Mar 16, 2012

The Mets First Ever Draft Pick: Hobie Landrith (1962)

Hobert Neal Landrith was born on March 16, 1930 in Decatur, Illinois. His family moved to the Detroit area where he & his six brothers took turns holding the catching position at their local high school. While still in high school he got the opportunity to go to Briggs Stadium (aka. Tiger Stadium) and warm up Tiger starting pitchers. He also helped Bronx born Tiger player, Hank Greenberg get back into shape after returning from military service.
Hobie went on to attend Michigan State University, playing as a star catcher for the Spartan’s baseball team. At the age of 19 he was signed by the Cincinnati Reds. At Spring Training he became a highly touted prospect, but rumors came about that he wanted to play for only his hometown Tigers. The Tigers & Reds both made offers to him but he still remained with the Reds.

He debuted briefly in 1960 & then spent six seasons in Cincinnati as a backup catcher, behind Andy Semenick & Smokey Burgess. In 1953 he got the Opening Day start against the Brooklyn Dodgers & although he drove in two runs, he allowed a passed ball in the 9th inning which won Brooklyn the ball game. That year the All Star Game was held in Cincinnati & the NL manager, Brooklyn’s Charlie Dressen, chose Landrith to catch batting practice.

In 1956 Landrith moved to the Chicago Cubs, playing as the teams main catcher batting .221 with three HRs & a career high 32 RBIs. Behind the plate he led the league throwing out 23 bases runners attempting to steal, a 38% average overall. He allowed ten passed balls & made 14 errors which was the most of all NL backstops.

In December 1956 he was traded with Sam Jones, Jim Davis, and Eddie Miksis to the St. Louis Cardinals for Ray Katt, Jackie Collum, and Tom Poholsky. He played in St. Louis for two seasons behind main catcher Hal Smith. From there he was traded to the San Francisco Giants for Marv Grissom & Ernie Broglio. He played with the Giants from 1959-1961), playing as a regular there in 1959 hitting .251 with 3 HRs 14 doubles & 29 RBIs. That year he posted the league's second best fielding % for catchers (.992%) & caught 51% of the runners trying to steal on him (4th best in the NL).

In 1961 Landrith made New York Mets history as the first pick in the teams’ 1961 expansion draft. Manager Casey Stengel said of the pick; " you have to have catchers or you're going to have a lot of passed balls". Landrith was behind the plate & hit in the number eight position in the first Mets game ever played on April 11, 1962 in St. Louis. He signaled to Roger Craig for the first pitch in the bottom of the 1st inning & later went 0-4 at the plate during the game. 

He had an early six game hit streak putting him over the .400 mark ten games into his season. On May 12th 1962, Landrith had his shining moment as a Mets player in the first game of a double header at the Polo Grounds. He hit an exciting 9th inning pinch hit, walk off HR off Milwaukee’s Hall of Famer Warren Spahn. That gave him a stretch of driving in runs in three straight games he had played in. In the second game of that same double header, Gil Hodges hit a walk off game winner making it a very exciting day for the ’62 Mets fans.

Landrith had a two hit game in Los Angeles against the Dodgers, then saw his average fall under .300 in the first week of June. He would only play 23 games with the Mets, hitting .289 (13-45) with three doubles, one HR, seven RBIs & a .389 on base %. Defensivley he played in 21 games, throwing out 3 of 15 base runners trying to steal, posting a .968 fielding %. He made three errors in 93 chances. On June 7th he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for Marvelous Marv Throneberry, who was to become the Mets first folk hero type player.

Landrith’s likeable personality and abilities as a quality backup catcher kept him in the majors for 14 seasons. He finished his career in 1963 with the Washington Senators. He appeared in 677 games behind the plate, posting a .983 fielding %, making 59 errors in 3459 chances. He threw out 40% of would be base stealers (137 out of 339 attempts). He hit .233 with 450 hits 34 HRs 69 doubles 253 walks 203 RBIs & a .320 on base % playing in 772 overall games.

Retirement: After his playing days, he coached with the Washington Senators for one season then left baseball. He became a car salesman in Northern California, eventually becoming the director of sales for over forty Volkswagen dealerships.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was a friend of his son Gary, while growing up in Allen Park, a Detroit suburb, during the baseball season he rented his home out to tiger players, among them was tiger pitcher Ned Garver.