One Time New York Mets Outfielder: Claudell Wahington (1980)

Claudell Washington was born August 31, 1954 in Los Angeles, California. He did not play high school ball, but was spotted on a sandlot field in Berkley California, by the Oakland A’s scouts. He was signed to a contract in 1972, and quickly added to their World Champion roster by 1974.

Owner Charley O Finley loved speed on the bases & on the field. He threw Washington in a line up with six times AL base stealing champion Bert Campaneris, as well as 1973’s AL leading base stealer, Billy North. This made for an incredibly fast team that stole 164 bases, North (54) Campy (34) pinch runner Herb Washington (29) & Reggie Jackson added (25).

Washington was only 20 years old in his first season, he hit .285 with six stolen bases over 73 games. In the 1974 ALCS he went 3-11 with a double in four games against the Baltimore Orioles. In the first All California World Series in 1974, he hit .625 (4-7) with a walk & a run scored against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

That year the A's won their third straight Series title. In 1975 he became a regular in the Oakland outfield alongside Jackson & North, as Joe Rudi moved over to first base.

Washington was one of the youngest players to make an All Star team ever being just 20. That year he was second in the league in steals with 40, leading his A's team mates. He hit .308 (5th in the league) scoring 86 runs with seven triples 24 doubles 10 HRs & 77 RBIs, as Oakland won their fifth straight A.L. West title. In the ALCS he hit .250 with a double & RBI losing to the Boston Red Sox.

As Charlie Finley sold off all his star players and the Oakland A’s Dynasty fell apart, Washington too was soon traded away. He was sent to the Texas Rangers for Jim Umbarger, Rodney Scott & cash prior to the 1977 season. He hit .285 & stole 21 bases in Texas before being traded to the Chicago White Sox for Bobby Bonds midway through the 1978 season. He had another .280 season in 1979 and hit three HRs in a game that July. Washington would spend parts of three seasons with the White Sox days of their wild all black uniforms. He was hitting .289 in June of 1980 when he got traded to the New York Mets for minor leaguer Jesse Anderson.

In his first Mets game, on June 11th, 1980 he went 0-1 as a pinch hitter, in a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Shea Stadium. He then became a regular in the ’80 Mets outfield alongside Steve Henderson & Joel Youngblood.

His biggest day came on June 22, 1980 against the Dodgers in Los Angeles. He became one of the very few players to hit three HRs in a game both leagues. That day he was 4-5 with three HRs & five RBIs. He hit two of the HRs off Dave Goltz & another off knunckle ball pitcher Charlie Hough ( a future Mets coach).

Claudell hit another HR in his next game, which came at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs. Starting on July 3rd he drove in runs in nine of his next ten games, gathering 15 hits over that period. He had ten multiple hit games in the month of August but cooled off in September. On October 1st, Fan Appreciation Day at Shea, he went 3-5 with a HR, a stolen base & two RBIs in the last home game of the 1980 season.

Washington finished 1980 hitting .278 with 11 HRs 20 doubles 6 triples 21 stolen bases a .326 on base % & 54 RBIs. His time in New York with the Mets only lasted four months, after the season he fled, signing with the Atlanta Braves.

In his first year in Atlanta he hit .291 with 5 HRs 37 RBIs & 12 stolen bases. He spent over five seasons with the Braves, at Fulton County Stadium. He would steal thirty or more bases twice & have twenty or more swipes three times with the Braves. He hit 15 or more HRs twice in his time at Atlanta, batting over .280 twice as well.

In 1982 he won a divisional title under Joe Torre in Atlanta, hitting 16 HRs with a career high 80 RBIs & 33 stolen bases. The Braves lost to the eventual World Champion St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS as Washington hit .333 (3-9) with two walks.

In 1985 he was caught with possession of marijuana and was ordered to submit to a drug diversion program. In the latter part of his career, he hustled more & played with a much more positive attitude. This resulted in some good seasons, although he never reached the potential he had showed in his first two years at Oakland.

In 1986 he got traded to the A.L. New York club, hitting .308 there with 15 stolen bases 11 HRs &64 RBIs. He would spend three years there & In 1988 he moved on to the California Angels.

He spent parts of two seasons there & finished up his career back with New York in 1990. In his 17 year career he hit .278 stealing 312 bases with 1884 hits 164 HRs 824 RBIs 334 doubles 926 runs scored & 69 triples.

Honors: He has the distinction of striking out the most times against Nolan Ryan (39). He was also featured at bat, hitting the foul ball that Mathew Broderick caught in the 1986 movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

The game took place at Wrigley Field in which the Chicago Cubs hosted the Atlanta Braves.


Anonymous said…
RIP. Sadly, didn’t live to witness the 40th anniversary of his other memorable contribution in June,1980 : the single that knocked out Greg Minton and prolonged the bottom of the 9th Miracle rally against Frisco at Shea on Saturday Night the 14th, He was a talented athlete but only a decent player who should’ve had a “Monumental” career.Instead, Shea was only one of his many “Sleepovers” around MLB.I thought his lasting legacy could’ve been exposing the awkwardness & unsightlyness of nameplates on the back of baseball uniforms. As a Fellow Countryman , I bid him a fond Farewell.

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