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Favorite Athlete: James on Amos Otis

I’ve been lax about posting these Favorite Athlete posts. I’ve got a bunch of really good ones. I’ll post them here over the next few days.

Amos Otis was relatively small, more quick than fast, more graceful than powerful. Amos was a percentage player … great stolen base percentage, outstanding fielding percentage, good control of the zone. But what appealed about him was the sense of something elusive, the sense that he had committed his body to the game but had held back his soul.   He was on a team with guys like Hal McRae and George Brett, who were in this thing to the death. Amos was more like … I am in this up to the realistic limit of my ability, but I am holding something back for myself, and for each of you

— Bill James is, well, Bill James.

10 Responses to Favorite Athlete: James on Amos Otis

  1. Amos was always one of my mom’s favorite players…

  2. Jim Haas says:

    Legendary Twins PA announcer Bob Casey once got Amos Otis and Otis Nixon mixed up.

  3. I thought sure you’d include James’s story on finding Otis helping out some stranded motorist with a flat tire on a busy highway….

  4. This made me go look up Amos Otis. He was a consistently good player from age 23 through 30. At age 31 he had his career year, .298/.380/.525, career highs in OBP and slugging. At age 32 he dropped back to his previous, good, level. And at age 33 he went into precipitous decline.

    That’s the way it used to be, before PEDs. But if you saw that now, you’d think, “What’s wrong with Otis?”

  5. Phil says:

    A point that Bill once made about Otis in one of the Abstracts: he had a knack for just missing marquee benchmarks, almost like he was trying to sabotage how much recognition he got.

    Runs: only 100 once, six times between 85-93.
    HR: hit 20+ twice, between 15-20 four times.
    RBI: never 100, 80-99 five times.
    BA: .300 twice, .298, .295, .293, three times in the .280s.

  6. GregTamblyn says:

    I once saw Amos Otis do something I’m sure we’ll never see again. I’m not sure what set him off, but on the first pitch his bat flew toward the visitors dugout. On the second pitch his bat flew toward the third baseman. At this point I’m thinking “Could he be doing this on purpose? Surely not. Gotta be slippery bats.” On the third pitch the bat went flying toward the pitcher, and Otis was promptly ejected.

    I don’t think he ever said what it was about. He wasn’t much of a talker with the press.

  7. My favorite childhood player. His baseball card still hangs on the back of the stairs down in the dark, musty basement. Freddie Patek and Frank White, too. I’m sure they feel honored.

  8. MCD says:

    For an alleged “favorite player”, James’ words sound like damning with faint praise.

  9. David says:

    He hit two homers against Mickey Lolich one time to beat us, and I hated him after that. Seriously good player, though. Could have excelled in either the AL or NL style, which was kind of rare.

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