SABR

Glenn Tufts

This article was written by Charlie Bevis.

In the first round of the June 1973 amateur draft, the Cleveland Indians selected 18-year-old high-school slugger Glenn Tufts as the fifth overall pick, immediately after Milwaukee selected Robin Yount as the third pick and San Diego selected Dave Winfield as the fourth pick.1 While Yount and Winfield both went on to have Hall of Fame careers, Tufts never progressed higher than Double-A in the minor leagues.

After Tufts signed with the Indians, he played in a rookie league during the summer of 1973. After the season, in November, Tufts broke his left leg in a car accident. He missed the entire 1974 season, returned to play in 1975, but by 1977, at 22 years old, he was released and out of Organized Baseball. Tufts’ tale is not one of despair, though, but rather one of redemption. He spent the next 16 years resurrecting a baseball career, which saw him return to Organized Baseball in 1994 as a minor-league hitting instructor for the San Francisco Giants. He later served as a minor-league manager and scout in the Giants organization. Although he never played one inning of major-league baseball, Tufts did receive a World Series ring in 2010 when the Giants won the World Series.2

Glenn Tufts grew up in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, a town 30 miles south of Boston. He was born on December 2, 1954, in a hospital in nearby Middleboro, the oldest child of his parents Floyd Tufts and Jacqueline Bois. When Glenn was just 4 years old, his father died as the result of a workplace accident.3 His mother remarried, to Bob Fernandes, who helped guide his precocious stepson by enrolling him in the Ted Williams Baseball Camp in nearby Lakeville for advanced instruction. Tufts has said he developed a heightened respect for the game of baseball at the camp, not just hitting skills, which set him apart from other baseball prospects.4

As an 11-year-old, Tufts was the best player in the Bridgewater Little League during the 1966 season. He played third base and pitcher for the Lions Club team and led them to the league championship. The author, who was a year older than Tufts and played for the Jenkins Mill team, faced Tufts’ overpowering speed as a pitcher and watched him as a hitter stroke blistering line drives; he seemed destined for great things in baseball. Despite having the talented Tufts at third base and the author in right field, the 1966 Bridgewater Little League all-star team lost in the first round of the district-level qualifying tournament for the Little League World Series.5

In 1967 the 12-year-old Tufts terrorized the competition in the Bridgewater Little League, hitting 14 home runs during the 18-game regular season and rarely yielding a hit as a pitcher.6 The author witnessed several of those 14 home runs landing 50 feet or more beyond the fence that was 180 feet from home plate. Tufts led the Lions Club team to the league title by winning the playoffs, when he hit his 15th homer in the first game and narrowly missed a 16th in the finale when he doubled off the top of the fence.7 As his Little League coach, Al Warren, summarized six years later, “When Tufts was 10, he was a Little League regular. When he was 12, he was a Little League legend.”8

As a 13-year-old playing for the Bridgewater entry in the local multitown Babe Ruth League, Tufts honed his swing at Bridgewater’s Legion Field, with its cavernous outfield (for an amateur diamond) and 375-foot distance to the left-center-field fence. With the expansive outfield at Legion Field, Tufts developed a powerful line-drive swing, not just an upper-cut home run swing. Tufts loved to play baseball. “My idea of fun was taking 200 swings or 200 groundballs,” he recalled. “Saturdays, I didn’t want to go to the beach. I lived on the field. That was my fun.”9 By the time Tufts was 14 years old, there was talk in Bridgewater that he could be the next Mickey Cochrane, the Hall of Fame player who was (as of 2013) the only major leaguer ever to come from Bridgewater.

In 1970 the 15-year-old Tufts played on the varsity baseball team at Bridgewater-Raynham Regional High School, bypassing both the freshman and junior varsity teams. To get his bat in the lineup, Coach John “Hank” Pearson played Tufts in the outfield rather than his customary third base position. Tufts compiled a .330 average as B-R finished in second place in the Old Colony League. Major-league scouts initially noticed Tufts during the 1970 Eastern Massachusetts high-school baseball tournament when Bridgewater played Somerset in a first-round game. The scouts had come to see Somerset second baseman Jerry Remy, who did go on to play major-league baseball and more famously become a Boston Red Sox TV announcer and president of Red Sox Nation. However, on that May 1970 day, the scouts ignored Remy (he was a 19th-round draft choice that June) and jotted Tufts’ name in their notepads when Tufts went 3-for-5, all extra-base hits, in the B-R loss.10

As a sophomore in 1971, the 16-year-old Tufts compiled a .565 batting average for the B-R Trojans, as he converted to playing first base and occasionally pitched. Coach Pearson didn’t tinker with Tufts’ swing. “When a guy hits like Glenn,” Pearson once said, “there isn’t much more about batting I can tell him.”11 Pearson’s coaching contribution was more psychological, constantly imploring Tufts to swing “loose and easy.”12 The author had an up-close vantage point to watch Tufts hone his sweet swing as the Pearson-designated batting-practice pitcher for Tufts, as an adjunct to his role as third baseman on the junior-varsity team. Tufts was not only an Old Colony League all-star in 1971 but also a selection for the regional Boston Globe all-scholastic team.

During his junior year in 1972, the 17-year-old Tufts batted .524 to lead B-R to a 16-2 record and the Old Colony League title. B-R also copped the Class B title in the Eastern Massachusetts tournament, winning their first three games before pounding Methuen, 17-2, in the championship game. Tufts hit his most-talked-about home run that day. Peter Gammons, a baseball oracle who was honored in 2004 with the Spink Award and enshrinement in the so-called writers’ wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame, was a young reporter for the Boston Globe in 1972. Gammons covered the Class B title game and opened his article by describing Tufts’ blast: “They figure the tree is about 10 feet from the fence. And the fence is about 400 feet from home plate. Somewhere up on top of that tree landed a baseball.”13 The author, a reserve infielder on the varsity team that year, was coaching first base and had a spectacular viewpoint to watch Tufts’ home run soar into that 50-foot-tall tree. While the ball’s flight was impressive, more so was the sound of the “crack” of the bat when Tufts made contact with the pitch. To this day, it was the most audible batted ball that the author has ever heard, amateur or professional.

During the spring of 1973, many times there would be a circus atmosphere at Legion Field as major-league scouts flocked to watch the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Tufts hit the ball and try to divine how high the 18-year-old slugger would go in the upcoming amateur draft. In April 1973 the Boston Globe proclaimed that Tufts was “the most sought-after high school baseball player in Eastern Mass.”14 Two months later, The Sporting News touted him as one the top first basemen in the nation available in the draft.15 Despite the pressure of the scouting audience assessing his future in professional baseball, Tufts managed to hit .550 in his senior year, lead B-R to an undefeated 18-0 season and another Old Colony League title, and warrant a third consecutive selection to the Boston Globe all-scholastic team. Over his four-year high-school career, Tufts collected 102 hits in 205 at-bats for a .497 batting average; he hit 22 doubles, 14 triples, and 17 home runs, and had 86 RBIs.16 Of his high-school years, Tufts simply recalled, “I could always hit.”17

On June 5, 1973, Tufts was selected in the first round of the amateur draft by the Cleveland Indians, as the number five pick overall.18 While most sportswriters were optimistic that Tufts would play in the major leagues one day, Boston Globe columnist Ray Fitzgerald penned in his column, entitled “Today a Phenom, Tomorrow …,” some prescient words: “It would be nice if Glenn Tufts could freeze his life right here. Make time stop. Be forever the high school phenom, the kid everyone in town is proud
of, the old style American dream come true.”19 Fitzgerald’s column foreshadowed Tufts’ actual ill-fated pro baseball career.

Three days after Tufts was selected in the first round of the amateur draft, B-R played in the Eastern Mass. Class B championship game, in which Tufts’ baseball career began its downhill slide. On the mound in the ninth inning protecting a two-run lead, Tufts surrendered two runs and then threw a wild pickoff throw over second base to allow the winning run to score, as B-R failed to repeat as champion.20 The errant pickoff throw was an omen of Tufts’ unfulfilled career as a professional ballplayer.

To preserve his eligibility to accept a college baseball scholarship at the University of North Carolina, Tufts and his parents negotiated with the Cleveland Indians front office without an agent. “I didn’t rule college completely out, but at the time the lure of pro ball was strong,” Tufts recalled of how he approached the decision. “It was all I wanted to do since I was 8 or 9 years old and there it was in my lap. I couldn’t have gone much higher in the draft. If I got hurt in college, I would never have had the chance to play pro ball.”21 In late June 1973, Tufts signed with the Indians for a $60,000 bonus.22

Tufts started on the bottom rung of the Organized Baseball ladder during the summer of 1973, with Cleveland’s rookie-league team in Sarasota, Florida. The competition was much tougher in the Gulf Coast League than back home in Massachusetts. Tufts hit a paltry .194 with just one home run in 51 games.23 The automobile accident in November 1973 immediately followed the uninspiring first season in pro ball. Driving home in his new Vega GT sports car, Tufts crashed into a light pole. “It had rained that day. I was probably going too fast,” he recalled years later.24 He broke his left leg and ankle, and had to wear a cast for months. He missed the entire 1974 season.

After extended rehabilitation to strengthen his leg, Tufts was assigned to San Jose of the Class A California League for the 1975 season. Cleveland wanted him to be a designated hitter. At the time, the DH concept was just two years old and was associated with aging players like Orlando Cepeda who could still hit but couldn’t run well. Cleveland considered Tufts to be a 20-year-old Orlando Cepeda. He batted .270 for San Jose with 9 home runs and 43 RBIs. The 1975 season was the zenith of Tufts’ professional baseball career.

To start the 1976 season, Tufts was promoted to Williamsport of the Double-A Eastern League. However, after he hit just .115 in 9 games, he was shipped back to San Jose, where he hit a respectable .272 but with only 4 home runs and 26 RBIs in a shortened season due to torn cartilage in his left knee. After the 1977 season, when Tufts hit a combined .234 between stints with Double-A Jersey City and Class A Waterloo, Cleveland released him. Over his four-season minor-league career, Tufts played in 299 games (only 82 in the field), had a .240 batting average, hit 20 home runs, and produced 149 RBIs.

At the age of 22, Tufts was out of Organized Baseball and his dream of being a major-league baseball player was over. “I was disillusioned,” he recalled years later of his initial bitterness. “Nothing prepares you for something like this.”25 It took a few years for a more sanguine Tufts to accept his fate: “Just to play in the big leagues. One game. I didn’t want to be a minor-league ballplayer. One thing I knew, I was a big leaguer. But I didn’t get a chance to play in the big leagues. It just wasn’t meant to be. That’s the only way you can think about it, or else it will drive you crazy.”26

Back home in Massachusetts, Tufts worked as a bartender for a while before beginning his long comeback to Organized Baseball by accepting the job as the coach of the freshman baseball team at Oliver Ames High School in Easton. It was quite a step back, but Tufts discovered that he liked coaching. “Kids come and ask you something, and you can help them,” he recalled of his early days as a coach. “There’s something about it. You lose any problems that you have.”27

In 1980 Tufts established a still-operating summer baseball program for kids, the Play Ball Baseball Camp at Bridgewater’s Legion Field, the site of his amateur baseball heroics.28 Tufts wanted the youngsters to learn the game but also have some fun. “So many kids aren’t playing by the time they’re 15 or 16. The idea is not to be the best player at 12,” Tufts reflected in 1994, perhaps recalling his own legendary Little League experience. “It’s not that Little League is a bad thing. It’s not that winning is a bad thing. But it’s more important that they’re playing down the line.”29

After coaching baseball at several high schools, Tufts moved up to the college level. From 1986 to 1993, he coached eight seasons at Bridgewater State College, which played baseball at the Division III level in the Massachusetts State College Athletic Conference. His teams won or tied for the conference title six consecutive years, as he compiled a 193-72-1 career record at the helm of the BSC Bears.30 His best year was 1992, when BSC went 30-6, an .833 winning percentage that remains the highest in Bridgewater State baseball history. Jim McDonald, a pitcher on that team, was a Division III second-team All-American selection that year.

With documented proof that Tufts could effectively develop ballplayers, Organized Baseball wanted his services once again. Tufts accepted an offer from the San Francisco Giants to coach in their minor-league system. “It will be impossible to find a coach with the same talent as Glenn Tufts,” BSC athletic director John Harper said when Tufts announced his departure. “Glenn lived and breathed Bears baseball the last seven years. Even though he was a part-time coach, the hours he put into improving the program during the entire academic year made it seem like he was a full-time coach.”31

For the 1994 season, it was back to Class A ball for Tufts as he served as the hitting instructor for the Giants farm team in Clinton, Iowa, in the Midwest League.32 The first child of Tufts and his wife, Margie, was born that summer, a son named Ryan. For the 1995 season, the Giants promoted Tufts to be manager of their Bellingham, Washington, club in the Class A Northwest League. There he piloted the team to a first-place finish and was named the league’s manager of the year.

Just when it appeared Tufts’ rebirth in Organized Baseball had the potential to turn into a Hollywood movie script, life changed for him in the middle of the 1997 season. While managing the Giants team in Bakersfield in the California League, Tufts had to take a leave of absence to return to Bridgewater to be with his wife and their newborn daughter, Julianne, who suffered from a pulmonary illness.33

In 1998 the Giants created a scouting position for Tufts so that he could be home more often. It’s a role he has relished ever since, most currently (2012) as the New England area scouting director for the Giants. “Statistics don’t tell the whole story,” Tufts said about his approach to scouting hitters. “I’m looking at hitters’ reactions to the pitches. They can make outs, but how competitive were their at-bats? That’s what I look for.”34

Despite being a first-round draft choice who never played in the major leagues, Tufts realized how lucky a life he has been able to live through baseball, saying in 2009: “I can’t complain. I’m 55 years old and I’m still on a baseball field every day.”35

 

Sources

Win Bates, “Tufts Inks Indians’ Pact for Big Bonus,” Brockton Enterprise, June 27, 1973.

Frank Dell’Apa, “Slugger Returns From a Shattered Career,” Boston Globe, May 14, 1989.

Jim Fenton, “Bridgewater’s Tufts Proud to Be Part of World Series Champion Giants Organization,” Brockton Enterprise, November 15, 2010.

Ray Fitzgerald, “Today a Phenom, Tomorrow …” Boston Globe, June 6, 1973.

Peter Gammons, “Bridgewater Coasts to ‘B’ Crown,” Boston Globe, June 13, 1972.

Lenny Megliola, “Their Dream Job Is an Endless Road Trip,” Boston Globe, June 3, 2010.

Marvin Pave, “Phenoms May Sink or Swim,” Boston Globe, June 5, 1989.

Marvin Pave, “Pros Beckon Bridgewater Star,” Boston Globe, April 29, 1973.

John Quattrucci, “Glenn
Tufts Remains Bridgewater’s Mr. Baseball,” Brockton Enterprise, August 4, 2009.

Bob Richards, “Glenn Tufts’ Day Didn’t End with Draft,” Brockton Enterprise, June 6, 1973.

Paul White, “Simple Love of the Game Keeps a Coach in Minors,” USA Today, September 7, 1994.

 

Notes

1 The Sporting News, June 23, 1973.

2 Jim Fenton, “Bridgewater’s Tufts Proud to Be Part of World Series Champion Giants Organization,” Brockton Enterprise, November 15, 2010.

3 “Tire Mold Explosion Kills Bridgewater Man,” Brockton Enterprise, November 20, 1959.

4 Paul White, “Simple Love of the Game Keeps a Coach in Minors,” USA Today, September 7, 1994.

5 Brockton Enterprise, July 21, 1966.

6 Brockton Enterprise, June 26, 1967.

7 Brockton Enterprise, July 5 and 7, 1967.

8 Ray Fitzgerald, “Today a Phenom, Tomorrow …” Boston Globe, June 6, 1973.

9 Frank Dell’Apa, “Slugger Returns From a Shattered Career,” Boston Globe, May 14, 1989.

10 Brockton Enterprise, May 31, 1970.

11 Marvin Pave, “Pros Beckon Bridgewater Star,” Boston Globe, April 29, 1973.

12 Dell’Apa, “Slugger Returns.”

13 Peter Gammons, “Bridgewater Coasts to ‘B’ Crown,” Boston Globe, June 13, 1972.

14 Pave, “Pros Beckon.”

15 The Sporting News, June 9, 1973.

16 Boston Globe, June 17, 1973.

17 John Quattrucci, “Glenn Tufts Remains Bridgewater’s Mr. Baseball,” Brockton Enterprise, August 4, 2009.

18 Bob Richards, “Glenn Tufts’ Day Didn’t End with Draft,” Brockton Enterprise, June 6, 1973.

19 Fitzgerald, “Today a Phenom.”

20 Brockton Enterprise, June 11, 1973.

21 Marvin Pave, “Phenoms May Sink or Swim,” Boston Globe, June 5, 1989.

22 Win Bates, “Tufts Inks Indians’ Pact for Big Bonus,” Brockton Enterprise, June 27, 1973; Dell’Apa, “Slugger Returns.”

23 Baseball Reference website, <http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=tufts-001gle>. All of Tufts’ minor-league statistics are from this source.

24 Dell’Apa, “Slugger Returns.”

25 Quattrucci, “Glenn Tufts.”

26 Dell’Apa, “Slugger Returns.”

27 Dell’Apa, “Slugger Returns.”

28 Play Ball Baseball Camp website, <http://www.playballcamp.com>.

29 White, “Simple Love.”

30 Bridgewater State College athletics website, <http://bsubears.com/sports/bsb/year-by-year_bsb>.

31 Frank Dell’Apa, “Tufts Set to Leave Bridgewater State,” Boston Globe, April 6, 1993.

32 White, “Simple Love.”

33 Quattrucci, “Glenn Tufts.”

34 Lenny Megliola, “Their Dream Job Is an Endless Road Trip,” Boston Globe, June 3, 2010.

35 Quattrucci, “Glenn Tufts.”

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