Saturday, November 19, 2011

#45 John Mayberry

Card:  This is Mayberry's 14th and final card.  He appeared on a two player rookie card way back in the 1970 set.

Pic: Mayberry is in the ready position, staring in towards the plate with a blurry Yankee stadium crowd in the background.

Player: John Mayberry was a first round pick (6th overall) for the Houston Astros in '67.  He rose quickly through the minors and had brief, hitless cups of coffee with the Astros in '68 and '69. He split time the next two years between Houston and AAA Oklahoma City.  Mayberry struggled in the big leagues as the Astros tried to get him to cut down on his powerful left handed swing and focus more on contact hitting.  After hitting only .216 and .182 over the '70 and '71 seasons, the young first baseman was dealt to Kansas City for Lance Clemons and Jim York.

Mayberry flourished with the Royals in '72, blasting 25 home runs, driving in 100 runs. and putting up .298/.394/.507 slash stats.  The 24 year-old Detroit native put up a similar stats in '73, with 26 HR, 100 RBI.  His good eye and new found respect from AL pitchers led to a league leading 122 walks and .417 on base percentage in '73. 

The 1974 season was not as enjoyable for the big lefty. Mayberry's power and average sunk and his 234/.354/.424 line indicates. Mayberry came back with a career year in '75, hitting 34 homeruns and driving in 106 runs in a Royals lineup featuring Amos Otis, Hal McRae and a young George Brett.  Mayberry again led the league in walks with 119 and his 168 OPS+ was a league high.  Mayberry's year was highlighted by a 47 game mid-year stretch where he hit 21 home runs with 50 RBI and a .387 average.  This hot stretch started with an eight game tear with eight home runs.  Mayberry finished second in MVP voting sandwiched between Fred Lynn and Jim Rice.

Although the Royals made their inaugral playoff berth in '76 in wasn't because of a big year from Mayberry.  He hit just 13 homers including just three after June 28.  He played in 161 games but hit only .232.  Mayberry hit a home run in the playoffs but the Royals lost to the Yankees.  Mayberry's '77 campaign was slightly better but not up to his previous All-Star level.  Mayberry hit 23 home runs but his average was .230 and his strike outs exceeded his walks 86 to 83, for the first time as a Royal.  The '77 playoffs were a disaster for Mayberry, as reported here on his Wikipedia page...

During the 1977 American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees, Mayberry arrived late for the fourth game, which was played in the afternoon, after a late-night outing. Mayberry played very poorly on both offense (striking out twice in two plate appearances) and defense (dropping a foul pop and a routine infield throw). Mayberry's ragged play prompted manager Whitey Herzog to bench him midway through Game Four and to leave him out of the starting lineup for the decisive fifth game.
........Consequently, before the start of the 1978 season, the Royals sold Mayberry to the Toronto Blue Jays, who were beginning their second season of play in the American League.

The hefty lefty gave the Jays an instant power source.  Mayberry delivered 22 and 21 homers over the '78 and '79 seasons and batted .250 and .274.  Mayberry hit .248 and launched 30 home runs in 1980 but his All-Star days were behind him as he hadn't been able to recapture the sucess he had with the Royals. 

Mayberry hit 17 long balls in the strike shortened '81 season and again batted .248.  Mayberry was traded in May of '82 from the Jays to the New York Yankees.  In New York the 33 year-old was not a full time player for the first time since his Astros days.  On the year he batted .218 with 10 homers. 
Mayberry was released in spring training the following year and he hung up the cleats.

Flipside: Those are some tiny stats! They should have cut out the highlights so we could read the rest of the back.  From '72 to '75 Mayberry was a force averaging 27 taters with a .399 on base average.

Oddball: Mayberry came from the same high school, Detroit Nortwestern, as former stars Willie Horton and Alex Johnson.
Mayberry's 34 home runs in '75 is still a Royals record for left handed hitters.

History:  Mayberry was twice an All-Star and was a force in the mid-70's.  Whether it was too much partying, poor conditioning, or just a sudden decline in ability, Mayberry best years were long gone by 31 and his career was over by 33. 
After his playing career he coached in the Toronto farm system and with the Kansas City Royals staff in '89 and '90. Today Mayberry's namesake son plays for the Phillies.

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