Saturday, October 8, 2011

One Hit Wonder- Bob Hazle

A couple of years ago, my wife and I were watching VH1's "100 Greatest One Hit Wonders of the '80s." Having spent our teenage years during that forgettable time period, we had a good laugh reconnecting to some of the awful music from our adolescence. While my primary musical interests lie in classic rock, I am fairly eclectic in music tastes-so, I am familiar with much of the cheesy stuff from those teenage years (thank you, MTV). One artist I was not familiar with is Paul Lekakis, whose one hit wonder "Boom Boom Boom, Let's Go Back to My Room" came in at #83. The song peaked at #43 on the Billboard Top 100 in 1987, which led Lekakis to a record deal with Sire Records ("Boom Boom Boom" had been released on a German label). Subsequent releases by Lekakis also fell into the dance music genre. No wonder I had never heard of him! And-surprise- a visit to his official website reveals that he is, indeed, trying to live off of the past fame of his only US hit. Lekakis in later years revealed that he was at one time a male prostitute who had tested positive for HIV. I guess his music wasn't all that blows.

1958 Topps #83 Bob Hazle
Thirty years earlier, there was another 'one-hit wonder' who blew into town- not on the streets, but on the diamond. In the midst of the tight 1957 pennant race, Milwaukee lost outfielder Bill Bruton for the rest of the season when he suffered a torn right knee ligament. Two days later, his replacement Andy Pafko was injured while making a sliding catch. Desperate for help, the Braves were about to call up Earl Hersh from AAA as insurance, but instead brought up Bob "Hurricane" Hazle per the recommendation of AAA manager Ben Geragty. Hazle, a South Carolina native, was primarily a career minor leaguer who had a handful of appearances for the Reds in '55. Bob had been given the nickname "Hurricane" in 1954 while playing winter ball in Venezuela. (The coast between North Carolina and Hazle's South Carolina had been hit by a category 4 hurricane- Hurricane Hazel- that October). Despite a career best in average, homers, and RBI during the 1955 season, Cincinnati traded the hurricane to Milwaukee during spring training, 1956.

During that '57 season, there was no stopping Hazle once he got into the Braves lineup. From July 31st through August 24, Hazle was torching NL pitchers for a .526 average, and the Braves had gained a 6 game lead in the Senior Circuit. Bob went on to record eight games that summer in which he recorded at least three-hits (three of those being 4-hit games), including a 3-3, 2-HR, 6-RBI performance vs. Philadelphia, and a 4-7 game with 3 doubles and 2 RBI against the Cubs. At the end of the regular season, Hazle finished hitting .403/.477/.649 with 7 HR, 27 RBI, and 18 walks compared to only 15 Ks. All of this led Hall of Fame third baseman Eddie Mathews to say, "I don't know what happens to suddenly make a minor league ballplayer into Babe Ruth, but Hazle was right out of the 'Twilight Zone.' We were hangin in there pretty well before he arrived, but he just picked us up." Another Hall of Famer, Red Shoendienst commented, "He was hotter than a firecracker. Every time he swung the bat, it seemed like he got a base hit." Despite his torrid August and September (well, for half of it, anyways), Hazle cooled off once the Braves reached the World Series. The Yankees held Bob to a .154 average in 13 at-bats. His only two hits came in game 7, albeit they were crucial ones, as the Braves went on to win their only title while in Milwaukee. After that magical year, Hurricane Hazle would record only 114 more major league at bats (in '58, split between Milwaukee and Detroit), and then spent the following two seasons in the minors before calling it a career.

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