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Sam Ewing

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Samuel James Ewing

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[edit] Biographical Information

Sam Ewing began his professional baseball career in 1971 as a first-round draft pick by the Chicago White Sox in the 1971 amateur draft after he finished the University of Tennessee. He had previously turned down offers from the New York Mets in 1967 and the Montreal Expos in 1970 (the Expos had also made him a first-round selection, albeit in the secondary phase of the draft). He was assigned to mid-level class A with the Appleton Foxes and hit .363/~.458/.551; as he joined the team mid-season he was about 40 plate appearances shy of qualifying for the batting title, which he would have won by 40 points. Adding an extra 40 empty PA leaves him at .319, 4 points shy of the championship. While he was not named to the Midwest League All-Star team, he proved to be a dominant force at the level.

In 1972 Ewing was moved from the outfield to first base and batted .299/~.373/.455 for the AA Knoxville Sox and was promoted to AAA, where he batted .255/~.322/.359 with the Tucson Toros, not bad for a 23-year-old getting his first look at the level.

Sam spent most of the 1973 season with the Iowa Oaks and led the American Association's first basemen in fielding percentage (.995). He improved to .292/~.366/.450, though he struck out 105 times in 442 AB. He joined the White Sox in a September call-up but was just 3 for 20. Back with Iowa in 1974, Ewing batted .287/~.350/.430 and led the AA with 35 doubles. The ChiSox had Dick Allen at first, though, and Ewing, while a line-drive hitter, did not have great power (just 9 HR in 1974, with a peak of 12 to that point). Ewing did not play in the majors that year.

1975 brought Ewing to the Denver Bears and he hit .318/~.435/.483 for the club. Playing mostly DH, Sam was fourth in the AA in average and presumably higher in OBP. In 1976 the 27-year-old tore up AAA. Back in Iowa, he hit .351/~.403/.560 and improved his home run output to 15. He lost the American Association batting race by a single point to Mike Easler of the Tulsa Drillers. Amazingly, he had no set position, rotating between catcher, first base and the outfield. He got another cup of coffee with the Pale Hose but again struggled in his limited glance in the majors (a 67 OPS+ in only 41 AB).

Ewing was drafted in the 1977 expansion draft by the Toronto Blue Jays and finally got an extended opportunity in Major League baseball. Sam hit .287 for Toronto in 1987 but again showed insufficient home run power and had a 97 OPS+, fine for some positions but not for a corner outfielder-DH. In 1978 Ewing barely played, spending eight games with the Syracuse Chiefs (.233/.361/.333) and 40 games with the Jays, mostly as a pinch-hitter. He finished his big-league career that season with a .255/.308/.352 line.

In January 1979 the Nippon Ham Fighters bought Ewing's contract. Sam hit .286/.327/.452 with 15 homers for Nippon Ham. When teammate Bobby Mitchell was fined for poor defense, Sam rose to Bobby's defense, feeling that an American was being singled out when Japanese players who made similar miscues were not given equivalent fines. He got into a bilingual shouting match with manager Keiji Osawa by the dugout and the 6' 3", 200-pound American grabbed the 5' 8", 170-pound Osawa. Interpreter Toshi Shimada tried to intervene and the two went into a private meeting. Shimada toned down the rhetoric from both parties, enabling Ewing and Osawa to make peace with one another. Ewing finally apologized in front of the team as a good conclusion was reached.

Ewing did not return to Japan in 1980, instead returning to familiar territory with the Iowa Oaks. In 30 games, almost entirely at DH, Sam hit .337/~.384/.478 before retiring after a decade as a pro baseball player. Ewing finished the year as the manager of the Oaks, replacing Pete Ward. He then managed the Appleton Foxes in 1981.

Sources: 1971-1978 and 1980 Baseball Guides, You Gotta Have Wa by Robert Whiting

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