#44: Chris Chambliss

See the 44 Greatest Atlanta Braves here.

Lefthanded Hitting, Righthanded Throwing First Baseman
Seasons With Braves: 1980-1986
Stats With Braves: .272/.345/.422, 80 HR, 366 RBI, 319 RS

You’ve got to have some Chris Chamblisses if you want to win. Not that he was great, because he wasn’t, but he was solid. Every year teams miss out because they have a bad player when a solid one would put them over the top.

Chris was the #1 pick in the 1970 draft by the Indians. He was in the majors full time a year later and won the Rookie of the Year award. Unfortunately, the Indians at the time made the Braves of the time look like the Reds of the time, and early in 1974, after Chris failed to develop the power they expected they dealt him and Dick Tidrow and the remains of Cecil Upshaw to the Yankees for Fritz Peterson, Mike Kekich’s wife, and a grab bag of miscellaneous relievers.

Chambliss had two of the best years of his career for the Yankees in 1975-76 and capped them with a walkoff homer to win the 1976 ALCS against the Royals; he finished fifth in the MVP voting that year and made his only All-Star team. After that, he fell off a bit, plus the Yankees started to import free agents and he became less important to the team’s success. In an off year with the bat in 1978 he won the Gold Glove, then rebounded offensively in 1979. After the season, the Yankees (suddenly in need of a catcher) traded him (and Damaso Garcia) to the Blue Jays in a trade that brought over Rick Cerone. The Jays flipped him to the Braves in the offseason.

Chambliss’ hitting numbers in Atlanta are superficially a little better than his career standard, but that is a park illusion. In his first year as a Brave, he hit 18 homers, equalling his career high. In 1982 and 1983 he beat that with 20. It’s really only in the last year of that sequence when he hit over his head (.280/.366/.481). But he was a solid hitter, a guy who hit for a decent average with some walks, some doubles, some homers, and played good defense at first base.

He basically stopped hitting in 1984, though. In 1985, the Braves started playing Horner at first base most of the time, and Chambliss didn’t even get into the game much as a defensive replacement. In 1986, he played only 20 games at first, but had a good year as a pinch-hitter, hitting .311. After the season, he apparently retired, but came out of retirement for a valedictory at-bat with the Yankees in 1988.

Chambliss really should have gotten a managerial job by now, but if he did they owners would have to find someone else to interview before hiring the white guy.

Chris Chambliss Statistics – Baseball-Reference.com

10 thoughts on “#44: Chris Chambliss”

  1. Wow, the context of the eras is striking. He was always considered a good hitter but by today’s standards a 1b with those numbers would have a hard time being employed.

    I liked Chris Chambliss. Yeah I’m old enough to have watched him play on TBS.

  2. in 1982 and or 1983 he did a platoon with the current MLB executive Bob “the Bull” Watson. As I remember, the Bull hit around .300 and had 10 to 12 homeruns as well. The Bull was also a devastating right handed pinch hitter even that late in his career (I think he was 38 or 39). Chambliss always seemed like the kind of player who could manage. He has been successful at AAA and he has coached for several teams. Great definition as a “solid” player. He was a fan’s kind of player. He gave it all he had and did a good job.

  3. I always liked Chris. Your description of him as “solid” is very apt. Your line about the trade by the Indians for “…the remains of Cecil Upshaw to the Yankees for Fritz Peterson, Mike Kekich’s wife…” is classic. I’d almost forgotten about the Peterson/Kekich thing. Great job Mac.

  4. I remember Chris being a bench or first base or hitting coach of some kind for the yanks after his retirement and they needed a stick quickly in the lineup, and they activated him for a weekend series and thus his lone AB. He then went back to coaching the yanks again. i agree I thought he was going to be managing timber. I think the best ex Brave mgr John Mizerock

  5. The mention of Bob Watson brings to mind one of the most exciting games I saw on TBS in 1983 against the Dodgers. Braves were down big early, came back to tie and lost the lead in the top of the ninth. In the bottom half, Watson hit a two run HR to win it. Terrific game and Ernie Johnson’s call was great.

  6. I mentioned that game in the thread on Bedrock. The Braves had tied it on homeruns by Hub and Washington. Greg Brock broke the tie off Bedrock in the 9th and then Watson hit his PH homer in the bottom of the inning off Steve Howe.

    Great game.

  7. That 1983 game is one of my fave Brave games also, Chris was really a classy player, one of my favorite TBS moments was when they had Chris take batting practice with an aluminum bat, he was hitting rockets all over the field, when he was asked what would stats be like if the majors had aluminum bats, Chris replied, “Well first of all, two or three spectators would be killed each season.” When TBS was really fun.

  8. That 1983 game vs. LA is very memorable to me as well—I literally almost wrecked my car when Watson hit the game-winning HR.

    I was driving from Columbus to Atlanta, driving from the south side of Columbus to the north side to pick up a friend on our way to go see (here’s some Southern nostalgia) Jason & the Scorchers at the 688 Club in ATL, 100 miles from Columbus. When Watson his HR (off Steve Howe?), I lost my mind & did a big swerve, damn-near put it in a ditch; when I got to the north side of town, my pal that I picked up was hyperventilating. We had a 6-pack on the way & had a helluva time at the show. “Hot Nights In Georgia” indeed.

    Thanks, Bob, & thanks Jason.

  9. Chambliss is another one of those Braves that I always knew and remembered from when I was a kid. When I would hold those pretend games in the backyard, or on the steps of my front porch, Chambliss was always one of the guys who would come up to bat.

    That TBS comment Randy made just reminds me how much Time Warner has destroyed that property. Between MLB’s rules and Time Warner’s management, a lot of tradition and history is being removed…

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