Mar 23, 2016

Early Seventies Mets Reserve Catcher: Bill Sudakis (1972)

William Paul Sudakis was born on March 27, 1946 in Joliet, Illinois. The six foot one switch hitter, was nicknamed “Suds” getting signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1964 as an amateur free agent. 

Suds was originally known as a power hitting third baseman as he began his pro career, belting out 23 HRs at A ball Santa Barbara in 1966. In 1968 he was the Texas league co-MVP along with Jim Spencer, batting .298 with 16 HRs & 75 RBIs.

He got called up to the Dodgers making his MLB debut in September1968. In his first career game he hit a HR off the Phillies Dick Hall in the 8th inning of a 10-9 Dodger win. That rookie year he led the club in slugging percentage (471%), with three HRs & nine extra base hits in only 87 at bats. 

In 1969 he was named the Dodgers regular third baseman playing in 132 games batting .294 with 17 doubles five triples & 53 RBIs. He hit 14 HRs for two straight seasons coming in second on the team to Andy Kosco in 1969. He also had 17 doubles with 53 RBIs while batting .234. At third he made 21 errors in 391 chances for a .946 on base %. In 1970 along with his 14 HRs (second to Billy Grabarkewitz) he batted .264 with 44 RBIs, drawing 35 walks giving him a .352 on base %. At third base he improved to a .983 % making 14 errors in 178 chances.

For the 1971 season the Dodgers acquired Dick Allen to play third base, Allen hit .295 with 23 HRs & 90 RBIs. In the meantime a young future star named Steve Garvey, who was originally a third baseman, was on the horizon in the Dodger organization. 

The team tried to convert Suds to a catcher, but bad knees and a .193 batting average got him put on waivers by Spring Training 1972.

The New York Mets picked him up, and sent him to their AA Memphis farm club. Although he only hit .167, he came up to the big league club that July making his Met debut at Shea Stadium on July 11th playing at first base He drew a walk in four at bats that night & got a his first Mets hit the next day. 

He played first base in his first seven Mets games & then was sent back down to the minors through the month of August. He was used as a pinch hitter going 1-7 in the first half of September. On September 22nd, he hit a HR in his first start at catcher, driving in three of the four runs in a 5-4 loss to the Phillies. He closed out the season catching the final three games of the year, getting three hits.

In 18 games as a New York Met he hit .143 with one HR & seven RBIs. In that short time as a Met, Sudakis appeared on both a 1972 & 1973 Topps baseball card as a Mets player.

With the birth of the Designated hitter in 1973, he was traded to the Texas Rangers for Bill McNulty who never played a game for the Mets. Suds hit a career high 15 HRs in Texas, batting .255 in 82 games that year. In the off season he was traded to the A.L. New York club for future Mets closer Skip Lockwood.

In New York, he used to mimic the teams manager Bill Virdon who would try to flex his muscles while addressing the team. Sudakis who had pretty big arms himself, would stand behind Virdon & flex himself to the delight of his team mates. 

He also got into a famous fight with team mate Rick Dempsey at a hotel in Milwaukee in front of a bunch of surprised hotel guests. NY outfielder Outfielder Bobby Murcer, broke his finger trying to break up the fight between the two.

Over the next two seasons he would play in New York, California & Cleveland before the knee injuries cut his career short.

Sudakis' MLB career ended in 1975 at age 30, batting .234 lifetime with 362 hits 59 HRs 214 RBIs & 56 doubles.

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