the 1968 season, he was no longer considered a disappointment, but a huge bust, and fingers were pointed at him for the Dodgers' fall from grace, given that the team had reached the World Series three of the four years prior to his acquisition but had been mired in 8th place during Bailey's two years with them.
Bob Bailey was passed over in the 1969 Expansion Draft, but the Dodgers basically gave him away to the Montreal Expos one week later, to help the expansion team fill out its roster. The Expos were not counting on him for much of anything, but due to the imbroglio caused by the unresolved situation of first baseman Donn Clendenon, he ended up as the team's first baseman for their first game ever on April 8, 1969 in New York and collected the team's first base hit while driving in its first two runs. This opportunity could have slammed shut when he broke his ankle sliding into third base on April 17, during Bill Stoneman's first no-hitter , but Clendenon failed to hold on to the first base job while Bailey was sidelined and Clendenon was eventually traded to the New York Mets. While Bailey had to split time with the newly-acquired Ron Fairly once he was healthy again, limiting his season to 111 games, he had the best all-around year of his career thus far, hitting .265 with 9 home runs and 53 runs batted in. But this was only a teaser for what was to come. He started the 1970 season as a man without a position, getting some at bats spelling Fairly at first base, Mack Jones in left field, and the previous season's rookie sensation Coco Laboy at third base. He made the most of whatever playing time he got, and as Laboy struggled mightily, he eventually pushed him off the regular third base job with an unexpected display of power: 28 home runs in only 352 at bats, in addition to 72 bases on balls and 84 runs batted in.
Bailey was the Expos' regular third baseman from 1971 to 1973, and one of the team's most reliable hitters, even if he hit only .233 in 1972. His best season was 1973, when he hit 26 doubles and 25 home runs and drove in 86 runs with a .273 average while drawing 88 bases on balls. He was one of the main reasons the Expos were still alive in the pennant race until the last days of September. However, by that time, his defensive play at third base was starting to draw sharp criticism, especially from ace relief pitcher Mike Marshall, who publicly complained about his lack of range. Manager Gene Mauch tried to remedy that problem by hiding Bailey in left field for the 1974 season. He continued to contribute at the plate, even drawing 100 walks for the only time of his career and becoming the first player in Expos history to reach the 100 home run plateau for the team, but his defensive play did not win him any raves. In 1975, as their farm system was starting to produce some interesting talent, the Expos decided to turn to "pitching, speed and defense" in what they pompously called "Phase II" of their development. Of course, none of these attributes described Bailey in any way, since his game was based on power and plate discipline, his speed had long deserted him, and he had never been confused by anyone for a glove man. He therefore spent an unhappy season as a substitute but still got into 106 games as a number of the youngsters the Expos were counting on proved not to be ready for prime time.
Cincinnati Reds - wins a World Series ring in 1976
Bob Bailey was traded to the Cincinnati Reds before the 1976 season. By that point, his name stood atop the Expos' career leaderboard in most offensive categories and would remain there until the early 1980s. He was used mainly as a pinch hitter in a year when the Reds swept through the playoffs in seven games to become World Champions, but he did not get any playing time in the post-season. He moved to the Boston Red Sox in the last weeks of the 1977 season, then served as a part-time designated hitter during Boston's unsuccessful pennant run in 1978. In fact, his last game in the major leagues was the one-game playoff between the Red Sox and the New York Yankees on October 2 , when he was used as a pinch hitter for Jack Brohamer in the 7th inning and quickly struck out on three pitches from Rich Gossage.
After retiring as a player, Bailey managed for three seasons in the Expos' farm system, first with Calgary in the Pioneer League in 1979, then with West Palm Beach in the Florida State League in 1980 and 1981. He later became a minor league hitting instructor for the organization. Bailey also managed the 1984 Columbus Astros, the 1986 Peninsula White Sox and Birmingham Barons and the 1987 Hawaii Islanders. He is an inductee in the Peninsula Pro Baseball Hall of Fame.
BR - Bullpen and Pirates Encyclopedia
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