Graig Nettles

Graig Nettles
Graig Nettles

Third baseman
Born: August 20, 1944 (1944-08-20) (age 67)
San Diego, California
Batted: Left Threw: Right 
MLB debut
September 6, 1967 for the Minnesota Twins
Last MLB appearance
October 1, 1988 for the Montreal Expos
Career statistics
Batting average     .248
Home runs     390
Runs batted in     1,314
Career highlights and awards

Graig Nettles (born August 20, 1944 in San Diego, California), nicknamed "Puff", is a former Major League Baseball third baseman. During a 22-year baseball career, he played for the Minnesota Twins (1967–1969), Cleveland Indians (1970–1972), New York Yankees (1973–1983), San Diego Padres (1984–1986), Atlanta Braves (1987) and Montreal Expos (1988).

Nettles was one of the best defensive third basemen of all time, and despite his relatively low career batting average, he was an excellent offensive contributor, setting an American League record for career home runs by a third baseman. As a part of four pennant-winning Yankee teams, Nettles enjoyed his best season in 1977 when he won the Gold Glove Award and had career-highs in home runs (37) and runs batted in (107) in leading the Yankees to the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.


Early life

His unusual name derives from his mother's dislike of the names Greg and Craig - and her combining the two to produce 'Graig'. "My Dad was away at the war, so he didn't have any say".[1] The name also led to confusion for baseball card companies; the error-prone inaugural 1981 Fleer baseball card set includes an error card where his name is spelled "Graig" on the front, and "Craig" on the back.

He played collegiate baseball with the Aztecs of San Diego State University where he was a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.


Nettles' most clutch performance came in the field, during Game 3 of the 1978 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Yankee Stadium in back of the 25-game-winning left-handed pitcher Ron Guidry. With the Dodgers leading the series two games to none, Nettles made several plays at the hot corner to stop potential run-scoring hits, and helping the Yankees gain a key win in the series. New York went on to win the next three contests and clinch the world championship.

In his 22-season career, Nettles hit .248 with 390 home runs and 1,314 RBI in 2,700 games. He had a career fielding percentage of .964, exceptional for the hot corner (third base). After retiring at age 43, Nettles coached for the Yankees (1991) and Padres (1995).

On September 7, 1974, Nettles, then with the New York Yankees, was caught using a bat that had six superballs inside it. He said that he had received the bat from a Yankees fan in Chicago and did not know that the bat had been altered. [1]

On September 14, 1974, Nettles and his brother Jim homered in the same game, joining a select club that includes Bret and Aaron Boone, José and Héctor Cruz, Felipe and César Crespo, Al and Tony Cuccinello, Joe and Dom DiMaggio, and Rick and Wes Ferrell. The seven sets of brothers hit their homers playing for opposing teams.

During a brawl in a game against the Boston Red Sox in 1976, Nettles, who was on second base at the onset of the brawl, tackled Boston pitcher Bill Lee from behind. When it appeared that the dust had settled and the brawl was over, Lee confronted Nettles for tackling him from behind. The fracas resumed when Nettles swung at Lee. More players joined in the fray and Nettles broke Lee's collarbone when they went down in the pile. He was arguably never the same pitcher he was before the incident, though he continued to be a thorn in the Yankees' side for a few more years with Boston. However, the Yankees continued to win the division during this time and the incident added to the storied Yankees – Red Sox rivalry.

In the one game playoff in 1978 against the Red Sox at Fenway Park, a game best known for Bucky Dent's three-run home run in the seventh inning, Nettles caught Carl Yastrzemski's foul pop-up for the final out.

Nettles was involved in the infamous 1984 "San Diego Padres-Atlanta Braves Beanball Game," while playing for the Padres during a Braves home game on August 12, 1984. Nettles charged the mound, and attempted to tackle Braves relief pitcher Donnie Moore, after Moore intentionally beaned Nettles. Nettles missed and then was thrown to the ground by Braves first baseman Chris Chambliss.

After baseball

Nettles' son, Jeff, was drafted by the Yankees in the 47th round of the 1998 Major League Baseball Draft.[2]

On March 21, 2008 he announced that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer in late November 2007 and would undergo surgery at Manhattan's Sloan Kettering Hospital on April 8.

He now resides in Lenoir City, Tennessee, a suburb of Knoxville, Tennessee. Graig and his wife Ginger have four children: Mike, Barrie, Tim and Jeff.

He regularly does commercials for Audi of Mendham in Mendham, New Jersey.


  • The controversial book Balls (Putnam, 1984) is a memoir of Nettles's baseball career written in collaboration with Peter Golenbock, in which the player criticizes George Steinbrenner, the ostentatious Yankees owner, and some players as well. When the book's advance promotion came to Steinbrenner's attention in March 1984, Nettles was summarily traded to the San Diego Padres.
  • Baseball writer Bill James noted in his 1984 Baseball Abstract that Nettles is arguably the best position player (i.e., non-pitcher) in major league history whose surname begins with the letter "N." As of 2009 this judgment appears to hold up: the only 3 players elected to the baseball Hall of Fame with "N" surnames are pitchers Hal Newhouser, Kid Nichols and Phil Niekro.
  • In 1991, Nettles was also inducted by the San Diego Hall of Champions into the Breitbard Hall of Fame honoring San Diego's finest athletes both on and off the playing surface.[2]
  • As of 2010, Nettles holds the single-season Major League record for assists by a third baseman, and is tied with Brooks Robinson for second-most all-time. His 412 assists in 1971 broke the record of 405 shared by Harlond Clift in 1937 and Robinson in 1967. In 1973, his first year as a New York Yankee, he recorded 410 assists, breaking Clete Boyer's franchise record of 396 in 1962; Robinson would tie this mark in 1974. To date, Nettles and Robinson have four of the six 400-assist seasons by a third baseman in Major League history.
  • Nettles is mentioned in the video for Bruce Springsteen's 1985 hit Glory Days. At the end of the video, Springsteen's character, a pitcher, tells a teen that he lost an imaginary game playing against the San Diego Padres because "Nettles got me, bottom of the ninth."

See also


External links

Preceded by
Reggie Jackson & George Scott
American League Home Run Champion
Succeeded by
Jim Rice
Preceded by
Frank White
American League Championship Series MVP
Succeeded by
Fred Lynn
Preceded by
Thurman Munson
New York Yankees team captain
January 29, 1982 to March 30, 1984
Succeeded by
Willie Randolph & Ron Guidry

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