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Graig Nettles

A photo of Graig Nettles.

Graig Nettles (born August 20, 1944, in San Diego, California) (nicknamed Puff) is a former Major League Baseball third baseman and left-handed batter who played for the Minnesota Twins (1967-69), Cleveland Indians (1970-72), New York Yankees (1973-83), San Diego Padres (1984-86), Atlanta Braves (1987) and Montreal Expos (1988). He played collegiate baseball with the Aztecs of San Diego State University where he was a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.

His unusual Christian name derives from his mother's dislike of the names Greg and Craig - and her combining the two to produce 'Graig'. "My Dad was away at the war, so he didn't have any say".[1]

Nettles, known as "Puff" (because of his tendency to start trouble and then disappear when retribution was about to come down) to fans and teammates, was one of the best defensive third basemen of all time, and despite his relatively low career batting average, he was an excellent offensive contributor, setting an American League record for career home runs by a third baseman. As a part of four pennant-winning Yankee teams, Nettles enjoyed his best season in 1977 when he won the Gold Glove Award and had career-highs in home runs (37) and runs batted in (107) in leading the Yankees to the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Nettles' most clutch performance came in the field, during Game 3 of the 1978 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Yankee Stadium in back of 25-game-winning lefty Ron Guidry. With the Dodgers leading two games to none, Nettles made several plays at the hot corner to stop potential run-scoring hits, and helping the Yankees gain a key win in the series. New York went on to win the next three contests and clinch the world championship.

In his 22-season career, Nettles hit .248 with 390 home runs and 1,314 RBI in 2,700 games. He had a career fielding percentage of .964, exceptional for the hot corner (third base). After retiring at age 43, Nettles coached for the Yankees (1991) and Padres (1995).

On March 21, 2008 he announced that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer in late November 2007 and would undergo surgery at Manhattan's Sloan Kettering Hospital on April 8.

He now resides in Lenoir City, Tennessee, a suburb of Knoxville, Tennessee. Graig and his wife Ginger have four children: Mike, Barrie, Tim and Jeff.

Illegal bat[]

On September 7, 1974, Nettles, then with the New York Yankees, was caught using a bat that had six superballs inside it. He said that he had received the bat from a Yankees fan in Chicago and did not know that the bat had been altered. [1]

Brothers' milestone[]

  • On September 14, 1974, Nettles and his brother Jim homered in the same game, joining a select club that includes Bret and Aaron Boone, José and Héctor Cruz, Felipe and César Crespo, Al and Tony Cuccinello, Joe and Dom DiMaggio, and Rick and Wes Ferrell. The seven sets of brothers hit their homers playing for opposing teams.


  • The controversial book Balls (Putnam, 1984) is a memoir of Nettles's baseball career written in collaboration with Peter Golenbock, in which the player criticizes George Steinbrenner, the ostentatious Yankees owner, and some players as well. When the book's advance promotion came to Steinbrenner's attention in March 1984, Nettles was summarily traded to the San Diego Padres.
  • During a brawl in a game against the Boston Red Sox in 1976, Nettles, who was on second base at the onset of the brawl, tackled Boston pitcher Bill Lee from behind. When it appeared that the dust had settled and the brawl was over, Lee confronted Nettles for tackling him from behind. The fracas resumed when Nettles swung at Lee. More players joined in the fray and Nettles broke Lee's collarbone when they went down in the pile. He was arguably never the same pitcher he was before the incident, though he continued to be a thorn in the Yankees' side for a few more years with Boston. However, the Yankees continued to win the division during this time and the incident added to the storied Yankees-Red Sox Rivalry.
  • Baseball writer Bill James noted in his 1984 Baseball Abstract that Nettles is arguably the best position player. i.e. non-pitcher, in major league history whose surname begins with the letter "N." Template:As of this judgment appears to hold up: the only 3 players elected to the baseball Hall of Fame with "N" surnames are pitchers Hal Newhouser, Kid Nichols and Phil Niekro.
  • He is a big fan of comedian Artie Lange. Apparently when Lange stays at hotels he uses Nettles's name. He was mentioned several times by the comedian on Howard Stern's Sirius show on July 21, 2008.


Graig Nettles was known for having a quick, sardonic wit. Among his remarks were:

  • When I was a little boy, I wanted to be a baseball player and join the circus. With the Yankees I have accomplished both. [2]
  • [On George Steinbrenner's 1970s habit of appearing in the Yankee locker room to deliver pep talks] "The more we lose, the more Steinbrenner will fly in. And the more he flies, the better the chance there will be for a plane crash."[3]
  • [Discussing reliever Sparky Lyle's abrupt displacement in the bullpen by Goose Gossage] In one year, Sparky Lyle went from Cy Young to sayonara.
  • "The best thing about being a Yankee is getting to watch Reggie Jackson play every day. The worst thing about being a Yankee? Getting to watch Reggie Jackson play every day."
  • (another shot at former teammate Reggie Jackson) "If Babe Ruth were alive today, he wouldn't be able to bat cleanup. He didn't strike out enough. I guess I'm not able to bat cleanup because I don't strike out enough."
  • Nettles was also on the receiving end of teammates' wit. While riding through Cleveland (his previous town) on the team bus, Oscar Gamble announced that Clevelanders must still remember and appreciate Nettles, because they named a street after him. Nettles looked out the window to see the sign: "E5." (the term for an error by the third baseman)

See also[]


  1. Paperback 'Balls' by Graig Nettles and Peter Golenbock, page 19
  2. Today in Baseball History - December 27
  3. Damn Yankees

External links[]

Preceded by:
Reggie Jackson & George Scott
American League Home Run Champion
Succeeded by:
Jim Rice
Preceded by:
Frank White
American League Championship Series MVP
Succeeded by:
Fred Lynn
Preceded by:
Thurman Munson
New York Yankees team captain
January 29, 1982 to March 30, 1984
Succeeded by:
Willie Randolph & Ron Guidry