Traveling Man

Reggie Sanders, who showcased power and speed for eight big league teams, debuts on BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot

December 20, 2012
2013 BBWAA Hall of Fame Candidate Reggie Sanders (NBHOF Library)

At one point in the middle of his career, Reggie Sanders played for seven different teams in seven seasons.

For a player with a historic combination of power and speed, it was more a case of being attractive to many teams than unwanted by others.

“You always want security for your family,” Sanders said. “But I’ve learned to play through one-year contracts. Fortunately, things have worked out.”

For Sanders, they worked out well enough to earn a spot on the 2013 Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot.

Sanders is one of 37 players on the 2013 Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot for the Class of 2013 at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Sanders is making his debut on the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot.

BBWAA members who have at least 10 years of tenure with the organization can vote in the election, and the results will be announced Jan. 9. Any candidate who receives at least 75 percent of all BBWAA votes cast will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2013. The Induction Ceremony will be held July 28 in Cooperstown.

Born Dec. 1, 1967 in Florence, S.C., Sanders was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the seventh round of the 1987 MLB Draft out of Spartanburg (S.C.) Methodist College. He quickly earned the reputation as one of the top shortstop prospects in the game, but the Reds – having future Hall of Famer Barry Larkin at shortstop – moved Sanders to center field to find him a spot in the lineup.

In 1992, began the season as Cincinnati’s Opening Day center fielder. He finished the year with a fourth-place finish in the National League Rookie of the Year balloting after hitting .270 with 26 doubles, 12 homers, 62 runs scored and 16 stolen bases.

“He’s a very determined guy,” Larkin said in 1992. “He works hard and isn’t afraid to ask questions. Those are great traits.”

Sanders hit 20 home runs, stole 27 bases and drove in 82 runs in 1993, then burst onto the national scene in 1995 with 28 homers, 36 steals and 99 RBI – earning an All-Star Game berth while finishing sixth in the NL Most Valuable Player voting and helping the Reds advance to the National League Championship Series.

But after two injury-plagued seasons over the next three years, Sanders found himself traded to San Diego before the 1999 season. From 1999-2003, Sanders spent one-year stints with the Padres, Braves, Diamondbacks, Giants and Pirates before landing in St. Louis for two years and finishing up his career with two seasons in Kansas City. From 1999-2004, Sanders averaged 24 homers, 20 stolen bases and 73 RBI per season.

More importantly, Sanders helped the Diamondbacks win the World Series title in 2001 and led the Giants and the Cardinals to NL pennants in 2002 and 2004, respectively.

“He’s got a very good reputation,” said then-Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. “I don’t even want to ask him (about his travels) because it’s so personal. It’s surprising. I don’t know if it’s circumstance or the money wasn’t there.”

Sanders signed with the Royals in 2006, and that season he recorded his 300th home run and 300th stolen base – joining a club that now includes just eight players: Willie Mays, Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonds, Andre Dawson, Steve Finley, Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran and Sanders.

Sanders retired following the 2007 season with 305 home runs, 304 stolen bases, 1,666 hits, 983 RBI and a .267 career batting average. He played for eight different teams in 17 big league seasons.

“Every place I’ve played has been enjoyable,” Sanders said. “I won a World Series, then the next year (2002) I got back to the World Series with San Francisco. Honestly, I wouldn’t trade my career for anything.”

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum