Willie Montanez "the Hot Dog": Late Seventies Mets First Baseman (1978 - 1979)

Guillermo Montañez Naranjo was born on April 1, 1948, in Catano, Puerto Rico, a suburb outside of San Juan known for being the home of the Bacardi Rum distillery. His father was a truck driver & his mother a housewife.

In 1965, the six-foot left-hand hitting outfielder / first baseman would originally get signed by the St. Louis Cardinals at age 18. The next year Montanez would get drafted (Rule V) by the California Angels

MLB Career: In 1966 Montanez made his MLB debut on Opening Day as a pinch runner & stole a base against the Chicago White Sox He would play in eight games before getting sent to back to the Cardinals. 

Montanez played the next three seasons in the minors & then was sent to the Philadelphia Phillies as a player to be named later in the infamous Curt Flood trade. Flood had originally refused to report to Philadelphia challenging the reserve clause.

In 1970 at AAA Eugene, in the Pacific Coast League Montanez had his best minor league season
hitting 16 HRs with 80 RBIs.

The Hot Dog: Montanez became known as “The Hot Dog” due to some of his antics while playing the game. When walking up to the plate he would flip twirl his bat like a baton. If he swung missing a pitch, he would end the swing with a circular finish. If he fouled off a pitch, he sometimes did a leg kicking move. After he hit a HR, he would slowly strut around the bases, sometimes shuffling his feet after touching each base. 

When he caught fly balls, he would snatch the ball from the air one handed & sometimes at first base he would tap a runner on the butt with his glove after an out. His flashy style was popular with his hometown fans, but not appreciated by his teammates, opposing players or other teams' fans.

In 1971 Montanez was penciled in as the Phillies starting centerfielder & had a great rookie year. In June he made two spectacular plays helping preserve Rick Wise's no hitter. 

On the season he batted .255 with a career-high 30 HRs (7th in the NL) & drove in 99runs, both Phillies rookie records. 

He led the NL in 13 sac hits, with 27 doubles 6 triples 99 RBIs (5th in the NL) a .327 on base % & .798 OPS. He came in second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting to the Atlanta Braves, Earl Williams. 

In the outfield he made a league leading ten errors and made seven assists (4th most in the NL). 

In 1972 Montanez led the National League in doubles (39) while hitting .247 with 13 HRs (second on his club to Greg Luzinski). He drove in 64 runs on the worst team in baseball, as the Phillies finished last going 59-97. 

Problems With Managers: Montanez was often fined & even pulled out of games for not hustling or taking a cut off throw.

In 1973 he switched back to his natural position at first base, to make room for (future Met) Del Unser in center field. Montanez hit 11 HRs with 65 RBIs while batting .263. He would be a solid first baseman, leading all NL players at that position in assists three times (1975,1976,1978) & coming in the top five in fielding % four times.

In the summer of 1974, Willie had a 24-game hit streak & hit over .300 for the first of three straight seasons. He also hit 33 doubles & drove in 79 runs, but his HR total dropped to seven.

In May of 1975 he was traded to the San Francisco Giants for outfielder Gary Maddox. Willie closed out the year with a career high 101 RBIs (5th most in the NL) along with 10 HRs 34 doubles & a .302 average. Montanez a slow runner; grounded into a league leading 26 double plays. In his career he hit into 162 double plays & led the NL in that category twice. 

He often complained about the weather in San Francisco & was unhappy on the west coast. At Spring Training 1976, he demanded a trade to an east coast team. 

At the 1976 trade deadline, he was sent to the Braves, along with Jake Brown, Mike Eden & Craig Robinson in exchange for slugger Darrell Evans & short stop Marty Perez. 

The Hot Dog closed out the bicentennial year with a career high 206 hits (second in the league) leading the NL in singles (164) & games played (163). He batted .317 with 11 HRs & 84 RBIs, winning the Sporting News All Star first baseman position.

1977 All Star: In 1977 he made his only All-Star appearance, being Atlanta’s only player representative in that years Mid-Summer Classic in New York. In the inning, he replaced Steve Garvey & went hitless in two at bats in the NL's 7-5 win.

That year Montanez finished the season hitting .287 with 20 HRs 31 doubles 68 RBIs & a .328 on base % playing a full season in Atlanta Fulton County Stadiums “Launching Pad”. From 1975-1978 he drove in an impressive 393 runs. 

New York Mets Career: On December 8, 1977, Montanez was part of a huge four team trade, which brought him to New York to play for the Mets. This is the deal that sent Jon Matlack to the Texas Rangers and John Milner to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Strangely, the $999,000 deal he signed with Atlanta made him the highest paid player in Mets history up to that point. 

Who could forget the way Mets announcer Bob Murphy, in his classic drawl would say "now the cleanup hitter, the Hot Dog Willie Montanez". 

Montanez was immediately installed as the clubs first baseman & number four hitter. On Opening Day, he doubled off the Expos Steve Rogers in his first Mets at bat in the 3-1 Mets win.

On April 15th, he hit his first Mets HR coming off the Expos Wayne Twitchell at Stade Olympique in Montreal in a 4-3 loss to the Expos. 

Montanez didn't get over the .200 hitting mark until May then went on to have a big month. The Hot Dog batted .313 with 5 HRs & 28 RBIs by far more than any other Mets Player. From May 18th-May 26th Willie drove in 17 runs, with 15 hits & three HRs in the eight-game span.

Four RBI Game: On May 18th, he had the first of three games where he would drive in four runs. He collected three hits with an RBI double, single & sac fly in the Mets 8-7 win.

Walk OFF Hit: On May 19th, Montanez had a three-hit game in a 4-3 win over the Phillies. In the bottom of the 9th inning, with the score tied 3-3 he hit a walk off game winning base hit off former Met Tug McGraw. 

On May 21st, with the Mets down 5-4 to the Phillies in the bottom of the 8th inning, Montanez doubled off Ron Reed driving in Lee Mazzilli tying up the game. The Mets won the game on Steve Henderson's walk off double, also scoring Mazzilli.

Multi HR Game: On May 24th, he hit two HRs off the Pirates Don Robinson in Pittsburgh, driving in four runs, although the Mets still lost the game 6-5 on Rennie Stennett's walk off two run double off Skip Lockwood. 

The next day he doubled off the Pirates; Bert Blyleven, tying up the game in the 6th inning. It was in the 11th inning, where Lenny Randle's base hit, won it for New York.

From June 4th- June 11th, he collected 12 hits with two HRs & drove in nine runs. On June 5th he had three RBIs in a 9-8 win at Shea over the NL Champion Dodgers.

On June 9th Montanez broke a 1-1 tie with the San Francisco Giants when he singled home Steve Henderson in the bottom of the 8th inning. Earlier he had driven in the Mets first run with a sac fly in the 3-2 win.

In July he would drive in twenty-two more runs. On July 6th, Willie hit an RBI double then an 8th inning RBI single off Donnie Moore helping the Mets in a 9-6 win over the Braves at Shea. The next day he hit a three run HR off Ken Holtzman in a Mets loss.

On July 19th he doubled in the 1st inning, off Houston's Mark Lemongello driving in two Mets runs which were enough for Craig Swan to earn a 2-1 Mets win at Shea Stadium. 
The next day he hit a two run HR & in the course of the home stand he drove in runs in five straight games with nine RBIs overall.

In August Montanez batted just .219, although he did have three multi-RBI games.

Multi- Four RBI Game: On September 7th, in a 9-4 win at Montreal, Montanez drove in a run with an RBI single in the 1st inning, then in the 2nd hit a three run HR off Gerry Pirtle to match his season high four RBI game. 

The next day as the Mets returned home, he drove in all three Mets runs including an 8th inning go ahead RBI double off Bert Blyleven to defeat the Pirates 3-2.

In his only full season as a Met Montanez led the team in most offensive categories; HRs (17) RBIs (96) games (159) at bats (609) hits (156) singles (107) & sac flies (9). He set a club record (at that time) for intentional walks (19) which was later broken by Howard Johnson.

His 96 RBIs were only eight shy of Rusty Staub’s 1974 single season Mets record at the time. There is no doubt that Montanez was the team's biggest bat on a ball club that lost 96 games finishing last in the NL East.

1979: On Opening Day, he collected a hit in the Mets 10-6 win at Wrigley Field over the Cubs. But in April he struggled only batting .145 for the month.

In May Montanez had a solid hitting streak hitting safely in 15 of 17 games, but he struggled with his average not getting over the .200 mark until late May. 

In July things got better as he batted .287 & drove in 16 runs. On July 21st, in a 1-1 tie in San Diego, Montanez singled off Bob Shirley bringing home what was the game winning run. From July 14th -July 31st, he drove in nine runs, one RBI in nine of 14 games.

By August 11th, Montanez had 7 HRs with 47 RBIs hitting .234 thru 109 games. Then he was traded to the Texas Rangers in exchange for pitcher Ed Lynch & Mike Jorgensen, who was returning back to the Mets for a second go round.

Post Mets Career: For the rest of the year in Texas, he hit .319 with 8 HRs having one of his last good seasons. From that point on he lost most of his power, hitting just six HRs in 142 games between San Diego & Montreal. In 1981 he lost a starting job to Warren Cromartie at first base & that August was traded to Pittsburgh. He became a part time player & in 1982 was traded to Philadelphia where he finished up his career.

Career Stats: In a 14-year career, Montanez played in 1632 games, hit .275, with 1604 hits, 279 doubles 25 triples, 139 HRs 645 runs scored & 802 RBIs. He struck out 751 times with 465 walks, a .327 on base % .729 OPS & 65 sac hits.

Montanez played 1164 games at first base & 352 games in the outfield.

In his career he was traded nine times, including deals that involved players like Darrell Evans, Al Oliver, Bert Blyleven, John Milner (twice) & Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry.

Retirement: After his playing days Willie became a scout for the Phillies. 

Montanez appeared at Mets fantasy camps & on occasional interviews involving the Mets alumni. 

Family: Willie married his wife Marta in 1968. Together they had four children, three daughters & a son. Their son was tragically killed in a car accident in 2006. 

The Montanez's reside in Puerto Rico.


Unknown said…
Besides he was a excelent fielder with a flashy style hitting the ball down before it gets to the glove exciting player to watch he loved to be boo that was his aplause for me a complete package made the game worth to watch as a entretainer #1
Unknown said…
Besides he was a excelent fielder with a flashy style hitting the ball down before it gets to the glove exciting player to watch he loved to be boo that was his aplause for me a complete package made the game worth to watch as a entretainer #1

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