Monday, August 13, 2018

The 1974 Topps Rookie All-Star Team - Greg Gross

Here they are - the Topps All-Star Rookie Team, selected "by the Youth of America" following the 1974 season and featured in the 1975 Topps set. 

I have completed the run of these up through 2018 Series One, at least all regular issue cards that bear the All-Star Rookie Trophy. 

Topps decided to skip the Trophies on the 1974 Topps Set, but they made a triumphant return in 1975. I wanted to show my appreciation for this expression of good judgement, so for the 1974 Lineup, I will do a separate post for each player. This was a pretty good crop of players, so let's dive in! 
Outfield - Greg Gross

It was fitting that Greg Gross had his Major League Debut as a pinch hitter. A 4th Round Selection by the Astros in the 1970 MLB draft, Gross offered a very specific set of skills to the team. The lefty bat moved steadily through the Astros minor league system, making his first MLB appearance late in 1973.

Gross has a very solid rookie season, finishing 3rd in the NL in average. His 185 hits ranked 7th. He came in 2nd the NL Rookie of the Year Voting, just behind Bake McBride of the Cardinals. In addition to his ability to get base hits, he was also a very patient hitter. His .393 on base percentage was 5th best in the league and the best mark for a rookie since 1970. 

Gross was the Astros' primary Right Fielder as a Rookie and moved around the next few seasons from Right to Left. He was traded to the Chicago Cubs before the 1977 season for Julio Gonzalez. In Chicago he was used as a bench player and reserve outfielder. In Chicago, Gross found his power stroke - he hit 6 of his 7 career homers as a Cub. He hit home runs in back to back games in a road trip to Atlanta in August of 1977, the second being his only career leadoff home run. 

Gross found a home in Philadelphia, coming to the City of Brotherly Love in 1979 in the same trade that sent fellow 1974 Topps Rookie All-Star Barry Foote in the opposite direction. In Philly he became the club's premier Lefty bench bat, and along with another 1974 Topps Rookie All-Star, Bake McBride, helped the Phillies win the 1980 World Series. Gross went 3-4 in his 4 NLCS appearances, scoring 2 runs and driving in another. 

Gross would remain a steady presence in Philadelphia off the bench as a pinch hitter and filling in as a corner outfielder and first baseman. He became the Phillies' all-time leader in pinch hits. 

Score provides the deep cut factoids, mentioning his first of two career pitching appearances. He probably should have quit while he was ahead, a scoreless 2/3rds of an inning including strikeouts of Casey Candaele and Herm Winningham. In his final season, he would return to the mound again, in the ninth inning of another blow out. This time, he was roughed up by the Pirates, surrendering 2 runs on 3 hits and a walk. He was quoted in the Sporting News following his adventure on the mound, "The worst part is how close you are to the batter after you throw the ball [. . .] I throw batting practice, but you've got the screen. I was looking for a way to sneak the screen out there."

His final 60 games came as a member of the Houston Astros, hitting just .200 for the season. He was not able to secure a tryout in 1990 and sat out the season. He accepted a Spring Training invite with the Padres in 1991 and was the final cut prior to Opening Day. There were rumors that he would be picked up by the Red Sox, but he officially retired. 

Gross may not have been fleet of foot, or hit for power, but his ability to make contact and reach base via any means necessary made him an integral part of the 1980s Phillies. He struck out just 250 times in his 4,355 career plate appearances, and his career .371 OBP ranks just ahead of Kenny Lofton and Roberto Alomar on the all-time list.

1 comment:

  1. I remember Gross from his days in Philly... but had no idea he played for the Cubs or Astros. Looks like he had a pretty solid career as a pinch hitter.