Wednesday, June 29, 2011
#186) GENE CLINES
Gene Clines joined the New York Mets when he was traded by the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Duffy Dyer on October 22, 1974. "I had mixed emotions about the trade," said the 29-year-old outfielder to Ebony magazine in June 1975. "When you work with guys for seven or eight years you become a closely knit group and it's tough to leave." Clines, a platoon player with the Bucs, added that being able to play every day would work to his advantage. "I was never given a chance to play in Pittsburgh. This is my opportunity. In New York I will be recognized and I can show what I can do."
Clines made his Mets' debut as the leadoff hitter that Opening Day at Shea Stadium on April 8, 1975. He was hitless in the 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies. Gene struggled to find his stroke all year, and even more surprisingly failed to become the base-stealing threat that the club had expected. In 82 games he finished with no home runs, 10 RBIs, a .227 batting average with only four stolen bases. The man nicknamed, "Roadrunner" was actually caught stealing four times that season as well.
The Mets traded Gene to the Texas Rangers for Joe Lovitto on December 12, 1975. Clines retired from playing in 1979 after three years with the Chicago Cubs. He became the team's first base coach the next day. Gene has served as a hitting coach with the Houston Astros, Seattle Mariners, Milwaukee Brewers, San Francisco Giants, and the Cubs. He most recently became a roving minor-league hitting instructor for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2007. "There's a satisfaction in seeing guys you helped make it....I remember watching Omar Vizquel, who I coached in Seattle," Clines said. "He's a 20-year guy in the majors and when I watch him I see him do things that I helped him with when he was at the same level as these guys."
Gene Clines signed his card in the set for me from an autograph request sent to his home on November 10, 2008.