Claudell Washington, a two-time All-Star outfielder who played 17 seasons in the majors after being called up as a teenager by the Oakland Athletics, has died. He was 65. Washington died early Wednesday morning in the Bay Area according to his friend, A’s scout and former major leaguer Shooty Babitt. Washington had been battling prostate cancer.
Babitt, who followed Washington’s path from Berkeley High School to the Athletics, called Washington his “baseball hero” and said he taught him never to accept a losing effort. Washington played with seven teams in his career, finishing with 1,884 hits, 164 home runs and 312 stolen bases. He made the All-Star Game in 1975 with the A’s and in 1984 with the Atlanta Braves during his long career.
Former Braves teammate Dale Murphy said on Twitter that Washington was a favorite among teammates and in the clubhouse wherever he played and said he was thankful for their time together in Atlanta. Washington has the dubious distinction of striking out more times than any player against Nolan Ryan with 39 in 90 career at-bats. The outfielder also hit the 10,000th home run in Yankees history, connecting off Minnesota’s Jeff Reardon in 1988.
Washington played a part on the big screen as well. In the 1986 movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” the title character catches a foul ball off the bat of Washington. The actual footage was from a game at Wrigley Field between the Chicago Cubs and Braves the year before.
Washington was originally signed by A’s scout Jim Guinn as an undrafted free agent in 1972 and made it to the majors two years later as a 19-year-old. Guinn also signed Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson and Babitt, among others.
Washington helped Oakland win its third straight World Series title that season in five games over the Los Angeles Dodgers, going 4 for 7 in the Series. He then hit .308 with 77 RBIs and 40 stolen bases the following year when he made his first All-Star team. But he never developed into a big star in Oakland.
Washington then bounced around the majors for much of his career. He was traded to Texas in spring training in 1977, dealt to the Chicago White Sox for Bobby Bonds the following year and then traded to the Mets in 1980. Washington signed as a free agent with Atlanta before the 1981 season and helped the Braves win the NL West in his second season there. He was traded to the Yankees in 1986 in a deal that included Ken Griffey Sr. and then spent two seasons with the Angels before finishing his career with the Yankees in 1990.