Thursday, November 17, 2011

#43 Bob Dernier

Card:  This is Bob Dernier's second Topps card and his first card of his own.  He was on a three player future star card in the '81 set with Ozzie Virgil and Mark Davis.

Pic: Dernier is following through with his righthanded swing.  Looks like he made contact maybe to right-center.  I wonder why he has just one wristband?

Player:  Bob Dernier was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the January draft in 1977 but went unsigned and was picked up by the Phillies.   Dernier played second base at Longview Community College and the Phillies tried him at shortstop and third base before converting him to outfield.  Dernier tore up the base paths in the minors stealing 250 bases in 477 games.  Dernier's first taste of big league action came in September of 1980 as the Phillies outlasted the Expos to win the NL East.  Dernier appeared mainly as a pinch runner but had four hits in seven at bats, but did not play in the post season.

Dernier stole 70+ bases for the third consecutive time in the minors in '81 and was rewarded with another September call up.  "White Lightning", as he was called by those surprised at the speed of a white dude, was again used as a pinch runner, playing in ten games and getting three hits in four at bats.  Dernier made the Phillies out of spring training in '82 and filled the role of fourth outfielder, splitting his time between center and rightfield.  The speedster swiped 42 bases despite a .249 average and a .315 OBP.

Dernier started the first two games of '83 season but was brought off the bench for the next month and sent down to AAA in May.  He came back a few weeks later as a pinch runner, pinch hitter and defensive sub.  Dernier batted only .231 but was able to steal 35 bases in 42 attempts.  He did not bat in the playoffs as the Phils lost to the Orioles in the World Series. 

Dernier was on the verge of being sent down to AAA in spring training of '84 when he was traded with Porfi Altamirano and Gary Matthews to the Chicago Cubs for Bill Campbell and Mike Diaz.  At first, Dernier played semi-regularly for the Cubs through April and caught fire in May hitting .344 with 15 steals for the month earning him starter status for the first time.  Dernier excelled in the leadoff spot batting in front of his Phillies minor league teammate Ryne Sandberg.  Dernier ended the year batting .278 with a .356 on base clip and stole 45 bases as the Cubs made the postseason for the first time since 1945.  Dernier homered to lead off the bottom of the first in game one of the NLCS vs. San Diego to get the Cubs started on an eventual 13-0 win, but the Padres got the last laugh winning in five games.

Dernier struggled in '85 especially against right handed pitching and batted only .254.  As Dernier's inability to get on base continued his playing time steadily decreased and by '87 he was once again a bench player.

Dernier was not re-signed after the '87 season and was inked by the Phillies where he bounced back with a .289 average as a part timer for the Phils in '88.  The 32 year-old couldn't keep it up though and batted just .171 in 1989 in what turned out to be his final season.

Flipside: Dernier was league MVP at AA Peninsula in '79.  His '80 campaign at Reading was even better. 

Oddball: On May 15th, 1989 Dernier came to the plate in the bottom of the 12th inning with his Phillies losing 2-0 and two runners on base.  Dernier ripped a liner down the left field line off the Padres Craig Lefferts.  The leftfielder misplayed it and Dernier raced around the bases for a walk-off inside the park home run.  This would be Dernier's only homer of the year and last of his career.  You can watch a low-quality video of Harry Kalas' call here.

History:  Dernier's had one good season and it coincided with the Cubs winning the division.  He was a bit error prone in the field but had excellent range and stole 218 bases in his career at a 77.5% rate.  Dernier just couldn't get on base enough to stay a starter but was a useful platoon and bench player for a while.  When he stopped hitting lefties his playing career was over.
Dernier was the Cubs first base coach under Mike Quade, but it is unclear what will happen under new manager Dale Sveum.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome post. Dernier was my all-time favorite player.