Friday, October 12, 2012

RIP Champ Summers

I"ll credit High Heat Stats for giving me a heads up on this one.  I think I've mentioned that I used to read The Sporting News as often as I could back when they provided about the only coverage of the minor leagues that was available.  I remember reading an article about a guy named Champ Summers who played for Cincinnati's AAA team and tore up the International League.  Back in those days, Cincinnati had some pretty good baseball teams and a seemingly endless supply of prospects.  I remember thinking to myself, "oh no, not another one!"  Champ Summers became something of a white whale for me.  There was just something about the name, "Champ" that conjured up all kinds of dreams.

Being in school back in those days, I didn't have much time to really study these things.  What I hadn't noticed was that the year Champ destroyed the International League he was 32 years old.  Believe it or not, it was not until today when I went back and reviewed his whole career that I realized Summers was actually signed by the Oakland A's and came up through their farm system.  He was a Viet Nam vet who was playing in a local softball league when he was signed by the Oakland A's at age 25.  He had played some college ball at Southern Illinois prior to that.  He spent 3 years in the Oakland farm system and played his first MLB game at age 28 in 1974.  He was a good hit/no field corner OF and got minimal playing time in Oakland before being traded to the Cubs and later the Cincinnati Reds.  He was sent down to the IL in 1978 which is the year he laid waste to that league and got the write up in The Sporting News.

I'm not sure if he played for Sparky Anderson in Cincinnati, but when Sparky was managing the Detroit Tigers, he thought Champ might make a pretty darn good DH.  He was traded to Detroit mid-season 1979 and put up a line of .313/.414/.614 in 290 PA's.  He followed that up in 1980 with a line of .297/.393/.504 in 408 PA's.  His production tailed off in 1980.

My dreams came true in 1981 when he played for the Giants.  Alas, he was mainly a bat off the bench for them, but a very good one hitting .248/.341/.384 in 147 PA's.  He only had 30 PA's the next season and was traded to the Padres where he hit just .185 in 59 PA's, but appeared in his only postseason game.

He was involved in a nasty on-field brawl in that last season with the Padres when he charged Pascual Perez on the mound and was tackled by Bob Horner and 2 fans who said he said nasty things to them in the parking lot!  LOL!

Nowadays, Champ would be known as a sabermetric darling as he consistently posted OBP's 100 pts higher than his BA. His final career batting line was .255/350/.425 with 54 HR's in 1593 PA's or approximately 3 full season's worth of playing time.

His Wikipedia page does not indicate why or how he died at age 66, but 66 is awfully young to be dying these days.

RIP Champ Summers.  Anyone else out there remember him?

7 comments:

  1. RIP Champ

    He died of kidney cancer, was battling with it for the past 2 1/2 years.

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    1. Sorry to hear that. Kidney CA is a real SOB.

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  2. And the first 3 batters for the Nats go double, triple, HR!

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    1. Unfortunately for them, more importantly, gave up 4 runs in the 9th to lose 9-7. Unlike the Giants, who had Affeldt and Lopez earn their money by shutting down the Reds.

      Giants wheels up flying home for Game 1 in SF on Sunday!

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  3. My buddy in high school was bat boy for the Giants in 82, 83 & 84. He knew Champ, but mostly worked the visitor side. He briefly he dated Champ's daughter, who apparently (never saw her to confirm) was quite a looker.

    Who couldn't remember (and love) the name "Champ Summers"?

    Thanks for the background info, Doc. Signed out of a Softball League at 25? Never, ever happen today. Amazing. Just amazing.

    RIP Champ.

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  4. I recall a Kruk and Kuip on Baseball episode a number of years ago which made a reference to Summers as being quite a character. I don't recall exactly, but I believe it had something to do with Summers taking naps in the training room Whirlpool in the buff, which sort of freaked out some of his teammates. Perhaps Kruk and Kuip will comment on Summer's passing at some point. RIP, Champ, sounds like you were quite an original.

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  5. I remember Champ too, but only as a Red, then Tigers, before he reached the Giants. Remember being excited over getting him. Did not know he was with the A's, small world.

    Signed out of a softball league? Must have been Charlie O. out scouting! Charlie was totally cheap on the scouting, it sounded like, from what I've read, I mean, he made MC Hammer VP while he was a teenager! But he must have had a great eye for it, found a lot of great players.

    Sounds like both he and Champ either would be best buds or locked horns, didn't know that he was such a character, Charlie liked that to a certain point.

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