Thursday, August 30, 2012
Harper, Griffey and ... Brian McCall?
By David Schoenfield
Bryce Harper hit two home runs on Wednesday to become only the third teenage center fielder to have a multiple-homer game in major league history. Ken Griffey Jr. did that twice in 1989 for the Mariners and Brian McCall did so for the White Sox on Sept. 30, 1962. Those were the only two homers of McCall’s seven-game major league career. -- ESPN Stats & Information
This begs the question: Who is Brian McCall, why did he play only seven major league games and what happened to him?
McCall's two-homer game came in his fourth career game -- and only start of 1962. It was the final game of the season against the first-place New York Yankees, at Yankee Stadium, and McCall was batting leadoff and playing center field. (Interestingly, Mickey Mantle hit leadoff for the Yankees that game, as he did the final four games, in an attempt to help him win the batting title, although he'd end up finishing second to Boston's Pete Runnels, .326 to .321.)
McCall had signed with the White Sox in 1961 out of Long Beach Poly Tech, the sports powerhouse that has sent more players to the NFL than other high schoool but has also produced major leaguers Tony Gwynn, Milton Bradley, Chase Utley and James McDonald. He wasn't a big kid at 5-foot-10, but the White Sox called him up after he hit .285/.402/.460 with 14 home runs in the minors in 1962. He began the season with Class B Tri-City of the Northwest League and was then apparently loaned to Class B Greensboro, a Yankees affiliate, of the Carolina League, before another promotion to Class A Savannah/Lynchburg.
"I was a speedy little guy," McCall recalled in this 2010 interview. "It was fun, and I enjoyed it. ... Actually I hated professional sports. I needed my mother to comfort me on bad days. So I hated it, but the best thing was that it paid for my brother’s going to Julliard. He’s a composer. So that was the real function of baseball in my life was to pay for Julliard."
Against the Yankees, McCall hit a two-run homer off Bill Stafford in the third inning and a solo shot off Ralph Terry in the seventh. They would be two of his three career hits.
McCall's career fizzled after that, although he had a good eye at the plate. He retired in 1966, just 23 years old, after an arm injury left him unable to throw. But the story has a happy ending. McCall attended art school and became a successful artist. Asked about moving from baseball to a more solitary profession, McCall had an interesting response:
Well, it was a bit of a problem probably in my baseball. I might not have been quite the team player that I should have been. That’s why I said I probably should have played tennis. But baseball is a mix. You have this batting average that’s totally personal, it’s just you, and you get your raises and get ahead by how you do, not how the team does. Whether you win or lose, if you hit .360, you’re going up.
In art, I feel happier. I was quite happy when I chose this profession, because I knew myself enough to know that I probably wasn’t going to take instruction very well in a job, and that I would probably have an opinion on everything [laughter] and I better pick the right profession. I could look ahead and see myself sitting at a desk and I said 'I won’t stay there.'
McCall became a sculptor and caricaturist and also became known for his 3-dimensional store signs. He now lives in Pennsylvania, where he lives in and works out of an old church.
Here's a link to McCall's Flickr site and here's another interview that features more photos of McCall's work.