Darrell Wayne Evans (born May 26, 1947) is an American baseball player, coach and manager.
Evans with the San Francisco Giants in 1983
|Third baseman / First baseman|
|Born: May 26, 1947|
|April 20, 1969, for the Atlanta Braves|
|Last MLB appearance|
|October 1, 1989, for the Atlanta Braves|
|Runs batted in||1,354|
|Career highlights and awards|
Evans played 21 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a third baseman (1,442 games), first baseman (856 games), and designated hitter (253 games) for the Atlanta Braves (1969–1976, 1989), San Francisco Giants (1976–1983) and Detroit Tigers (1984–1988). He won a World Series championship with the Tigers in 1984, led MLB in home runs in 1985, in runs created in 1973, and in walks in 1973 and 1974.
He was the 22nd player in MLB history to hit 400 home runs, the first to hit 40 home runs in both the National and American Leagues, and the second player to hit at least 100 home runs with three different teams. His 1,605 walks ranked eighth in MLB history at the time of his retirement and remains 12th most in MLB history. His skill in drawing walks contributed to a .361 career on-base percentage despite a .248 career batting average. He was twice named to the National League All-Star team, in 1973 as a third baseman and in 1983 as a first baseman. Baseball historian Bill James rated Evans as "the most underrated player in baseball history."
Prior to his career in MLB, Evans attended Pasadena City College where he led both the basketball and baseball teams to California junior college championships. After retiring as a player, Evans served as a manager and coach for various minor league baseball teams.
Evans was born in 1947 in Pasadena, California. Born into a baseball family, his mother Eleanor (Salazar) Evans (1923–2013) played professional fast pitch softball for a national championship team in Southern California. His aunt Margaret also played as an outfielder for the same team and was selected as an All-American. Evans attended his mother's softball games as an infant and later served as the team's bat boy. His maternal grandfather, Dave Salazar, was a pitcher in the Chicago White Sox organization and played for the San Francisco Seals in the Pacific Coast League. His father, Richard Evans, was a sheet metal mechanic who had played college baseball. His uncle Bob Evans had also played minor league ball in the St. Louis Cardinals' organization.
Evans attended John Muir High School in Pasadena. He played baseball at Muir as a right-handed throwing pitcher and third baseman who batted left handed. In March 1965, he threw a no-hitter for Muir.
In the fall of 1965, Evans enrolled at Pasadena City College (PCC). As a freshman during the 1965-66 academic year, he was the leading scorer for PCC's basketball team and led the baseball team with a .423 batting average. In December 1965, he scored 12 points in a losing effort against a UCLA team featuring Lew Alcindor. During the 1966-67 academic year, he hit .451 for the PCC baseball team and led both the baseball and basketball teams to California junior college championships. His basketball coach during the 1966-67 season was Jerry Tarkanian. Evans received the school's athlete of the year award in 1967, and he was later inducted into the PCC Hall of Fame as "the ultimate in Pasadena City College legends."
Professional baseball player
Evans was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 1965, the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers in 1966, and the Philadelphia Phillies and Kansas City Athletics in 1967. In June 1967, he finally signed a pro contract with the Athletics, receiving a $15,000 signing bonus.
Evans played for three different minor league clubs during the 1967 season: Leesburg in the Florida State League, Peninsula in the Carolina League, and Bradenton of the Gulf Coast League. He compiled a .326 batting average with a .402 on-base percentage in 61 minor league games during the 1967 season. In his time at Bradenton, he hit .489. He was named 1967 player of the year in the Gulf Coast League.
He spent the 1968 season with Birmingham in the Southern League, though his playing time was limited by military obligations. Evans served in the United States Marine Corps from 1967 to 1968. Evans later recalled that his arm was "sore and gone" after his discharge from the Marines, resulting in a poor performance in 1968. Evans compiled a .248 batting average and .299 on-base percentage in 56 games for Birmingham. Alf Van Hoose, sports editor of The Birmingham News recalled Evans as "a terrible infielder" with a "smooth swing."
1969 to 1972 seasons
Evans began the 1969 season with the Braves but was limited to pinch-hitting. In late April 1969, he was sent down to the Shreveport Braves in AA ball. He was then promoted to the Richmond Braves of the Triple-A International League where he hit .360 with a .433 on-base percentage in 59 games. He was recalled to Atlanta in late August 1969, but hit only .231 in 26 at bats.
Evans spent most of the 1970 season at Richmond where he hit .300 with 47 extra base hits and 83 RBIs in 120 games. He hit .318 in 44 at bats for Atlanta in 1970, but Atlanta manager Lum Harris continued to relegate Evans to the minors due to his "mediocre fielding". Evans received the nickname "Clank" due to his fielding difficulties. He also acquired the nickname "Howdy Doody" due to his resemblance to the popular television puppet of the same name.
Evans began the 1971 season with Richmond where he was moved to the outfield and batted .307 with a .437 on-base percentage. In late May 1971, Evans received an opportunity to become the Braves' starting third baseman when the team released Clete Boyer following Boyer's open criticism of the team's general manager. Evans appeared in 72 games at the third base for the 1971 Braves; he hit .242 in 260 at bats in his rookie season. Atlanta hitting coach (and later manager) Eddie Mathews worked with Evans on his fielding. Evans later recalled: "Eddie was not only my manager, he was my friend. He used to talk to me, pump into me that I had to do it."
In 1972, Evans was the Braves' regular third baseman, appearing in 125 games. He demonstrated his control of the strike zone, drawing 90 walks (fifth in the National League) and compiling a .384 on-base percentage (seventh in the league). Although his 25 errors ranked second among National League third basemen, he improved defensively, leading the league's third basemen with a range factor of 3.24 per game and ranking among the league's third basemen with 126 putouts (second), 273 assists (fourth), and 20 double plays (fourth).
1973 breakout season
Evans had a breakout season with the 1973 Braves. He was selected as the reserve third baseman (behind starter Ron Santo) on the 1973 National League All-Star team and led the major leagues with 125 walks and 143 runs created. He also ranked among baseball's elite with 294 times on base (second in MLB behind Pete Rose), .556 slugging percentage (third in MLB), 331 total bases (third in MLB), 41 home runs (third in MLB), 74 extra base hits (third in MLB), a 9.0 Wins Above Replacement rating (fourth in MLB), 114 runs scored (fourth in MLB), and 105 RBIs (fifth in MLB). He also ranked among the best defensive third basemen in the National League with a 3.08 range factor per game (first in NL), 124 putouts (second in NL), and 325 assists (second in NL). Evans told reporters in July 1973 that his defensive improvement "has meant more to me than the home runs."
Evans' 1973 accomplishments were overshadowed by teammate Hank Aaron's pursuit of Babe Ruth's career home run record. Evans responded to the lack of attention to his accomplishments, telling reporters in August 1973: "I can't say it bothers me. Hell, I enjoy reading about Hank, just like everyone else." Evans hit before Aaron in the Braves' batting order, and in April 1974, he was on first base when Aaron hit his historic 715th home run.
The 1973 Braves were the first team in major league history to have three players, Evans, Aaron, and Davey Johnson, total at least 40 home runs. Despite the surge in power, the 1973 Braves finished fifth in the National League West with a 76–85 record.
1974 to 1976 seasons
Prior to the 1974 season, Evans pursued salary arbitration, resulting in his winning a $52,500 salary. Evans appeared in 160 games at third base for the Braves. For the second consecutive year, he led the majors in walks, tallying a career-high 126 bases on balls. In a remarkable turn-around, the player formerly known as "Clank" led the National League with a 2.7 Defensive Wins Above Replacement rating. He also ranked among the National League's leaders with 269 times on base (fourth), 25 home runs (tied for sixth), 99 runs scored (seventh), and a 7.2 overall Wins Above Replacement rating (seventh). His 1974 performance was nevertheless considered disappointing in light of expectations created by his 1973 season. Evans attributed his less impressive performance in part to "personal problems, some private things that were bothering me."
The 1975 season was Evans' final full season with the Braves. Following the trade of Hank Aaron, Evans took over Aaron's third spot in the batting over. After a strong start in April, Evans output slowed. He ended up batting .243 in 156 games. His power output also declined, as he totaled 22 home runs, 73 RBIs, and a .406 slugging percentage.
Evans' output declined further at the start of the 1976 season. With Jerry Royster taking over at third base, Evans was moved to first base. After 44 games, Evans' batting average stood at .173 with only one home run. He sought to remedy the slump by switching from contact lenses to glasses. Evans later recalled: "It was the one time in my career when I really doubted myself. I couldn't seem to do anything right. I couldn't see the ball very well and I wasn't being patient at the plate. Then I'd take a pitch and it would be right down the middle."
San Francisco Giants
On June 13, 1976, the Braves traded Evans with Marty Perez to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for Willie Montañez, Craig Robinson, and two other players. He promptly became the Giants' starting first baseman. In his first season in San Francisco, Evans compiled a .222 batting average with 10 home runs in 92 games.
In his early years with the Giants, Evans shifted between left field, third base, and first base. In 1978, he settled in at third base, starting 612 games at that position from 1978 to 1982.
In 1983, Evans shifted back to first base and had his best season in San Francisco. He was named to the National League All-Star team as a reserve first baseman, hit 30 home runs and compiled a .378 on-base percentage and .516 slugging percentage. He won the 1983 Willie Mac Award for his spirit and leadership.
Evans spent eight seasons with the Giants, appearing in 1,094 games, compiling a .255 batting average, .358 on-base percentage, and .422 slugging percentage with 142 home runs, 525 RBIs and 605 walks.
1984 season and World Series
After the 1983 season, Evans entered the free agent market. He was selected by 17 teams, more than any other player, in the November 1983 re-entry draft. In December 1983, he became the first "big name" free agent to be signed by the Detroit Tigers. He signed a three-year contract worth approximately $2.25 million.
Playing for the World Series champion 1984 Detroit Tigers, Evans hit a three-run home run in his first game in a Detroit uniform on the road against Minnesota. One week later, he hit another three-run home run with his first swing at Tiger Stadium. For the season, he appeared in 131 games, 62 as the designated hitter, 47 at first base, and 19 at third base. His .238 batting average was the lowest since 1976, but 77 walks (seventh in the American League) boosted his on-base percentage to .353. He also totaled 16 home runs and 63 RBIs for the 1984 Tigers. In the 1984 World Series, Evans managed only one hit in 15 at bats for a .067 batting average.
Evans' father died at the end of July 1984 after a long battle with cancer, and Evans missed several games while attending the funeral in California. He later recalled that it was the greatest disappointment of his life that his father was not able to see him play in the World Series.
1985 season and home run title
In 1985, Evans had his most successful season in a Detroit uniform. He appeared in 151 games, 113 at first base, 33 as the designated hitter, and seven at third base. At age 38, he led the major leagues with 40 home runs. He was the oldest player to register 40 home runs in American League history, the oldest player to lead the American League in home runs, and the first player to hit 40 home runs in both the National and American Leagues. He also registered a .356 on-base percentage (driven by 85 walks), and his .519 slugging percentage was his best since his breakout season in 1973. He was selected by both Detroit sports writers and fans for the 1985 Tiger of the Year award.
1986 to 1988 seasons
At the start of the 1986 season, Detroit manager Sparky Anderson announced that Evans would not be the Tigers' first baseman and would instead be the team's designated hitter. Evans publicly expressed his frustration at losing his spot in the lineup after hitting 40 home runs. In the end, Anderson relented, and Evans played 105 games at first base and 42 as the designated hitter for the 1986 Tigers. He hit 29 home runs and 85 RBIs while compiling a .356 on-base percentage.
Evans' three-year contract expired after the 1986 season, and the Tigers decided not to offer him a contract to avoid triggering Evans' arbitration rights. No other teams made offers to Evans, and in late February 1987, he signed a one-year contract with the Tigers; the contract cut his salary by $200,000 to between $500,000 and $550,000. During the 1987 season, Evans appeared in 150 games for the Tigers, including 105 at first base and 44 as the designated hitter. He drew 100 walks in 1987, fourth most in the American League, pumping his on-base percentage to .379, his highest since 1974. He also hit 34 home runs and had 99 RBIs for the 1987 season.
In the 1987 American League Championship Series, he compiled a .294 batting average and .455 on-base percentage. However, he was also picked off at third base in the fourth game of the ALCS, "hammering the final nail" into the Tigers' defeat.
Evans returned to Detroit for one last season in 1988. He appeared in 144 games (72 at DH, 65 at 1B) and had 22 home runs, including his 400th career homer in September, but he saw his batting average drop precipitously to .208. At the end of the 1988 season, the Tigers announced that Evans, age 41, would not be offered a contract for the 1989 season.
Evans appeared in 727 games in five years with the Tigers, hit 141 home runs, and compiled a .358 on-base percentage and .450 slugging percentage. He appeared in his final major league game on October 1, 1989, at age 42.
Swan song with the Braves
In December 1988, Evans signed to return to the Atlanta Braves for the 1989 season. He appeared in 109 games with the 1989 Braves, compiling a .207 batting average with 11 home runs. At the beginning of April 1990, the Braves released Evans, ending his playing career. At the time, Evans told the Associated Press: "It's happened to a lot of my friends and it's not easy. I guess when it slaps you in the face you don't know how to feel. I don't know what to expect because I've never been in this situation before."
Evans played 21 seasons in the majors and appeared in 2,687 games. Evans compiled a .248 batting average (2,223-for-8,973) with 1,344 runs, 329 doubles, 36 triples, 414 home runs, 1,354 RBI, 98 stolen bases, 1,605 base on balls, 1,410 strikeouts, .361 on-base percentage and .431 slugging percentage. Defensively, he recorded a .973 fielding percentage.
Evans was the 22nd player in baseball history to total 400 home runs. He was also the first player to hit 40 home runs in a season in both leagues. He hit over 20 home runs in 10 different seasons, and he was only the second player in major league history (after Reggie Jackson) to hit at least 100 home runs with three different clubs.
Evans drew 100 or more walks five times (1973-1975, 1978, and 1987). His career total of 1,605 walks ranked eighth in major league history at the time of his retirement and remains 12th most in major league history.
Evans has been described by author Bill James as "the most underrated player in baseball history, absolutely number one on the list". In The Bill James Handbook 2019, James also rated Evans No. 7 on his list of "The 25 Best Players Who Are Not in the Hall of Fame."
Managerial and coaching career
In June 1990, two months after his release by the Braves, Evans was hired by the New York Yankees as the team's hitting instructor, amid rumors that he may eventually be asked to take over Stump Merrill's job as manager. Evans was credited with making a change in rookie Kevin Maas' swing, allowing him to more effectively reach Yankee Stadium's short right field fence. At the end of the 1990 season, the Yankees named Graig Nettles as its hitting coach and announced that Evans would not return in 1991.
Evans later worked as a minor-league instructor. He was also the manager for several minor league teams, including stints with the Tyler Wildcatters of the independent Texas-Louisiana League in 1997, the Wilmington Blue Rocks of the South Atlantic League in 1998, the Huntsville Stars in the Double-A Southern League in 1999, the Aberdeen Arsenal of the independent Atlantic League in 2000, and the Allentown Ambassadors in the Independent Northern League in 2002.
In November 2008, Evans was hired as the first manager and director of player personnel for the newly-organized Victoria Seals of the GBL. In March 2010, he was fired after the owner learned that Evans was seeking employment as a manager with another club.
In late March 2010, just weeks after being fired by the Victoria club, Evans was hired as the manager of the St. George RoadRunners in the GBL.
Family and later years
Evans and his wife LaDonna had four children. In 1984, Evans publicly revealed that, in the summer of 1982, he and his wife had seen a UFO from the porch of their home in Pleasanton, California. Evans described the UFO hovering over his neighbor's house as appearing "like a flying wing", triangular in shape with no wings and with green and red lights on the sides and white lights on the back.
In the mid-2000s, Evans worked as a consultant for Netamin Corporation in the development of its Ultimate Baseball Online multiplayer online game.
- James, Bill, The New Historical Baseball Abstract, p. 547
- "Darrell Evans Stats". Baseball Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved June 26, 2019.
- "Atlanta's Darrell Evans". The Cumberland News. March 11, 1971. p. 32 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Evans Threw Ball Yard Party". The Atlanta Constitution. May 30, 1972. p. 1D – via Newspapers.com.
- Gene Guidi (May 29, 1984). "Evans' heart was won early". Detroit Free Press. pp. 1D, 4D – via Newspapers.com.
- "Bob Evans". Baseball Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved June 26, 2019.
- "Two Muir Athletes Win Nominations". Los Angeles Times. March 23, 1965. p. 10 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Muir Hurlers Fire No-Hitter". Los Angeles Times. March 6, 1965. p. II-6 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Robinson, Evans Top PCC Stats". Pasadena Independent. May 16, 1966. p. 17 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Alcindor Gobbles Up Lancers". Pasadena Independent. December 11, 1965. p. 14 – via Newspapers.com.
- "California JCs Won't Follow No 'Dunk' Rule". Los Angeles Times. June 3, 1967. p. II-2 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Evans Added To S-Braves". The Shreveport Times. April 29, 1969. p. 4C.
- "Darrell Evans". Pasadena City College. Retrieved June 26, 2019.
- "Evans Signs Contract For $20,000". Pasadena Independent. June 23, 1967. p. A4.
- "Darrel Evans Minor League". Baseball Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved June 26, 2019.
- "Brye, A's Farm Stars Win Honors". Oakland Tribune. October 31, 1967. p. 40 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Swinging in the Wings". The Atlanta Constitution. August 3, 1973. p. 1D – via Newspapers.com.
- "Braves Draft Two Players". The Atlanta Constitution. December 3, 1968. p. 38.
- "Evans, Braves Bounce Nats, 9-4: Rookie Bids For Position". The Atlanta Constitution. March 29, 1969. p. 15 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Braves Recall Darrell Evans". The Greenville News. August 26, 1969. p. 10 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Menke-Led Astros Thump Braves, 3-2". The Atlanta Constitution. September 12, 1970. p. 4C – via Newspapers.com.
- "'I'm Improving,' Evans Says". The Atlanta Constitution. April 28, 1972. p. 1D – via Newspapers.com.
- "Boyer Departs Quietly After High Noon Talk". The Atlanta Constitution. May 29, 1971. p. 1C – via Newspapers.com.
- "Evans Takes Over Where Aaron Left Off". Times Recorder. April 25, 1975. p. 13 – via Newspapers.com.
- "1973 MLB Batting Leaders". Baseball-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved June 26, 2019.
- "Homer-Hitting Darrell Evans Proud of Improved Defense". Palladium-Item. July 21, 1973. p. 12 – via Newspapers.com.
- Bob Hertzel (August 3, 1973). "The Man In Aaron's Shadow". The Cincinnati Enquirer. p. 31.
- "The year they went for 40". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. July 12, 2005. p. C5 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Evans seeks $30,000 raise". Billings Gazette. February 15, 1974. p. 19 – via Newspapers.com.
- "1974 MLB Batting Leaders". Baseball-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved June 26, 2019.
- "1974 NL Batting Leaders". Baseball-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved June 26, 2019.
- "King Praises Darrell Evans". The News-Herald (Panama City, FL). April 26, 1975. p. 5B – via Newspapers.com.
- "Darrell Evans Hopes New Glasses Will Help". The Greenville News. June 4, 1976. p. 29 – via Newspapers.com.
- David Fleitz. "Darrell Evans". Society of American Baseball Researchers. Retrieved June 26, 2019.
- "Braves Trade Evans, Perez To Giants". The Atlanta Constitution. June 14, 1976. p. 1D – via Newspapers.com.
- "Evans most wanted in baseball star market". The Montana Standard. November 8, 1983. p. 8 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Evans likely will be a hit here, scouts say". Detroit Free Press. December 17, 1983. pp. 1D, 3D – via Newspapers.com.
- "Evans on contender, at last". Detroit Free Press. July 15, 1984. p. 1D – via Newspapers.com.
- "Roaring 20". Detroit Free Press. June 22, 2004. p. 1D – via Newspapers.com.
- "Evans takes leave". Detroit Free Press. August 1, 1984. p. 5D – via Newspapers.com.
- "Veteran Darrell Evans on his mom". Don Drysdale Video Baseball Cards. May 1987.
- Mitch Albom (October 4, 1985). "Evans is finally hearing those three little words". Detroit Free Press. p. 1D – via Newspapers.com.
- "He's the Tiger of the Year: Darrell Evans a big hit in the polls". Detroit Free Press. November 2, 1985. p. 1D – via Newspapers.com.
- "Evans, a sensitive leader, is suddenly focus of conflict". Detroit Free Press. April 6, 1986. p. 7F – via Newspapers.com.
- "Evans given Tigers' last offer, Lajoie says". Detroit Free Press. February 6, 1987. p. 1D – via Newspapers.com.
- "A cut above: Evans, Herndon endure pay slashes". Detroit Free Press. February 27, 1987. p. 1D – via Newspapers.com.
- "We'll miss Evans, for all the right reasons". Detroit Free Press. October 29, 1988. p. 1D – via Newspapers.com.
- "Terrell dealt; Evans won't get contract". Detroit Free Press. October 29, 1988. p. 1D – via Newspapers.com.
- "Evans signs with Braves". Detroit Free Press. December 24, 1988. p. 1C – via Newspapers.com.
- "Braves Release 21-Year Veteran Darrell Evans". Los Angeles Times. April 5, 1990.
- "Career Leaders & Records for Bases on Balls". Baseball-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved June 26, 2019.
- "Do Dwight Evans And Darrell Evans Deserve Spots In Baseball Hall Of Fame?". Forbes. February 26, 2019.
- "The Firing Line: Evans could be next in Yankees' hot seat". Detroit Free Press. June 23, 1990. p. 5B – via Newspapers.com.
- "Maas swings into action for Yanks". The Record. August 7, 1990. p. 16.
- "Transactions". Asbury Park Press. October 15, 1990.
- "'84 Tigers: Where Are They Now?". Detroit Free Press. June 22, 2004. p. 4D.
- C. Eric Lincoln (July 7, 2002). "Looking for a chance, still convinced he has what it takes". San Francisco Chronicle.
- "Long Beach Armada tops Silver Sox in combined five-homer affair". Reno Gazette-Journal. August 6, 2007. p. 7D – via Newspapers.com.
- "Pro baseball headed back to Victoria". Times Colonist (Victoria, British Columbia). September 18, 2008. p. B8 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Former major leaguer takes helm: Golden Baseball League teams names Darrell Evans first field boss". Times Colonist (Victoria, British Columbia). November 26, 2008. p. D1 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Seals cut loose the team's first manager". Times Colonist. March 4, 2010. p. B1.
- "Evans to skipper Runners". The Spectrum & Daily News. March 27, 2010. pp. B1, B6 – via Newspapers.com.
- "St.George RoadRunners Name Darrell Evans 2010 Skipper".
- "2011 Instructors". California Winter League.
- Richard Shook (April 12, 1984). "Most people believe what Darrell Evans and his wife..." United Press International.
- "Two-time All-Star Darrell Evans and Netamin Introduce Groundbreaking Baseball Virtual Reality Experience". Business Wire. October 19, 2004.
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube, or BaseballLibrary
| National League Player of the Month