Mitchell in 2016
|Born: January 13, 1962|
San Diego, California
|September 4, 1984, for the New York Mets|
|Last MLB appearance|
|August 3, 1998, for the Oakland Athletics|
|Runs batted in||760|
|Career highlights and awards|
Kevin Darnell Mitchell (born January 13, 1962) is an American former Major League Baseball left fielder. A two-time All-Star and the 1989 NL MVP, he became widely known not only for his occasional brilliance on the field, but also for his unpredictable and sometimes volatile behavior off the field.
Mitchell was born in San Diego to Alma Mitchell, who worked as an electrician with the US Navy. Alma and Mitchell's father, Earl, separated when Mitchell was two years old. Because Mitchell struggled academically, he attended several high schools in San Diego including Lincoln High School, Clairemont High School and Crawford High School where he claimed to have played water polo. Although he has been credited with graduating from Clairemont and has claimed to have been a high school football star there, Mitchell only attended the school for two months in 1978. He was reportedly involved in street gangs as a youth but has claimed he was never himself a member; his stepbrother, Donald, was killed in a gang fight.
Mitchell reportedly did not play high school baseball. He was signed by the New York Mets as an undrafted free agent following an open tryout at Grossmont College. He was given a $1,500 signing bonus plus $600 monthly in salary.
In Amazin', Peter Golenbock's oral history of the New York Mets, Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter said he gave Mitchell the nickname "World" for his ability to play in the infield and outfield. Carter spoke fondly of Mitchell's talents.
An urban legend involving Mitchell holds that during the Mets' championship run in 1986, during an argument with his then live-in girlfriend, Mitchell decapitated her cat. The story first came to light in Dwight Gooden's autobiography, Heat. Gooden claimed that an enraged Mitchell held him hostage during the alleged cat incident. Mitchell responded to Gooden's accusations by accusing Gooden of fabricating the stories in an attempt to divert attention away from Gooden's personal problems.
In the famous tenth inning of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, after Wally Backman and Keith Hernandez had been retired for the first two outs, he was called to pinch hit for reliever Rick Aguilera after Gary Carter, the next hitter after Hernandez, singled. Mitchell, who had already gotten out of his uniform and had on his regular clothes, hurriedly put his uniform back on without his protective cup and went to the plate and singled. He would eventually score the tying run on Bob Stanley's wild pitch to Mookie Wilson.
In a July 2007 radio interview with local sports talk radio station KNBR, Mitchell disputed that he was out of uniform at the time, and stated that he never wore a cup, even when playing infield. When asked why he never wore a cup, Mitchell responded, "I couldn't find one big enough for my junk." The interviewer then commented that maybe the increased mobility helped Mitchell to make the famous 1989 barehanded catch of Ozzie Smith's fly ball.
On July 4, 1987, Mitchell was traded to the Giants as part of a multi-player trade that also sent pitchers Dave Dravecky and Craig Lefferts to San Francisco in exchange for third baseman Chris Brown and pitchers Keith Comstock, Mark Davis, and Mark Grant. While Dravecky was initially considered to be the key to the trade for the Giants, it was Mitchell who emerged as a superstar.
After two seasons playing primarily at third base, he had his best season with the Giants in 1989 upon being moved to the outfield. In that season, he batted .291 with a league-best 125 RBI and 47 home runs, leading the team to the playoffs and winning the National League's Most Valuable Player award, the first by a Giant since Willie McCovey in 1969. He added a .353 average and 2 homers in the NLCS to help the team to its first World Series appearance since 1962.
Mitchell is the only player in Major League Baseball history to win a Most Valuable Player award and play for five major league teams before his 32nd birthday.
Mitchell set the tone for his charmed 1989 season early in the year with a unique defensive play on April 26. Sprinting toward the left field foul line in St. Louis' Busch Stadium, for a ball off the bat of Ozzie Smith, Mitchell realized he had overrun the ball, but was able to reach back and snare the ball with his bare hand.
A two-time All-Star with the Giants, later years saw his play decline due to an often indifferent attitude as well as various other distractions. One story making the rounds was an incident during the 1991 season in Los Angeles when an unnamed Giant player said he saw Mitchell "stone drunk" at 2 a.m. after a Saturday night game.
Traded to the Mariners after the 1991 season, he arrived at spring training the following year 30 pounds (14 kg) overweight and hit only nine homers that year while batting .286. He had a resurgence in two seasons with the Reds, batting .341 with 19 HRs and 64 RBI in just 323 at-bats in 1993 and .323 with 30 HR and 77 RBI in the strike-shortened season. However, his weight problems kept him from being more productive. Because of the baseball strike, he opted to play for the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks in Japan the following year, where he became the highest-paid player in Japanese history. In Japan, he incurred the displeasure of team management when he chose to travel to the U.S. in mid-season for treatment of knee problems against the team's wishes.
In the next two years, he played for four major league teams (Cincinnati, Boston, Cleveland, Oakland), showing flashes of his former ability.
In May 1997 while with the Cleveland Indians, after teammate Chad Curtis objected to lyrics of a rap song Mitchell was playing in the clubhouse, and shut off the clubhouse stereo, Curtis exchanged punches with Mitchell, who threw Curtis over a ping pong table. Curtis sustained a bruised right thumb in the fight, and was placed on the 15-day disabled list.
After being released from Major League Baseball for the last time, he was arrested in 1999 for assaulting his father during an argument. In the independent leagues as manager of the Sonoma County Crushers in 2000, he was suspended for nine games after punching the opposing team's owner in the mouth during a brawl.
Mitchell's cousin, Keith Mitchell, also played in the major leagues for four teams across four seasons (between 1991 and 1998), ending his career with a .260 batting average and eight home runs. He is also known as Boogie Bear by his players on the Giants.