Tuesday, October 23, 2012

#233 Wayne Gross - Oakland A's

What a great action shot! This is Wayne Gross snagging a grounder at the hot corner on his 7th Topps card.  I could be wrong but it seems like it was taken during a spring training infield practice rather than during a game.  I blast Topps at time for lame photos but I have to give them credit, this is a good one no matter what the situation.
Player:  Wayne Gross was a 9th round pick of the Oakland A's during the height of their dynasty in 1973. Gross debuted three years later with a 4 for 18 late season performance. Primarily an outfielder and firstbaseman in the minors he had been learning to play thirdbase at AAA Tucson in '76 and it paid off the following year.  He won the starting job at third in '77 and had 15 home runs by the All-Star break. His hot start got him added to the AL squad when teammate Vida Blue was a late scratch, but Gross did not play in the contest.  He slumped in the second half and ended the year with 22 HR and a .233/.352/.416 line.  

Gross suffered through a poor sophomore season batting only .200 as he lost playing time to Taylor Duncan and hit just seven homers.  Gross regained the starting job in '79 and hit .224 with 14 homers.  He platooned with Mickey Klutts in 1980 and improved his average to a career best .281, again hitting 14 homers but in 100 fewer plate appearances.

The A's continued to platoon the lefthanded-hitting Gross at third but his power and average waned (wayned?, ha!).  After three years of failing to slug higher than .392 he was traded to the Orioles for pitcher Tim Stoddard in December of '83.   

Gross' power returned in Baltimore as he hit 22 out of the park for his new team.  Hitting for average still eluded him though as he hit just .216.  His playing time was cut in half in '85 as was his home run out put and he was released the following spring.  Gross returned to the A's organization but spent '86 in the minors before earning three hitless at bats at the end of the year.  Oakland released Gross and that spelled the end of his playing career. 

Flipside:  Although Gross didn't hit for a high average he was able to work the count for a fair number of walks.  At this stage in his career he had 331 walks against 326 strikeouts. 

Oddball:  Gross pitched 2.1 scoreless innings on 5/18/1983 in a 16-5 blowout loss to the Twins.  Although that was his only pitching performance in the pros, it wasn't the last time he took the mound in a major league ballpark.  It turns out when the 1994 Disney movie "Angels in the Outfield" was being filmed, producer Erbie Smith asked Carney Lansford to help out as an advisor.  Lansford brought former teammates Steve McCatty, Mitchell Page, and Gross along to help out.  Gross looked the part of an intimidating relief pitcher and he selected to portray a White Sox hurler. His part can be seen at the 2:20 and 3:03 mark of this clip.  Steve McCatty wasn't so lucky, his part ended up on the cutting room floor. 

History:   Gross appeared in the 1981 playoffs with the A's.  His three-run homer in Game 1 of the ALDS gave Oakland a three run lead en route to a 4-0 victory.  Gross and the A's eventually lost to the Yankees in the ALCS as he got on base just twice that postseason. 
Although he only had a .233 career batting average, Gross had enough power and patience to produce a 106 OPS+. His fielding at third was poor during his first few years but improved with time. He retired with 121 career home runs and 13.5 WAR.

By the way, you can now follow me on Twitter @989baseball. Besides notifying followers of new posts, I tend to tweet off-the-wall comments and other things about baseball, sports, and life in general.

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