Bake McBride

November 26, 1974: Bake McBride is named Rookie of the Year

Bake McBride may have been the most unlikely Rookie of the Year in baseball history.

Growing up, McBride believed he was more likely to make his living playing basketball or football than playing baseball. In high school, he didn’t even play baseball, as his school didn’t have a team. Instead, he played football and basketball.[1]

When McBride broke his left ankle playing basketball and required surgery, he was only given a 50% chance of running again.[2] After he recovered, he ran track at Westminster College, playing only a handful of baseball games for the Fulton, Mo., college.[3]

When the Cardinals selected him in the 1970 draft, he was the 37th of their 41 selections, the 811th player taken overall. By the time the Phoenix Suns offered him an NBA tryout, the Cardinals had already signed him for a bonus of about $2,500.[4]

Despite his limited experience on the diamond, McBride was an immediate success. In 17 games with the Cardinals’ rookie league affiliate, McBride hit .423. When he was promoted to Class A Modesto for 26 games, he hit .294 and stole nine bases.

As McBride climbed the ranks, he continued to hit over .300, batting .315 for Double-A Arkansas and .329 for Triple-A Tulsa in 1972.

“Maybe not right now, but a ball player of the future for the Cardinals certainly is Bake McBride, the flash from Fulton,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports editor Bob Broeg wrote prior to the 1973 season.[5]

McBride hit .289 that season to earn a call-up to the majors. In 63 big-league at-bats, he hit .302.

With his rookie eligibility still intact, McBride claimed a starting job in 1974, playing alongside Lou Brock and Reggie Smith. The trio became the first Cardinals outfield since 1902 to each hit over .300, as McBride and Smith each batted .309 and Brock hit .306.[6]

In addition to his offensive prowess, which included six homers and 56 RBIs, McBride committed just four errors in the field. His .990 fielding percentage ranked sixth among National League outfielders with more than 100 games.[7]

 With 30 stolen bases, McBride became the first Cardinal not named Brock to steal that many since Frankie Frisch stole 48 in 1927. Brock, who stole 118 bases, and McBride combined for the most stolen bases by two teammates in one season, beating the record set by Maury Wills and Willie Davis of the Dodgers in 1962 when Wills stole 104 and Davis stole 32.

“I feel pretty happy, but I don’t feel as happy as I could because Lou Brock didn’t win the most valuable player award,” McBride said after he won the 1974 National League Rookie of the Year. “I owe most of the honor to Brock, just because I played with him. Every game he would tell me something different about how to play. He used to talk to me as he walked out to the outfield, and he talked to me every day about stealing bases.”[8]

McBride received 16 of 24 votes for the Rookie of the Year Award. Houston’s Greg Gross, who was voted the top rookie in the Sporting News coaches’ poll after batting .314 with 36 RBIs and 12 stolen bases, received seven votes. Chicago’s Bill Madlock received one vote after batting .313 with nine homers, 54 RBIs, and 11 stolen bases.

“It was pretty tough, but at the end of the season I thought I had as good a chance as any,” McBride said.[9]

McBride’s recognition made him the third player in Cardinals history to win rookie of the year, following Wally Moon and Bill Virdon, who won the award in 1954 and 1955, respectively.

McBride hit an even .300 with 26 stolen bases in 1975. The following year, he was limited to just 72 games due to injury, but hit .335 in 272 at-bats. Beset by injuries again in 1977, McBride was batting .262 through 43 games when the Cardinals traded him, along with Steve Waterbury, to the Phillies for Rick Bosetti, Dane Iorg, and Tom Underwood. McBride stole 27 bases the rest of the season to help the Phillies win the National League East.

McBride played five seasons in Philadelphia, batting .292 across 553 games. His best season with the Phillies came in 1980, when he batted .309 with nine homers, 87 RBIs, and 13 stolen bases.

Prior to the 1982 season, the Phillies traded McBride to the Indians for Sid Monge. McBride played two seasons in Cleveland, batting .311 in 97 games. An eye infection limited him to just 27 games in 1982, and in his final season in 1983, he was limited by two stints on the disabled list.

Over 11 seasons, McBride hit .299 with 63 homers with 430 RBIs and 183 stolen bases. Following his retirement, he coached in the Mets’ and Cardinals’ minor-league systems.

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[1] “Baseball,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 17, 1974.

[2] Neal Russo, “McBride Races Off With Rookie Prize,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 27, 1974.

[3] Neal Russo, “McBride Races Off With Rookie Prize,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 27, 1974.

[4] Neal Russo, “McBride Races Off With Rookie Prize,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 27, 1974.

[5] Bob Broeg, “Whoosh! That’s Bake McBride, New Fulton Flash,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 11, 1973.

[6] Neal Russo, “McBride Races Off With Rookie Prize,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 27, 1974.

[7] Neal Russo, “McBride Races Off With Rookie Prize,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 27, 1974.

[8] “McBride’s speed, bat earns him rookie honors,” Port Arthur News, November 27, 1974.

[9] “McBride Grabs NL’s Rookie Honors,” Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, November 27, 1974.

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