Bill Plummer turns 65 years old in a couple of days. I know this because he was born during the narrow span between my father’s birthday in February, 1947 and my mother’s birthday in March of that year. So to commemorate his impending birthday, along with the very bizarre weather that we had for St. Patrick’s day this year, I have honored my Irish heritage by composing the limerick above. And now for a few words of explanation.
Bill Plummer made it to the major leagues with the Chicago Cubs‘ 1968 team. He wasn’t involved with the record-setting futility of that team in June, but only by the fact that he didn’t appear in any of those games. In fact, for the entire season he appeared in just two games. The Cubs’ starting catcher, Randy Hundley, caught a mind-boggling 160 games that year. I can just imagine how many days Plummer wanted to be contributing, doing something, but there was Hudley behind the plate, sucking up all of the oxygen that is playing time and plate appearances. The only way out must have a trade to another team.
Plummer was traded, along with two other players, to Cincinnati for pitcher Ted Abernathy before the 1969 season. For three seasons Plummer, who was still relatively young, played for the Reds’ triple-A affiliate in Indianapolis. The problem was that, for each of those seasons, the big league catcher in Cincinnati was the soon-to-be legendary Johnny Bench. Bench had two NL MVP awards on his mantle at home by the time Plummer ascended to the majors for good in 1972. The glory days of the Big Red Machine still lay ahead, and Plummer was along for that ride. But for six seasons, it must have been very frustrating being caught (sorry about that!) behind the measuring stick for all future catchers.
Sports Illustrated even reported on Plummer’s situation back in 1977, which in those days was as mainstream as sports reporting got. In those pre-ESPN days, if it was in SI, it was the news as far as sports were concerned. But a new wrinkle in Plummer’s career developed the next year, in 1978.
The 1978 Topps baseball card for Bill Plummer, shown above, would prove to be his last in a Reds uniform. The Reds brought a younger (meaning less expensive) catcher named Don Werner into spring training camp that year. In late March, the Reds went with Werner’s youth over Plummer’s experience, and after nearly a decade in Cincinnati Plummer was looking for work. He found it in Seattle, where he backed up Bob “Scrap Iron” Stinston during the franchise’s second year in existence.
In 1979, Plummer–now at the age of 32–was back in the minors, trying to keep his playing career alive. He caught, mostly, but he also played first base, third base, and even pitched a couple of times. But at the end of the season, he retired as a player. The following season he began a managing career in the Mariners organization, which culminated in the majors with a one-year stint as the Mariners’ manager. He has also managed in the Tigers, Reds, and Diamondbacks organizations.
I applaud Bill Plummer on a long and varied career in baseball, and I am sending this out to the wider world in appreciation of his service to the game.