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Daryl Spencer

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Daryl Dean Spencer (Dee or Big Dee)

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[edit] Biographical Information

Daryl Spencer played in the majors from 1952 to 1963, then went on to seven seasons in Japan. He hit 338 home runs as a pro, impressive for a shortstop.

[edit] Minor leagues

Out of Wichita State University, Spencer made his pro debut in 1949 with the Pauls Valley Raiders. He appeared in 140 games at the shortstop position, hit .286 and tied for the league lead with 23 homers and helped his team win the Sooner State League pennant while making the All-Star team. His 112 RBI ranked second in the league behind A.B. Pearson.

Spencer was then purchased by the New York Giants from Pauls Valley. He made his debut in their chain in 1950 with the Sioux City Soos, hitting .281/~.379/.474 with 36 doubles, 23 home runs, 108 runs and 83 RBI. One negative was 62 errors at shortstop, most in the Western League. On the other hand, he was third in the league in homers, tied for third in doubles and third in total bases (273). He lost All-Star honors at SS to Fred McAlister.

In 1951, Daryl made it to AA with the Nashville Volunteers, hitting .251 with 8 homers and 61 RBI. He began 1952 with the Minneapolis Millers and batted a strong .294/~.366/.524 with 35 doubles, 27 homers, 85 runs and 80 RBI. He tied Clint Hartung for third in the American Association in homers, 4 behind leader Moose Skowron. His fielding, while not great, had improved, as he made 35 errors and fielded .950. He did turn two triple plays that year.

[edit] Early major league career, military service

His 1952 performance at Minneapolis earned him a late-season callup to the 1952 Giants; he was 5 for 17 with a walk and a triple to show he belonged.

Spencer played 118 games for the 1953 Giants despite bouncing around the field, playing at least 30 games at each infield position except first base; he backed up Alvin Dark at short, Hank Thompson at third and Davey Williams at second. For the season, his batting line was .208/.287/.424 and he had delivered 20 home runs.

Daryl was then called into the United States Military Service for two years (1954 and 1955), during the Korean War. He was MVP of the 1955 National Baseball Congress World Series, helping Wichita's club to the title.

[edit] Giants mainstay

On his return from the military, he became one of the Giants' everyday infielders, never playing less than 146 games during the next five seasons (1956 to 1960). He was also in double figures in home runs for seven years, from 1953-61. Spencer batted .221/.275/.342 for the 1956 Giants with 14 home runs. He played most of his games at second base (70) but was only New York's second-most used player there, after Red Schoendienst; his 66 games at short, on the other hand, easily led the club.

"Big Dee" hit .249/.313/.376 in 1957; he hit 11 homers, one of his lowest totals, but contributed 31 doubles. He was New York's main shortstop and made 37 errors over the course of the season. He tied Schoendienst for 6th in the National League in doubles. It was the Giants' final year in New York.

Spencer maintained his role as starting shortstop in the Giants' first year as the San Francisco Giants, 1958. He hit the first home run on the coast for the Giants, off Don Drysdale at Seals Stadium, in an 8-0 Giants victory on April 15, 1958. He finished the year with 17 homers and a career-high 71 runs and 74 RBIs. His batting line was .256/.343/.406 and his OPS+ was 100, good for a shortstop.

On May 12 and May 13, 1959, he and Willie Mays hit back-to-back homers in consecutive games. Spencer hit .265/.332/.369 for the 1959 Giants while moving to second base.

[edit] Vagabond

That winter, Daryl was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals along with Leon Wagner for Don Blasingame (who would also make a major impact on Japanese baseball). He hit .258/.365/.404 as the starting second baseman for the 1960 Cardinals. He hit 20 doubles and 16 home runs that season. He finished 10th in the 1960 NL in OPS and had his best full season in the major leagues, with a 104 OPS+.

Spencer was hitting .254/.366/.377 after 37 games for the 1961 Cardinals. They dealt him to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Bob Lillis and Carl Warwick. He batted .243/.327/.407 over his final 60 games that season and finished the year with 12 home runs.

For the 1962 Dodgers, the Wichita native produced at a .236/.365/.318 clip, with just two home runs. He was used mostly as a backup to Junior Gilliam at third base.

Let go by Los Angeles, he was signed by the Cincinnati Reds. He hit .239/.359/.303 in 50 games for the 1963 Reds, splitting third base with Gene Freese and Eddie Kasko. He was released on his birthday, a sad way to end his time in The Show.

He ended his 10-year major league career with a .244/.327/.380 batting line, 105 home runs and a 89 OPS+.

[edit] Japan

Spencer would then spend seven years in Japan with the Hankyu Braves and was part of four pennant winners.

After being released by Cincinnati, Daryl had played summer baseball in Wichita. He was then contacted by two Nippon Pro Baseball clubs - Joe Stanka called him for the Nankai Hawks while the Hankyu Braves also reached him. Though Hankyu offered less money, Spencer opted to sign with them, as one of his friends had also committed to go; the friend backed out shortly before the season began. Once he got to Japan, Spencer realized Nankai offered a better ballpark for his style and better support with Katsuya Nomura, the top slugger of the era in the Pacific League.

Spencer made an immediate impact with his hard-nosed style. While Wally Yonamine had introduced American sliding techniques into Japan a decade prior, Daryl's aggressive sliding made the newspapers as a twist on an American innovation. Spencer later said "It changed the whole style of baserunning in Japanese baseball." Another innovation he put in place was a more prevalent use of pitch-outs, working with catcher Koji Okamura. Spencer finished the 1964 season hitting .282/.380/.556 with 36 homers, 89 runs, 85 walks and 94 RBI. He was the first 30-homer man in Hankyu franchise annals and he made the Pacific League All-Star team. He was only one walk behind leader Kihachi Enomoto and five homers behind Nomura for the PL lead. He was named to the Best Nine as the top second baseman in the circuit. He helped lead Hankyu to a second-place finish.

In 1965, Spencer batted .311/.423/.649 with 38 home runs and 79 walks. He hit for the cycle on July 16, the only time he would accomplish the feat in his professional baseball career. He again made the All-Star team. In August, Nomura was challenging to win the first Triple Crown in Pacific League history. Spencer's hitting coach with Hankyu asked him to focus on raising his average to thwart Nomura's Triple Crown chances, warning him he would be pitched around so that Nomura would win the home run race (at that point, Spencer led him, 33-27, in homers). The coach's warning came true as Spencer was intentionally walked eight straight times in a series against the Orions. After that series, Spencer became frustrated and said "I had lost my desire to compete." He slumped from that point on, but was still trailing Nomura only 40-38 in home runs with 11 games left in the season. At that point in time, though, Spencer got into a vehicular accident, when his motorcycle hit a delivery truck and Daryl broke his leg, ending his season. Nomura would win his Triple Crown, but Spencer would lead the league in walks and OBP that season. He lost the batting race by .009 to Nomura.

Given his experience in 1965, Spencer decided that he would simply ride out his contract in 1966. He found new life, though, after being impressed by Toshizo Sakamoto, Hankyu's new shortstop. Daryl hit .278/.386/.506 that season, with 28 doubles and 21 homers. His 71 walks tied Nomura for the PL lead. Spencer alternated between second base and third base (Yasuhiro Kunisada and Tony Roig making the Best Nine at those spots respectively).

Spencer's rediscovered joy for the game convinced him to sign another two-year deal, hopeful Hankyu could win it with players like Sakamoto and Atsushi Nagaike coming on board. Spencer hit .274/.370/.533 with 30 home runs in 1967, 5 homers behind leader Nomura. Hankyu won its first PL pennant ever. In the 1967 Japan Series, he batted .292/.320/.667 with 3 homers and 5 RBI in six games, but he didn't get much support and Hankyu lost to the Yomiuri Giants, who began their famous run of nine straight Japan Series titles.

In 1968, Spencer hit .231/.332/.453 for Hankyu, showing his age (he turned 40 during the season). He still managed to hit 18 home runs. Playing first base in the 1968 Japan Series, the veteran put on one last big show, going 7 for 15 with a double and 5 RBI in five games, but the Giants again proved to be too much, as Sadaharu Oh, Isao Shibata and Shigeo Nagashima combined for eight home runs.

He had hit 142 home runs in Nippon Pro Baseball, a record for a gaijin player; Dave Roberts would break it only three years later.

[edit] First retirement

Spencer decided to retire following the 1968 campaign. He returned to Wichita and opened a restaurant there.

[edit] Comeback

In 1971, the Hankyu Braves got back in touch with Spencer, bringing him on board as a coach. While working with the infielders in spring training, Spencer got back into playing shape. Hankyu offered to expand the role to that of player-coach and Daryl agreed. He hit .250/.352/.463 at age 42, with six homers in 108 AB. He went 0 for 2 with a walk in the 1971 Japan Series.

Spencer remained as a player-coach in 1972, hitting .260/.363/.429 with 4 homers in 77 AB. He was 0 for 5 in the 1972 Japan Series, as Hankyu fell to Yomiuri for the 4th time in Daryl's career. That marked the end of his time in Japan. Overall, he batted .275/.379/.536 with 152 home runs, 371 walks and 391 RBI in 731 games and 2,641 plate appearances in NPB.

[edit] Post-playing career

A Wichita, KS native who attended Wichita State University, he returned to his hometown, where he stayed a part of baseball as a manager of the Wichita Dreamliners of the National Baseball Congress and worked in public relations for the city's American Association team.

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