Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday School: Phillies History Lesson 70

Guillermo "Willie" Montanez played with the Phillies from 1970-1975, then again in 1982. Montanez made his Major League debut as an 18-year-old, with the Angels, in 1966. The Angels had selected Montanez as a Rule 5 draft pick out of the St. Louis system, but were forced to return Montanez to the Cardinals when they couldn't keep him on their Major League roster all season.

Four years later, Willie was traded to Philadelphia to complete an earlier deal involving Tim McCarver, Richie Allen and Cookie Rojas, when Curt Flood refused to report to the Phillies. Montanez appeared in 18 games with Philadelphia in 1970, before winning a spot as the everyday centerfielder for the Phillies when he impressed manager Frank Lucchesi with a strong spring training the following year. Montanez was originally a first baseman, but made the switch to the outfield to gain playing time.

In 1971, Montanez finished 2nd in Rookie of the Year voting, to the Braves' Earl Williams, when Montanez posted a .255 batting average, slugged 30 homers and drove in 99 runs. The following season, Montanez led the National League in doubles with 39.

The Puerto Rico native Montanez was widely considered a hot dog, due to his habit of making stabbing one-handed catches in the field and twirling his bat on the way to the plate.

A year later, with the arrival of Del Unser and the departure of Deron Johnson, Montanez returned to his natural position of first base. That season, Montanez batted over .300 for the first time, leading the Phillies with a .304 average. Montanez also had a 24-game hitting streak in 1974.

In May 1975, the Phillies traded Montanez to San Francisco for a 25-year-old outfielder named Garry Maddox. Montanez finished that split season with a career season high 101 RBI. That wasn't enough to lock himself into a place with the Giants, however, as Montanez would play for 6 more teams (Braves, Mets, Rangers, Padres, Expos and Pirates) in the next 6 seasons. Montanez became an all-star with Atlanta in 1977, when he batted .287, hit 20 homers and knocked in 68 runs.

After being released by the Pirates in 1982, Montanez returned to Philadelphia to finish the season, appearing mostly as a pinch hitter. He retired following the season.

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