Allan Lewis

From BR Bullpen

Allan Sydney Lewis
(The Panamanian Express)

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Biographical Information[edit]

Allan Lewis was used almost exclusively as a pinch runner during his major league career. He had only 31 plate appearances in 156 games, making him one of only seven non-pitchers to have played over 100 games and have more games played than plate appearances. He stole 44 bases over 6 seasons with the Kansas City and Oakland Athletics. He hit his one career home run on September 27, 1970 off the Angels' Greg Garrett.

Lewis was the first of a series of speedsters that Athletics' owner Charles Finley employed during his reign. The colorful owner was convinced that speed was an untapped key to winning ballgames, and would always place one or more pinch running specialist on his teams' roster. The fact that the Athletics were highly successful starting with a division title in 1971 meant that Finley was never disabused of his notion.

Allan Lewis attended Felix Olivares High School in his native Colón, in Panama. He signed with Kansas City in 1961 and first played with the Albuquerque Dukes of the Class D Sophomore League that season, hitting .271 in 155 at bats. He moved up to the Florida State League in 1962, where he hit a solid .303 for the Daytona Beach Islanders, and earned a brief promotion to the Class B Lewiston Broncs of the Northwest League. He played in the FSL until 1966, except for a second brief stay in Lewiston in 1963. His batting averages were good, but he had no power and did not walk much. What he did do very well was steal bases, including 76 in 1965 as he made the league's All-Star team as an outfielder with the Leesburg A's. With the same team in 1966, he did even better, leading the circuit in runs scored, hits and stolen bases. His 116 steals that year were a league record.

That great season made Lewis the first man to put in practice Finley's theories about speed at the major league level in 1967. He made the team's roster in spring training, to be used as pinch runner, and especially as a pinch runner who would steal bases. He was successful 14 times in 19 attempts that year in the big leagues, but only went to bat six times, getting one hit. For all his stolen bases, he scored only 7 runs. He also spent some time with the AA Birmingham A's of the Southern League, where he hit .302 in 25 games in the regular season, and .381 in the Dixie League championship series in which Birmingham defeated Albuquerque of the Texas League. Over the winter, he hit .374 for Balboa of the Panama League, leading the team to a title. He returned to Birmingham to start the 1968 season, and hit .283 in 97 games, with 37 steals. He made another stint with the A's, who had now moved to Oakland, CA, going 1 for 4 with 9 runs scored and 8 steals in 12 attempts over 26 appearances. He continued to split his time between the high minors and the A's over the next few seasons, with a similar pattern: some good averages and high steal totals as a regular outfielder in the minor leagues, and almost exclusive use as a pinch runner in Oakland. In 1972, he was placed on the A's World Series roster when Reggie Jackson was injured in the last game of the 1972 ALCS. He was used as a pinch runner in 6 of the 7 games against the Cincinnati Reds, but was caught stealing both times he attempted to steal against Johnny Bench. In the 9th inning of Game 4 on October 19th, he took over for pinch hitter Gonzalo Marquez, who had led off the inning with a single with the A's trailing 2-1. Foregoing the steal, he came to score the tying run when Gene Tenace and pinch hitter Don Mincher both singled. The A's won the game when Angel Mangual followed with another single. In the decisive Game 7 on October 22nd, he pinch ran for Tenace, the Series' offensive star, in the 6th inning, and came around to score the A's third run when Bobby Tolan fell down trying to catch a fly ball hit by Sal Bando. The A's would hold on for a 3-2 win to claim their first World Championship since the days of Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics in 1930. That Series was the highlight of Lewis's career.

Lewis returned to the A's for another season in 1973. He suffered a dislocated shoulder at the end of spring training, played 41 games at Birmingham, hitting .273, and 35 with the A's, not going to bat even once. He stole 7 bases in 11 attempts and scored a career-high 16 runs. This time, he was on the roster for the entire postseason, scoring a run in two games in the 1973 ALCS as Oakland defeated Baltimore, and then scoring another run in 3 games in the World Series as the A's defeated the New York Mets in 7 games. He had never been fully accepted by teammates, who thought he was wasting a roster spot, and they only voted him a one-tenth share of the World Series bonus. In contrast, he was voted the most popular player in Birmingham by the team's fans. He retired after the season, being replaced on the A's roster in 1974 by the infamous Herb Washington. After his career, he worked as a coach in the Panama League and as a scout for the Cleveland Indians and Philadelphia Phillies, rising up to supervisor of Latin American scouting with the Phils. In his major league career, he was used in 156 games, but only collected 31 plate appearance, batting .207 but scoring 47 runs and stealing 44 bases; he played 10 games in the outfield overall.

As a scout, Lewis signed Carlos Ruiz, Severino Gonzalez and Einar Diaz.

Notable Achievements[edit]

Further Reading[edit]

  • Clifford Blau: "Leg Men: Career Pinch-Runners in Major League Baseball", in The Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Volume 38, Number 1 (Summer 2009), pp. 70-81.
  • Rory Costello: "Allan Lewis", in Chip Greene, ed.: Mustaches and Mayhem, Charlie O's Three-Time Champions: The Oakland Athletics 1972-74, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2015, pp. 235-239. ISBN 978-1-943816-07-1

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