The MLB has been around longer than anyone currently living. We’ve gone through multiple generations and have seen endless talent throughout. Nearly everyone knows historical figures such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams and more. More recent names to stand out for years to come will be Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz.
With as many years as the sport has been around, it’s inevitable that many talented players are to be forgotten if they haven’t been involved in controversy or etched in record books. Vada Pinson was one of those players, despite hitting near 3,000 hits in his career and posting a .286 career batting average over the course of 18 seasons.
Pinson was born August 11th, 1938 in Memphis, Tennessee. He ended up moving to California as a child, where he attended High School with Hall of Fame legend Frank Robinson, Curt Flood (who was a star center fielder in his own right), and NBA legend Bill Russell. Despite being surrounded by greatness at a young age, Pinson was able to avoid being overshadowed and carved out his own success.
The Cincinnati Redlegs, currently known as the Reds, offered Pinson a minor league contract when he was just 17 years of age. He ended up signing for a $4,000 bonus before playing two seasons in the minor leagues. He showed early glimpses of his all-star ability, batting .278 in his first year of play before ending his second year with 209 hits in just 135 games of play.
The Redlegs saw all they needed to from Pinson and decided to give him a shot. Pinson carved out his own spot on the main roster at the age of 19 years old in 1958. His first career home run wound up being a grand slam.
Pinson ran into an early slump in just his second month of baseball, before being sent down to the minor leagues once again. Despite being sent down, Pinson was able to bat .271 across 96 at-bats. He also tallied seven doubles out of his 26 hits. The numbers indicated that he would likely get another shot at his MLB career.
Some baseball players are known as contact hitters, power hitters, speed threat or defensive specialists. However, it’s not often you find someone who can be a threat in all facets of the games. Pinson proved he was one of those players during his first full season. He led the 1959 season in doubles, along with totaling 205 hits, 20 home runs, 81 RBIs, and 21 stolen bases. In the field, Pinson led the league in putouts with 490. He finished within the top 15 in MVP voting and was selected to both All-Star games.
His 1959 season was the perfect foreshadowing for much of his career. Pinson provided more of the same throughout his eleven years with the Reds. When given regular playing time, he was capable of reaching base safely roughly 200 time. Pinson captured a Gold Glove award after the 1961 season.
During his 11-year tenure with the Reds, Pinson tallied 1,881 hits, 814 RBIs, 342 doubles, 221 stolen bases, and 409 walks to go with his .297 batting average.
Pinson began to put up more moderate numbers with teams such as St. Louis Cardinals, Cleveland Indians, and California Angels before wrapping up his career with the Kansas City Royals. Pinson wasn’t able to receive as much consistent playing time after leaving Cincinnati, but made the most of his time elsewhere.
Pinson wrapped up his career at 36-years old in 1975. He finished with career totals of 2,757 hits, 256 homers, 1,169 RBIs, 305 stolen bases to go with a .286 career batting average. He proved to be an all-around threat on the baseball field. He wasn’t a career record holder in any of the major categories. Despite this, Pinson was an upgrade to each facet on the field during his years of play.
He wound up returning to baseball as a coach in 1977. He played a role with the Seattle Mariners, Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers and Florida Marlins before finally calling it quits in 1994. Pinson finally walked away from baseball after dedicating over 35 years of his life to the game.
Special thanks to Vada Pinson’s son for providing the photos and verifying all the information to be true!