By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
When I’ve mentioned Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Terry Puhl’s name to a player or coach who was around Major League Baseball during the late 1970s or in the 1980s, they often remember him as a “steady,” “dependable” or “solid all-around” outfielder.
In a Twitter exchange with Jim Kaat a few years ago, the legendary lefty described Puhl as “a tough out” who “used the whole field.”
Unfortunately, while being a “tough out” and “steady” and “dependable” are admirable traits, they don’t garner an athlete much attention. And Puhl’s lack of flash, and dearth of highlight reel plays, probably cost him accolades during his career.
So this week’s “Two Tidbits about Terry Puhl” blog entry – the third in my ongoing series – is a tribute to the Melville, Sask., native’s steadiness and dependability over the course of his 15-year major league career. I believe there’s something to be said for being consistently good.
You can read a general bio about Puhl here.
Now let’s get to this week’s “two tidbits”:
– Just how dependable and steady was Puhl in the outfield (he played all three outfield positions, but manned right field the most)? He had six major league seasons (some of them injury shortened) in which he did not make a single error and his .994 career fielding percentage is the second-best (to Nick Markakis) by a right fielder in big league history (minimum 500 games). But despite this impressive resume, Puhl never won a Gold Glove. But here again, he was probably hurt by his lack of flash. He was a heady outfielder who studied opposing hitters and emphasized good positioning. As a result, he rarely had to dive for balls and wasn’t the star of many highlight reels. With that said, Nolan Ryan can attest to how good Puhl was in the field. Among the many fly balls Puhl tracked down for Ryan over the years, the speedy Melville, Sask., native caught one that saved the Hall of Famer’s fifth no-hitter. Patrolling right field for the Astros at the Astrodome on September 26, 1981, Puhl took off after a deep fly ball that Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Mike Scioscia clubbed to right-centre field off Ryan in the top of the seventh inning. In full sprint, Puhl managed to snag the ball on his backhand just above his shoe tops. It was the closest Ryan would come to losing his no-hitter that day. You can watch the catch by clicking on the clip below.
– The first tidbit illustrated how steady and dependable Puhl was in the field. He was much the same at the plate. As the chart below shows you, he was almost the exact same hitter in the first half of the season during his 15-year MLB career as he was in the second half.