Thursday, August 10, 2017

Ray Oyler (#81)

Here is good-field/no-hit Ray Oyler's first solo card. (And when I say "no-hit", I mean NOOOOO-hit.) Before there was the "Mendoza Line", there was the "Oyler Line" (although no one was clever enough to come up with that at the time, to my knowledge).

Ray joined the Tigers in 1965 and hit .186, which turned out to be his 2nd-highest season average. Except for an aberration where he hit .207 in 1967, he never broke the .175 barrier again (much less .200).

That was all well and good in '65 and '66 when Ray was the team's backup middle infielder, but by 1967 veteran 2nd baseman Jerry Lumpe's career was running out of gas, and he was only used as a pinch-hitter for most of his final season. Incumbent shortstop Dick McAuliffe moved over to replace him, which thrust Oyler into the starting lineup for 125 games. On the plus side, Ray boosted his average 36 points over the .171 in 1966.

With Lumpe retired, Oyler started 44 of the first 50 games at short in 1968, but by early June, manager Mayo Smith had seen enough, and switched to a tandem of veteran utility man Dick Tracewski and rookie Tom Matchick. This continued until the season’s final week, when Smith decided to fix the shortstop position by moving center fielder Mickey Stanley in there (for the first time in his career). After a 6-game warmup at his new position, Stanley played there during the '68 World Series, which essentially replaced Oyler’s bat with Al Kaline’s bat!

Oyler did get into 4 World Series games (1 plate appearance), but was exposed to the expansion draft after the season.

Ray was selected by the Seattle Pilots, and started 93 games for them in 1969, mostly in the first 4 months until younger players started getting tryouts. While in Seattle, Oyler had an unusual fan club.

After the season, Oyler and pitcher Diego Segui were traded to the Athletics for infielder Ted Kubiak and pitcher George Lauzerique. Ray's final card is in the 1970 set as an Athletic, but he didn't get a chance to play for them. He was sold to the Angels in mid-April, and finished out his final season playing only 24 games for California, while batting a career-low .083.

Ray was a player-coach in the minors during the '71 and '72 seasons, then retired.

He died in 1981 from a heart attack at age 42.

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