• Remembering Bill Sudakis

    Posted by on February 27th, 2010 · Comments (2)

    I was just thinking about what Mark Feinsand wrote on Curtis Granderson the other day. Here’s a snip –

    Curtis Granderson’s struggles against lefthanders last year have been well-documented, as have his late-season problems with judging fly balls.

    Granderson won’t assign blame for either issue to his eyesight, but after being diagnosed with 20/30 vision following his trade to the Yankees this winter, the outfielder is wearing contact lenses for the first time in his career.

    “They said, ‘Your vision is 20/30, so let’s see if we can improve it,'” Granderson told the Daily News. “For most people, they’d let it go, but since we can possibly make me see better to hit, who knows. We’ll see.”

    Granderson began wearing the lenses this winter, although he said it was hard to tell whether they would help his game yet.

    “I’ve been wearing them for a while, just seeing what could possibly happen with that whole thing,” Granderson said. “I’ll just kind of get used to them, see what’s going on. Worst-case scenario, I’ll just take them off.”

    The whole eyesight thing got me thinking about former Yankee Bill Sudakis. I always remember that his baseball card said that he was “legally blind.” You don’t see that, everyday, on a ball player. And, I’ll always remember how Sparky Lyle, in the Bronx Zoo, wrote that then Yankees manager Bill Virdon would try and flex his arm muscles when addressing the team. And, every time Virdon would do it, Bill Sudakis, who had tremendous arms, would stand in the corner, behind Virdon, doing it too – cracking up the whole team. For those not aware of “Suds,” here some more background on him:

    Via B-R.com’s Bullpen:

    Bill “Suds” Sudakis was a power-hitting third baseman whom the Dodgers tried at catcher in 1970-1971. He had broken in as a 22-year-old rookie in 1968 who led the team with a .471 slugging percentage in 87 at-bats. The next year, 1969, his 14 home runs were second-best on the team, as were his 14 home runs in 269 at-bats in 1970.

    Dogged by bad knees, he was finally waived by the Dodgers during Spring Training of 1972. He was selected off waivers by the New York Mets but appeared in only 18 games for the Mets.

    With the introduction of the designated hitter in the American League in 1973, the Texas Rangers coveted Sudakis as their DH and acquired him from the Mets. Suds responded with his best season at .255 and 15 HRs in only 82 games. Even though freed from defensive chores, Sudakis’ aching knees kept him off the field and held his numbers down.

    Partly because of his versatility (he could play first or third base and catcher and was also a switch hitter), he was given shots by the New York Yankees, California Angels, and Cleveland Indians.

    In 1976, he played for the Omaha Royals of the American Association in the Kansas City Royals system but could not make it back to the major leagues.

    And, this via Keith Olbermann:

    The [Pfister Hotel] was the scene of the most infamous fights in modern baseball history, which has twice been described to me with the phrase “Wild West Saloon Brawl.” The perpetrators were the 1974 Yankees, arriving in Milwaukee on September 30 for the end of the season with a slim chance to reclaim the lead in the A.L. East. Instead, backup catcher Rick Dempsey and backup utilityman Bill Sudakis, already jabbing on the plane, both tried to get through the Pfister’s revolving front door.

    The breaking of the logjam at the door seemed to propel the two men into each other. The next thing that amazed on-lookers knew, furniture and players were flying around the lobby (the New York Times elegantly called it “brief but violent”). At least one vintage lamp was used like a javelin, and one version of the story has a chair being launched, either by Dempsey or Sudakis. Dempsey later told me that he knew if Sudakis, or somebody, didn’t stop him, he was going to kill Sudakis with his bare hands.

    Unfortunately, the late Bobby Murcer decided he had to break it up with his bare hands. Murcer, a month away from being traded to the Giants for Bobby Bonds, also broke his pinky in the process and had to be scratched from the do-or-die game the next night. His replacement in rightfield, Lou Piniella, backed away from a tweener fly ball in the 7th, costing the Yankees the lead, in a game they would lose in extra innings – and in the process, be eliminated.

    That’s part of the beauty of baseball – how a sub/bench player can sometimes have a very interesting story or two behind them…making them someone to remember even if they weren’t great, or even good, players.

    Comments on Remembering Bill Sudakis

    1. Tresh Fan
      February 27th, 2010 | 11:59 am

      Those were the days. Sudakis began the year off as the Yankees’ every day DH before an opening day “crowd” of 20,744 at Shea Stadium. He wound up as a pinch hitter, putting up a .232/.296/.344 season overall.

    2. 77yankees
      February 27th, 2010 | 1:09 pm

      I remember reading a profile of Dempsey years ago, and talking about the Pfister brawl, mentioning that several Yankees, including Murcer, attempted unsuccessfully to keep him away from Sudakis. And it was only when Munson got Dempsey in a headlock that the fight finally broke up.

      Supposedly the fight was the result of a long delayed flight, too much alcohol (surprise), and Sudakis persistent needling of how Dempsey was a backup to Munson.

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