This Better Know a Ballplayer Bio looks at a player whose primary position is listed on baseball-reference.com is “Pinch Hitter.”
But before we get into his pinch hitting exploits and career, let’s address the name: without any doubling or tripling, “Bevacqua” would earn you 74 points in Scrabble. This is also the number of walks he earned in tie games, the number of doubles he hit while the score of the game was within 3, and the number of his career plate appearances in domed stadiums. Is any of this significant? No. But Kurt Bevacqua is a great name. Let’s not even start on the mustache. Ron Burgundy says “Don’t act like you’re not impressed.”
Kurt Bevacqua came up to the Indians in 1971 and made his debut on June 22 at Fenway playing second base in the opener of a doubleheader. He came up to bat in the second inning with Chuck Hinton on first base. Bevacqua grounded into a fielders’ choice to shortstop. In his second at bat that day, he singled sharply to left field and later came around to score on a single by Graig Nettles. In the next inning, Bevacqua was removed for a pinch hitter and his debut came to an end.
Bevacqua would stay up with the big club the rest of the 1971 season, hitting .204/.222/.307. That year, Bevacqua made 36 appearances at 2B, 3 at 3B, and 5 in the outfield. This pattern of usage all around the infield and corner outfield would continue throughout his career. In 1972, he spent most of the season with AAA Portland, getting himself a September callup to Cleveland to finish the year.
In November, 1972 Cleveland traded Bevacqua to the Kansas City Royals for Mike Hedlund. The next six years saw this journeyman with the Royals, Pirates, Royals (again), Brewers, Mariners, Rangers, and Padres. He was part of a multi-player trade deadline deal in 1980 which sent him from San Diego to Pittsburgh again for whom he played the remainder of 1980 and all of 1981. At the end of 1981 the Pirates released him and he signed again with the Padres in 1982 where he played until he finished his career in 1985. So, to review, Bevacqua spent parts of 15 years in the majors playing for six different teams, three of them twice each. He was well-traveled.
Bevacqua’s best offensive year was 1977 for Texas, a year in which he slashed .333/.365/.604 in 104 plate appearances to earn himself an OPS+ of 159. In his age 37 season, Bevacqua was part of the Padres’ 1984 World Series run. He had 18 plate appearances in the World Series and slugged 2 home runs primarily as a Designated Hitter, an impressive power output considering his 27 total career home runs.
By WPA, his best game was May 18, 1980 when the Padres hosted the Chicago Cubs. The utility-man and pinch-hitter was not in the starting lineup that day, but made his impact known anyway. He pinch hit for the pitcher in the bottom of the 7th with the Padres trailing 3-0. He singled to center field, scoring Jerry Mumphrey and Gene Tenace. He then stayed in the game to play second base and came up again in the bottom of the 9th. The Padres were still trailing 3-2 facing the Cubs’ Bruce Sutter. Bevacqua came up with one out and runners on second and third (Dave Winfield and Paul Dade). Kurt Bevacqua smacked a line drive single to center, scoring two and winning the game for the San Diego Padres. A day to celebrate for Mr. Mustache.
In addition to his power output during the 1984 World Series, Bevacqua probably got the most press in a verbal feud with Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda in June of 1982. Dodgers pitcher Tom Niedenfuer was fined $500 by Major League Baseball for seemingly intentionally hitting Padre Joe Lefebvre one pitch after giving up a home run to Broderick Perkins. Bevacqua told reporters that “they should fine the fat little Italian $500 too. He ordered it.” Lasorda’s “colorful” response…
Kurt Anthony Bevacqua is known by many of us for his dirty uniform, well-traveled journeyman career, ability to play multiple positions, and feud with Lasorda. Padres fans might remember him for his World Series home runs and game-winning pinch hits.
But, no matter who you are, today is a celebration. Today we ALL say “Happy Birthday, Kurt Bevacqua!”
Which Pitchers Got More Than Their Share of Wins?
Previous post: Blaine Boyer: A Baseball Unicorn