#CardCorner: 1978 Topps Amos Otis
And though not playing in New York or Los Angeles may have suppressed his national profile, Otis emerged as one of the most respected players of the 1970s.
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By the time his 1978 Topps card made it to the market, Otis was a veteran presence on a young and talented Kansas City team. Otis’ Royals never reached the ultimate prize of a World Series victory, but they did become the blueprint for expansion teams for years to come.
Born April 26, 1947, in Mobile, Ala., Otis was drafted as a high school shortstop by the Red Sox in the fifth round of the inaugural MLB Draft in 1965. In just two years in the low minors – including the 1966 season in Oneonta, N.Y., just 30 minutes from Cooperstown – he established himself as a top prospect, earning an invitation to the Red Sox’s Florida Instructional League team following the 1966 season. Otis hit .360 in the FLIL but was left unprotected in that November’s minor league draft, where the Mets jumped at the chance to add Otis to their impressive minor league system.
Over the next three seasons, Otis established himself at Triple-A and earned a late-season call-up with the Mets in 1967. Otis made the Mets’ Opening Day roster in 1969 and got a look-see at third base from manager Gil Hodges before transitioning to the outfield. Between stints in the minors, Otis appeared in 48 games as a reserve during the Mets’ run to the World Series title, though he was not placed on the postseason roster.
In 1980, the Royals returned to the top of the AL West and finally beat the Yankees in the ALCS. They lost the World Series to the Phillies in six games, but Otis grabbed the headlines by hitting .478 with three homers and seven RBI. He continued to defy time through the 1982 season, finally ceding the starting center fielder job in 1983 before ending his career with a partial season in Pittsburgh in 1984.
“This is the end of an era, no question about it,” Royals teammate Hal McRae told the Associated Press on July 13, 1983, when the Royals officially replaced Otis in center field with Willie Wilson. “He’s meant at awful lot to this team.”
Over 17 big league seasons, Otis totaled 2,020 hits, 193 home runs, 1,007 RBI and 341 steals to go with a .277 batting average and .343 on-base percentage. He was named to five All-Star Games and won three Gold Glove Awards, exhibiting plus skills in virtually every facet of the game.
At the time of his retirement, Otis was one of only five players – along with Willie Mays, Bobby Bonds, Joe Morgan and Vada Pinson – with at least 193 home runs and 300 stolen bases.
For baseball fans of a certain age, Amos Otis and the Royals were the epitome of baseball excellence.
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum