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Gary Sheffield

Gary Sheffield

Position(s):
SS, 3B, DH, OF, RF, LF, 1B
Nicknames:
Sheff
Born:
December 18, 1968
Bats:
Right
Throws:
Right
Height:
5' 11"
Weight:
190 lbs
Major League Debut:
9-03-1988 with ML4
Allstar Selections:
1992 ML, 1992 SS, 1996 SS, 2003 SS, 2004 SS, 2005 SS

Biography

For most of his career, Sheffield has played right field, though he has also played left field, third base, shortstop, and a handful of games at first base. He played for the Milwaukee Brewers, San Diego Padres, Florida Marlins, Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Braves, New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers, and the New York Mets. Sheffield was a first-round pick of the Brewers, who selected him sixth overall in the 1986 amateur draft after a standout prep career at Hillsborough High School in Tampa. He bats and throws right-handed.

At the start of the 2010 season, Sheffield ranked second among all active players in walks (1,475), third in runs (1,636), fourth in RBIs (1,676), fifth in hits (2,689) and home runs (509), and sixth in hit by pitches (135). Sheffield hit his 500th home run on April 17, 2009.

 Early life

Sheffield was born in Tampa, Florida, and grew up in Belmont Heights, near the Ponce de Leon projects.  He and his family lived with his uncle, Dwight Gooden, who would go on to become the ace pitcher for the New York Mets. They played baseball frequently and Sheffield learned how to hit a fastball from Gooden, who is only four years older than he is. Sheffield has publicly said that his grandfather had a significant positive impact on his life, influencing him as a person and as an athlete.

Sheffield was a good hitter in the Little Leagues, but his son is said to be a lot better coming out of Arizona. However, Sheffield had problems with his temper and attitude, which would continue in the Major Leagues. Once, when he was late to practice, his coach benched him and Sheffield picked up a bat and chased the coach all over the field, resulting in him being kicked off the team for a year.When Sheffield was eleven, he was selected to the Belmont Heights Little League All-Stars, which included future Chicago Cubs #1 pick Ty Griffin, future Major Leaguer Derek Bell, and other future MLB players. The team made it to the Little League World Series finals, but lost to Taiwan 4-3.

High school

In 1983, Sheffield made the Hillsborough High School varsity baseball team. During his junior year, he bulked up to 175 pounds and was a pitcher and third baseman. During his senior year, his fastball reached the upper 80's and he frequently showed home run power. As a batter, Sheffield hit .500 and 15 home runs, in only 62 official at-bats. At the end of the season he was named the Gatorade National Player of the Year.

Professional baseball career

Minor Leagues

After high school, the Milwaukee Brewers drafted Sheffield with the 6th pick of the first round of the 1986 MLB Draft. After being drafted he was shipped to Helena of the Pioneer League, where he dominated with a .365 batting average and 71 RBI in only 57 games. The only question was what position he would play. He was slotted at shortstop, but struggled at the position, committing many errors and wild throws. In 1987, he was assigned to Stockton of the Class-A California League, where his defense improved and he produced at the plate. His batting average went below .300, but he still led the league in RBI with 103, and at the end of the year he was voted the Brewers best prospect. In his third season, he went from Double-A all the way to the majors. In 134 games for El Paso and Denver, he batted .327 with 28 homers and 118 RBI and was considered ready for the majors.

Milwaukee Brewers

Sheffield was called up from the minors when rosters were expanded in September and made his major league debut on September 3, 1988. At first, the team used him as a third baseman and outfielder, but after an injury to Dale Sveum he moved to shortstop. He got off to a fast start with his first career hit being a home run off Mark Langston. After a great start, his numbers started to decline. He finished the season with only a .238 batting average and 4 home runs in 24 games. After a decline in play and several injuries, he found himself competing with Bill Spiers in a race for starting shortstop. After this, he was moved to third base and criticized the team saying it was a black and white issue. At the end of the 1989 season, he only batted .247 with only 5 home runs and 32 RBI. In 1990, he had had a solid season thanks to the hiring of Don Baylor as their hitting coach. He finished the season batting .294, but still only had 10 home runs. The Brewers thought they were finally getting the player they drafted in the first round, but there was still one concern: he was becoming a pain in the clubhouse, and went as far as accusing the organization of being racist after keeping him at third instead of playing him at shortstop where the white Bill Spiers played. In his final season with the Brewers, he injured his wrist, thumb, and shoulder, playing in only 50 games.

San Diego Padres

After 4 seasons of underperforming in Milwaukee and his numerous criticisms of coaches, the Brewers traded him to the San Diego Padres for Ricky Bones, José Valentin, and Matt Mieske on March 26, 1992. Sheffield faced his uncle Dwight Gooden for the first time in a Major League game on May 24, getting one hit in 3 at-bats. In this, his first All-Star season, he contended for the Triple Crown for much of the year; while he missed out on the home run (33, two fewer than the leader, teammate Fred McGriff) and RBI (100, nine fewer than leader Darren Daulton) titles, he did win the National League batting title with a .330 average. The batting title is currently the only one of the nine in Padre history won by someone other than Tony Gwynn.

In 1993, he started off what seemed to be a productive season with the Padres hitting 10 home runs and batting .295 but was unexpectedly traded midseason to the Florida Marlins.

Florida Marlins

On June 24, 1993, he was traded along with Rich Rodriguez to the Florida Marlins for Trevor Hoffman, Jose Martinez, and Andres Berumen. At first he wasn't thrilled about being traded to the expansion Marlins, and would rather have played for a contending team like the Padres, but the Marlins offered some upside with their young talent. He finished the 1993 season hitting 10 home runs, batting .292 and knocking in 37 runs while with the Marlins, and was the starting third baseman in the All-Star Game. At the end of the season, the Marlins gave him a four-year deal that made him the highest-paid player at the third base position. During the 1994 season, the Marlins moved him from third baseman to right field, where he showed great success with a rocket arm. Sheffield hit 112 home runs with the Marlins from 1994 to 1998, including 42 in 1996, making the All-Star Game in 1996, and leading them to victory in the 1997 World Series against the Cleveland Indians. He was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1998 because the Marlins allegedly could not afford a contract extension and because the Dodgers parent company at the time, News Corporation was looking to secure a television contract with the Marlins in exchange for trading massively popular Dodger Mike Piazza.

Los Angeles Dodgers

On May 14, 1998, he was traded along with Manuel Barrios, Charles Johnson, Bobby Bonilla, and Jim Eisenreich to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Mike Piazza and Todd Zeile. Sheffield finished the season with the Dodgers batting .316 and hitting 16 homers while driving in 57 runs. In 3½ seasons with the Dodgers, he hit 129 home runs and drove in 367 runs. He made three All-Star games while playing with the Dodgers and had become one of the best outfielders in the game. But during the offseason, he began lobbying for a trade because he thought the Dodgers were spending their money stupidly and sliding in the wrong direction, and publicly criticized coaches and teammates.

Atlanta Braves

On January 15, 2002, Sheffield was traded to the Atlanta Braves for Brian Jordan, Odalis Perez, and Andrew Brown. He spent two seasons with the Braves hitting 64 home runs and knocking in 216 RBI's including 132 in 2003. After two seasons with the Braves, he became a free agent for the first time in his long career on October 27, 2003.

New York Yankees

Sheffield with the Yankees.

On December 19, 2003, after intense negotiations between Sheffield and George Steinbrenner, he agreed to a deal with the New York Yankees worth $39 million ($45,349,479 in current dollar terms) over 3 years. This deal included $13.5 million in deferred money and a $13 million team option for 2007.He joined a lineup full of stars that included Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi and the newly acquired Alex Rodriguez. In his first season with the Yankees, Sheffield started slow, but finished the season with 36 home runs, 121 RBI, and a .290 batting average, helping him finish second in the MVP voting at the end of the season, only behind Vladimir Guerrero. In his second season with the Yankees, he continued to play well, hitting another 34 home runs and driving in 123 runs. Sheffield started the 2006 season strong, on pace for a .300 batting average and 30 homers, before he collided with Shea Hillenbrand of the Toronto Blue Jays on April 29, 2006. He tried to play in spite of the injury, but ultimately needed wrist surgery. Sheffield didn't return until late September. He had lost his right fielding job to Bobby Abreu, who the Yankees had acquired in a trade deadline transaction. The Yankees tried him at first base but with mixed results. Sheffield showed public distaste about the situation and claimed to be better than Abreu. His fiery personality also led him to have friction with other Yankees in the clubhouse despite his friendship with Alex Rodriguez. At the end of the 2006 season, the Yankees picked up his 2007 option and traded him.

Detroit Tigers

Sheffield (right) with the Tigers in 2007.

On November 10, 2006, he was traded to the Detroit Tigers for minor league pitchers Humberto Sánchez, Kevin Whelan, and Anthony Claggett. After the trade, Sheffield agreed to a two-year $28 million extension. In his first season with the Tigers, he hit 25 home runs, with 75 RBI, and a .265 batting average. He also hit his first triple since 2004 and stole 20 bases for the first time since 1990. He was also one of only 6 batters in the AL to have at least 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases, along with Alex Rodriguez, Grady Sizemore, Ian Kinsler, B.J. Upton and former teammate Curtis Granderson.

On September 8, 2008 in a game against Oakland, Sheffield hit the 250,000th regular season home run in Major League Baseball history, according to research by Baseball-Reference.com. The home run was a grand slam off Gio Gonzalez;Sheffield had hit baseball's 249,999th home run against Gonzalez in his previous at-bat. Despite a late season surge, Sheffield ended the 2008 season with 499 home runs.

On March 31, 2009, Sheffield was released by the Tigers despite owing him $14M. The Tigers said in a statement that they wanted to have more versatility with the DH position.

New York Mets

On April 3, Sheffield agreed to a deal with the New York Mets for the 2009 season, and he finalized the deal the following day. On April 17, Sheffield hit his 500th home run in a game against the Milwaukee Brewers, becoming the 25th player in MLB history to reach that milestone, the first player to achieve this as a pinch hitter, and the first to do so in a Mets uniform.Sheffield would also become the third player in Major League history to hit home runs before age 20 and after age 40, joining Ty Cobb and Rusty Staub. Sheffield sat out a game in August when the Mets declined to offer him a contract extension.

Retirement

Sheffield did not play in 2010. Though he initially suggested he wanted to sign with a team for the 2011 season, he announced his retirement at the beginning of 2011 spring training.

Highlights

  • 9-time All-Star (1992–93, 1996, 1998–2000, 2003–05)
  • 5-time Silver Slugger Award (1992, 1996, 2003–05)
  • Led National League in batting average (.330) and total bases (323) in 1992
  • Member of the 1997 World Series Champions Florida Marlins
  • Led National League in on-base percentage (.465) and OPS (1.090) in 1996
  • Los Angeles Dodgers career leader in on-base percentage (.424), slugging percentage (.573), OPS (.998) and at-bats per home run (14.5)
  • Holds Los Angeles Dodgers single-season record for at-bats per home run (11.7 in 2000)
  • His Tampa team finished second in the 1980 Little League World Series
  • Is the first player to represent five different teams in the All-Star Game.
  • Holds Florida Marlins franchise record for home runs in a season (42) in 1996
  • Tied Paul O'Neill as the oldest player to hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bases in a season, at age 38 (2007)
  • First player to hit at least 25 home runs for 6 different teams
  • 25th player in MLB history to reach 500 home runs, and the first player to do so as a Met
  • Had 8 seasons with 30 or more home runs
  • One of 2 players in MLB history, along with Fred McGriff, to have 30 or more home runs in one season for 5 different teams (Los Angeles Dodgers [×3]; New York Yankees [×2]; Atlanta Braves [×1]; Florida Marlins [×1]; San Diego Padres [×1]) 

Controversy

Sheffield has often put himself in controversial situations with his confrontational attitude, which sometimes leads to remarks construed as offensive.

While he was younger, Sheffield and his uncle, former MLB player Dwight Gooden, were arrested after fighting with police and resisting arrest in Tampa, Florida.

He's been very verbal about his need for sufficient financial compensation and respect, demanding better pay when he was with the Dodgers, and refusing to play in the inaugural World Baseball Classic, saying "[his] season is when [he's] getting paid."

On April 14, 2005, a Red Sox fan leaned over the railing at Fenway Park and swiped at Sheffield as he was going to field a ball hit by Jason Varitek. After Sheffield took a swing at him with his glove, he threw the ball back into the infield, and then got into a verbal altercation with him. The fan, who was under the influence of alcohol, was ejected from Fenway Park and his 2005 season tickets were revoked. Sheffield was fined for the incident. Charges were dismissed against both the fan and Sheffield.

In the June 2007 issue of GQ Magazine, Sheffield (a Detroit Tiger at the time) was quoted saying that there are more Latin baseball players than black players because Latinos are easier to control:

“What I said is that you’re going to see more black faces, but there ain’t no English going to be coming out. ... (It’s about) being able to tell (Latin players) what to do — being able to control them,” he told the magazine. “Where I’m from, you can’t control us.” He went on to elaborate, "They have more to lose than we do. You can send them back across the island. You can’t send us back. We’re already here.”

During an July 2007 interview with HBO's Real Sports, Sheffield said that Yankees manager Joe Torre treated black players differently than white players during his time there. He also said that he thought that biracial Yankees player Derek Jeter wasn't "all the way black."

On September 19, 2008, Sheffield was hit by a pitch from Cleveland Indians pitcher Fausto Carmona and walked to first base. When Carmona threw to first base, he and Sheffield exchanged words and Sheffield charged the mound leading to a bench-clearing brawl. Carmona and Sheffield were both ejected, along with Indians catcher Víctor Martínez and Tigers second baseman Plácido Polanco. On September 22, the commissioner's office announced four suspensions resulting from the brawl: Carmona was suspended for six games, Sheffield received a four-game suspension, and Martinez and Indians infielder Asdrubal Cabrera each received three-game suspensions. Sheffield made statements after the suspension that the involved players from the Indians would be "penalized" by him as well.

Steroid allegations

During a workout with Barry Bonds in 2001, a cream was applied to Sheffield's knee by a trainer to help heal ripped stitches from a knee surgery. Sheffield states in his book, Inside Power, that he had no knowledge of the cream containing steroids, and had no reason to assume so at the time. He goes on to say in his book that the cream did nothing to strengthen his knee, and also states that a look at his numbers shows no improvement of his numbers after the incident. 

On December 13, 2007, Sheffield was named in the Mitchell Report as one of the players who had obtained and used steroids.

Personal

He and his wife DeLeon reside in Tampa, Florida during the off-season. They have three sons: Jaden, Noah, and Christian. Sheffield has four other children from previous relationships: Ebony, Carissa, Gary Jr., and Garrett. DeLeon is a gospel recording artist and has sung the National Anthem at both the old Yankee Stadium and Dodger Stadium. On October 1995, Sheffield was shot in his left shoulder after an attempted robbery when he stopped his car at a traffic light. He now is an assistant coach on his son's youth tackle football league in Tampa. He coaches on the TBYFL (Tampa Bay Youth Football Leagues) Nuccio Jaguars.

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