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Monday, June 13, 2011

Getting Drafted--My Experience

I was drafted in June of 1974. I played high school ball at Wilson High School in Portland, Oregon, and by June of my senior year, during my American Legion season, I starting noticing more scouts at my games. I got to know one Phillies scout in particular, Bill Harper, who was good friends with my high school coach, Jack Dunn. I knew Bill liked me, and about two weeks before the draft I got a call from the Phillies inviting me to a pre-draft workout at Veteran’s Stadium. It was exciting, to say the least. My Dad and I flew back to Philadelphia, and we got to watch the Phillies play the Giants before the workout the next morning.

A lot was going through my mind during the tryout, as you can imagine. Mostly, though, I couldn’t believe the humidity. It was just sweltering. Portland has never known the type of humidity you get out there on the East Coast. I didn’t bring a bat, either, I remember that. First they wanted to see us hit with wooden bats (aluminum bats had just been invented, and that was really all I was used to), so I walked up to the bat rack to find a collection of—no kidding—the most massive bats I’d ever seen. They were just huge to me. (Mike Schimdt, Bob Boone etc. were with the Phillies at the time). I heaved one out of there and went out to hit. I was really nervous. My hands were sweaty, and I didn’t do that well (I think I hit maybe one off the wall). Then they took us out to the outfield for the sixty-yard dash, and I had the great misfortune of being paired up with Willie Wilson, one of the fastest guys to ever play the game (at the time he had a scholarship to play halfback at the University of Maryland). There I was, this tall, skinny guy, about 6’ 4” 200 pounds, with only decent speed, matched up against Willie Wilson. As soon as they yelled “Go!” Willie was already ten yards ahead of me. I left the workout pretty sure I hadn’t impressed the Phillies all that much, at least not in the speed department.

The draft was a couple of weeks later, and it’s interesting how it differed from today’s draft. Without the Internet or any major sports media outlets around, none of us had any idea which teams were interested or even really what our chances were. I knew the Phillies might draft me, but I had no idea whether any other teams were interested. As it happened, I was picked 5th overall by the Atlanta Braves. The Phillies took Lonnie Smith 3rd, and the Padres took Bill Almon as the overall #1 pick. I honestly had no idea I’d go that high, nor did I have much of a clue about what it all meant. I barely knew where Atlanta was on a map, let alone where their minor league clubs were located. In fact, the whole minor league system was pretty much a mystery to me. All I knew was that Hank Aaron had been with the Braves, and he broke Babe Ruth’s home run record. You could say I was a little na├»ve.

Soon after the draft my dad and I negotiated my contract with Bill White, the scout for the Braves. They offered me a $52,000 signing bonus. I didn’t have an agent--it was just me and my dad--nor did I have information about what comparable players were signing for, but $52,000 seemed incredible to me. I remember talking with my parents about it, and they asked, “Well, what do you think? Do you want to go to college (I had signed a letter of intent to go to Arizona State) or do you want to play pro ball?” I told them I wanted to give baseball a shot. So I signed.

Later I found out that Bill White had sent a telegram to Eddie Robinson, the GM for the Braves, during our negotiations. He told him that it was all going well and that he thought they might be able to get me for as low as $65,000 (!). So much for my negotiation skills, I thought. I mean, $52,000 seemed like a major victory!

TOP TEN DRAFT PICKS OF 1974 (FYI):

Padres: Bill Almon
Rangers: Tommy Boggs
Phillies: Lonnie Smith
Indians: Tom Brennan
Braves: Dale Murphy
Brewers: Butch Edge
Cubs: Scot Thompson
White Sox: Larry Monroe
Expos: Ron Sorey
Angels: Mike Miley

5 comments:

  1. Man! Braves definitely got the best of those picks.

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  2. Lonnie Smith wasn't too shabby. He did have some great years with the Braves later in his career during the early 90's at the start of the 14 straight Division Titles.

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  3. Wow, great story about Murphy. Like many fans, he was my favorite player. I think I collected nearly every baseball card he had with a few of them signed by Murphy.

    It is amazing how much has changed in the last 25 - 30 years. It is a completely different era. Is it better now? I don't know but I am sure Murph would have liked his signing bonus in 2011 much more than the one in 2010 - especially as the #5 overall pick! :)

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  4. Great post -- it's almost surreal that my favorite player growing up now has a blog where you share all this info! Hopefully in due time you'll be able to write a post about entering the Hall of Fame ;)

    Seriously though, I'd love to get your thoughts on the HOF process and what you think about your chances. In my opinion, players MUST be measured relative to their era--that's why common benchmarks like 500 homers or 3000 hits are very misleading. Much more important is how a player fared on MVP balloting through the years, and his performance in clutch scenarios. Anyway, those are my two cents. Keep up the great posts!

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  5. Sure do appreciate all of your comments. Thanks so much!

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