Saturday, June 4, 2016

Tom Spencer, Looking For - 29

A frustrated Tom Spencer spoke to Cox News Service in 1991 about his situation and the situation of other black managers in baseball.

By that time, Spencer had been in the game for more than two decades, both as a player and as a manager. He had seen major league time as a coach, but hadn't gotten a look at a major league managerial post.

"Right now, all they're looking for when it comes to possibly getting a black manager is a name," Spencer told Cox, "and I'm not in that category. I keep hearing baseball people say that blacks haven't worked themselves up through the ranks to become managers. Hey, this is my 22nd year in baseball. I've done a lot of things in the game, and I haven`t gotten a call to be a major-league manager yet."

In a career that has continued in the two decades since, Spencer didn't ever get that shot at a major league managerial post. But he did get a couple more seasons as a first base coach and later spent at least seven seasons helming squads a step away from the majors, at AAA.

Spencer's career in baseball began back in 1970, signed by the Reds out of Gallia Academy in Gallipolis, Ohio.

With the Reds, Spencer started at single-A Tampa, moving to AA Trois-Riveres in 1971. He got his first look at AAA Indianapolis in 1972. In 12 professional seasons, Spencer ended up playing at AAA in nine of them.

In 1978, he made his only trip to the majors as a player, with the White Sox. Spencer got into 29  games, hitting .185.

His playing days over, Spencer started his coaching career, managing 1983 at single-A Asheville. That November, Spencer told his hometown Gallipolis Sunday Times-Sentinel how the game had changed since he first started, or at least the players changed.

"The athlete of today defies orders," Spencer told The Times-Sentinel. "He likes to question why certain things are done. When I tell a guy to do something, I like to take an extra step and explain why it's being done."

Spencer moved up to AA Pittsfield, managing there for 1985 and 1986. In 1988, he returned to the majors for a season as first base coach for the Indians.

He went on to serve as first base coach for the Mets in 1991 and the Astros in both 1992 and 1993. His first AAA managerial job came in 1997 and he continued managing at AAA through 2004, going through five cities, from Calgary to Memphis. Spencer most recently is credited as serving as manager at high-A Lancaster.

In 1997, Spencer served as manager at AAA Nashville, with the White Sox system. That July, Spencer oversaw the AAA rehab assignment of major leaguer Robin Ventura, Spencer liking Ventura's approach to the assignment.

"I told him I wouldn't hit-and-run with him or have him bunting, so he didn't need to learn the signs. He wanted to know them," Spencer told The Chicago Tribune. "He said, 'If you want me to bunt, I'll bunt, no big deal.' That's pretty surprising. I have guys on my team who don't like me telling them what to do, and here's a big-leaguer who doesn't mind."

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