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Don Money Looks Back On His Career

May 10, 2010
Nashville Sounds Manager Don Money will never be enshrined into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. That honor is reserved to the small percentage of Major League players that displayed an extraordinary ability to play the game.

But Don Money could play the game.

Money was born in Washington, D.C., but his family moved to New Jersey when he was just two weeks old. At age 10, the family moved back to the D.C. area where Money went to grade school and in La Plata, MD for his last two years of high school.

"My high school coach, Dick Stone, called a Pittsburgh scout that was living in Baltimore," Money said recently. "He told the scout that there might be a kid down here he might want to take a look at. I was playing shortstop and pitcher, but they liked me more as a fielder. The Pirates invited me to two tryout camps."

"When I went to the first tryout, I wasn't out of high school. I graduated when I was 17 and a week later I was 18. Both tryouts were in Virginia and after the second one Syd Thrift signed me after 10 days in camp. I went home for a couple of days and was assigned to Salem of the Appalachian League."

As a youngster growing up, Money's heroes were Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays, though Harmon Killebrew playing for the Washington Senators was also a favorite. Money said that it was a difficult adjustment going from high school into professional baseball.

In high school, Money was playing against guys his own age and suddenly his competition is college and junior college athletes. While playing summer ball at ages 16 and 17 in Southern Maryland, Money did play against and with players in their 30's.

"Everybody thinks they have the ability," said Money. "It is far and in-between when you stop and think about it. There are so many players out there that have the ability that don't really get the chance. And a lot of those players get the chance don't take it. My father was for me playing baseball professionally, but my mother was shaky on it. We lived outside of Washington and I took the Civil Service test and passed.

"I could have had a job in the government. So when I went to the tryout camps I ended up signing and I didn't get any money, of course. I got my Civil Service notice that said to come work for the government. My mom asked me what I was going to do. I told her to play baseball and see where it takes me. Once in awhile she'd ask if I was sure I didn't want to go into government work. I played baseball and things worked out."

In Salem (1965), a short season rookie league, the right-hander appeared in 66 games, batted .241 (52-for-216) with six home runs playing mostly at shortstop. Money would play the next two seasons in Clinton (Midwest League) batting .236 (108-for-458) and in Raleigh (Carolina League) where his totals increased to .310 (149-for-480) with 16 home runs. Money was selected as the league's MVP.

After his season in Raleigh, the Pirates traded Money (with Harold Clem, Woodie Fryman and Bill Laxton) to Philadelphia for future Hall of Famer Jim Bunning.

"I didn't really think about it," Money said about the trade. "It worked out better for me. At the time I was with Pittsburgh and Freddie Patek was ahead of me. Then the shortstop in Pittsburgh was Gene Alley. Alley had just come off a great year. So I got traded to the Phillies in the Jim Bunning deal. Then Gene Alley got hurt, and Freddie Patek was then the shortstop for the Pirates. Then after a year, I ended up being the shortstop with the Phillies. It worked out for all of us."

Money was in the Phillies spring camp and actually made the opening day Phillies roster in 1968. Money said his new teammates were not a lot of big names. He sounded off the lineup as Bill White at first base; Cookie Rojas at second base; Bobby Wine at shortstop; Dick Allen at third base; Tony Gonzalez in center field; Don Lock in left field; Johnny Callison in right field; Mike Ryan was the catcher. Pitchers were Dick Selma, Turk Farrell and Rick Wise.

"We went to Dodger Stadium where I played," Money said about the Phillies opening season road trip. "Then we went from Dodger Stadium to the Giants and to Houston. Then we came home and I didn't play at all. I was a young guy and didn't want to sit on the bench. Gene Mauch was the manager. Mauch was a manager that liked older players. He didn't want young guys making mistakes. I understand that. After three weeks I was sent down to Triple-A."

April 10, 1968 was a day that Money will never forget. The 21-year-old was playing in his first Major League game and vividly remembers his first plate appearances.

"I think I was hitting seventh in the lineup," Money said. "It was in Dodger Stadium with 50,000 people in front of you. In Triple-A you played in front of about 4,000 fans. In my first at-bat, I hit a ground ball to short with men on first and third. I got an RBI. In my second at-bat, I got a double and drove in Larry Hisle. I drove in both runs in the game. Chris Short was our pitcher and we ended up winning, 2-0. Claude Osteen was the pitcher both times."

In his brief stay in Philadelphia, Money was 3-for-13 batting .231 in four games. In Triple-A San Diego, he finished the season batting .303 (146-for-482), with nine home runs and 59 RBIs in 127 games. The next season, Money would be in the big leagues for good as Philadelphia's starting shortstop.

Money slugged 176 career home runs in the Major Leagues. In his first full season in the big leagues in 1969 Money recalls his first dinger.

"We were in Chicago's Wrigley Field on opening day against Fergie Jenkins," said Money. "It was in the seventh inning and we were down, 5-1. You don't think about hitting home runs, you just think about hitting the ball hard. I hit a solo home run to make the score 5-2. Then I came up in the ninth with two men on and hit a three-run homer. Then in the 11th inning, I hit a double to put us ahead, 6-5. Willie Smith hit a two-run homer to beat us 7-6 in 11 innings. Another guy to hit two home runs that day was Ernie Banks."

Another memorable home run for Money came on Opening Day on April 10, 1971 in Philadelphia. This was the first game ever played in Veterans Stadium. Money hit the first home run in "The Vet" in the sixth inning off Bill Stoneman. The Phillies, behind Jim Bunning, defeated the Expos that day, 4-1.

Money hit more home runs off Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins (6) than any other Major League hurler. He hit home runs off 124 different pitchers that include Jim Palmer, Catfish Hunter, Gaylord Perry, Steve Carlton, Rollie Fingers, and Nolan Ryan. The one team Money hit the most home runs (16) off were against the Baltimore Orioles.

There was also one memorable home run that never was recorded.

"I hit a grand slam that didn't count," Money said. "It was the bottom of the ninth after we had given up five runs to the Yankees and they took a 9-6 lead. I was the fourth hitter in the inning. In front of me was something like a base hit, error and a walk. I walked up there and the pitcher threw a high pitch from the stretch.

"He went into the stretch again and I hit it for a home run. Billy Martin came running out while waving to his first baseman. Martin claimed his first baseman called a timeout. The question was did he have time to call timeout. The first baseman said he started to call a timeout. I thought started to, and having enough time is different. So they called it back. Then I popped out to short right field and got nothing for it."

In 1970, Money was moved over to third base to make room for a young shortstop Larry Bowa. That would be his best season in Philadelphia where he batted a career-high .295 with 14 home runs and 66 RBIs in 120 games. He saw his average dip into the .220s the next two seasons, but started in 152 games in 1972.

Money was such an outstanding fielder at third base that he would acquire the nickname "Brooks" after Brooks Robinson the Orioles' Hall of Fame third baseman. Because of a batting slump and Mike Schmidt ready to takeover at third base for the Phillies, Money was traded in 1973 to Milwaukee in the American League in a seven-player deal.

"In Philly, I struggled my first year, but had a very good second year," said Money. "I felt good going into spring training in 1971. I was mainly a pull hitter. I was hitting .300 all year, but they wanted to change my stroke to hit more balls to right and right center. They also told me I might end up dropping 70 points in my average.

"So I got a little messed up. I hit something like .221 playing everyday. Then the next year they brought up Mike Schmidt. I played a little left field and second base and that is when the trade was made that winter. It was good for me. I was in a rut and couldn't get out of it. In Milwaukee I could start over fresh."

In Milwaukee, his average climbed back to the .280s while batting in the leadoff spot for the Brewers. In 1973, he stole a career-high 22 bases (and 19 in 1974). Money also led the AL third basemen in fielding in1973 and 1974. He led the American League with 629 at-bats.

Money was voted the Brewers MVP in 1974 and 1977. During the 1977 season, he set a Major League record for consecutive errorless chances at third base (261) and currently holds the Major League record for most consecutive errorless games at that position (88) set from September 28, 1973 through July 16, 1974.

"When the Brewers added Sal Bando to their roster in 1977, Money was moved to second base. This is when he had his best year in baseball reaching career-high's in home runs (25), RBIs (83) and runs (86). Near the end of his career, Money was primarily the DH.

"The club makes that decision for you," Money said about retiring at the end of the 1983 season. "There were some opportunities that they gave me. If I took my release, I probably could have signed with somebody else. At the time I wasn't playing much. In 1981 was the strike season. I played about 40 games the first half and 20 the second half. For what I did I could have stayed home.

"The next year I had a very good year. I was the right-handed DH and Roy Howell was the left-handed DH. Then in 1983 I didn't play much. Ted Simmons was still there and he was a switch-hitter. So that eliminated both DH's. I got about 114 at-bats. I was hurt early in the year. I was hitting the ball very well, but couldn't get any hits."

Paul Molitor became the Brewers regular third baseman during the 1982 season. He would be enshrined into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2004.

Money did take an offer to play baseball in 1984 with the Kintetsu Buffaloes in Japan. He was hitting .260 with eight home runs in 29 games as a DH/second baseman. Living in Japan was not a pleasant experience for Money.

"It was a big decision even to go," Money said. "I talked it over with the wife. We decided to go and I was signed through the 1984 season. So the family went, but a lot of things were not the way they told us. It is very hard talking to someone through someone (using an interpreter). And I don't know what he is telling you. Sometimes what I asked through an interpreter was relayed differently. I don't know what they are talking about.

"It was a combination of things. The travel was worse than what they said and the apartment was not what they said. It was a collection of small things that didn't work out. Then they put the nail in the coffin. They blamed my daughter, who was 11 years old. They said, 'If your daughter wasn't here, you'd probably stay.' We were playing a day game and I walked up to the ground seats where the GM was and told him this was my last game. He told me I couldn't do that and I left the next day. I was leading the league in home runs. The team was in first place and I was hitting .260. I just decided I was going home and left after a month."

While in Philadelphia and Milwaukee, Money played on average teams, but he did have postseason experience in Milwaukee. The Brewers won the American League East Division in 1981, but lost to the Yankees in the playoffs, three games to two. Money was 0-for-3 in the series.

The Brewers repeated as American League East champs in 1982 defeating the Angels in the playoffs, three games to two. Money was 2-for-11 with one RBI in the series. The victory would place Milwaukee in the World Series against St. Louis. Money was 3-for-13 with one RBI and four runs scored in the Cardinals four games to three WS triumph. "I remember in the first game Jim Kaat was pitching and I lined to right center for one out. Then I hit a ball in the hole that I beat out for a base hit. You are trying to win and you are trying to win a World Series. We lost to the Cardinals. Technically we had the better club, but didn't win.

"Rollie Fingers got hurt for us that year. We had a three games to two lead and wound up losing the last two. It was an honor to be there. The biggest thing was my son was 12 years old and he was our batboy the first two games in St. Louis. He kids me that it took him 12 years to get to the World Series and it took me 14 years."

Hank Aaron retired from baseball in 1976 as the game's all-time home run king with 755 (since broken by Barry Bonds in 2007 with 762). He played his last two seasons (1975-76) in Milwaukee as he began his career with the Milwaukee Braves. Though it was not known at the time, Aaron slugged his 755th and final home run in Milwaukee County Stadium on July 20, 1976 off Angels pitcher Dick Drago. Money was a teammate in the lineup that historic day.

"One big fallacy about Hank is that he wasn't like everybody else," said Money. "I know that Hank Aaron had the home run record for many years. He never hit 50 home runs in a single season and hit many in the 40's for a long time. Hank was a good guy. I remember sitting in Detroit having a beer with him. He would talk about last night's game or last month's game. He didn't talk about himself and his accomplishments.

"He was a down to earth guy. I knew he went through a lot during his career. His hotel room might say room 101 and he would not be in that room or in another hotel. That was the way it was in those days. When I was managing in Huntsville, in the Southern League, we'd go to Mobile's Hank Aaron Stadium. I'd run across him every once in awhile and we'd talk baseball."

Money was also involved in four All-Star games. In 1974, he did not get into the game in Pittsburgh, but was 0-for-1 in the 1976 game in Philadelphia. In 1977, Yankee Stadium was the host site, but again was unable to make an appearance. In 1978, Money was voted as the starting second baseman for the American League and became the first Brewers' player to earn an All-Star starting spot. He was 0-for-2.

"I only played in two of those four All-Star games," Money said. "I would say the game played in San Diego was the most memorable. In 1978, I was the first Milwaukee Brewer voted to be a starter. The thing about that was I was on the ballot at second base, but I was playing first base that year because Cecil Cooper broke his leg.

"I was playing first base the majority of the first half of that season. But I was voted in as a second baseman. I lined out to right field trying to move the runner over. In Philly, in 1976, I popped out off Vida Blue. It is an honor to play. In the first game I didn't play at all. We lost every game that I played. At that time the National League was whipping our butts."

Money said that as a hitter you could never step into the batter's box without confidence, no matter who the opposing pitcher is. And he faced some of the game's most intimidating pitchers like Bob Gibson and Don Drysdale.

"You can never be afraid to go to the plate," said Money. "I faced Bob Gibson and hit a triple off him. Now that might have been the only hit I got off him. There is nobody you are ever afraid. There are pitchers that have pitches that can get you out. One year Gibson had 13 shutouts and his ERA was about 1.00. There is a reason he had 13 shutouts because he could pitch. I faced Tom Seaver when he was in New York. I don't think I ever got a hit off him. That was a pretty tough staff up there. Jerry Koosman, Seaver, Gary Gentry and Nolan Ryan. You can go in there and strike out 15 times in a series.

Money, 62, said that the New York Yankees and the White Sox were the teams he disliked the most. He said the White Sox would do that "Na, Na, Na, hey, hey, good-bye" chant when they were winning. And of course, most teams dislike the dominance of the Yankees.

In 2009, Money became the Sounds 22nd manager in its 33-year history. Money began his minor league coaching career with the Oneonta Tigers (Single-A) from 1987-1988. He became manager of the Single-A Beloit Snappers in 1998. After seven years in Beloit, Money moved to Double-A Huntsville Stars in 2005 as the Brewers affiliate.

Money was named the Southern League Manager of the Year in 2007 and on May 14, 2008 became the Stars all-time winningest manager. His all-time managing record prior to 2010 is 815-849. Money was 75-69 in his inaugural season as the Sounds manager in 2009.

In 2005, Money was enshrined as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers Walk of Fame, which recognizes the franchises top players. Money was asked looking back what is he most proud to have accomplished as a Major League player?

"The biggest thing I look back on is, I just went out there and played the game," Money said. "I just helped the team to do whatever to win. I wasn't a big home run hitter though I hit 25 one year. My average for home runs was about 15 a year until the last few years.

"I remember in Boston I hit a home run in the first inning because I hit leadoff. I hit a home run again in the third inning. In the fifth inning, I was asked to bunt with a man on first base. So you bunt. No questions asked. You don't put on the long face. If the manager puts the bunt sign on-you bunt. That's what I did. You played to win. I wasn't crying because I didn't get a chance to bat third in the lineup."

Money's 16-year Major League career totals include a .261 average with 176 home runs and 729 RBIs in 1, 720 games. His lifetime on-base percentage is .328 and a .406 slugging percentage. Money collected 80 stolen bases scoring 798 runs with 1,623 hits in 6,215 at-bats.

These are not Hall of Fame numbers, but Don Money could play the game. The record book backs it up.

If you have any comments or suggestions you can contact Bill Traughber via email [email protected]. Pick up a 2010 Sounds program for a feature on Nashville's baseball champions from the 1895 Seraphs to the 2005 Sounds.