The 86th Greatest Royal of All-Time is Jim Wohlford
Ninety percent of this game if half-mental. Another half is grit, and the final half is veteran presence.
Wohlford was an 11th round pick by the California Angels in 1969, but refused to sign. Back then baseball had a January Secondary Draft for unsigned players, and Wohlford was selected in the third round of that 1970 January Draft by the Kansas City Royals. He hit .308 in Rookie ball that year, hit .303 in high A ball in 1971, and nearly hit .300 in AAA Omaha in 1972 before getting a cup of coffee at age 21.
After another .300 season at Omaha in 1973, Wohlford stuck in the big leagues for good. Royals General Manager Cedric Tallis decided to make his team younger by trading left-fielder Lou Piniella to the Yankees, allowing Wohlford to be the every-day leftfielder. Wohlford responded with a pretty mediocre season - .271/.327/.343 with 2 HR and 44 RBI and a running joke began in the Yankees clubhouse that whenever Lou would enter, a player would shout "JIM $*&&! WOHLFORD?!?!?"
Wohlford's meager numbers fell in 1975, where he hit .255 with no home runs and just thirty runs batted in. The Royals began to play a young Al Cowens more and more leaving Wohlford to the bench. Wohlford would spend one more season as a bench player for the Royals, putting up pedestrian numbers once again, and that December he would be sent to Milwaukee in a blockbuster deal that would net the Royals Jim Colborn and Darrell Porter.
In his short time in Kansas City, Wohlford was a dreadful base-stealer. He managed to steal fifty bases in his three full seasons in Kansas City, but was caught thirty-six times for a dreadful 58% success rate. Manager Whitey Herzog loved to run, and the 1976 Royals stole over two hundred bases, with eight players, including Wohlford, stealing fifteen bases or more. So Whitey was going to have Wohlford steal bases, caught stealing numbers be damned.
Wohlford would bounce around the Majors from Milwaukee to San Francisco to Montreal, mostly serving as a fourth outfielder and pinch hitter. He finished his career with a .260 average and 793 hits in fifteen seasons. All that time on the bench gave Wohlford plenty of time to think, and he was known for being one of the brighter and most quotable players in the game. It was actually Wohlford, not Yogi Berra, who was attributed with saying, "Ninety percent of this game is half-mental." On the home of the San Francisco Giants, he said, "the only difference between Candlestick and San Quentin is that at Candlestick they let you go home at night."
Jim Wohlford now resides in the Visalia, California area, works as a financial consultant and is active in the local community, hosting a yearly celebrity golf tournament to raise money for his alma mater, the College of the Sequoias.
"It wasn't about multiyear contracts and money then. You didn't know whether you'd be playing the next year, so you enjoyed it when you were there."