Not sure why exactly, but I’ve been thinking about Gene Clines recently. So, to continue with a somewhat random (both in time and in quality of play) string of posts on ex-Pirates from back in the day, let’s talk Gene Clines.
How acquired: Buccos pick in the 6th round of the 1966 draft
Switcheroo: He was originally chosen as a pitcher but switched to OF because he could rake. He led the Salem (rookie) loop in hitting in 1966.
The jump: After spending parts of three seasons at AA, Clines made the jump to the Show in 1970.
First ML game: June 28, 1970. He appeared as a pinch runner in the 7th inning against the Padres replacing Jose Pagan who had doubled home what would be the winning run.
First ML hit: 7th inning pinch hit single (batting for Orlando Pena) off Jerry Koosman of the Mets in a losing effort
Keep your glove in your locker: In his rookie year, Clines appeared in 31 games, but played the field just seven times.
Super PH: Clines filled the role of pinch hitter quite well throughout his career. He topped ten pinch hits in a single season three times and finished his career with 59 pinch hits. That was good enough for top 40 all-time when he retired. He has since been passed numerous times.
Brush with greatness, part 1: Clines was one of nine minorities to start on 9/1/71, which is believed to be the first all-minority starting nine in the history of MLB.
Brush with greatness, part 2: Clines was one of nine Bucco players to amass 100 hits in 1972, which I believe is a record for most players reach triple digits in safeties in a single year for teams that didn’t employ a DH.
What might have been: He appeared to be the next in a mold of high average/marginal power outfielders in the mold of Matty Alou and Manny Mota. After playing well in the role of fourth outfielder in 1971 and 1972, Clines became the primary right fielder in 1973 after the Manny Sanguillen in RF experiment was ended. Unfortunately for Clines, that gig lasted all of about a month from mid-June to July 10. Against the Padres on 7/10/73, Clines tore ligaments in his ankle in a bizarre play. Clines was on first attempting to steal on a pitch that turned out to be ball four to Dave Cash. Clines aborted his slide into second and tore up his ankle in the process. He would miss the rest of the month and never be the same player again (he was hitting .291 at the time of the injury and hit .227 after coming off the DL). By the time he was healthy, Richie Zisk and Dave Parker were on the scene and Clines would once again be the spare OF in 1974.
How he got away: Clines didn’t hit very well in 1974. He made just five starts after the All-Star break and wound up with a .225 BA and just six XBH in 276 at bats. He was traded to the Mets that off-season for catcher Duffy Dyer.
Bouncing around: He spent a year in the Big Apple and then won in Arlington. He was dealt to the Cubs and played for them for two full years. He was released in May 1979 and stayed on with the Wriglies as a coach. He has coached for several teams including, most recently, the Cubs again.
Last ML Hit and last ML appearance: Clines had a pinch hit single on 5/8/79 off Doug Bair (then of the Reds, formerly of the Pirates). Clines was released on 5/11. All 10 of his at bats in 1979 were in the form of pinch hitting appearances.