Tuesday, November 6, 2012

#242 Joe Nolan - Baltimore Orioles

Joe Nolan is shown here checking his left-handed swing on his 6th Topps card.  I doubt we will see a player wear glasses like that again.  I am glad the O's brought back the cartoon bird back on their hats.
Player:  Joe Nolan was drafted by the Mets in 1969 and played eleven years in the majors for four organizations.  He had a four game trial with the Mets in '72 and following a trade to the Braves, four more in '75.  He spent the '76 season at AAA, before earning a spot on the Braves roster in '77.  Serving as a third catcher behind Biff Pocoroba and Vic Correll, Nolan sported a .280/.375/.427 line in 96 plate appearances. 

With Correll out of the picture, Nolan was the main backup receiver for the Braves in '78 and '79.  He came to the plate 510 times over the two seasons and batted .230 and .248.  Like a lot of catchers, he had trouble with Phil Niekro's knuckler and he led the National League with 14 passed balls in '78. 

Nolan was playing sparingly for Atlanta when he was released in June of 1980.  He was picked up by the Reds where hit .312/.353/.416 in 176 plate appearances.  With Cincinnati moving Johnny Bench to first base, Nolan started more games than any other Reds backstop in the strike shortened '81 season.  He hit .309, and although he hit just one homer, he displayed gap power with 18 doubles in 264 plate appearances.  Nolan wasn't flashy denfensively but he was reliable and led the NL in fielding percentage at .995.

The Reds traded Nolan the following March to the Orioles where he backed up Rick Dempsey.  Nolan batted .233 and .277 the next two years, getting about 200 at bats each season.  He appeared in three games in the '83 postseason as the Orioles won the World Series. 

Nolan was a little used 3rd catcher-DH-pinch hitter the next two years for Baltimore.  He batted .290 in '84 with just 75 plate appearances and slipped to .132 in '85 and was released after the season.  Nolan called it a career at age 34, retiring with a line of .263/.336/.378 with 27 HR in 1,454 at bats. 
Flipside:  That had to be a thrill in '75 when Nolan got his first MLB hit.  He went hitless in 10 at bats in '72 and was stuck in AAA the next two years before getting another shot three years later.

Oddball:  The left-handed swinging Nolan was strictly a platoon player as only 15 of his 367 career starts came against lefties. 
One of the few catchers to wear glasses they often fogged up under his mask in the muggy Atlanta and Baltimore summers.

History:  Nolan is best remembered as a bench player for the '83 Orioles squad.  He has a humble outlook on his career as he discusses in this article.  While he didn't have a glamorous career, he was a decent bat to have on the bench for a backup catcher.

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