50th Anniversary of the 1969 World Champion "Amazing Mets"
Otis grew up in the same Mobile area as Met outfielders, Cleon Jones, Tommie Agee & the Hammer, Hank Aaron.
The speedy five foot eleven Otis was originally signed by the Boston Red Sox as a short stop in the 5th round of the 1965 draft. He was sent to the Appalachian League that same year, where he batted .329.
In 1966 he was the New York Penn. Leagues All Star first baseman, playing for A ball Oneonta. That same year the New York Mets Player of development, Whitey Herzog who was running a highly talented farm system, managed to draft Otis away from Boston. In 1967 the with the Mets organization he batted .268 & stole 29 bases after being promoted to AAA Jacksonville.
He got a September call up making his MLB debut as a New York Met, pinch running for Tommy Davis at Shea Stadium in a game against the St. Louis Cardinals.
The next night he came in to play third base and then struck out looking against Jack Lamabe in his first career at bat. Otis went hitless in his first seven games, and then on September 14th in Atlanta, he got the start in centerfield going 3-4 against the Braves. He was thrown out twice trying to steal his first two bases that same night. He hit safely in six games and finished the year batting .220 (13-59) with one RBI.
The Mets were talented in the outfield by the late sixties but were still looking for an everyday third baseman. They organization attempted to make Otis the third baseman of the future; after all he did begin his career at short stop. But by now he was evolving into a swift footed outfielder and it turned out to be a horrible decision. Still, the Mets were so high on Otis that they refused a trade to acquire Joe Torre from Atlanta whom they had been after for a long while.
In 1969 Otis had a good Spring Training & made the team out of Florida. On Opening Day he came into the game late, getting a 9th inning single in the Mets five run 9th inning against the Montreal Expos.
Otis clashed with manager Gil Hodges because he thought although he was struggling he was the best outfielder the team. He didn’t want to learn how to play third base. He soon found himself on the bench, then in the minors by June.
He returned to the club as a September call up, finishing up playing in 48 games overall, with 14 hits in 93 at bats, batting .151 while striking out 27 times. His would play in his last Met game was September 27th 1969 and he did not make the post season roster.
Quotes: Amos Otis –“I was a shortstop originally and played all positions in high school. The Mets wanted me to play third base. In 1969 they had Cleon Jones, Tommie Agee, and Ron Swoboda in the outfield.
I was supposed to be the Opening Day third baseman that year but Gil Hodges, the Mets manager, thought that I would be too nervous and I didn't play. I really wanted to play centerfield, not third because I had been an All-Star centerfielder in the minors.
I was one of the fastest players on the team so why did they want to put me a third base? Finally, I played three games at third in Philadelphia, got a lot of hits, made one error, and that was it at third base for the Mets.”
The Mets gave up on Otis and made one of their worst trades in their history. In December 1969, Otis went to the Kansas City Royals along with pitcher Bob Johnson for third baseman Joe Foy. Foy bombed at third base & was out of baseball in two years. This led to the Mets dealing away Nolan Ryan for Jim Fregosi who also bombed at third base.
Meanwhile Amos Otis starred in centerfield with Kansas City for 14 years. He immediately became a star in Kansas City, hitting .284 with 11 HRs, 58 RBIs and 33 stolen bases. During his tenure, one of the most popular chants in Royals Stadium was "A-O, A-O."
The stylish Otis was criticized at times for a casual play, lack of aggressiveness, and one-handed catches, but he won three Gold Gloves, made five All Star teams and three times was named Royals Player of the Year.
He tied for the American League lead in doubles his first full year (1970) and led again in 1976. He would hit over 25 doubles, nine times in his career. In 1971, the speedster led the league in steals (52) and in his career stole over 30 bases five times. He also stole five bases on September 7th, 1971 & in 1975 he tied an AL record by stealing seven bases in two straight games, (April 30 and May 1).
He would bat over .300 twice and over .290 three other seasons. He would show occasional power hitting 18 or more HRs four times with a career high 26 HRs in 1973.
One of his managers in Kansas City, Jack McKeon said "He's the best center fielder in baseball. No question about it. Amos is the most complete player in the majors." By 1976 his manager would be the man who helped develop his minor league career, Whitey Herzog.
Post Season: Otis appeared in the post season five times with KC, winning five divisional titles & one AL Pennant. In the 1978 ALCS he hit .429 (6-14) with 2 doubles, 4 stolen bases, 3 walks & 1 RBI. He hit .333 in the 1980 ALCS & followed that up with a great World Series. He led all players with 11 hits, hitting .478 with 3 HRs and 7 RBIs.
By the early 1980s, his skills had declined and he lost his center field job to one of the fastest men in baseball, Willie Wilson. But Otis was still important to his team, filling in all roles. After 13 seasons with the Royals, he spent his last year with the Pirates in 1984.
In a 17-season career, Otis batted .277, with 193 HRs, 1007 RBIs, 374 doubles, 341 steals, & 66 triples in 1,998 games played. Otis was a very private distinguished gentleman who hated any kind of showmanship.
Trivia: In 1972 with former Mets team mate Nolan Ryan on the mound, AO stole home in the fourth inning, scoring the game's only run in a 1-0 Royals win. It was only the second time since WWII that the only run of the game was scored on a steal of home.