Friday, May 14, 2021

RIP Hal Breeden

Former Hanshin Tigers first baseman Hal Breeden passed away last week at age 76.  Breeden had signed with the then-Milwaukee Braves out of high school in 1963.  He spent eight years in the Braves' organization before being traded to the Chicago Cubs for future Hall Of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm after the 1970 season.  He made his major league debut with the Cubs in 1971 but spent most of the season with AAA Tacoma.  He was dealt to Montreal at the beginning of the 1972 season and put up his best season in 1973, batting .275 with 15 home runs.  

He was released by the Expos following the 1975 season and signed with the Hanshin Tigers.  He hit 40 home runs in his first season, leading the team and also helping them set an NPB record for most home runs in a season (193).  He also had 92 RBIs.  He followed that up with 37 home runs and 90 RBIs in 1977 and made the All Star team.  He got hurt early the following year and only got into 17 games.  He wrapped up his playing career in 1979 with the Miami Amigos of the ill-fated Inter-American League*.  

*The Inter-American League was a fascinating attempt to have a minor league with six teams in four separate countries throughout the Caribbean and Central and South America - Miami; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; Panama City, Panama; and Caracas and Maracaibo, Venezuela.  As you might expect, the travel costs were exorbitant and the league folded at the end of June.  It is the last minor league in "Organized Ball" (as opposed to the independent leagues) to go out of business mid-season.  Breeden's manager with Miami was another former NPB player - Davey Johnson.  This was Johnson's first experience as a manager.

Breeden had cards from Calbee, NST and Takara as well in other, more obscure sets.  He's appeared in a few of BBM's OB sets over the past 10 years or so.  Here are the cards I have of him:

1977 NST #63

2010 BBM Tigers 75th Anniversary #25

2013 BBM Legendary Foreigners #16

2016 BBM Fusion #073

I was kind of surprised to discover I didn't have any Calbee cards of him, especially since he has 14(!) in the "monster" 1975/76/77 set.  He does make a cameo appearance with Koichi Tabuchi on this card of Taira Fujta - he's the one on the right:

1975/76/77 Calbee #593

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