Sunday, June 12, 2016

Meet the Brewers #27: Skip Lockwood

In the first six weeks of the 1970 season and as one might expect for a second-year expansion team in the pre-free-agent era, the Brewers had struggled. Attendance was not great -- after all, the team had about 5 days to sell season tickets once the bankruptcy court approved Bud Selig's purchase of the team. On May 5, 1970, the Brewers returned to MIlwaukee after a two-coast, 15-game road trip which featured two doubleheaders. On that road trip, the team went 2-13 and got swept in back-to-back four-game series by the Washington Senators and New York Yankees. 

GM Marvin Milkes met with manager Dave Bristol, the coaching staff, and director of player development and procurement Bobby Mattick (who later managed the Toronto Blue Jays in 1980 and 1981) and decided that a few changes needed to be made. The first change that the team made was to call up young starting pitcher Claude (Skip) Lockwood from Portland and, in a corresponding move, the team put Rich Rollins on waivers for purposes of giving him his unconditional release.

1971 Topps
Skip Lockwood was a bonus baby signed by the Kansas City Athletics directly out of his suburban Boston high school in 1964. In his SABR biography, the story is told that the A's came to his house and said they would match any offer for Lockwood to sign with the team. The Colt .45's were the high bidder, agreeing to give a $35,000 bonus. Lockwood -- then 17-years-old -- wrote in an extra "1" in front of the bonus number and asked the A's scout, Pat Friday, if getting $135,000 was okay. Friday made a call, and the A's agreed to the tripling of the bonus. It was, at the time, the largest bonus ever given.

The A's decided that Lockwood would play third base for them. His first step was to travel to Burlington, Iowa, and play in the Midwest League for a while. But, as a bonus baby and under the rules at the time, Lockwood had to spend all of 1965 on the A's bench. He made a total of 42 appearances that season, starting just two games and appearing in the field at third in just 7 games. It took him until June 13 of that season to get his first major league hit, and he only totaled 4 hits in 33 at bats (41 plate appearances) all season.

1972 Topps
In an effort to hide Lockwood away from the Rule 5 draft after the 1966 season, the A's had Lockwood go to the Arizona Instructional League as a pitcher. That worked poorly -- the Astros took Lockwood as a pitcher in the draft. But, the Astros did not see enough that spring of Lockwood as a pitcher, they returned him to the A's. The A's figured out that, perhaps, Lockwood had more of a future as a pitcher and had him split time between pitching and playing third base in the minors in 1968.

Apparently, the A's lost interest, or thought no one would take a soon-to-be-22-year-old without a true position, so they left Lockwood unprotected in the 1969 Expansion Draft. With little to lose, however, the expansion Seattle Pilots selected Lockwood and sent him to Double-A. Near the end of the 1969 season, the team called Lockwood to the majors. In 6 games, Lockwood started three and finished three.

Lockwood's stay in Milwaukee lasted until the end of the 1973 season. The Brewers used Lockwood mainly as a starter until 1973. In his five seasons in the Brewers/Pilots organization, Lockwood posted a 28-55 record in 132 appearances (103 starts). He threw 729-1/3 innings -- nearly 60% of his career total -- with a 3.75 ERA (3.78 FIP). To tell you how bad the Brewers have been at developing pitchers over their 47-season existence, that 3.75 ERA still ranks ninth in Brewers history, his hits allowed per nine innings of 8.638 ranks eighth, and his home runs allowed per nine innings of 0.728 is third.

1973 Topps
After the 1973 season -- at which point Lockwood was still only 27 years old -- Lockwood found himself on the move. The Brewers packaged Lockwood with Ollie Brown, Joe Lahoud, Ellie Rodriguez, and Gary Ryerson, sending that group to the California Angels in exchange for Steve Barber, Ken Berry, Art Kusnyer, Clyde Wright, and cash.

The Angels deployed Lockwood mostly as a reliever, which is where he would find great success going forward. His time in Anaheim, though, was not as successful. He bounced around a bit after 1974, getting traded to the Yankees for Bill Sudakis. The Yankees promptly released Lockwood after spring training in 1975, so he hooked on again with the Oakland A's. The A's didn't need him, so they sold his contract to the New York Mets in July of 1975.

The move to the Mets was exactly what Lockwood's career needed. He pitched extremely well over the last half of 1975 -- 1-3 record but with a 1.49 ERA (2.48 FIP) and 2 saves over 48-1/3 innings, walking 25 but striking out 61. Over the next three years, Lockwood was the Mets closer -- even finishing 2nd in the National League in 1976 in saves with 19 (and doesn't that say how much times have changed?).

Lockwood spent 5 years with the Mets and played out his option in 1979. As a result, his hometown Boston Red Sox signed him to a two-year, $725,000 contract for the 1980 and 1981 seasons with a no-trade clause -- the Red Sox's first-ever free agent. That included a $250,000 signing bonus, a $200,000 salary, and a $125,000 option-year buyout for a third year. Lockwood was not good with the Red Sox and was released after spring training in 1981. He hooked up with the Expos for the 1981 season, but he spent the entire year at Triple-A Denver. 1981 was Lockwood's last in baseball.

1994 Miller Brewing Commemorative Set
During his career, Lockwood worked regularly in the offseason on his college education, eventually graduating with his B.S. in Speech from Emerson College in Boston. He then graduated from MIT with an MBA in 1983, and he added a master's degree from Fairfield University. His post-baseball career has focused on sports psychology and, in his SABR Biography, he expressed his envy he had not gotten his psychology license while former major-league pitcher Bob Tewksbury had and was working (in 2012) with the Boston Red Sox.

These days, Lockwood has a website through which he can be contacted for speaking gigs and corporate motivational speaking. 

Despite spending most of five seasons with the Brewers, Lockwood has just 9 cards in the Trading Card Database of him with the Milwaukee Brewers. I have the four cards shown here, while I am still looking for the corresponding O-Pee-Chee cards of Lockwood from 1971, 1972, and 1973, the 1971 Dell Today's Team Stamp, and the 1973 Jewel Foods photo card of him.


  1. Skip Lockwood was one of the Mets' better players during the beginning of the "dark age" for that franchise. I thought I knew a fair amount about Skip, but you proved me wrong. Great stuff!

  2. Skip was a Massachusetts High school legend

  3. It feels like 90% of old players do speaking gigs. I wonder what percentage are actually interesting...

  4. i'll check my opc stock for the 73. meanwhile, my skip lockwood memory is of his 1978 topps card where he is wearing glasses. i didn't realize that it might be the only card of him doing so!