Mar 30, 2016

Long Time Shortstop Finishing His Career In New York: Gary Templeton (1985)

Garry Lewis Templeton was born on March 24, 1956 in Lockney, Texas. The highly touted good hitting, quick footed, shortstop was the St, Louis Cardinals #1 draft pick (13th overall) in 1974. In 1975 he hit .310, stealing 24 bases playing in both A & the AA levels. The following year he was at AAA Tulsa where he batted .321 with 25 steals, now ready for the big leagues.

Templeton made his debut in St. Louis in the bicentennial year batting .291 in 53 games with 11 stolen bases. The next year he was the NL’s third best hitter, batting .322, leading the league with 18 triples, making the All Star team & getting votes for the MVP Award.

He stole a career high34 bases that year (8th in the league). He would lead the league in triples three straight seasons from 1976-1978. Templeton was among the top ten in batting average as well as hits three times, in his career. In 1979 Templeton led the NL in hits (211) becoming the first switch hitter to get 100 hits from each side of the plate. He led the league with 19 triples, hitting 32 doubles with 9 HRs 62 RBIs a .331 on base % & 105 runs scored (6th in the NL).

He was picked for the 1979 All Star team but not as a starter, despite having the best stats. Larry Bowa & Dave Concepion were both more popular getting chosen ahead of him. He created controversy when he refused to attend the game, saying “If I ain't startin', I ain't departin'!". Templeton batted over .300 two more times in St. Louis including a .319 average, coming in third in the batting race in 1980. He stole over 25 bases five times, & although he was fast he got caught often, leading the league in caught stealing in 1977 (24 times).

Templeton was never a favorite with the Cardinal fans and in 1981 when he gave them an obscene gesture after being heckled, it was the last straw. Manager Whitey Herzog removed him from the game to a serenade of boo’s and after the incident he was traded at the end of the season. He was traded along with Sixto Lezcano to the San Diego Padres for future Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith. The rest is legend for Mr. Smith who went on to Cooperstown.

As for Templeton he never hit as well as he did in the seventies, batting a high of .282 in 1985 while making another All Star team. Templeton played a solid shortstop for nine seasons in San Diego, and a new town gave him a new popularity. In Southern California he was very popular with the Padre fans, despite not putting up the best offensive numbers. At this point in his career he also began to suffer from constant knee problems.

He was considered an inspirational leader for the 1984 NL Champion Padres, playing on a team of veterans with Steve Garvey & Greg Nettles as well as a young Tony Gwynn. Short stop Larry Bowa named Templeton the team Captain which was quite an honor for that bunch. He hit .333 in the 1984 NLCS with two RBIs & a stolen base against the Chicago Cubs. In the World Series against the Detroit Tigers he hit .316 (6-19) with a run scored.

In 1985 he batted .282 with 16 stolen bases 6 HRs 55 RBIs & a .332 on base %. His numbers fell off after that season, as he never hit above .255 in his next five years in San Diego. In 1991 in the twilight of his career at age 36 he was traded to the New York Mets mid season, for Tim Tuefel. Templeton made his Mets debut as a pinch hitter on June 1st going hitless in a game at St. Louis.

On June 15th he hit a three run HR helping Dwight Gooden in a Mets 6-3 win over the Houston Astros. He drove in a run the next day & then two more the day after that against the Reds in a 10-6 Met win. He had an eleven game hit streak entering July, scoring six runs in that stretch. He appeared in 90 games for the ’91 Mets but was never the same player he was in his prime. He hit .228 with 50 hits, one HR, nine doubles, one triple & 20 RBIs in 219 at bats.

In 40 games at short he made six errors, posting a .963 fielding percentage. He also played 25 games at first base & two games in the outfield. He retired at the end of the season.

In his 16 year career he played in 2079 games, batting .271, with 2096 hits 106 triples (139th all time) 329 doubles 70 HRs 728 RBIs & 242 steals (241 all time) posting a .305 on base %. He drew 144 intentional walks (49th all time) striking out 1092 times (197th all time).

Defensively he posted a .961 fielding % at short stop playing in 1964 games at the position (20th most all time). His 384 errors are 43rd on the all time list. His 6041 assists put him at 21st all time, while his 3393 put outs put him at 27th all time.

Retirement: After his playing days he was a coach for the Angels from 1998-2001. He coached & managed in the minors, & currently manages in the Independent Golden Baseball League in California.

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