If it weren’t for this guy, William “Billy” Ronald Bryan would be the – if you could believe such a thing – best baseball player ever born in Morgan, Georgia. Strong words, I know, but as true today as the day they were first thought of [note: that was also today]. As it stands now, Bryan was simply a very decent backup catcher who never really got a chance to strut his stuff. Over his first two years in the bigs, Bryan only accumulated 100 plate appearances for mostly-terrible Athletics teams who seemed adverse to giving him a chance. This trend continued into the 1963 season when 24 year-old Bryan, who had an OPS+ of 28 a year earlier, turned in a remarkable hitting performance. Now, by “remarkable,” I hardly mean “good” (Billy had a .169/.270/.354 slash line, with a 70 OPS+). Heck, I don’t even mean “bad” (though he did have a crap year at the plate). No, the remarkable thing about Bryan’s year was that he became the first ballplayer in Major League Baseball history to collect five or more intentional walks in fewer than twenty-five games played. I have no clue why opposing teams intentionally walked Bryan five times in seventy-four plate appearances. Like, none. Maybe they knew he wasn’t actually as bad a hitter as he seemed. Over the next two years, Bryan would collect 599 plate appearances, accruing 27 home runs and 250 total bases. Still, how were opposing teams to know that in ’63? Perhaps his two year offensive spurt was the aberration, as the 1966 Athletics shipped Bryan (who was .132 over 83 plate appearances that) to the Yankees. Bryan would go on to have a 152 OPS+ as the 72-win Yankees' backup catcher in 1967. This led the Yankees, naturally enough, to allow Washington to claim Bryan in the Rule 5 draft in the offseason. Bryan slumped back down to a 90 OPS+ in 1968 and then left pro ball for good. If there’s a lesson in there, I'll be damned if I know what it is.
25- G, 5+ IBB