George Altman: Mets Left Fielder During the First Season At Shea Stadium (1964)

George Lee Altman was born on March 20, 1933, in Goldsboro, North Carolina. The big six foot four, two-hundred-pound Altman was known as “Big George”. 

George briefly played in the Negro Leagues for the months in 1955 with the Kansas City Monarchs. It was there he impressed the legendary Buck O'Neil who recommended Altman to the Chicago Cubs.

He then attended Tennessee State University where he played baseball as well as basketball.  In 1956 he was signed by the Cubs on Buck O'Neil's recommendation. 

Trivia: Altman & Fred Valentine were the first players to come out of Tennesse State & make the big Leagues.

After his first season in pro ball, Altman served two years doing Military Service for 1957 & 1958.

 He returned to hit 15 HRs & bat .325 in his second year in the minors getting promoted to the Cubs the next year. Altman was put right into the Cubs outfield as a rookie batting .245 with 12 HRs & 47 RBIs playing in 135 games.

In the outfield he played a solid defense, posting the league’s second best fielding % (.993%) in 1960 while finishing fourth in right field the next three seasons. On May 15th, 1960 he helped preserve future 1969 Met pitcher Don Cardwell’s no hitter, by making a 9th inning leaping catch for the second out of the inning.

The following season he won Player of the Month in June as he hit ten HRs driving in 29 runs. That year he had a big season, leading the league in triples (12) while hitting 27 HRs (9th in the league) with 28 doubles (7th in the league) & 96 RBIs (7th in the league). 

His 96 RBIs led the Cubs, and he was the only player other than Ernie Banks, Ron Santo or Billy Williams to led the team in that category from 1955-1973. 

He batted .303 with a .353 on base % as well. That year he became the first player to hit two HRs in a game off Dodgers ace, Sandy Koufax.

Altman made the All Star team & hit a pinch hit HR off the AL's Mike Fornieles in the 8th inning of that years first All Star Game. The HR tied the game sending it to extra innings where the NL won it on Roberto Clemente’s RBI single in the 10th inning. Altman followed up that season with a .318 average (sixth in the league) in 1962 while hitting 22 HRs with 74 RBIs & a .393 on base %.

In the off season he was involved in a big trade with Don Cardwell and Moe Thacker all going to the St. Louis Cardinals for Larry Jackson, Lindy McDaniel and Jimmie Schaffer. He hit .274 and then was traded to the New York Mets for Bill Wakefield in November 1963.

Mets Career: Altman never again hit as well as he did in his Cub years but was still the Mets main left fielder for the first season at Shea Stadium in 1964. 

On April 17th, 1964, he was the Mets second hitter & left fielder going 0-4 in the first game ever played at the new Shea Stadium. 

On May 6th, he hit his first Mets HR it came in a 12-4 loss to the Cincinnati Reds at Shea Stadium. On May 18th he helped the Mets beat the Giants in San Francisco collecting three hits & a big three run HR off pitcher Billy Pierce.

At the end of June, he had back-to-back multi-RBI games in losses to the Milwaukee Braves. He had one of his best months in July, hitting safely in 20 of 25 games, driving in 12 runs. On July 1st his two run double off the Colt 45's Claude Raymond put the Mets ahead for good in a 8-6 win at the Astrodome.

Beginning on July 22nd, George drove in runs in five straight games, starting with a go ahead RBI single against the Reds at Shea Stadium. On July 25th, he hit a two run HR off the Braves Cecil Butler & had a three RBI Day in a 10-0 Mets shut out.

In August he hit three HRs driving in six runs in the last two weeks of the month. He hit HRs in two games against his old Cubs teammates that week, the first at Shea in a 5-4 win in the second game of a Mets double header sweep. On August 28th he homered at Wrigley Field in a wild Mets 12-10 win.

On September 7th, he collected four hits & drove in three runs in both ends of a double header sweep over the Houston Colt 45's at Shea Stadium. 

Over an eight-game span he drove in nine runs from September 7th-16th. On September 16th he collected three hits, while hitting a HR off Gaylord Perry & driving in three runs as he helped Tracy Stallard in his 4-0 shutout over the Giants in San Francisco.

Altman hit a HR in the next to last day of the regular season & dove in a run in his final Mets game the next day. He closed out the year with 13 RBIs in the month of September finishing with 47 for the year. 

He batted .230, the worst average of his career up to that point, hitting nine HRs with 14 doubles & one triple. His .262 on base % was also the worst of his career and after just one year with the Mets he was traded back to the Cubs for Billy Cowan.

Post Mets Career: Altman played three more seasons in Chicago as a reserve outfielder. In 1965 he hit .235 with4 HRs & 23 RBIs playing in 90 games. 

In 1966 he saw action in 88 games dropping to a .222 average. In 1967 he spent most of the year at AAA Tacoma seeing action in just 15 games with the Cubs, as he hit just .111 in 18 at bats.

At the age 34 he retired from MLB & would go on to play in Japan. 

Career Stats: In his nine-season career he batted .269 with 832 hits 101 HRs 132 doubles 34 triples a .329 on base % & a .269 batting average. 

Japanese Baseball Career: George went on to play eight seasons in Japan with Tokyo (1968) Lotte (1969-1974) & Hanshin (1975). He had a successful career there hitting 205 HRs with three seasons of 30 plus HRs. 

He became a player coach before retiring from playing at age 42.

Retirement: After his baseball days he worked for the Chicago Board of Trade. Then owned his own prepaid legal services company. 

George also volunteered with the Boys Foundation and helped mentor youth programs in the community.


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