1969 BASEBALL PLAYER OF THE DAY- KEN SUAREZ- CLEVELAND INDIANS

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In 1969 Ken Suarez was a catcher for the Cleveland Indians. Suarez was a catcher for three major league teams during his career- Kansas City Athletics, Cleveland Indians and the Texas Rangers from 1966 to 1969 and 1971-73. In 1970 he spent the entire season in the minor leagues.

When he was playing legion ball in his native Tampa he was on the same legion team as two future baseball legends- Lou Piniella and Tony La Russa.

Suarez had an outstanding college baseball career at Florida State. He helped lead his school to a National Championship in 1963 and was a first- team All-American in 1964 in his junior season and was a member of the U.S. Olympic team in the 1964 Tokyo Games. Baseball was just a demonstration sport in those Olympics.  Suarez would then sign with the Kansas City Royals. This was a year before the Major League Draft began.

Suarez’s major league career would be spent as a back-up catcher. He had hit well in college but struggled with the bat at the major league level. Two seasons with Kansas City Athletics, three with the Cleveland Indians and his final two seasons with the Texas Rangers.

On June 16, 1971 future Orioles Hall of Famer Jim Palmer had a perfect game going- with one out in the 9th inning when Suarez hit a single breaking up both the perfect game and the no-hitter.

In 1973 Suarez made $20,000 playing with the Texas Rangers. He felt he was deserving of a raise- Rangers General Manager Dan O’Brien felt differently. Suarez then made major league history in becoming the first player to submit to salary arbitration. Back then you didn’t rock the boat- especially if you were a career .230 hitter. Five days later guess what- Suarez was traded to the Cleveland Indians. He refused to report and filed a grievance with the Major League Baseball Players Association asking for the trade to be voided. He said he would retire and make good on his promise retiring at the age of thirty.

But hold on a second- even though he never reported to the Indians after the trade in the spring of 1974- he would be traded again- and that trade would be a history making one. The Indians in August 1974 traded Suarez who was still their property to the California Angels along with a player to be named later- who would turn out to be Rusty Torres for Frank Robinson. That deal paved the way for Frank Robinson to become the first African-American manager when he became player-manager for the Indians in 1975.

For his career Ken Suarez in his seven seasons as a back-up catcher only came to the plate a total of 661 times- hit 5 home runs knocked in 60 and had a career average of .227. Oddly around half of his at bats came in his last season 1973 as a Texas Ranger. Ken Suarez is now seventy-five years old.

 

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