#24: Ralph Garr

See the 44 Greatest Atlanta Braves here.

Lefthanded Hitting, Righthanded Throwing Outfielder
Seasons With Braves: 1968-1975
Stats With Braves: .317/.350/.429, 49 HR, 247 RBI, 470 RS

Ralph Garr was, in a way, similar to the young Lonnie Smith, though hardly the same disaster in the outfield. He was very fast and hit for a high average (his .317 batting average with the Atlanta Braves is the highest of any player with at least 2000 PA) but didn’t have the defensive skills for center or the power expected in left, so he didn’t get a chance until he was 25. Drafted out of Grambling, Ralph was putting up insane numbers in the minors, capped by hitting .386 in Richmond in 1970, but couldn’t get into the lineup in Atlanta — which admittedly had Carty and Aaron in the outfield corners.

When Carty went down with his broken knee, Garr inherited most of his playing time. Garr responded by hitting .343 (second in the league). When Carty came back you couldn’t exactly bench the guy who hit .343, so Garr played right field most of the time in 1972 (with Aaron shifting to first) and hit .325. After Carty was traded, Garr stayed in right field and “slumped” to .299.

I just give the batting averages because Ralph didn’t really have much power or walk a whole lot. Still, .320 batting averages cover a lot of ills. In 1974, playing mostly left field, he hit .353/.383/.503. The .503 is largely a fluke, spiked by a league-leading 17 triples (the same number Carty hit in his entire career) but he did hit a few more homers. He won the batting title and made his only all-star team.

Garr had a bad year in 1975, hitting .278/.327/.384, and the Braves (as I’ve noted) had a “sell low” philosophy in place. They traded him and Larvell Blanks to the White Sox for Dick Ruthven, Ken Henderson, and — I swear — Ozzie Osborn. Osborn wasn’t really a player, but Ruthven gave the Braves two and a half solid years, then was traded for Gene Garber, and Henderson filled in admirably for a year and then was part of the Burroughs trade. So that worked out okay. Garr hit .300 his first two years in Chicago, then fell off, and when he wasn’t hitting .300 he wasn’t much use. He was out of the majors at 34.

Garr ranks here because this is where he ranks, to put it tautologically. I am not enamoured of the high-average speed merchant as a type, but Garr in his Atlanta years was very good. Only eleven players (ten of whom are yet to be listed, and Ron Gant) created more runs in a Braves uniform from 1966-2006. He’s further above average than Gant. I can’t say that if I were picking a team I wouldn’t rather have Carty or Gant or Klesko, but I’m going by the numbers here.

Tangential note: Garr led the league in intentional walks in 1975 with 17, and is 12th on the Atlanta career list with 37 (leaving exactly 100 unintentional walks in his career). It seems odd to walk a leadoff hitter with no power, but when you think about it it makes sense. With the intentional walk to prevent one run from scoring, the high-average guy is the most dangerous, not the power guy — I mean, if you’re trying to prevent one run, who cares if two score instead? Also, with a runner at second, the impact of Garr’s speed was minimized. And #2 hitters are usually weak hitters — Garr was normally behind followed by Marty Perez.

Ralph Garr Statistics – Baseball-Reference.com

20 thoughts on “#24: Ralph Garr”

  1. For the yougsters, the Braves actually paid Warner Brothers to allow them to use the “Roadrunner” name picture and cartoon spots to promote Garr. They would run it on the 1970 version jumbotron in Old Fulton County. It made it great fun for a 10 to 12 year old kid in the stadium. And, he was almost that fast. On a line to first base, Otis Nixon, Pete Orr fast.

  2. Cliff,

    That’s right. That was one of my first memories of going to Atl-Fulton Co. Stadium. When Garr would be announced to hit, a big “MEEP-BEEP!” would blare over the loudspeakers.

    Garr’s 1974 season was pretty great. Along with Niekro’s 20 wins, Capra’s ERA title, & a solid Darrell Evans, Atlanta got back above .500 in a very good NL West. Although Baker had a less-than-great year & Aaron was clearly declining, a lot of us young Braves fans were looking forward to a bigger 1975. Boy, were we wrong.

  3. Cliff, calling that thing a jumbotron is ridiculous. It was a huge Lite-Brite.

    Ralph Garr is the fastest ML baseball player I have ever seen, period. I told Mac earlier that probably 25-20% of his hits never left the infield.

  4. Further to bledsoe’s comment: When Garr hit the majors he batted over .400 for a considerable period of time. He wasn’t just fast he was blazing fast home to first. I remember watching Phillies games and Richie Ashburn just raved about his speed. I remember him saying “if the ball bounces more than twice in the infield this guy has a base hit”. He was a lot of fun to watch.
    I also remember that Garr would get into a zone and run off multiple 3, 4, and 5 hit games in a row.

  5. “this will not work”, “I don”t want to play first”, ” theres going to be a problem” thats what the yanks get from Sheff for 13 mil.

  6. Garr was an incredible bad ball hitter. He’d swing at anything in the same time zone. The speed was the great equalizer. I remember one year they put him 3rd in the lineup because he was our ONLY guy hitting. Even though I’m with you Mac not liking batting average heavy one dimensional players he was my favorite Brave during that time frame. I’m not sure who it was tougher on him or me seeing him in those ass ugly Chisox uniforms of those days (remember they wore shorts).

  7. Salty Dog Update: He’s still mashing in Arizona. After a two homer game yesterday, here are Jarrod’s stats through 5 games

    .600/.692/1.100 BA/OBP/SLG
    1.792 OPS
    20 AB, 12 H, 1 2B, 3 HR, 8 R, 12 RBI, 5 BB, 2 SO

    His defense hasn’t been very good, but otherwise he’s tearing the cover off the ball. Good job, Jarrod!

  8. Hahahahaha! That’s fantastic!

    More to the point, though, I just want to take a moment and state the obvious: Robert, Sam, Bledsoe, and Mac, thank you. The player previews are the most fun I’ve had in a long time. In many cases they evoke an era I never saw better than I could have imagined–or bring out of the sands of memory eras I lived through and had almost forgotten. They’re brilliant, and they’re the one thing that’s making my early offseason easier to bear. (This World Series ain’t helping–it’s worse than the Metz and Yanx in 2000.)

    You know, Mac, you should write a book about the Braves. You know more about them than anyone, with the possible exception of Pete van Wieren. If Neyer can get a book published with nothing but lists, you can too.

  9. Those White Sox softball unis were just embarassing. In fact, there were plenty of those early-mid ’70s outfits that were almost as bad (Padres, Indians, Braves).

  10. Kei Igawa? Does anyone think JS will post enough to win the bid on this japanese starting pitcher? He could go unnoticed with Matsuzaka gaining the most attention in the off season. According to Ken Rosenthal’s article the Braves are interested along with a few other clubs. Igawa is 27 and a proven 15 game winner.

  11. On the cost of the Japanese pitchers, As I understand the posting fee isn’t owed unless you actually sign the player. The bid freezes the player to your team or no other MLB team for one year.

    Then, each team with a Japanese player can market big money in Japan. There are diminishing returns as extra Japanese players are added. In other words, a Japanese radio feed, a dubbed Turner South feed, jersey sales, and everything bring back money you would otherwise never see. I don’t know the numbers, but they run to several million per year. Thus Matzusaka at $10 million is only costing $7 million compared to a domestic or latin player.

    Not that they will do it, but I still think for PR and long time franchise value Liberty Media ought to put $20 million on the table to “bid” the rights on Matsuzaka. Come on Liberty, get off the pot.

  12. I’m shocked that Sheffield didn’t want to be picked up. Earlier in the year, he was complaining because it looked like the Yankees wouldn’t pick up the option. I’m not sure anyone is going to give Gary a three-year deal considering the baggage he brings.

    The White Sox in shorts was a Bill Veeck thing. Veeck had a reputation for being an iconoclast and doing all sorts of things to make baseball “fun.” Unfortunately, some of the stuff he did was dumb, like the short pants and, I think he was responsible for disco night. He was a great promoter but got carried away with himself at times.

  13. Veeck’s son was actually the “idea man” behind “Disco Demolition Night,” which was a complete disaster for a variety of reasons.

    Lots of Sheffield talk up here in New York, but nothing seems to make sense at the moment. Unless the Yankees have a suitor that’s willing to extend Sheffield right now, I’m not sure why they picked up the option. Some believe that it’s a move to prevent the Mets or BoSox from picking him up, but I’m not sure I buy that.

    Of course, having an unhappy Gary Sheffield on your team isn’t exactly desirable, but neither is a $13M “insurance policy.” But then again, with Giambi’s wrist injury/surgery, maybe that’s all Sheffield is at the moment.

    From Yankee fans, I hear this: Trade A-Rod & Sheffield for all the young pitching possible. Eat contracts, if nec. Get pitching now.

  14. @17
    Ah come on Marc. Veeck looked at the game as fun. Given the quality of that era’s Chisox teams no one could blame him for trying to get some fannies into that old decrepit stadium they had back then.

    More Kudo’s Mac, Bledsoe and Sam…. thanks. Great stuff.

    I think that Ralph Garr has a job with the Braves. If so thats terrific. He was a fun player to watch.

  15. I didn’t have a problem with Veech generally, but he did go overboard a little with the short pants. I thought he showed up his players to have them wear short pants. (Plus, wouldn’t it hurt to slide?) Veeck was a good man; he was trying to integrate the majors well before Branch Rickey.

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