Rance Mulliniks – 1981 Fleer

December 9, 2010

“You Know, I Like It Here. Perhaps They’ll Trade For Me Next Season”

And…they did!

This shot was taken in Toronto, I believe. What other stadium had a covered left field bleachers but a third baseline with no roof?

This could have been either in June or August 1981 – Rance at that time was a seldom used backup for the Royals. He stayed in the bigs for Kansas City all of 1980 and 1981 but only played 50 games with 108 plate appearances those two years.

KC was pretty set with White, Washington (toothpick and all) and Brett around the infield, leaving Rance fighting with Dave Chalk for playing time at the utility spot.

Which is ironic as Chalk and Mulliniks fought for time earlier in California.

In 1977, the Angels went on a spending spree during the first big free agent rush. They signed Joe Rudi, Bobby Grich and Don Baylor to add to their base of Nolan Ryan, Frank Tanana, Jerry Remy, Chalk, Ron Jackson and Bobby Bonds. This would be the year!

Notice they had both Remy AND Grich. Well, Grich, a gold glover at second, moved to shortstop. He wasn’t horrid, but he was out of position. And he got hurt. Chalk was entrenched at third, and the other young shortstops all fizzed out. So up came Rance from AAA to fill in for the rest of the year.

And he didn’t do poorly, especially for a 21-year old rookie.

Well, in 1978, Remy was traded to Boston. Grich moved back to second. Rance was anointed the shortstop and Chalk was still at third.

On May 3, 1978, Rance was hitting just .143. The call was made to the minors, and Carney Lansford came up to play third. Chalk moved to short. Mulliniks moved to the bench, and then back to the minors, where he started to hit again. He was called up in September, but did not get a plate appearance as Jim Anderson was now the backup at short.

Mulliniks won the job again in 1979 out of Spring Training. But after an April which saw him hitting even worse, he was sent back to AAA and Anderson and creaky old Bert Campaneris shared the shortstop duties. Chalk was dispatched to Texas to get Bert after Rance was sent down.

That was the end of Rance’s time with the Angels, even though he hit .343 in Salt Lake City. California was determined to get a pennant for Gene Autry, and youngsters were seen as impediments. Mulliniks and Willie Mays Aikens, both under 25, were sent to Kansas City for proven vet Al Cowens.

Rance didn’t get sent down, but he didn’t get much playing time and never appeared in the post-season for Kansas City. He put up outstanding numbers in the minors, for a shortstop, and the bonus was that he was a lefty hitting shortstop. But there were concerns about his defense at short, and with Onix Concepcion ready for the big-time (allegedly) Rance was dispatched to Toronto for the infamous Phil Huffman.

Bobby Cox was installed as manager in Toronto, and he had nothing to lose. The 1981 Blue Jays were awful (especially in the first half of that split season) but improving and Cox just found the guys with talent and let ’em play. Aside from veteran catchers, most all of the regulars were under 30 and five under 25.

Cox also found his calling as the platooners platooner. Garth Iorg was another multi-purpose infielder who batted righty. Cox decided that Mulliniks and Iorg could share third base. Thus, Mulliniorg was born!

From 1982-87, that duo platooned more often than not, and helped Toronto to emerge as a team to be reckoned with in the AL East. And when Iorg stopped hitting, Mulliniks kept on as the platoon DH, sharing time with Cecil Fielder. Now, those are two opposite body types playing the same position, for sure!

He was beloved in Toronto, and is now a broadcaster for the team along with such Blue Jays luminaries as Alan Ashby, Pat Tabler and Buck Martinez. Not a bad career for someone the Angels thought was washed up at 24, the Royals traded him to get playing time for Onix Concepcion, and the Blue Jays received for a pitcher that went 6-18, 5.77 in 1979, and was 5-9, 5.50 in Syracuse in 1981.

You just can’t tell, can you?

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