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  • Ben Oglivie Quietly Dominated The Game


    Matt Breen

    In the golden years of Bambi's Bombers and Harvey Wallbangers, there are so many players to remember from the lineup. This included Robin Yount, Gorman Thomas, Cecil Cooper, and Paul Molitor - the group earning MVPs, HR titles, and boatloads of All-Star appearances during their time in Milwaukee. With all the colorful characters and great players, it's easy to forget one of the most productive bats in team history - and a key member of the great Brewer teams of the late 70s and early 80s - slugging outfielder Ben Oglivie. 

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    Benjamin Ambrosio Oglivie Palmer was born in Panama in 1949. At age 17, he and his family moved to New York following the death of his father. The Red Sox drafted the athletic Oglivie in 1968 in the 11th round. The tall, lanky left-handed outfielder steadily worked his way through the Boston system, reaching the big leagues in 1971.

    After two years as a part time player, Oglivie was dealt to Detroit, where he played for four years, primarily as a platoon player. Just when it looked like Oglivie was ticketed for a full time job, the Tigers traded him to Milwaukee for pitcher Jim Slaton (who would return to Milwaukee a year later as a free agent).

    The trade for Oglivie was the best thing for the then 29-year-old outfielder. He hit .303 in 1978, then followed up with 29 HRs the next season. In 1980, Oglivie hit .304 and pounded out a league leading 41 HRs (tying Reggie Jackson), thus becoming the first foreign born player to top the circuit in round trippers. He made the first of three All-Star appearances that year, finish 13th in the league MVP voting, and won his only Silver Slugger Award.

    He would never top his fantastic 1980 campaign, but he did hit .277 and produce an OPS of .806 during his time with the Crew. 

    Oglivie played nine years in Milwaukee, primarily in left field, but also in right field and as a designated hitter. After leaving the Brewers, Oglivie played two successful years in Japan (hitting over .300 and having more than 20 HR both years). He attempted a comeback at age 40 with Milwaukee in the minor leagues, but an injured knee ended the affair after only 2 games.

     

    As a player, Oglivie was known as quiet, intelligent and low-key. Perhaps it was his introspective nature that kept him out of the spotlight. He was viewed as a bit of an odd duck, more comfortable reading philosophy than drinking beers with larger-than-life characters such as Gorman Thomas. In fact, early in his career, many took his cerebral approach and polite attitude as a lack of passion. The opposite, however, was true. Oglivie was immensely curious and intelligent, and just approached things differently. Former teammate Bill Lee said Benji could do the New York Times crossword puzzle in five minutes.

    After retiring, Oglivie stayed in the game, primarily as a hitting coach, in the Padres, Brewers, Tigers and Rays organizations.

    For his Brewer career, Oglivie is ranked 8th in hits, 7th in HRs (176) and 6th in RBI (685). For his entire career, he hit 235 HR and drove in 901 runs. In 1983, in one of his more memorable games, he slugged three home runs as the Brewers came from behind to beat Boston 8-7 in 10 innings. Oglivie's 3rd homer tied the score at 6-6 in the bottom of the 9th.

    It should be noted that Oglivie put up a lot of impressive numbers in his career despite not becoming a full time major league player until the age of 28.

    He was elected to the Latino Baseball Hall of Fame in 2012. 

    Please share your memories of former Milwaukee Brewer great Ben Oglivie .

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    12 minutes ago, Opening Day said:

    As a lefty who turned 6 in 1982, he was my favorite player to emulate.  I used to like to hold and wiggle my bat.  Thanks for the article

    Emulating oglivie and cooper's stances in my backyard playing wiffleball was how I learned to switch hit. seemed like most of the guys on that 82 squad had a unique stance.

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    Just now, RoCoBrewfan said:

    Emulating oglivie and cooper's stances in my backyard playing wiffleball was how I learned to switch hit. seemed like most of the guys on that 82 squad had a unique stance.

    I wasnt a switch hitter but Id also hit from the right side and try to copy their stances when it was their turn in the lineup.

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    11 minutes ago, RoCoBrewfan said:

    Emulating oglivie and cooper's stances in my backyard playing wiffleball was how I learned to switch hit. seemed like most of the guys on that 82 squad had a unique stance.

    One thing I miss about old baseball is the wide variety of batting stances. From Julio Franco to Rod Carew to Kevin Youkilis, older generations had so many recognizable stances.

    I understand why that has changed - we simply know a lot more about the most effective way to hit a baseball hard now - but it takes a little bit of the charm out of the game.

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    14 minutes ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

    One thing I miss about old baseball is the wide variety of batting stances. From Julio Franco to Rod Carew to Kevin Youkilis, older generations had so many recognizable stances.

    I understand why that has changed - we simply know a lot more about the most effective way to hit a baseball hard now - but it takes a little bit of the charm out of the game.

    Craig Counsell had the worst stance ever. and there's no way it helped him hit. ?

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    1 hour ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

    One thing I miss about old baseball is the wide variety of batting stances. From Julio Franco to Rod Carew to Kevin Youkilis, older generations had so many recognizable stances.

    I understand why that has changed - we simply know a lot more about the most effective way to hit a baseball hard now - but it takes a little bit of the charm out of the game.

    I think the focus then was on hitting successfully, hitting effectively, as opposed to hitting the ball hard & being lauded for walking back to the dugout as the play-by-play guy chirps out "That ball left the bat at 104mph!!!".

    As for Oglivie, it was IMO one of the more effective personnel moves of the Bamberger era, trading for him & then a year later receiving Slaton right back.

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    7 minutes ago, Jim French Stepstool said:

    I think the focus then was on hitting successfully, hitting effectively, as opposed to hitting the ball hard & being lauded for walking back to the dugout as the play-by-play guy chirps out "That ball left the bat at 104mph!!!".

    I mean, you're not wrong but analytics determined that hitting the ball less often but harder results in more runs scored. It's a feature, not a bug. If a player routinely hits a ball at 104mph, they're going to take more bases over a season than a person who makes a ton of 90mph contact.

    But I think most of us can agree that as spectators, watching more contact is more fun.

    The toothpaste will never go back into the tube regarding analytics but the real problem over the past half-decade is MLB's refusal to address the least spectator-friendly aspects of the analytics game and suppress them in favor of fan enjoyment of the product.

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    2 hours ago, RoCoBrewfan said:

    Craig Counsell had the worst stance ever. and there's no way it helped him hit. ?

    His is perhaps the weirdest I ever saw, like he was attempting to get hit by lightning every time he stepped to the plate.

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    50 minutes ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

    I mean, you're not wrong but analytics determined that hitting the ball less often but harder results in more runs scored. It's a feature, not a bug. If a player routinely hits a ball at 104mph, they're going to take more bases over a season than a person who makes a ton of 90mph contact.

    But I think most of us can agree that as spectators, watching more contact is more fun.

    The toothpaste will never go back into the tube regarding analytics but the real problem over the past half-decade is MLB's refusal to address the least spectator-friendly aspects of the analytics game and suppress them in favor of fan enjoyment of the product.

    this is all spot on. 

    analytics can tell you that you score more runs the way the game is played now and I think most of us would agree that looking at the data etc etc etc , but the phrase that keeps being said is "it's not asesthetically pleasing"

    Watching guys like wade boggs and Tony gwynn hit was fun. Ricky Henderson stealing 130 bases was cool! even if I know that getting caught 42 (!!!!) times nullified a lot of the positive value of his 130 steals. 

    it's just things we don't see anymore. guys don't hit .370. guys don't steal 80+ bags. it's definitely a different game.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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    4 minutes ago, RoCoBrewfan said:

    this is all spot on. 

    analytics can tell you that you score more runs the way the game is played now and I think most of us would agree that looking at the data etc etc etc , but the phrase that keeps being said is "it's not asesthetically pleasing"

    Watching guys like wade boggs and Tony gwynn hit was fun. Ricky Henderson stealing 130 bases was cool! even if I know that getting caught 42 (!!!!) times nullified a lot of the positive value of his 130 steals. 

    it's just things we don't see anymore. guys don't hit .370. guys don't steal 80+ bags. it's definitely a different game.

    I generally sum it up this way:

    1970s and 80s baseball was strategically dumb but it was a hell of a lot more fun to watch.

    And given how spectator revenue literally funds the sport, uh... that's kinda really important.

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    10 hours ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

    I mean, you're not wrong but analytics determined that hitting the ball less often but harder results in more runs scored. It's a feature, not a bug. If a player routinely hits a ball at 104mph, they're going to take more bases over a season than a person who makes a ton of 90mph contact.

    But I think most of us can agree that as spectators, watching more contact is more fun.

    The toothpaste will never go back into the tube regarding analytics but the real problem over the past half-decade is MLB's refusal to address the least spectator-friendly aspects of the analytics game and suppress them in favor of fan enjoyment of the product.

    I suspect there ARE more runs scored if the ball is hit harder, over the course of a season. That probably doesn't help much in certain situations though, in game X, inning X, when you really need 1 run, when contact is imperative, when even advancing a runner can make a difference between winning & losing.

    To me, it's the same attitude that will lead to (probably) outlawing shifts next season. I feel in many ways, the propensity to bow down before analytics, total runs scored over a season, exit velo, launch angle, etc has many thinking those things are directly related to winning when in so very many cases they aren't. 

    I'll give the players of decades ago one big edge over those of today: they understood what it took to WIN, given that day, the pitcher, the score, inning, etc. Many today IMO don't. And to me, that's everything w/regards to watchability. And you're right, the toothpaste is gone. Which is a bad thing not regarding analytics itself, but for the attitude it's created.

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    Imagine having a line up like the 1982 team: 

    Yount - 29/.331
    Simmons - 23/.269
    Cooper - 32/.313
    Oglivie - 34/.244
    Thomas - 39/.245
    Molitor - 19/.302
    Money - 16/.284
    Gantner - 4/.295
    Moore - 6/.254
    Howell - 4/.260

    Even our scrubs hit okay. Ned Yost, Mark Brouhard, Marshall Edwards, Ed Romero - the lowest BA was .247. 

    It was fun to watch.

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    38 minutes ago, reillymcshane said:

    Imagine having a line up like the 1982 team: 

    Yount - 29/.331
    Simmons - 23/.269
    Cooper - 32/.313
    Oglivie - 34/.244
    Thomas - 39/.245
    Molitor - 19/.302
    Money - 16/.284
    Gantner - 4/.295
    Moore - 6/.254
    Howell - 4/.260

    Even our scrubs hit okay. Ned Yost, Mark Brouhard, Marshall Edwards, Ed Romero - the lowest BA was .247. 

    It was fun to watch.

    This got me thinking so I looked it up. The 82 Brewers had a 121 OPS+. That's ridiculous.

    To compare to the modern day, the 2022 Yankees - the best in baseball - have a 117 OPS+ playing half their games in that shoebox of a stadium.

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