Former Royals pitcher Bob Tufts was born on this day, November 2, in 1955 in Medford MA.
A college pitcher out of Princeton, Bob was drafted by the Giants in the 12th round of the 1977 draft. He eventually made his debut with San Francisco in 1981, appearing in eleven games. Although Tufts only pitched for the Royals for two seasons, he was acquired via one of the biggest trades in franchise history.
On March 30, 1982 Tufts was sent to the Royals, along with Vida Blue, in exchange for Renie Martin, Craig Chamberlain, Atlee Hammaker and Brad Wellman. Blue, the key component in the trade was ok for the Royals in 1982 (108 ERA+) but tanked in 1983 (68 ERA+) eventually returning to San Francisco for his final two seasons.
Tufts did not immediately appear for the big league club, arriving via September callup. Tufts appeared in 10 games in 1982, posting a 4.50 ERA (91 ERA+) in 20 IP and picking up two victories and two saves. The Royals went 90-72 that season, finishing three games behind the California Angels.
In 1983 Tufts joined the Royals out of Spring Training, despite being viewed by Manager Dick Howser as mostly a mop-up man. Of his six appearances in 1983, Tufts entered with the Royals trailing five times (he entered one tie) and in three of those games the Royals were down by more than four runs. In every appearance Tufts allowed exactly one earned run. His final appearance with the Royals came on May 6, 1983 against Toronto, replacing Mike Armstrong in the bottom of the seventh with the Royals trailing 5-1 and runners on first and second. Tufts walked Ernie Whitt to load the bases, but got Willie Upshaw to pop out to end the inning. Tufts remained in the game in the 8th, surrendering a lead-off double to Alfredo Griffin. Tufts then walked Dave Collins, followed by a RBI single by Damaso Garcia to make the score 1-6. Fortunately, Tufts induced a double-play from Barry Bonnell. With two outs, Tufts struck out Cliff Johnson to end the inning. The Royals would stage a brief rally in the top of the 9th off of Dave Stieb, stringing together three singles, however the final single, by George Brett, only led to John Wathan getting thrown out at home (had to have been a dumb play) ending the game. Tufts's ERA stood at 8.10.
The strikeout of Johnson was the final chapter of Tufts brief Major League career, as he never appeared in a game again. His career line: 27 Games, 42 IP, 28 Ks, 14 BBs, 5 HRs and a 4.71 ERA.
Notably, Tufts converted to Judaism while in the Giants minor league system, one of only six Major League baseball players ever to do so.
While working during the off-season in the sports information department at the University of Virginia in 1980, Tufts began the conversion process, studying with Rabbi Sheldon Ezring, then head of the school's Hillel. He continued his studies during the season, reading and "doing homework," all the while trying to keep a low profile. "I kept it private because I feel it should be a private issue," he said. He praised two teammates Gary Lavelle with the Giants and the late Dan Quisenberry with the Royals, both evangelical Christians for their support. "Both were religious and politically attuned, and there was no issue" surrounding his religious choices, Tufts said.
But that wasn't always the case. "Baseball was a southern game for a long time," he said. "Many managers came from the region, and some minority players suffered for it. There were huge problems for urban blacks and Jews who openly held their faith."
A defining moment came while Tufts was in the Giants' minor league system. Sitting in the bullpen with another pitcher one day, "the conversation turned toward religion, which can be a problem in many cases." The other player, Tufts said, "basically started to I would say proselytizing would be a nice word, and he asked me if I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior. I told him I was converting to Judaism. He looked at me and his eyes kind of bugged out and he said, "Well, then, you're going to hell,' and turned back to watch the ballgame."
After leaving baseball, Tufts completed a MBA from Columbia and works in finance in New York.