There are only ten third basemen in the baseball Hall of Fame, by far the least of any position. There are guys in there like Freddie Lindstrom and Pie Traynor and George Kell, and well-known greats like Frank “Home Run” Baker, Brooks Robinson, Eddie Mathews, George Brett, and Mike Schmidt. Graig Nettles is clearly in the company of the players there. Who would you rather have on your team — Freddie “Who?” Lindstrom or Graig Nettles? Like Brooks Robinson, Nettles was one of the great defensive third basemen of all time. Incredibly, he only won two gold gloves (the same amount that Wade Boggs won as a Yankee) — they used to give it to Buddy Bell every year in the late seventies and early eighties even though Nettles was at least his equal.
Like Robinson, Nettles won a World Series with his defense, although to much less fanfare. Robinson became a household name in 1970 for his defensive heroics in the World Series. Nettles’ heroics came in 1978, when he speared line drive after line drive with acrobatic, ballet dives to his left, or behind him to his right down the third base line, and then would come the perfect lob throw to first to always just nab the runner.
You always felt that Nettles could gun the ball to first to beat any runner by a mile, but was so good he’d toy with everyone — runners, fans, and George Steinbrenner alike — in casually launching his semi-arc to first, perfectly timed to just beat the runner by a stride, every time.
At the plate, Nettles had league leading power — he led the league once in homers (32 in ’76) and just missed once (37 in ’77), and perennially was amongst the top 5 to 7 in the league in homers, even though that number was generally in the twenties. His average was usually around .250. Now before you dismiss those numbers, remember that the ball was dead — D E A D — dead in the seventies. It was so dead, they invented the designated hitter. It was so dead, they seriously thought about introducing orange baseballs at night games so the hitters could see the ball. So Nettles’ .250 would probably be a .280 average in the 1990s thru 2000’s. And his 20-something homeruns would be 40-something every year today (with the lively baseball that is causing lots of homers and lots of strikeouts). And if he did that, how many career home runs would he have hit? As it was, he approached 400, finishing with 390. That’s a lot of homeruns for a player who played in the dead-ball 70’s.
Nettles Holds Record for Homeruns by 3rd Baseman in AL
There are only three third basemen in history who finished with more homeruns than Nettles — Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews, and most recently, Adrian Beltre. Nettles holds the American League record for homeruns by a third baseman (319)! He’s also currently 24th all-time in games played with 2700. Think about that — of all the players to ever play major league baseball, only 23 have played more games than Nettles — and he played most of them at freakin’ third base, the hot corner, playing great defense there to boot.
What About Bobby Murcer?
Which brings us to Bobby Murcer… if Graig Nettles belongs in the hall of fame, as I’ve surely proven, what do you do with Bobby Murcer? Murcer was the star of the Yankees throughout the early seventies — not Nettles. Murcer was the straw that stirred the Yankees’ fourth-place drink; Munson was number 2 star, and Nettles was number 3. Murcer was the next Mickey Mantle, the hope of the future for a baseball franchise that was mired in mediocrity and was being mismanaged by middle management at CBS. None other then Ted Williams described Murcer in 1972 as baseball’s best chance for a triple crown (leading the league in homers, rbis, and average).
Murcer vs Bernie Williams vs Joe DiMaggio
In the 1990’s and early 2000’s, people talked about Bernie Williams as the consummate star; the Joe DiMaggio of his day, combining centerfield defense with hitting for average with hitting for power. The comparison wasn’t far off — remember, DiMaggio played in the lively-ball 30’s and 40’s, so Williams lively-ball-90’s statistics compared well to DiMaggio’s. Williams won the batting title in 1998, hitting .334 with 26 homers and 96 RBI, one of his best overall seasons. Ironically, those were almost identical numbers to Murcer’s 1971 campaign, when he hit .331 with 25 homers and 94 RBI. But those were the dead-ball 70’s remember. Murcer nearly led the league in all categories, sparking Ted Williams‘ comments. Those numbers projected in today’s lively- ball era might equate to like 45-50 homers and 140 RBI and a .355 batting average. Do you think a Yankee centerfielder putting up those numbers today would be the talk of baseball?
Murcer has been quoted as saying if he hadn’t been traded by the Yankees, and played his whole career at Yankee Stadium, he would have made the Hall of Fame. Sounds insane, but you know what, he’s not far off, especially if he didn’t play ball in the dead-ball ’70’s. Still, those are big ‘ifs’. Murcer was traded, a bunch of times. He didn’t play in the ’90’s. He finished with 252 homers and a .277 lifetime average. Tough luck Bobby.
Graig Nettles vs Tony Perez
In 2000, Tony Perez was inducted into the Hall of Fame. That should have opened up the door for Nettles. Perez was not better than Murcer; you would not have found a GM in baseball in the 1970’s who would have traded Murcer for Perez. And no way was Perez better or more valuable than Nettles. Tony Perez was a star first baseman. His job was to hit. He hit 379 homeruns to Nettles’ 390. Perez was mostly known as a big RBI man. He drove in 1,652 RBI on the big Red machine; Nettles 1,314. Perez hit .279 lifetime; Nettles .248. But Nettles played third, an important defensive position, and played it with style. No contest.
In the early 2000’s, the Yankees organization announced their greatest team with best players at every position; they named Graig Nettles as their 3rd baseman. It can be argued that is still the case, even with Alex Rodriguez having played 3rd for the Yanks for 10 years, winning two MVP’s and the 2009 World Series! As we found out later, ARod had a little “help”. Nettles was once asked about steroids, and — always a man of honesty — said he would have certainly taken them if they were available in the 70’s. Imagine his numbers if he did!!
The Readers Respond
|Wow, came across this blog by chance and it meant a great deal to me. I loved both Murcer and Nettles. I cried when my father told me Murcer got traded and Nettles is my all time favorite Yankee. Growing up in the 1970s was filled with both these guys. I have always hoped Nettles would get into the Hall.
— William Krebs
Valhalla, NY, USA
|Did you know that Graig Nettles is going to be the guest retired Yankee at the Mickey Mantle Classic in April (2012) which is held behind the high school Mickey went to in Commerce, OK? The Classic is a baseball tournament of high school teams where they use only wood bats. The bats come from Hoosier Bat Company in Valparaiso, Indiana. Many major league players have used the Hoosier wooden bats. Like Sammy Sosa in his home-run race against McGuire. Sammy hit #62-63 and 64 with it as I recall.
Graig will be on hand to meet fans and sign autographs plus he will be at the awards banquet on Saturday night. I know I will be going and you should check out the Classic on the Mickey Mantle Classic website at www.mickeymantleclassic.com.
— Lance Burris
|I loved this article! I thought Bobby Murcer was a class act as a player and a broadcaster! I have met many Yankees and ball players but I never met Bobby Murcer in person. I wish I would have met him! 🙁 It was very sad to see him pass so young.
— Jerry Grimes
I have been on this crusade for years . If you think about some of the guys that got in , and some rather easily like Ozzie Smith it can make you sick. Smith got in for his defense . Nettles is one of the greatest of all time fielding his position but put up superior stats to some of the guys already in. He belongs in and we need to do something about it. Nettles HOF ! What do we need to do to help ?
— Mark Willey
I loved your site. I grew up a Yankees fan in Virginia and loved Murcer and Nettles. Nettles clearly belongs in the Hall of Fame. I think his antics involving reporters over the years resulted in him not getting votes for the Hall of Fame. Hopefully, the veterans committee will correct this oversight.
— Woody Anderson
|As a kid growing up in central NJ I wore # 9 for one reason and one reason only: Graig Nettles. I idolized the man; the way he played the hot corner and handled pitchers was a thing of beauty; he was a magnet at the bag — nothing got by him. So I wore # 9 and played 3rd base all through high school & my men’s league. He should be in the Hall of Fame as much as anyone; case closed.
Graig is my favorite player of all time. He should be in the Hall of Fame without a doubt, and his number is not retired by the Yankees but for Roger Maris when it should be for both.
I like the article, and I really appreciated Greg Nettles! Man he played on the dream team with Reggie Jackson! To me regardless that was the best Yankee team ever! Yes, put Greg in the Hall of Fame — Please do!!!!!
— Monte Petersen
Bobby Murcer was the reason I loved baseball so much. I lived in DC, but would visit Yankee Stadium with my grandfather (who lived in Manhattan). And in the early 70’s, when I was between 10-14, nobody was better than Bobby Murcer.
And I remember being so annoyed when he barely lost out to Tony Oliva for the batting title.
— Andrew Kennedy
|I understand your feelings about Graig Nettles and I think a better argument can be made that he is better than Bill Mazerowski who is in the Hall. Don’t get me wrong, we loved Bobby Murcer (my wife’s favorite player ever) and think he was not only an outstanding ball player but a terrific human being. However, Bobby doesn’t merit consideration for the Hall of Fame and was not better than Tony Perez. Don Mattingly‘s #s are very much similar to Kirby Puckett‘s and he and Thurman deserve consideration.
Chuck and Randi McGivney
My name is Charles P. Nettles and I can remember my dad telling me when I was a kid that we had a cousin that played M.L.B. I asked him ‘well, who is he’ and my dad said Graig Nettles. I might have responded something like ‘well I would like to meet him at a family reunion’. My dad said that he didn’t know where he was. Graig looks like one of my grandfather’s brothers. I would like to find out
— Charles Nettles
Editor’s Note: We have published this letter so that, in the event Graig Nettles reads it, he can get in contact with Charles. We do not post email addresses on this board, but if Graig Nettles would like to contact Charles, we will facilitate through the Contact Us form.
BOBBY MURCER — A BALLPLAYER’S BALLPLAYER.
— Kenny Naughton
NICE WORDS ABOUT MURCER, A CLASS GUY.
— LARRY G./ L.B., N.Y.
Great article. I came across your website after Googling “Nettles hall of fame.” I was talking about this at work yesterday. Nettles absolutely deserves to be there. Why is defense always overlooked? It bothers me that Reggie Jackson, a one-dimensional player, was a shoe-in and Nettles always gets overlooked. (Jackson was a great HR hitter, but was a defensive liability.) Ask any player or coach from the 70’s Yankees who they would rather have on their team (Nettles and Jackson), I bet 100% would pick Graig.
I am not really old enough to remember Bobby in his playing days. I am a Chicago Cubs fan and I was about 4 years old when he was there. I do remember pretending to be him when I was young. Everything I owned had to have his number 7. Best wishes to Bobby for a speedy recovery.
— John Ward
|He was my first baseball hero…Remember the year he came in second to Dick Allen in homers and had just a great year, an MVP type of year..I still can’t stand Elliott Maddux because he took Bobby’s place in center field. Between Maddux having 1 good year and the move to Shea, it was a heartbreak. Had to stay home from school the day Murcer was traded for Bobby Bonds (the first trade in sports of 2 $100,000 a year players). Heres hoping that he gets back to the mike real soon.
— Mike; Derby , KS now, formerly of Massena NY
Dear Mr Murcer,
I grew up a Big New York Yankees fan and, an even Bigger Bobby Murcer fan. I loved watching you and my Yankees during the 70’s and especially upon your return in 1979. Watching you club a home run and single in the bottom of the 9th inning on the day your best pal Thurman Munson was buried, was such an emotional day for everyone.
My family and I are wishing you a speedy recovery Bobby. We love you and wish you and your family all the best. You can do it Bobby.
— Tony Cavone, Glendale, Arizona
Tony Cavone and family
I ran across your site while looking for Bobby Murcer info. Great site! Enjoyed “Willie” and being on the fence!
I specially enjoyed the Oldsmobile article as the marquee has many fond memories for me. The first car I drove was a ’48 Olds convert with three on the tree. I took my driver’s test with a ’56 and the first car I ever got it on with a fem was in (ample interior room) an Olds.
Oh yeah….the Bobby Murcer and Graig Nettles stuff was good too. Remember when he cut his hand doing some gardening? Martin (?) told him he made enough to hire a landscaper!
I grew up a Graig Nettles fan. To me there was no one better. He was a hard ass. Tough for fans to get to. Even myself as a fan of 10 years old. I finally got him to sign my copy of Balls just 3 years ago. I was so happy I could not even speak to him. My greatest Yankee ever. I am now 40. What a glove.
|Clicked on BobbyMurcer.com to see how he is doing; your site came up..
Anyone who watched the Yankees knows Murcer and Nettles should be in the Hall of Fame!!!!!! Bless both of them as they blessed us as Yanks!!!!
— J George
Great website. There are more Murcer fans than people realize. He was my boyhood hero, and off the field, a class act.
— Super Tizzy
|After The Mick limped off into the sunset in March of ’69, Bobby Ray became my ( and my buddy Chuck’s) center of affection on River Ave. The Yanks couldn’t draw flies in the early 70’s, but we were there 35-50 games a year as teenagers.
In those days, players were still accessible and still working class heroes. I hung out many a time after another Yankee loss watching Rusty Torres drive out of the players’ lot in his jacked-up Plymouth or “Rocky” Swoboda tool away in his beat-up white VW Beetle.
Yet it was Murcer, although an All-Star and true star nationally, who always had time to talk to us and give out an autograph (not for E-Bay purposes, but as a prized FAN possession). I was there against the Rangers when he hit for the cycle the first game of a doubleheader, and a single and a homer in the nightcap, and when he hit 3 homers against KC. I witnessed him swing and miss pitifully against his nemisis, lefty Norm Angelini. When I was given a game-used bat in ’74 (complete with pinetar) he graciously signed it and is my most prized Yankee artifact. At this moment waiting for news on his neurosurgery, we can only hope that Bobby has a full recovery allowing us to continue to acknowledge his genuine humanity as a person, not secondary to the wonderful memories he has provided to millions of Yankee fans over the decades.
— David Zimmerman
I appreciate your Yankee love but , you didn’t prove the case for Nettles. You have your opinion. It’s really hard to get past a .248 average…unless he was a pitcher. What someone said they felt Murcer could do is irrelevant. Concepción belongs in there before anyone you mentioned imo. Comparison to Perez?? No way. I can appreciate team worship though. I have the same for the Reds
I can still hear Shepherd’s voice playing center field for the Yankees wearing number one batting cleanup, Bobby Mercer Mercer
That is a great memory. We just posted an article with a picture of Bobby Murcer wearing #1, that my dad took back in 1973 when we were at the game. It is here:
My grandad is Freddie (who?) Lindstrom. He is the youngest player ever in the World Series (18). Started the 1924 World Series at 3rd after less than half a year in the minors. He has a lifetime BA of .311 with seven years in a row of .300 or better. On the ballet three times for MLB MVP. John McGraw picked him 9th best to ever play the game. No disrespect for your favorites here, but having him among the elite you compare to should be an inspiration instead of a dig.
Hey sorry about that. No doubt he was a great player — as he is in the Hall of Fame. Someone to be very proud of. Thank you for the feedback and the info.