Doc Edwards: Caught for the Phillies when no one else could


Doc Edwards played in the majors for five seasons and managed in them for three, but spent of his life in baseball. Edwards died this week at 81. Edwards' given name was Howard Rodney, which might be why he went by Doc, which he came by while serving as a medic in the navy. Edwards is the second-most accomplished player from Mira Costa College in California, but there's a bit of a gap between Edwards and Indians-Yankees-Braves first baseman Chris Chambliss, who played 12 more seasons and hit 170 more regular-season homers and three more postseason homers, including one in the 1976 ALCS that was pretty famous. Edwards debuted in the majors in 1962 with the Indians, the team he managed 25 years later. Edwards was traded to the A's early the next year for Jose Azcue and Dick Howser, though owner Charlie Finley might have been more interested in the $100,000 the Indians sent with Edwards. He played a bit more than a full season over the next two with the A's, started 1965 with them and then was traded to the Yankees in 1965, the year after they stopped winning pennants for a decade. The Yankees traded Edwards to the Indians, the Indians traded him to the Astros, the Phillies drafted him from the Astros, but Edwards spent the rest of the decade in the minors. By the time he played in the majors again in 1970, he was called out of the bullpen, where he was a coach for the Phillies. The 1970 Phillies were saved from last place in the NL East by the previous year's expansion and a postponement -- their 73-88 record was a half-game better than the Expos' 73-89. The Phillies' record might not have been so bad had they not lost their first- and second-string catchers, Tim McCarver and Mike Ryan to broken hands in the same game on May 2. The Phillies tried minor-leaguers Mike Compton (.164/240/209) and Del Bates (.133/257/.167) but Edwards, who hadn't played in the majors in five years, was better than both. (Neither Compton nor Bates ever played in the majors again). Edwards batted .269, but he also slugged .269 -- all 21 of his hits were singles, though it did push him over 200 for his career (he had three hits in his first game, a 7-3 win over the Astros and three days later he knocked in the only Phils' runs of the game with a two-run single in the second in a 2-1 win over the Braves). Edwards went back to coaching when McCarver and Ryan healed, became a minor-league manager in 1973 (he was the AAA Rochester manager in the 33-inning game vs. Pawtucket) and became a major-league manager of the Indians in 1987 after former Phillies catcher and manager Pat Corrales was fired. The Indians finished 30-45, which doesn't sound good, but was better than Corrales' 31-56. One voter thought so and Edwards was fifth in AL manager of the year voting. The Indians were 78-84 the next year in Edwards' only full season as manager -- it would be eight years before they would win that many again -- and the Indians were 65-78 the next year when they fired Edwards and replaced him with future GM John Hart. Career numbers: .238 average, 15 homers, 87 RBIs, 216 hits, .287 om-base percentage, .325 slugging, .611 OPS, 68 OPS+, 30% of base stealers caught, -1.9 WAR, 173-207 as Indians manager, hit two homers off Al Downing, who threw Henry Aaron's 715th, and one off Hall of Famer Jim Bunning, whom he caught with the 1970 Phillies (the 2-1 win over the Braves in which Edwards knocked in both runs was a Bunning-Dick Selma two-hitter).

Doc Edwards played in the majors for five seasons and managed in them for three, but spent most of his life — 57 years according to mlb.com — in pro baseball. Edwards died this week at 81. Edwards’ given name was Howard Rodney, which might be why he went by Doc, which he came by while serving as a medic in the navy. Edwards is the second-most accomplished player from Mira Costa College in California, but there’s a bit of a gap between him and Indians-Yankees-Braves first baseman Chris Chambliss, who played 12 more seasons, hit 170 more regular-season homers and three more postseason homers, including one in the 1976 ALCS that was pretty famous. Edwards debuted in the majors in 1962 with the Indians, the team he managed 25 years later. Edwards was traded to the A’s early the next year for Jose Azcue and Dick Howser, though owner Charlie Finley might have been more interested in the $100,000 the Indians sent with Edwards. He played a bit more than a full season over the next two with the A’s, started 1965 with them and then was traded to the Yankees in the year after they stopped winning pennants until 1976, when Chambliss homered in Game 5. The Yankees traded Edwards to the Indians, the Indians traded him to the Astros, the Phillies drafted him from the Astros, but Edwards spent the rest of the decade in the minors. By the time he played in the majors again in 1970, he was called out of the bullpen, where he was a coach for the Phillies. The 1970 Phillies were saved from last place in the NL East by the previous year’s expansion and a postponement — their 73-88 record was a half-game better than the Expos’ 73-89. The Phillies’ record might not have been so bad had they not lost their first- and second-string catchers, Tim McCarver and Mike Ryan, to broken hands in the same game on May 2. McCarver started and left in the sixth and Ryan caught an inning before he was hurt. Jim Hutto, who had caught 11 games in five seasons in the minors to that point,, batted for Ryan in the seventh and caught the rest of the game. (Hutto did well enough that he caught 353 more games in the minors, but not well enough that the Phillies didn’t eventually think Edwards was a better option). The Phillies tried minor-leaguers Mike Compton (.164/240/209) and Del Bates (.133/257/.167) but Edwards, who hadn’t played in the majors in five years, was better than both. (Neither Compton nor Bates ever played in the majors again). Edwards batted .269, but he also slugged .269 — all 21 of his hits were singles, though it did push him over 200 for his career (he had three hits in his first game, a 7-3 win over the Astros, and three days later he knocked in the only Phils’ runs of the game with a two-run single in the second in a 2-1 win over the Braves). Edwards went back to coaching when McCarver and Ryan healed, became a minor-league manager in 1973 (he was the AAA Rochester manager in the 33-inning game vs. Pawtucket) and became a major-league manager of the Indians in 1987 after former Phillies catcher and manager Pat Corrales was fired. The Indians finished 30-45 under Edwards, which doesn’t sound good, but was better than Corrales’ 31-56. One voter thought so and Edwards was fifth in AL manager of the year voting. The Indians were 78-84 the next year in Edwards’ only full season as manager — it would be eight years before they won that many again — and the Indians were 65-78 the next year when they fired Edwards and replaced him with future GM John Hart. Career numbers: .238 average, 15 homers, 87 RBIs, 216 hits, .287 om-base percentage, .325 slugging, .611 OPS, 68 OPS+, 30% of base stealers caught, -1.9 WAR, 173-207 as Indians manager, hit two homers off Al Downing, who threw Henry Aaron’s 715th, and one off Hall of Famer Jim Bunning, whom he caught with the 1970 Phillies (the 2-1 win over the Braves in which Edwards knocked in both runs was a Bunning-Dick Selma two-hitter).

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