Wednesday, July 20, 2011
#259) CLAUDELL WASHINGTON
Claudell Washington was traded from the Chicago White Sox to the New York Mets in exchange for Jesse Anderson on June 7, 1980. The veteran who had played all three outfield positions as a 19-year-old rookie for the Champion Oakland A's in the 1974 World Series was not nearly as popular in Chicago. A fan banner reading "Washington Slept Here." was once infamously displayed from the Comiskey Field bleachers.
Joining the Mets seemed to regenerate the talented slugger. Washington made his Mets debut at Shea Stadium on June 11th as a pinch-hitter, but thrilled the New York fans days later in Los Angeles. On June 22nd, Claudell would become just the third man in club history to hit three home runs in a single game. The left-handed hitter had a total of four hits and drove in five runs during the Mets 9-6 victory over the Dodgers.
Washington's best day in Flushing came on the Fourth of July. New York hosted the Montreal Expos in a doubleheader that saw him connect for six hits in ten at-bats over the two games. Claudell had a total of 21 multi-hit games during his 79 appearances for the Mets in 1980. He would also finish the season collecting the team's second highest home run total with 10 round-trippers.
Claudell left the Mets when he signed as a free agent with Atlanta on November 15, 1980. The deal given to Washington by Braves owner, Ted Turner was one of the game's richest three-year contracts at that time. In the new age of "free agency" the size of the commitment sent shockwaves throughout baseball. New York Mets general manager, Frank Cashen called the signing, "stupefying."
Washington would enjoy a 17-year career in the major-leagues that finished in 1990. "I still had a love and passion for the game," Claudell said about the end of his playing days, "but something was missing. When something's missing and I can't go out there and have my total focus on what I'm doing, it's time for me to go." After baseball he became the CEO of CWash, Inc, a construction company in Oakland, California. Applying some of the same attributes that produced his success on the diamond, "Camaraderie, unity, paying attention to details, managing your resources—all that comes into play."
I created Claudell Washington's card in the set from a signed index card purchased from Worldwide Collectibles on June 14, 2011.