Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Andrés José Padovani Galarraga [gal-lar-RAH-ga] (born June 18, 1961 in Caracas, Venezuela) is a former Major League Baseball first baseman who played for the Montreal Expos (1985–91 and 2002), St. Louis Cardinals (1992), Colorado Rockies (1993–97), Atlanta Braves (1998 and 2000), Texas Rangers (2001), San Francisco Giants (2001 and 2003) and Anaheim Angels (2004). He batted and threw right handed.
At six-foot-three and 235 pounds (1.91 m, 117 kg), Galarraga began his professional career in Venezuela at age of 16. Despite several injuries that plagued Galarraga throughout his career, he was a very popular player both for his achievements on the field, and for his big and bright smile. He was nicknamed The Big Cat (El Gran Gato) for his extraordinary quickness at first base in spite of his big frame. Galarraga was a five time All-Star, won two National League Gold Glove Awards and two NL Silver Slugger awards, and won the MLB Comeback Player of the Year Award after his successful return to baseball following cancer treatment.
Montreal Expos (1985-1991, 2002)
St. Louis Cardinals (1992)
Colorado Rockies (1993-1997)
Atlanta Braves (1998, 2000)
Texas Rangers (2001)
San Francisco Giants (2001, 2003)
Anaheim Angels (2004)
All-Star (NL): 1988, 1993, 1997, 1998, 2000
Gold Glove Award (NL 1B): 1989, 1990
Silver Slugger Award (NL 1B): 1988, 1996
4038 career total bases is 69th on all-time list
444 career doubles is equal 83rd on all-time list
399 career home runs is equal 43rd on all-time list
1425 career RBI is 57th on all-time list
875 career extra base hits is 58th on all-time list
178 career times hit by pitch is 11th on all-time list
106 career intentional walks is 95th on all-time list
Led the National League in hits (184), total bases (329), doubles (82), runs created (113) and extra-base hits (79) in 1988
Led the National League in batting average (.370) in 1993
Led the National League in home runs (47) in 1996
Led the National League in RBI (150 & 140) in 1996 and 1997
Colorado Rockies Career Leader in At Bats per Home Run (15.5)
Holds Colorado Rockies single season record for RBI (150 in 1996) Venezuelan Winter League
In the minors, Galarraga played for West Palm Beach (1979, 1982–83), Calgary (1979–80), Jamestown (1981), Jacksonville (1984) and Indianapolis (1985).
Galarraga earned the Montreal job by being named Double-A Southern League MVP for Jacksonville in 1984, with .289 BA, 27 home runs and 87 RBI. He also led the league in total bases (271), slugging percentage (.508), intentional base on balls (10), hit by pitches (9), and in double plays (130) and total chances (1428) on first base. Prior to his majors promotion, he hit .269, 25, 85 with Indianapolis in 121 games, being named Rookie of the Year in the Triple-A International League.
The Big Cat made his debut with Montreal on August 23, 1985. That year Galarraga struggled, hitting .187 (14-for-75) with two homers and four RBI in 24 games. He had a promising start in 1986, but it was halted when Galarraga suffered a knee injury. Galarraga had eight home runs and was leading all NL rookies in runs batted in (25) when he suffered the knee injury. Galarraga received arthroscopic surgery on the knee on July 10. He was activated one month later, only to be re-injured the following day after pulling muscles in his rib cage. He returned to action on September, ending with .271, 10 HR, 42 RBI in 105 games.
Overshadowed by some teammates, Galarraga survived a tough rookie year and quietly enjoyed a consistently strong 1987 season. He hit .305, 13 HR, 90 RBI, finishing second in the league in doubles (40). Despite his size, he displayed solid defense, being adept at scooping throws out of the dirt and excellent quickness turning the 3-6-3 double play. Cardinals' manager Whitey Herzog called him "the best-fielding right-handed first baseman I've seen since Gil Hodges."
In 1988 Galarraga emerged from the shadows to become the best player on the Expos. He had an MVP-type season with a .302 batting average, 99 runs, 92 RBI and 29 home runs. He also led the league in hits (184) and doubles (42), and earned an All-Star berth for the first time in his career. 1989 was a rough season however. Galarraga became a target of Montreal fans' frustration when he tailed off after the All-Star game. That year he led the league in strikeouts (158), dropping his production to .257, 23 HR, 85 RBI. He fell five RBI short of becoming first Expo to string together three straight seasons with 90 or more runs batted in. Despite the rough season, Galarraga blasted his first grand slam, stole home for first time in his career, and was rewarded with a Gold Glove Award for his stellar play at First base.
Galarraga's 1990 season had Expos mumbling that the team should lower its expectations for the slick-fielding first baseman. For the second consecutive season, the Big Cat failed to repeat the standards he set in his first two full seasons. He hit .256 with 20 home runs and 87 RBI, almost a mirror image of his previous season. For third consecutive year he led the league in strikeouts. Smart pitchers exploited his impatience at the plate and didn't give him good pitches to hit. Even without any improvement with the bat, Galarraga continued to make tremendous contributions on the field, scooping up infielder's errant throws, starting 3-6-3 double plays, and winning his second Gold Glove. That season he also had a six-RBI game, two four-RBI games, and hit his first career inside-the-park homer.
Slowed by injuries, Galarraga struggled through the worst offensive season of his career in 1991. Disabled with strained left hamstring between May and July, later he had a new arthroscopic surgery to repair damage to undersurface of his left kneecap. Montreal missed his glove as much as his bat, committing 43 infield errors in 53 games without him. That season Galarraga hit .219, 9 HR, 33 RBI in 107 games. He stole home for second time in his career and hit his 100th career home run. At the end of the season he was traded to the Cardinals.
Galarraga had a second chance with St. Louis. Early in the year however a pitch broke his wrist and he didn't recover until July. He batted .296 after the All-Star break and hit all ten of his homers after July 1st for a .497 second-half slugging percentage. He finished with a .243 BA and 39 RBI, but made a good impression on Cardinals batting coach Don Baylor. When Baylor became the first Rockies manager in off-season, he recommended that Colorado take a chance on Galarraga and sign him as a free agent. The Big Cat was given new life for his career.
In a 1993 season full of remarkable individual achievements, Galarraga flirted with the .400 mark for a while. His final .370 BA was an amazing 127-point increase over his previous year mark. He lead National League batters in batting average, and it was the highest average by a right-handed hitter since Joe DiMaggio batted .381 in 1939.
Despite missing 42 games with assorted injuries, The Big Cat compiled 56 multi-hit games to lead the league. He added 22 homers, 98 RBI, 71 runs, 35 doubles, four triples, a .403 on base percentage, and his .602 slugging percentage was second in the league. His .370 mark also is highest average ever by a Hispanic American player, while becoming the first player on an expansion team as well as the first Venezuelan to win a batting title. Tony Gwynn hit .358 to finish as runner-up in the title race.
Galarraga's improvement began when Baylor drastically opened up his stance to make him quicker on inside pitches. The new stance also helped Galarraga generate more power to the opposite field. At the same time, facing the pitcher with two eyes gave him a better view at pitches, lowering his strikeout rate and making him much more consistent at the plate with a better contact. Galarraga finished 10th in the MVP selection, but won The Sporting News Comeback Player of the Year Award. After the season, and for third time, he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery.
In the strike shortened 1994 season, Galarraga set a new National League record in April by driving in 30 runs in a month. He seemed to be on his way to a terrific year again, but he fractured his right hand on July 28. At the time of his injury Colorado had climbed to within a half-game of the first place Dodgers. Without him however, the Rockies went 3-10 the rest of the way. Galarraga paced the club with 31 homers (fifth in the league), and batted .319 with 85 RBI.
On June 25, 1995, Galarraga hit three home runs in three consecutive innings to tie a MLB record. He finished with .280, 31 homers and 106 RBI. His numbers were helped by fact he stayed healthy for first time in four years. That season the Rockies had four players with 30 or more home runs, matching the 1977 Dodgers. Over the next seasons, Galarraga developed into one of the best RBI men in baseball, driving in a combined 396 runs between 1996 and 1998 (106, 150, 140). In the same period he batted .279, .303 and .318, with 31, 47, and 41 HRs. Some critics argued that his achievements were possible thanks to the thin-air, mile-high, hitter-friendly Coors Field, but Galarraga belted many homers on the road that traveled over 450 feet. During the '97 season he hit a mammoth home run off Kevin Brown; a grand slam that landed 20 rows deep in the upper deck at Marlins' Pro Player Stadium and was alternately measured at 573 and 529 feet. Previously, he smashed two homers in two games that traveled 455-foot and 451-foot respectively, totalizing 1,435 feet, an average of 478 feet each.
A free agent at the end of the season, Galarraga signed a 3-year contract with Atlanta.
In his first season in Atlanta Galarraga silenced his critics. He proved that he could still produce great power numbers in lower altitudes, hitting .305 with 44 home runs and 121 RBI.
During 1999 spring training, Galarraga developed a sore back. Hydrobaths, massages, muscle relaxers and stretching would not stop the nagging soreness. He was referred to a medical oncologist at Atlanta for a thorough physical exam and an MRI. When the diagnosis came in, the famous Galarraga smile disappeared. On his second lumbar vertebra in his lower back he had a tumor known as Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a form of lymphatic cancer. He missed the entire 1999 season while undergoing treatment.
Galarraga returned to the field in high spirits and good form after undergoing chemotherapy and a strict workout routine. In his third at-bat of the Opening Day in the 2000 season, Galarraga knocked the winning run with a home run and showed his smile again. In April and May, he was tied for first place in home runs in the National League and was batting .300. Galarraga finished his comeback campaign hitting .302 with 28 HRs and 100 RBI, and even played in the All-Star Game in front of the home fans at Turner Field.
A free agent after the season, Galarraga signed with the Texas Rangers.
Braves: 1998, 2000
The change of scenery affected the hot-hitting Galarraga. At 40, he found himself lost in a new league, facing different pitchers, and stuck in a backup position with star Rafael Palmeiro as the incumbent first baseman for the Rangers. Galarraga was used mainly as a DH, pinch-hitter and occasional starter against left-handed pitchers. After he disappointed with .235, 10 HR, 34 RBI in 72 games, he was traded to the San Francisco Giants mid-season. For the 2002 season Galarraga re-signed with the Montreal Expos and played one year with the team. He returned to the Giants in 2003 when he signed a minor league contract before the season. As a part-time player with San Francisco, he batted .301 (82-272) with 12 HRs and 42 RBI.
Rangers, Giants and Expos: 2001–2003
In 2004, Galarraga beat cancer for a second time. He underwent two three-week periods of chemotherapy and was hospitalized for 23 days for additional treatment for the same Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma that sidelined him in 1999 when he was with the Braves. When rosters were expanded in September 1, Galarraga came back to the majors from the Angels' AAA affiliate in Salt Lake. Although he served mostly as a bench player in Anaheim, he was widely regarded in the clubhouse, especially among younger players such as Vladimir Guerrero, for whom he became a voice of experience. Galarraga saw action in a few games, and hit one homer to reach 399 for his career total.
The Mets picked up Galarraga in the off-season, not knowing if the 43-year-old would be fit for their roster. Galarraga eventually retired during spring training on March 29, 2005, saying it was "the right time to give a younger guy a chance to play." He finished his career with a .288 batting average, 399 HR, and 1,425 RBI.
Galarraga was signed by the Expos in 1979 and made his Major League debut in 1985, displaying solid defense. Cardinals' manager Whitey Herzog called him "the best-fielding right-handed first baseman I've seen since Gil Hodges."
Galarraga was an accomplished hitter. In 1993, playing for the Rockies, he flirted with hitting .400, finishing with a NL best .370 batting average. In 1995 Galarraga hit three home runs in three consecutive innings to tie a MLB record. Galarraga developed into one of the best RBI men in baseball, driving in a combined 396 runs between 1995 and 1997 (106, 150 and 140). Some critics argued that his achievements were aided by the thin air at hitter-friendly Mile High Stadium and later Coors Field in Denver. But Galarraga belted many homers on the road that travelled over 450 feet, including a grand slam that landed 20 rows deep in the upper deck at Marlins' Pro Player Stadium and was alternately measured at 573 and 529 feet. Previously, he smashed two homers in two games that traveled 455 feet and 451 feet respectively, totaling 1,435 feet. He remains the Rockies' Career Leader in At Bats per Home Runs with 15.5. His 150 RBIs in 1996 is also still a single season record for the Rockies. In 1998, the Rockies released him to make room at first base for Todd Helton and he signed with the Atlanta Braves as a free agent. Galarraga hit 44 homers for the Braves that year, making him the first player in major league history to hit 40 or more homers in a season in consecutive years for two different teams.
During 1999 spring training with the Braves, Galarraga developed a sore back that did not respond to treatment from the trainers. He was referred to a medical oncologist at Atlanta, and was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a form of lymphatic cancer. He missed the entire season while undergoing chemotherapy. Galarraga returned the next season, and on his third at-bat of the Opening Day in the 2000 season, Galarraga knocked in the winning run with a home run. At the end of the 2000 season, Galarraga became the first player in history to win two NL Comeback Player of the Year Awards (he had won the award previously in 1993).
In 2004, Galarraga's cancer relapsed, and he underwent two three-week periods of chemotherapy and was hospitalized for 23 days for additional treatment.
He eventually recovered and was offered a spring training invite by the New York Mets. Galarraga showed that he had some left in the tank offensively socking 3 home runs, but appeared very tentative on the defensive end. Galarraga retired during spring training with the Mets on March 29, 2005, saying it was "the right time to give a younger guy a chance to play." Galarraga was just one home run short of 400 career home runs.
Galarraga was a member of the inaugural Colorado Rockies team that began play in Major League Baseball in 1993. He also helped the Braves win the NL Eastern Division in 1998 and 2000, the Giants win the NL Western Division in 2003 and the Angels win the AL Western Division in 2004.
Montreal Expos: 1985–1991, 2002
St. Louis Cardinals: 1992
Colorado Rockies: 1993–1997
Atlanta Braves: 1998, 2000
Texas Rangers: 2001
San Francisco Giants: 2001, 2003
Anaheim Angels: 2004 Teams
Led National League in Hits (184 in 1988)
Led National League in Total Bases (329 in 1988)
Led National League in Doubles (42 in 1988)
Led National League in Runs Created (113 in 1988)
Led National League in Extra-Base Hits (79 in 1988)
Led National League in Batting Average (.370 in 1993)
Led National League in Home Runs (47 in 1996)
Twice led National League in RBIs (150 in 1996 and 140 in 1997)
Ranks 69th on MLB All-Time Total Bases List (4,038)
Ranks 83rd on MLB All-Time Doubles List (444)
Ranks 43rd on MLB All-Time Home Run List (399)
Ranks 57th on MLB All-Time RBI List (1,425)
Ranks 58th on MLB All-Time Extra-Base Hits List (875)
Ranks 95th on MLB All-Time Intentional Walks List (106) Highlights
One of three players in MLB history to hit .400 or better in March/April (1986). The others are Willie Randolph (1980) and Clint Barmes (2005).
First Rockies' player ever represented at All-Star Game (1993)
First Rockies' player to have a field refurbished and named in his honor, when Andres Galarraga Field opened at the Denver Boys & Girls Club
Won the three triple crown categories (BA, HR, RBI) although in different seasons
Set Rockies' record for RBIs before the All-Star break (84, 1997)
Honored in the docudrama movie Galarraga: puro béisbol (Galarraga: Nothing But Baseball - Venezuela, 2000)
Honored in the book Andres Galarraga - Real Life Reader Biography, by writer Sue Boulais (2003) Big Cat quotations
List of athletes on Wheaties boxes
List of major league players with 2,000 hits
List of NL Gold Glove Winners at First Base
List of NL Silver Slugger Winners at First Base
List of players from Venezuela in Major League Baseball
MLB players who have hit 3 home runs in consecutive innings
MLB Comeback Player of the Year Award
Major League Baseball titles streaks
Top 500 home run hitters of all time
List of Major League Baseball players with 400 doubles
List of Major League Baseball players with 1000 runs
List of Major League Baseball players with 1000 RBI
List of Major League Baseball RBI champions
List of Major League Baseball batting champions
List of Major League Baseball home run champions
Major League Baseball hitters with three home runs in one game
Montreal Expos all-time roster
Posted by imarealist hoi at 11:08 AM