Monday, March 31, 2014

Tony Horton (custom)

Today we have an unplanned post: Indians' 1st baseman Tony Horton. Although Horton played for the Red Sox off-and-on from 1964 to early 1967, and was the Indians' starting 1st baseman from late-June 1967 to late-August 1970, Topps never made a card for him. [I found this card a few days ago on the website.]

Horton was signed by the Red Sox in 1962, and played in their farm system from 1963-66. He made his major-league debut in July 1964, and after the season the team traded away veteran 1st baseman Dick Stuart to open the position for Tony in 1965.

That plan didn't work out, as the manager decided to use veteran Lee Thomas for most of the season, with Tony spending part of '65 back in the minors.

After Horton started the first 4 games of the 1966 season at 1st base, rookie George Scott was moved from 3rd base to 1st base. Horton was sent to the bench for the rest of April, then demoted to triple-A for the remainder of the season.

Stuck behind the slugging Scott, Tony's big break came on June 4, 1967 when he was traded to the Indians (with veteran outfielder Don Demeter) for pitcher Gary Bell.

Within a month, Horton took over the first base job from incumbent Fred Whitfield, and held that post until the final game of his career on August 28, 1970.

Although missing 3 weeks in 1968 with a knee injury, Tony still led the Indians with 14 home runs and 59 RBI.

Tony's best season offensively was 1969, when he hit 27 homers and collected 93 RBI along with a .278 batting average. Horton spent most of 1969 and the first half on 1970 as the team's cleanup hitter.

Sometime in 1968, Horton began to feel the pressure of being a big-league ballplayer. His anxieties came to a head during the 1970 season. In a late-June game against the Yankees, Horton struck out on several "eephus" pitches from reliever Steve Hamilton, then threw his bat and helmet, and crawled back to the dugout.

After the slumping Horton endured heavy booing from the hometown fans, he attempted suicide after a game on August 28th, and suffered a nervous breakdown. Tony was hospitalized during the 1970-71 off-season, and by the time the 1971 season rolled around, it was apparent that he was not ready to play. Not until 1972 did the Indians realize Horton would not be returning to baseball.

Tony Horton's SABR page.


Douglas said...

I didn't realize Miller Lite was around in 1968.

Commishbob said...

I was at that game. Actually it was a midweek doubleheader. Maybe the most fun I've ever experienced in a ballpark. There was a serious fight at home plate between Stan Bahnsen and Vada Pinson. Bobby Murcer hit four homers and someone threw a huge firecracker out of the upper deck that exploded next to Ray Fosse and just about gave him, the ump and everyone else a heart attack.

All that in addition to Tony Horton's crawling antics.

Jim from Downingtown said...

Bob, I just read about all those antics last week somewhere on one of these blogs. The blogger was posting Vada Pinson's card, and the photo was taken seconds before or after that home plate collision.

I think it was Night Owl's 1971 blog.

Jim said...

Good article on Tony Horton. Highly recommended.

Fireblossom said...

He was an above average hitter for several years in the AL...I wonder why they never carded him?