Blessed with blazing speed, Stroud played for the Senators for most of his career, before being traded to the Chicago White Sox in 1971, his final major league season. Here is a link to Stroud’s major league statistics courtesy of Retrosheet: http://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/S/Pstroe101.htm.
Stroud, nicknamed “The Creeper” for the funny way he walked and his sneakiness on the basepaths and “The Streak” for his blazing speed, joins Ed Brinkman, Zoilo Versalles, Arthur Lee Maye, Sam Bowens, and Frank Bertaina on the list of 1969 Senators who have passed away.
Anyone who met Stroud or watched him play soon found out he was a shy, but friendly man and an exciting baseball player. He excelled for Ted Williams in 1969. A left handed hitter, he platooned in right field with Hank Allen and became a surprisingly effective pinch hitter and a reliable defensive replacement. In 1969, he had a knack for coming up with a big hit, great defensive play, or key stolen base late in the game for that 86-win club. On balance, he was probably the Senators’ best bench player, leading the group Frank Howard termed the “Irregulars.” The Streak would fit in quite well with the 2012 Nationals’ “goon squad” of great substitutes.
Here’s a few of Stroud’s 1969 highlights:
– July 31 in Seattle. Stroud’s pinch-hit RBI single keys a 5-run Senators inning, providing a 6-1 lead in Washington’s eventual 7-6 victory over the expansion Pilots.
– August 10, RFK Stadium. Stroud’s pinch-hit triple drives in Ken McMullen to tie the game. Stroud then scores the game-winning run in a 7-5 Nats victory.
– August 16, RFK Stadium. Stroud’s triple drives in the two decisive runs in the 8th inning in Washington’s 6-5 win over the Minnesota Twins and their mouthy manager Billy Martin.
– September 13, RFK Stadium. Stroud doubles in two insurance runs in the bottom of the 8th as the Senators break a 6-6 tie en route to an 11-6 win over the Detroit Tigers.
In 1969, Stroud was one of the American League’s top pinch hitters. For the season as a pinch hitter, The Streak went 14-44 (.318), with 9 runs, two triples, a home run, five walks, and 11 RBI’s. He also stole three bases after pinch hits, never getting caught once. Stroud’s slash line as a pinch hitter is a fine: .318/.400/.477, an .877 OPS.
Overall in 1969, Stroud hit .252/.353/.393, for a 746 OPS. He also stole 12 bases in 14 attempts. Like so many other teammates, he credited Ted Williams for changing his mental approach at the plate. He said, “At first I didn’t understand what Ted was talking about, but once I figured it out, I knew.”
Stroud did take awhile to internalize Teddy Ballgame’s wisdom. As late as August 6, his batting average was a paltry .225. Then, it clicked. He went 18-55 the rest of the way. His clutch hitting, base running, and defense helped Washington to its still best season in many, many years.
What most people forget about Stroud is that, in 1970, he appeared on his way to stardom. Only 30, on July 9, Stroud was hitting .266, with a .342 On-base percentage. Beyond statistics, he was playing a dynamic centerfield for the Senators, tracking down line drives, spraying base hits, wreakng havoc on the bases. He had essentially wrested the starting job from injured and slumping Del Unser.
Then, on July 9, Stroud was struck in the face on a pitch from Cleveland Indians’ fireballer Fred Lasher. The injury sidelined him for 22 days. Although he appeared to recover his composure and fine play for the rest of 1970, finishing with a .266 batting average and 29 stolen bases, the damage was done. In 1971, Stroud lost his ability to hit and, eventually, his major league career. His last game was June 29, 1971. His final game in Washington came earlier that season on May 2. He went 0-3 in Wilbur Wood‘s 3-1 win over the Nats.
Ed Stroud will always hold a special place in my heart. When I began working on my book on the 1969 Senators, he was one of the first people I interviewed. Gracious, funny, and kind, he helped me to relax, get through my questions, and gave me some great stories about his time in D.C. and his life in Warren, Ohio. Even then (1998), at age 59, he was playing in the top men’s slow pitch softball league’s in Warren.
At the 1969 Senators’ reunion in November 1998, Stroud looked younger and healthier than any of his former teammates. That he has been taken from us and his family so soon after that wonderful weekend, is sad and somewhat shocking. Still, he left all Senators fans with some wonderful memories.
Here’s a transcript of my interview with Ed Stroud:
Interview with Ed Stroud (Circa March 1999):
Former EEO Commissioner for Warren County — divorced in 1985, retired in 1998. “I’m retired now. I love it. Now I can do what I want to do.”
In 1969 Ted Williams improved all of our averages and everything. He made us aware of the ball game and being ready to play. He taught us how to think. He was a very knowledgeable guy.
He could call home run pitches, especially for Frank Howard and Mike Epstein. He knew what to look for on the first pitch and he would tell them to look for it — they would look for the pitch and damn if they didn’t hit it out!
Williams always told us to be ready to hit. At first I didn’t know what he was talking about. I thought I already knew how to hit, but Ted showed me.
I had a good year in 1969, if I didn’t get hurt I would’ve done better. I got my jaw broke that year (Steve’s note – this was in 1970, not 1969!). After I got my jaw broke, my first day back off the injured list, I got 2 doubles my first time up — I think it was in Oakland.
Ted was the most knowledgeable person as far as hitting was concerned. He and Henry “The Hat” Walker (in Spring Training, Walker was the Astros manager) used to get together and argue over hitting. They’d take out their books and everything and really go at it. Harry was a pretty knowledgeable guy and a tough hitter himself, but Ted proved his theories on the field.
Ted has more insight into the game — he’s unbelievable. He’s knowledgeable about pitching too, a lot of people don’t understand that.
Ted Williams helped everybody. He sure helped Eddie Brinkman and he helped Hank Allen too. IF YOU LISTEN TO HIM, YOU HAD TO HIT BETTER.”
In 1969, I got 5 PH in a row (My note: He knew the record was 7).
I can’t say anything bad about Mr. Short. When I started playing well, he tore up my old contract and gave me a new one (with a big raise).
Sid Hudson — pitching coach, he knew the game, but when you don’t have the pitchers…
Joe Coleman, he was good, had a good forkball, he was ahead of his time.
Another good pitcher was that left-hander, Darold Knowles.
We had a good team, just didn’t have enough punch.
Of Frank Howard — Everybody respects him. He doesn’t pull any punches. He’s great to be around.
I have good memories of Washington. I liked the team. I wish there was a team there now. They’re (Texas Rangers) better off now where they are, but…
Washington was a beautiful place to play. I loved the city of Washington, the people, and the surrounding suburbs. I have great memories of being there.
The ballpark (RFK Stadium) was beautiful. I loved it.
Of the July 20 game — in Yankee Stadium — first men on the moon:
When the crowd starting singing, I was standing next to Tom McKenna, our trainer, we all took our hats off while they were singing, we were all on the visitors dugout steps.
Ted’s first time in Boston was emotional for him, managing against the team he played for and went to the Hall of Fame for.
I liked playing in Boston. I always hit good there. The people are right on top of you and they inspire you.
1971 I was traded to Chicago. I still don’t understand that. I was traded for Tom McCraw. The trade didn’t work out. I didn’t play much for Chicago (White Sox — Stroud hit .177 in 141 AB, 53 games for ChiSox) then I was out of baseball (after 1971).
On the 1969 team: All of us were close on that team. We were a very close team. Everybody got along. Ted made sure of that — he wouldn’t put up with any foolishness. We all got along. Frank Howard wouldn’t have it no other way. He wouldn’t stand for no mess. Him or Ted.
They were a good bunch of guys — Casanova, Hank Allen, Knowles, Casey Cox was on that team, Brinkman, Del Unser. It was a good team and a good year.
In 1969, Stroud wanted to run on his own on bases — I asked him about that and he said Williams wouldn’t let him. “The American League wasn’t ready for that. They were still into the home run thing.
Of prejudice in the AL: “They were just a little slow. The NL caught up. That’s why the started winning all the All-Star games. When they started playing 2 a year, the NL caught up to the AL real quick because they had better players.”
On the move of the Senators to Texas:
“Look at the attendance. Bob Short is a money man. Any businessman is a money man. What we don’t know is how much money did he get to move the team to Texas? It was a business transaction. It’s worked out good for somebody there now. They have high attendance and a good team. One of the better teams in baseball. I’ve seen Dick Bosman as pitching coach.”