- 2B, DH, LF, OF
- March 1, 1957
- 5' 11"
- 170 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 9-02-1981 with PIT
- Allstar Selections:
- 1983 SS
When Pirate General Manager Harding Peterson began dividing up “The Family,” one of the first relatives to be traded was Phil Garner, who was sent to the pennant contending Houston Astros on August 31, 1981 in return for two prospects, lefthander Randy Nieman and secondbaseman Johnny Ray. Although Nieman’s stay with the Pirates was brief and unimpressive, Ray became a solid performer for the team over the next seven years.
Johnny Cornelius Ray was a linedrive smashing switchhitter who drove the ball to the gaps. He was only in his third professional season after batting .323 with Columbus in 1980 and .349 and leading the PCL in doubles with 50 when the Pirates obtained hm. He appeard in 31 games that September, and although his .245 average didn’t set the world on fire, Ray doubled 11 times in 102 major league at bats.
In 1982, Ray assured himself of being the everyday secondbaseman by starting off well with a .343 average during the first month of the season. He continued to hit linedrives throughout the season, finishing a .281 with 30 doubles. He also stole 16 bases. The Sporting News chose Ray its NL Rookie of the Year, but he lost the baseball writer’s vote to another seconbaseman, Steve Sax of the Dodgers.
Ray led the league in doubles the next two seasons. He won the Silver Slugger Award as the best offensivesecondbaseman in the league in ’83 and his .312 BA in ’84 was fifth in the senior circuit. In the field, Ray was consistent, if unspectacular. Ray slumped to .274 in 1985, but set a career high with 70 rbi’s and struck out only 24 times in 594 at bats, making him the NL’s toughest batter to fan.
While Ray had never hit more than seven homeruns in a year, new Manager Jim Leyland did not inherit Murderer’s Row when he took over the team in 1986 and he moved Ray, usually the team’s number two hitter, to third in the order. Ray set a new career high with 78 rbi’s while batting .300 for a second time in his career, joining George Grantham as the only Pirate secondbasemen to hit .300 more than once.
Although only 30, Ray’s range was declining noticeably by 1987. His hitting slid back into the .270’s with Pittsburgh that season. At the trading deadline, Ray once again moved, this time to the California Angels for two minor leaguers. While Ray’s trade was one of the few Syd Thrift deals which did not pay dividends, it opened up secondbase for defensive whiz Jose Lind. Ray, for his part, hit well with Angels, batting .346 down the stretch and .306 the following year with career highs in doubles (42) and rbi’s (83), but after two years of declining, but by no means poor, run production, Ray found himself out of the majors. He finished his active career playing in Japan.
As a Pirate, though, Ray averaged over 30 doubles per full season played and his .286 average ranks below only George Grantham’s .310 among Pirate secondbasemen and Grantham actually played more games at first than at second for the Bucs and only Bill Mazeroski and Rennie Stennett collected more hits. Considering these facts, Ray rates high among the greatest Pirate secondbasemen of all-time.
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