- 3B, 1B, CF, LF, OF, RF, SS, DH
- January 13, 1962
- 5' 10"
- 186 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 9-04-1984 with NYN
- Allstar Selections:
- 1989 ML, 1989 MVP, 1989 SS
With his third team in four seasons, there was little indication that former gang member Kevin Mitchell would have the type of year he did in 1989. The muscular right-handed hitter belted a league-leading 47 homers and drove in a league-best 125 runs for the Giants, and won the Most Valuable Player Award as a result. Unfortunately, he would hit as many as 30 in a season just two more times in his star-crossed career, which ended in 1998. As a member of the 1986 New York Mets in his rookie campaign, Mitchell was a valuable utlity player who delivered a clutch hit in their come-from-behind victory in the World Series.
New York Mets
In Amazin', Peter Golenbock's oral history of the New York Mets, Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter said he gave Mitchell the nickname "World" for his ability to play in the infield and outfield. Carter spoke fondly of Mitchell's talents.
An urban legend involving Mitchell holds that during the Mets' championship run in 1986, during an argument with his then live-in girlfriend, Mitchell decapitated her cat. The story first came to light in Dwight Gooden's autobiography, Heat. Gooden claimed that an enraged Mitchell held him hostage during the alleged cat incident. Mitchell responded to Gooden's accusations by accusing Gooden of fabricating the stories in an attempt to divert attention away from Gooden's personal problems.
In the famous tenth inning of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, after Wally Backman and Keith Hernandez had been retired for the first two outs, Mitchell went to the clubhouse to make plane reservations for home in San Diego. However, he was called to pinch hit for reliever Rick Aguilera after Gary Carter, the next hitter after Hernandez, singled. Mitchell, who had already gotten out of his uniform and had on his regular clothes, hurriedly put his uniform back on without his protective cup and went to the plate and singled. He would eventually score the tying run on Bob Stanley's wild pitch to Mookie Wilson.
In a July 2007 radio interview with local sports talk radio station KNBR, Mitchell disputed that he was out of uniform at the time, and stated that he never wore a cup, even when playing infield. When asked why he never wore a cup, Mitchell responded, "I couldn’t find one big enough for my junk." The interviewer then commented that maybe the increased mobility helped Mitchell to make the famous 1989 barehanded catch of Ozzie Smith's fly ball.
Mitchell was traded to the San Diego Padres after the 1986 season, where he played half a season before landing in San Francisco where he would reach his full potential.
On July 4, 1987, Mitchell was traded to the Giants as part of a multi-player trade that also sent pitchers Dave Dravecky and Craig Lefferts to San Francisco in exchange for third baseman Chris Brown and pitchers Keith Comstock, Mark Davis, and Mark Grant. While Dravecky was initially considered to be the key to the trade for the Giants, it was Mitchell who emerged as a superstar.
Most Valuable Player
After two seasons playing primarily at third base, he had his best season with the Giants in 1989 upon being moved to the outfield. In that season, he batted .291 with a league-best 125 RBI and 47 home runs, leading the team to the playoffs and winning the National League's Most Valuable Player award, the first by a Giant since Willie McCovey in 1969. He added a .353 average and 2 homers in the NLCS to help the team to its first World Series appearance since 1962.
Mitchell is the only player in Major League Baseball history to win a Most Valuable Player award and play for five major league teams before his 32nd birthday. Mitchell is also the only MVP award winner to play for eight major league teams in his career.
The barehanded catch
Mitchell set the tone for his charmed 1989 season early in the year with a unique defensive play. Sprinting toward the left field foul line in St. Louis' Busch Stadium, for a ball off the bat of Ozzie Smith, Mitchell realized he had overrun the ball, but was able to reach back and snare the ball with his barehand. Mitchell was unable to stop his momentum following the spectacular catch, but rather than crash into the wall, Mitchell had the good fortune to fly through an unlatched door leading under the stands, making the play all the more memorable.
A two-time All-Star with the Giants, later years saw his play decline due to an often indifferent attitude as well as various other distractions. One story making the rounds was an incident during the 1991 season in Los Angeles when an unnamed Giant player said he saw Mitchell "stone drunk" at 2 a.m. after a Saturday night game. Traded to the Mariners after the 1991 season, he arrived at spring training the following year 30 pounds (14 kg) overweight. He had a resurgence in 1994 with the Reds, batting .326 with 30 HRs and 77 RBI in just 310 at-bats in the strike-shortened season; but he opted to play for the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks in Japan the following year, where he became the highest-paid player in Japanese history. In Japan, he incurred the displeasure of team management when he chose to travel to the U.S. in mid-season for treatment of knee problems against the team's wishes.
In the next two years, he played for four major league teams (Cincinnati, Boston, Cleveland, Oakland), rarely showing his former ability.
Today, Mitchell lives in San Diego and plays in the San Diego Adult Baseball League for the championship team, the San Diego Black Sox, run by Mike Micheli.
Mitchell is listed as one of California's top delinquent taxpayers, with a $5,184,641.51 debt from a lien filed on July 6, 2000.
Arrests and suspension
After being released for the last time, he was arrested in 1999 for assaulting his father during an argument. Back in the minor leagues as manager of the Sonoma County Crushers in 2000, he was suspended for nine games after punching the opposing team's owner in the mouth during a brawl.
In 2010, Mitchell was arrested for alleged misdemeanor battery at the Bonita Golf Club in Bonita, California.
In his 13-season career with eight teams, Mitchell batted .284, with 234 home runs, 760 runs batted in, 630 runs scored, 1,173 hits, 224 doubles and 25 triples in 1,223 games.
Mitchell's cousin, Keith Mitchell, also played in the major leagues for four different teams across four seasons (between 1991 and 1998), ending his career with a .260 batting average and eight home runs.He is also known as Boogie Bear by his players on the Giants.
Mitchell sustained several unusual injuries during his career. He once strained a muscle while vomiting. However, the most infamous of Mitchell's injuries occurred when he broke a tooth eating a frozen chocolate donut that he had put in the microwave too long and had hardened. The incident is said to have led to Mitchell's needing a root canal, and he was later fitted with a gold tooth as the replacement.
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- Kevin Mitchell