Amos Otis: Another One That Got Away- 1970's All Star Who Began With the Mets (1967-1969)

Amos Joseph Otis was born on April 26, 1947 in Mobile, Alabama. 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.

MLB Debut- Mets Career: Otis got a September call up making his MLB debut on September 6th, pinch running for Tommy Davis at Shea Stadium in a 3-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.

The next night he came in to play third base and then struck out looking against St. Louis' Jack Lamabe in his first career at bat. Otis went hitless in his first seven games. 

On September 14th, he got the start in centerfield going 3-4 in Atlanta, with three singles in a 5-4 loss to the Braves. The speedy Otis was thrown out twice trying to steal his first base. 

He hit safely in six games and finished the year batting .220 (13-59) with one RBI.

Third Base Experiment: 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 & it turned out to be a horrible decision. Still, the Mets were so high on Otis that they refused a trade him, even in a deal to acquire Joe Torre from Atlanta whom owner Joan Payson admired & had been after for a long while.

1969 Championship Season: In 1969 Otis had a good Spring Training & made the team out of Florida. On Opening Day, he came into the game in the 8th inning at Shea Stadium. He bunted for a base hit in the Mets five run 9th inning, although they came up short in the 11-10 loss to the Montreal Expos. Otis started out well with five hits in his first five games, usually coming in late in the game.

Otis clashed with manager Gil Hodges because although he was struggling at the plate, he felt he was the best outfielder the team. He didn’t want to convert over to play third base. Otis soon found himself on the bench.

In mid-June he was only batting .136 with no stolen bases & just two RBIs, as well as having struck out 17 times. He was sent back down to the minors.

He returned to the club as a September call up, getting a hit in his first game back. 

Steve Carlton's 19 K Night:
On September 15th, he struck out four times, earning "the golden sombrero" in a game where Steve Carlton set a record by striking out 19 batters in the game. The Mets still won it 4-3.

His last Met game was September 27th, 1969, and he did not make the post season roster.

In the 1969 championship season, Otis played in 48 games overall batting .151 (14-93) while striking out 27 times. He had three doubles & a triple with one stolen base & six runs scored.

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 & 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 team history. In December 1969, Otis went to the Kansas City Royals along with pitcher Bob Johnson for third baseman Joe Foy. Foy never worked out at third base & was out of baseball in two years later. This too was one of many reasons that led to the Mets dealing away Nolan Ryan for Jim Fregosi who they hoped would be the solution at third base. Fregosi didn't work out either & that deal was even worse than the Otis trade.

Post Mets Career: 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 in reality, he won three Gold Gloves, made five All Star teams & was named Royals Player of the Year three times.

In 1970, his first full season he tied for the American League lead in doubles (36) & stole 33 bases while batting .284. Otis would hit over 25 doubles, nine times in his career. In 1976 he hit a career high 40 doubles & led the AL once again. 

In 1971, the speedster led the league in stolen bases (52) & hit .301. Otis would steal 30 or more bases five times in his career. On September 7th, 1971, he stole five bases in a game. He would accomplish that feat again in 1975.

On April 30th - May 1st that year he also tied an AL record by stealing seven bases in two straight games.

Otis would bat over .300 twice in his career & hit .290 or better a total of five times. Otis also would show occasional power hitting 18 or more HRs four times with a career high 26 HRs in 1973. 

Otis also had seven seasons where he scored 80 runs or better, with three seasons topping 90. In 1979 he scored a career high 100 runs. Amos also had five seasons where he drove in 85 or more runs.

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."

Trivia: In 1972 with former Mets teammate Nolan Ryan on the mound for the California Angels, 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.

In 1973 he made the final out of Nolan Ryans first no hitter.

By 1976 his manager would be the man who helped develop his minor league career, Whitey Herzog.

Post Seasons: Otis appeared in the post season five times with Kansas City, winning five divisional titles & one AL Pennant. Overall, he batted .295 with 23 hits six doubles three HRs & eleven RBIs.  He stole eight bases & scored nine runs in 22 post season games.

1976 & 1977 ALCS: In 1976 he played in just one game going 0-1 due to a sprained ankle. The next year he batted just .125 (2-18).

1978 Post Season- ALCS: In the 1978 ALCS he hit .429 (6-14) with two doubles, four stolen bases, three walks & one RBI. He collected three hits with an RBI single off Sparky Lyle in the Royals 10-4 Game #2 win at Royals Stadium.

1980 Post Season- World Series: In the 1980 ALCS he hit .333 in the Royals three game sweep. In the World Series loss to the Phillies, he hit a two run HR off Bob Walk in the Game #1 loss.

 In Game #3 his 7th inning solo HR off Dick Ruthven broke a 2-2 tie in the eventual 4-3 Royals win. In that game he also set a World Series record for put outs.

He would hit another HR in the Game #5 loss, driving in seven runs, one in all but the final game of the series. He is one of two players to drive in at least one run in his first five World Series Games.

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.

Career Stats: In a 17-year career, Otis batted .277 with 2020 hits 374 doubles 66 triples 341 stolen bases 1092 runs scored 193 HRs & 1007 RBIs in 1,998 games played. 

He struck out 1008 times drew 757 walks with a .343 on base & .768 OPS. 

Otis was a very private distinguished gentleman who hated any kind of showmanship.
Good Deed: On September 12th, 1977, Kansas City was flooded with 16 inches of rain in a deadly storm that resulted in 25 deaths. That night's game was cancelled as Otis was driving home, he saw eight stranded young boys whose parents could not pick them up due to the flooding.

Otis put the children in his car, gave them food & took them in for the night, informing the parents they were ok. He later said, 'I was doing what any dad would do".

After his playing days he worked as a hitting instructor for the San Diego Padres &
Colorado Rockies. He later retired to Las Vegas.

Honors: Otis was an inaugural member of the KC Royals Hall of Fame. He frequently attends Royals reunions as well as certain 1969 Mets events.

Family: Amos married his wife in the late sixties, together they have three children.


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