Grissom parlayed power and speed into big league stardom
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – The combination of power and speed on the diamond is an unusual one, and players who translate that ability into success are rarer still.
Marquis Grissom had both – as well as a burning work ethic. The result was one of the most unique careers in big league history.
Grissom, who played 17 big league seasons with the Expos, Braves, Indians, Brewers, Dodgers and Giants, is one of 33 players on the 2011 Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot for the Class of 2011 at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Grissom is making his debut on the BBWAA 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. 5. 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 2011. The Induction Ceremony will be held July 24 in Cooperstown.
Grissom belongs to one of the most exclusive clubs in big league history, having compiled 2,000-plus hits, 200-plus homers and more than 400 stolen bases. Only six other big leaguers can make that claim: Hall of Famers Rickey Henderson, Paul Molitor and Joe Morgan; not-yet-Hall-eligible players Barry Bonds and Craig Biggio; and Roberto Alomar, who missed Hall of Fame induction by eight votes last year in his first time on the BBWAA ballot.
Born April 17, 1967, in Atlanta, Ga., Grissom attended Florida A&M University on the heels of big league stars like Hal McRae and Vince Coleman and Hall of Famer Andre Dawson. He was drafted in the third round by the Expos in 1988, and was in the big leagues by 1989 after playing just 127 games in the minors.
By 1991, Grissom was Montreal's starting center fielder. That year, he led the National League in steals with 76 and followed that up with a league-best 78 in 1992 – a season where he was named the NL's best baserunner by managers in a Baseball America survey.
But after All-Star Game selections and Gold Glove Awards in both 1993 and 1994, the Expos could no longer afford Grissom. Just after the strike was settled in April of 1995, Montreal traded Grissom to the Braves.
In his hometown, Grissom led Atlanta to the World Series championship, hitting .360 in the six-game Fall Classic win over the Indians. The next year, Grissom had his best regular season when he hit. .308 with 207 hits, 23 home runs and 106 runs scored.
"Grissom's the most well-liked player in baseball," said Braves manager Bobby Cox. "I really believe that."
However, the Braves sent Grissom to the Indians after the 1996 season along with David Justice, receiving Kenny Lofton and Alan Embree in a blockbuster trade. In his only season with the Indians, Grissom played in his third straight World Series (he hit .444 in Atlanta's loss to the Yankees in the 1996 Fall Classic), again batting .360 on baseball's biggest stage.
Grissom's .390 career World Series batting average is the fourth-best of all-time among players with at least 50 World Series at-bats.
Indians manager John Hart signed Grissom to a five-year, $25 million contract in May of 1997, but Hart traded Grissom to the Brewers before the 1998 season when Lofton returned to the Indians via free agency.
"(Grissom) is the ultimate professional," Hart said. "I'll go to war with Marquis any time."
Grissom spent three years with the Brewers, then two with the Dodgers and three more with the Giants before retiring while in Cubs' camp in the spring of 2006. His final totals: Two All-Star appearances, the 1997 American League Championship Series MVP award while with the Indians, a .272 average, 2,251 hits, 227 homers, 429 steals and four Gold Glove Awards.
"(Grissom is) such a great human being, you want him to go out on his terms," said Cubs manager Dusty Baker at the time of Grissom's retirement. "Very rarely do guys get to go out on their own terms. He just told me it was time."
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum