Thursday, August 04, 2005


August 4th, 1938

Ray Oyler Born

I wrote a while back about Mark Belanger a good-field, n0-hit shortstop for the Orioles who preceded Cal Ripken, and about the absurdity of his being a Hall of Fame candidate. Belanger would be a terrible Hall of Famer, and was a terrible hitter, but compared to Ray Oyler, he was Honus friggin' Wagner. Oyler played for six seasons in the Majors, and was the starting shortstop for three years, 1967-68 in Detroit and 1969 with the Seattle Pilots.

But no matter where he was, he couldn't hit a lick. Oyler's career line was .175/.258/.251. In case you think that's an illusion of the pitching-favored era in which Oyler played, in his best year his OPS (that's on-base plus slugging percentage) was thirty-nine percent below league average, and that was the only time in his entire career he came within forty percent of the league OPS. In 1968, the Tigers incredibly won the World Series with Oyler as their starting shortstop, despite his hitting .135 in two hundred fifteen at-bats, for a grand total of twenty-nine hits. Of those twenty-nine hits, all but eight were singles. In the 1968 World Series Oyler never even came to the plate, as the Tigers decided to use Mickey Stanley--who had played nine games at the position, all in September--at shortstop in an attempt to boost their offensive output. (It worked, more or less, as
Stanley had six hits in twenty-eight at bats.)

The Tigers left Oyler unprotected in the expansion draft and he was taken by the Seattle Pilots. Boosted by the only half mocking "Ray Oyler Fan Club" the light hitter made quite a debut in
Seattle, hitting a home run in the Pilots first (exhibition) win at home. He had a brief stretch with the California Angels in 1970 but retired shortly thereafter and returned to Seattle where he would live, running a bowling alley and working for Boeing until his death in 1981.

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