Dan's Dugout: Darrell Evans Belongs in Cooperstown • Latino Sports


Dan’s Dugout: Darrell Evans Belongs in Cooperstown


EVANSAlthough he played his last game in 1989, Darrell Evans definitely deserves consideration for Cooperstown.

Not to be confused with Dwight Evans, the rifle-armed Red Sox rightfielder who played at the same time, Darrell is the guy Bill James once called “the most underrated player in baseball history.”

The burly sabermetrician was right.

Many players hit more home runs than the slugging infielder but few reached base more often.

The Darrell Evans on-base percentage was .364 — 116 points above his career batting average. So throw out the .248 BA and consider the fact that Evans led his league in walks twice.

Like Gary Sheffield, he walked more than he struck out. He also had 40-homer seasons in both leagues, was the oldest man to win a home run crown, and played for a World Championship team.

At the time he retired, he had more assists per game than any third baseman in baseball history — putting him ahead of his idol and mentor Eddie Mathews.

Because he played third base, batted lefthanded, and had considerable home run power, Evans idolized Mathews long before they met in Atlanta. In fact, the Braves were his favorite team.

“Because of Eddie,” he said last week. “I was 11 when the Dodgers came out there and I already had my two favorite teams: the Braves in the National League and the Tigers in the American.”

Eddie Mathews was the biggest influence on the career of Darrell Evans

Eddie Mathews was the biggest influence on the career of Darrell Evans

Drafted by Oakland, he came to Atlanta in the Rule 5 draft, broke in with the 1969 Braves team that met the Miracle Mets in the first NL Championship Series, and went on to play for the Giants and Tigers before returning to Atlanta for a farewell season.

Along the way, Evans played for three Hall of Famers: Mathews in Atlanta, Frank Robinson in San Francisco, and Sparky Anderson in Detroit.

Along with Davey Johnson and Hank Aaron, he was part of the first trio of teammates to hit 40 home runs in a season. Early the next season, on April 8, 1974, he was on base when Aaron hit his 715th home run to pass Babe Ruth on the lifetime list.

He remains grateful that Aaron brought him, along with Johnson, to his final news conference in 1973.

“It wasn’t always about him,” Evans said.

A durable player who never spent a day on the disabled list, he went from the Braves to the Giants in a deal for Willie Montanez and spent eight-and-a-half seasons in the Candlestick Park wind tunnel before migrating to Detroit as a free agent. He celebrated by hitting a home run in his first at-bat at Tiger Stadium.

The second-oldest man to hit 40 home runs in a season, he was 38 when he became the oldest single-

Darrell Evans played for the 1968 world champion Detroit Tigers

Darrell Evans played for the 1968 world champion Detroit Tigers

season home run champion. He was part of the Tiger team went 35-5 to open the 1984 season and sailed to the world championship.

Called Howdy Doody because of his freckles and Hoover because of his defense, Darrell developed a solid bond with Mathews. The Hall of Fame slugger taught him to pull the ball and provided plenty of tips about playing third base.

Evans also played some first base and served as a DH once he got to the American League.

When the revamped Veterans Committee considers players of the postwar era this winter, Darrell Evans deserves consideration. He’ll be too modest to beat his own drum so we’ll do it for him.

Elsewhere in baseball:

Had he not played in the ill-timed World Baseball Classic in 2013, Mark Teixeira could have avoided the wrist injuries that plagued his last three seasons and forced his premature retirement this fall . . .

Giancarlo Stanton's power is moving Miami into NL East contention

Giancarlo Stanton’s power is moving Miami into NL East contention

The Miami Marlins made a good move in obtaining workhorse lefthanded reliever Hunter Cervenka from Atlanta for a pair of low-level prospects . . .

Giancarlo Stanton’s 504-foot homer in Denver Saturday was the longest in the majors this season . . .

With Gary Sanchez starting to realize his potential, look for the Yankees to move veteran catcher Brian McCann and his hefty salary in a waiver deal before the end of the month.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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