Thursday, December 17, 2009

1976 Topps #299 - Champ Summers

  • John "Champ" Summers saw action in Vietnam and didn't make it to the majors until he was 28 years old. His father was a Navy prizefighter and Champ was one of the first players to get a tattoo. Summers was signed by the Oakland A's after being discovered playing in a softball league after his service in Vietnam.
  • Champ played in the minors from 1971-1973. In 1974 he was with the A's in May and June. Summers batted .125 in 24 at bats before being sent back to AAA Tucson. He started the 1975 season in Tucson but was traded to the Chicago Cubs for Jim Todd and cash after 17 games. The Cubs brought him back up to the majors and he batted .231 in 91 at bats as a pinch hitter and spare outfielder.
  • Summers played in 83 games in 1976, only 26 of them in the field. He batted .206 in 142 AB. After the 1976 season he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds for Dave Schneck. Champ found at bats to be a rare occurrence with the Big Red Machine. In 1977 he batted .171 in 76 at bats. He spent most of the 1978 season with AAA Indianapolis where he batted .368. He was the Minor League Player of the Year. Summers batted 35 times with the Reds in '78 and hit .257.
  • In 1979 Champ started with the Reds (.200 in 60 at bats) and then was traded to the Detroit Tigers for Sheldon Burnside. There he was reunited with manager Sparky Anderson and had his best seasons. Summers batted .313 with 20 HR in 90 games to finish the 1979 season. In 1980 Summers was able to spend a lot of time as DH. He batted .297 with 17 HR and 60 RBI in 120 games. Champ batted .255 in 165 at bats in 1981. After the 1981 season Summers was traded to the San Francisco Giants for Enos Cabell and cash.
  • Champ was 36 years old when he got to the Giants and on the tail end of his career. In 1982 he batted .248 in 125 at bats. His production really dropped off in 1983 (.136 in 22 at bats) and Summers traded to the San Diego Padres for Joe Pittman and a minor leaguer after the season.
  • Summers batted .185 in 54 at bats in 1984, mostly as a pinch hitter. He was hitless in two at bats in the NLCS and struck out in his only at bat in the World Series. Champ was granted free agency after the 1984 season, didn't sign with anyone, and retired.
  • In 1989 Summers played in the Senior Professional Baseball League. He managed the Independent League Gateway Grizzlies in 2001.
  • Summers now operated "Champ Summers' Summer Camp for Champs," a motivational sports retreat for youths.
  • Liked to face: Mike Torrez (.346 in 26 AB); Dennis Leonard (.438 in 16 AB); Dennis Eckersley (.357 in 14 AB)
  • Hated to face: Dennis Martinez (.158 in 19 AB); Don Sutton (.167 in 18 AB); Rick Langford (.133 in 15 AB)

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