Thursday, May 11, 2006

Billy Grabarkewitz

What's in a name?

The answer to this question has baffled and confounded some of the greatest minds in history.

But, in the case of Billy Cordell Grabarkewitz, the answer was obvious: waaay too many letters to spell it correctly.

At least, that's what Los Angeles Dodger fans must have thought during the summer of 1970 when the club launched an aggressive write-in campaign to elect their 24-year old rookie infielder to the mid-summer classic.

Despite a blazing first half in which he hit .341 with nine home runs, 50 runs batted in, and 14 steals, Grabarkewitz did not believe he had much of a chance to make the All-Star team as a write-in candidate. "They don't even know how to pronounce my name," he said at the time. "How could they spell it."

Indeed, thousands of fans simply wrote "Billy G" on their ballots instead of trying to spell his 12-letter surname.

In the end, Grabarkewitz fell short of the necessary votes to make the NL team as a starter but was selected to the squad as a reserve by New York Mets' manager Gil Hodges.

It turned out to be Grabarkewitz' only All-Star appearance of his career. In the game, he collected a key single in the decisive 12th inning as the NL beat the AL, 5-4.

Grabarkewitz slumped mightily during the second half of the 1970 season, finishing the year with a .289 batting average, 17 homers, 84 RBI and 19 steals in 156 games.

After two injury plagued seasons, Grabarkewitz was shipped to the California Angels as part of the seven player deal that brought Andy Messersmith to Los Angeles.

Grabarkewitz then went on to play for the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago Cubs, before wrapping up his career with the Oakland Athletics in 1975.

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[1] Hunter, Bob. "Dodgers Hand Shortstop to Grabarkewitz." The Sporting News, November 16, 1968, 41.
[2] Wiebusch, John. "Fate Put a Limp in His Plans," LAT, 3/4/1969, F1.
[3] Hunter, Bob. "Billy G. is Just Great, Dodgers Crow." TSN, 8/1/1970, 3.

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