As spring training was winding down the third base job was a battle between young right-handed prospects, Tracy Woodson and Jeff Hamilton. The latter won out, with Woodson opening 1988 in the minors.
Tracy Woodson tore up Triple-A and was rewarded with a call up to the Dodgers on July 8. On July 26, the struggling Jeff Hamilton went down with an injury, and the burly Woodson was given his shot to replace him. From the time he was recalled Woodson started 46 of the next 81 games. By Aug. 1 he had an anemic .479 OPS, and it was hard to imagine Woodson would keep getting at bats unless something changed. Luckily for Woodson, and the Dodgers, his bat came around and while he was never an offensive force his OPS in August climbed to .607, and then exploded in September to a robust .794.
Hamilton would reclaim his third base job when he returned from his injury but Woodson was able to still find at bats in September due to his rising offensive skills.
Everything you want to know about Woodson would be answered when The Greatest 21 Days interviewed him:
For Woodson, though, it was the introductions in the World Series that sticks out the most."It's exciting," Woodson said, "you see the camera moving up player by player ... it's hard to describe."
How acquired: Drafted by the Dodgers in the third round of the 1984 draft
Prior MLB experience: Woodson was a part time player in 1987 which looked very much like his 1988 season. A .607 OPS in 148 plate appearances is a good reason why he started 1988 in the minors. Quoting again from the The Greatest 21 Days interview, this is Woodson on his home run against Nolan Ryan in 1987:
"A couple guys came up to me and said 'he don't know you, you don't know him,'" Woodson recalled recently to The Greatest 21 Days, "'look for the fast ball on the first pitch.'"
"On the first pitch," Woodson said, "I hit it and I knew it was gone. I tried to sprint around the bases as fast as I could."
Woodson also recalled the next pitch in his next at bat being at his head.
That home run against Nolan Ryan was the only home run he hit in 1987.
1988 age: 25
1988 stats: Woodson started 32 games at third base and 14 at first base. In 183 plate appearances, he hit 35 singles, 4 doubles, one triple, and three home runs, and hit .249/.279/.335. The stats don't show how important Woodson was to team chemistry, as a fan you could easily see how well liked he was with his peers.
Regular season game of the year: What could be better then a game winning single when you are hitting .000? On July 15, Woodson was on the bench with zero hits in his first nine at bats. The game went extra innings, and in the top of the 10th, he was called on to pinch for Franklin Stubbs, and Woodson delivered a line drive single to left field plating Dave Anderson with the go-ahead run. Jay Howell saved the game, and Woodson had a game-winning memory to notch on his major league belt.
NLCS performance: He was 0-for-1 in Game 1, and 0-for-1 in Game 3. Woodson had a pinch-hit single in the ninth inning after Scioscia's home run in Game 4, then stayed in and grounded out in the 11th. In my memory I see Woodson hugging Gibby after his go-ahead home run in the 12th inning.
World Series performance: Against the Athletics, Woodson had four pinch-hit at bats, no hits, and one run batted in.
Post-1988 playing career: Woodson hung around in 1989 but was traded to the White Sox later that fall. In the spring of 1990 he was released without ever playing for Chicago. I guess he had an uninspiring spring. He would not get another major league at bat until the Cardinals signed him as a free agent for the 1992 season. Woodson's 1992 season with the Cardinals was the best of his career. In limited plate appearances (114), he slugged eight doubles in route to a career-best .734 OPS. In 1993 his bat went south, and his major league career was over at the age of 30.
Where he is now: Tracy is currently the head coach at Valparaiso in Indiana:
The 2012 campaign saw Woodson guide Valparaiso to the Horizon League regular season and tournament championships, and a berth in the NCAA Division I tournament for the first time since 1968. The Crusaders matched a school record with 35 victories, and finished the year winning 27 of their final 34 contests. He was named the Horizon League’s Coach of the Year for his efforts on the field.