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CATCHER OF THE WEEK: Tim Hosley

In this regular feature, we will help you acquaint yourself with some of the finest practitioners of the most thankless task in baseball to ever don the “tools of ignorance” for our beloved Chicago Baseball teams. This week we feature Tim Hosley.

Who doesn’t love the mid-70s cap on sitting on top of the TWA look?

Timing is everything. Some people have that uncanny knack for being in the right place at the right time, and their breaks are there to be caught. Then there’s Tim Hosley.

Hosley was born May 10, 1947 in Spartanburg SC. In high school, he played football and basketball, but in an early display of his timing, the school did not have a baseball team. So he mainly played sandlot baseball and softball.

One stroke of good fortune for him was that the Detroit Tigers had a scout living in Spartanburg. After a couple tryouts where he displayed a strong arm and power at the plate, he became a Tigers farmhand.

Funny thing is, while I was researching Hosley, I saw a couple different pieces (probably using the same source material) that claimed a rarity of black catchers in the 60s. When Hosley signed in 1966, Earl Battey, Elston Howard, Paul Casanova and John Roseboro were all starting catchers in the majors. That’s 20% (4 of 20) of starting catching jobs, a higher percentage of black starting catchers than now. But I digress.

Hosley worked his way through the Tigers system, showing good pop, albeit without great contact numbers. But once he got to AAA he found his way to the Motor City blocked by perennial all-star Bill Freehan and longtime backup Jimmie Price. First base wasn’t an option either, with mainstay Norm Cash there. This would not be the first time Hosley would be blocked from joining a good team that had good depth behind the dish.

He got a cup of coffee with Detroit in 1970, going 2-for-13 with one of those two leaving the yard. Likewise in 1971, 3-for-16 with 2 going out. He was just never going to crack that catching tandem the Tigers had. In fact, he never even got a callup in 1972, despite slashing 243/337/432 for the Toledo Mud Hens.

After the 1972 season, he was traded to Oakland, where he ran into the same problem. A really good team (In fact, Oakland played Detroit in the 1972 ALCS) with a lot of catching depth – this time it was Ray Fosse and Gene Tenace. Again, he could only get short stints with Oakland in 1973 and 1974, which (one would hope) got him at least a partial share in the World Series cheddar.

After the 1974 season, in which he earned a spot in the Pacific Coast League All-Star game, he was selected by the Chicago Cubs in the Rule 5 draft. The Cubs’ tandem of (future CotWs) George Mitterwald and Steve Swisher was a lot less formidable than what Hosley had been facing in either Detroit or Oakland.

1975 in Chicago was the only season in Hosley’s career where he spent the entire season in the major leagues. He also was the Cubs’ best hitting catcher by degrees of magnitude, slashing 255/382/433 with 6 home runs, including a grand slam against Philadelphia in a game that I attended, where someone said immediately before Hosley hit it, “He couldn’t hit a grand slam in a phone booth.” Take that.

Strangely, after what looked like a pretty good year, especially by mid-70s Cubs standards, Hosley was waived. Oakland picked him up, and he spent the last few years of his career bouncing between the A’s and their various minor league affiliates, never getting back to his 1975 levels of either playing time or production.

Hosley finished with 208 big league games, 62 with the Cubs. He was a hitter who didn’t hit for a high average, but took more than his share of walks. His career .324 OBP doesn’t look like much, but his .382 with the Cubs would certainly play today for a catcher.

So once again, his timing was off.

Hosley died in 2014 at age 66.

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