Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Meet the Brewers #8: Max Alvis

As I mentioned in my previous post on Steve Hovley, Max Alvis should have been Brewer #7.  He was the starting third baseman on Opening Day in 1970, and he fielded a groundball in the top of the second inning for the third out.  He came to bat in the bottom of the second and struck out to end the inning.

Alvis came to the Brewers in the same trade that brought fellow veteran Russ Snyder to Milwaukee. Apparently on the eve of the season starting, Marvin Milkes decided he would rather have two white guys in their 30s (and, as it would turn out, in their last seasons) instead of two young African-American players, Frank Coggins and Roy Foster. Neither Coggins nor Foster amounted to much in baseball (and both, oddly enough, died young...Foster at age 62 and Coggins at age 50), but for a second-year expansion team, I'm taking the young guys all day.

Nothing personal against Max Alvis, mind you -- he was a good player with the Indians through 1967, but he was clearly in decline by 1969 at the age of 31.

1970 McDonald's Milwaukee Brewers
Alvis had had a good athletic career up to that point as well.  As a Texas Longhorn, he played both football and baseball.  He was a running back on the 1957 football team -- rushing 55 times for just 150 yards and catching 9 passes for 97 yards and a TD.  He also threw the ball four times, completing two passes including one for a TD. That year was coaching legend Darrell Royal's first season at Texas, and the year ended with a 39-7 shellacking in the Sugar Bowl from Ole Miss...who was playing in the Sugar Bowl over conference and national champion Auburn because, well, Auburn was placed on probation indefinitely by the SEC because they paid two high school players $500 apiece.

The more things change...

Okay, back to Max Alvis.

Alvis signed with the Indians before the 1958 baseball season.  By 1962, at the age of 24, he saw his first major league action.  He enjoyed 6 successful seasons in Cleveland as the Tribe's starting third baseman from 1963 through 1968, even though he missed 1/3 of the 1964 season with spinal meningitis.

Wait, what?  Seriously?

As Alvis stated in an interview later (and good lord, never put blue text against a red background like that website I've linked to did), he developed a bad headache on a flight from Minneapolis to Boston. The flight landed, and the team went to their hotel. About 3 AM, Alvis called the team trainer, who then called the Boston team physician. The checked Alvis into the hospital, and he missed 6 weeks.

Alvis's comps provide a good more modern analog for him -- Kelly Gruber. By that, I mean that both were decent in the field, had 5-6 seasons of pretty good production, didn't walk much, struck out a fair amount, and when the end came, it came quickly.

The end for Alvis was 1970. He played as a starter at third for most of April, and he did it poorly. In 62 plate appearances, he walked four times, struck out 6, and got 8 hits -- for a slash line of .138/.194/.155.  It was around that time that the team decided to move Tommy Harper from 2B to 3B and moved Alvis to the bench. From May 1 to the end of the season, Alvis came to the plate 58 times, walked once (intentionally), and hit .228/.241/.404.

1994 Miller Lite Milwaukee Brewers Commemorative Set
At the end of the 1970 season, the Brewers cut Alvis.  The next season, as he told Justice Hill of MLB.com, he had some offers from clubs to come to spring training at his own expense to try to get a job with a club. Being the strong-willed East Texan that he is, his response was, "I got angry about that. I thought I could play, and I thought I could probably help a ballclub somewhere. But I didn't think I needed to beg them for a job.  So I decided I'd go ahead and stay retired."

He went back to his hometown of Jasper, Texas, and went to work at the local bank. By the mid-2000s, he was the president of the First National Bank of Jasper, and was loving every minute of it. More recently, he got to see his grandson, Sam Alvis, play college baseball at Louisiana Tech as an outfielder before the Marlins drafted Sam as a pitcher.

Max's response? "So, once we learned he'd be pitching, I just told him, 'Well, you got a lot of work ahead of you, son."

You wouldn't expect the small-town Texan to say much more, either.

I have two cards of Alvis, pictured above. There are a couple of items -- a Mike Andersen postcard and a team "picture pack" card -- that I definitely don't have. And, again, if you know whether the MLB PhotoStamps shows Max as a Brewer, please let me know that too.


  1. What set is that first card from? Love the sketched team logo.

    Also jealous of all the beer issued cards you get.

  2. Yikes! spinal menegitis.

    Man, how times have changed. You can come on your own expense and we might let you play...

  3. I'm really enjoying this series you're doing and it's great to learn more about each of these players.