Don Money

This article was written by Steve Kuehl

Don Money (MILWAUKEE BREWERS)Any list of the greatest players ever to don a Milwaukee Brewers uniform has to include Don Money. He is a four-time All-Star and a Brewers’ Walk of Fame member who holds major-league records as a third baseman. Money was an infield specialist who amassed a .975 fielding percentage over 16 seasons from 1968 to 1983, including .968 at the hot corner, where he played about two-thirds of his games. Money ranks 15th in career fielding percentage at third base. In the batter’s box, he batted .261, drove in 729 runs, and had a career WAR of 36.3.

Donald Wayne Money was born on June 7, 1947, in Washington, DC. His family moved to what is now known as Cherry Hill, New Jersey, when he was just a few weeks old. Money was the third of four children born to Robert Jarrett and Frances Estelle (Greenfield) Money. Robert was from New Jersey, and Frances was from Washington, and the family moved back and forth between the two because of his father’s work. Money said he inherited his work ethic from his parents.1 Robert was a carpenter and railroad worker; Frances looked after the house and the children. Money recalled working in the family garden with his brothers when they were children; Robert had them do manual labor to teach them the meaning of hard work.

Money had two older brothers, Robert Jr. and Kenneth, and one younger brother, Joseph. All were good ballplayers. Robert Jr. was a pitcher in high school and had a tryout with the Phillies at old Connie Mack Stadium after which he was asked to come back for a second tryout. He decided to skip the tryout, which happened to be on a hot summer day, to go swimming to with his friends. He spent over 40 years in the refrigeration business. Kenneth suffered a broken leg that ended his baseball career. Joseph played baseball in high school but was thrown off the team a couple of times and decided not to play ball his senior year.

Money’s baseball career started when he was 7 years old playing Little League and he never missed a year through Babe Ruth, Pony League, high school, American Legion, the minors, and the majors until he retired when he was 37 years old. Money said Legion baseball was different in southern Maryland at the time; players came from any age group and most were in their mid-20s; some were even in their 40s.

Money graduated from La Plata (Maryland) High School in 1965. He had set school records for batting average (.512), hits, doubles, and home runs in one season and most home runs during his varsity career (12). On opening day of his junior year, Money hit three home runs and a triple. As a pitcher, the right-hander went 5-1 his senior year with a 1.08 ERA. As hobbies, Money played golf and pool. The football coach asked Money if he wanted to play wide receiver, but Robert wouldn’t sign the permission slip. Growing up, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays were Money’s heroes, though Harmon Killebrew, playing for the Washington Senators, was also a favorite.

The story behind Money’s major-league signing involves two Pittsburgh Pirates scouts, Joe Consoli and Syd Thrift. Thrift was hailed by The Sporting News as one of the best teachers in baseball and worked with such players as Rickey Henderson, Frank White, Al Oliver, and Bobby Bonilla.2 Consoli worked with players like John Smiley and Tim Drummond. In 1965, when Money was 17 years old, his high-school coach, Dick Stone, got Consoli to come see Money play and Thrift worked Money out at the local field. Money was invited to a tryout in Salem, Virginia, where a teammate had to drive him because his mother wouldn’t. Money was one of 35 players asked back the next day. Again Money was asked back, this time for tryouts in Fort Belvoir, Virginia. (This time his mother drove him.) Money was asked to work out at second base, and he recalled watching what others were doing at second base so he could mimic them. After the tryouts Money was asked to sign with the Pirates that day. He couldn’t because his parents weren’t there and he was underage. By the time his parents returned, the scouts were gone. On June 20, 1965, Consoli attended one of Money’s American Legion games and recalled, “… (A)t the fifth inning, Don’s father called me over behind the dugout. The boy was there and when I pulled out the contract, Mr. Money put his hand on it and said: There is one stipulation — I don’t want Don to get any money. I don’t even want him to know how much salary he’ll be getting. All I want to know is do you think he has a chance to be a big leaguer?”3 After the game, Money signed the contract on the hood of Robert’s 1960 Buick.

After being signed, the 18-year-old Money was off to play for the Salem (Virginia) Rebels, a Pirates farm team in the rookie-level Appalachian League. The Rebels were crowned league champions in 1965 with a record of 43-27 under their manager, George DeTore. Money played in 66 of the games and batted .241 with 6 home runs. Playing every game at shortstop, Money was named to the league all-star team.

After the season Money enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in Pittsburgh. He was on active duty one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer for eight years. Money said the Marine Corps made a difference in his playing. “I guess it helped me a lot because I hit .310 at Raleigh (in 1967). Maybe I grew a little. Anyway, I felt stronger and more confident.”4

After Salem the Pirates advanced Money to Clinton (Iowa) of the Class A Midwest League. Money played in every game, 75 at shortstop and 51 at third base. He batted .236; fielding, not hitting, was Money’s strength that season.

Arguably, the best of Money’s four minor-league seasons came in 1967 for the Raleigh Pirates of the Class A Carolina League. Playing shortstop in 135 games for the pennant-winning team, Money was named an all-star and the league MVP after batting .310 with 16 home runs, 86 RBIs, and a league-leading 37 doubles. His manager, Joe Morgan, was effusive in his praise:“This kid worked harder than anybody we had. He threw in batting practice every day, fielded extra groundballs and still played. I’ll bet he threw a thousand pitches and caught as many grounders this year. He’s the type that makes you a winner.”5 After the season Money played for the Pirates in the Florida Instructional League, batted .336, and was picked as the best player in the league by managers and scouts.

On the evening of December 15, 1967, Money was listening to the radio when he heard that he was being traded to the Phillies with Harold Clem, Bill Laxton, and Woodie Fryman for future Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning. At the time, the Pirates were looking to compete so trading some prospects to the Phillies made sense even though Bunning was nearing the end of his career. Pittsburgh had Gene Alley at shortstop, so Money liked being traded to a team for which he could compete right away. “Actually, I’m very pleased,” he said. “I think I have a better chance of playing with the Phils.”6 Philadelphia owner Bob Carpenter said Money was key to the trade: “We would not have made the deal if Pittsburgh turned it down on Money.”7

Phillies manager Gene Mauch said, “I like his bat. He has short, quick strokes. In the field he has it all, although his speed is only average. Phil Rizzuto was not fast, but he was quick. Marty Marion couldn’t run, but he was quick. Pee Wee Reese was faster than the other two and they were the top shortstops of my day as a player. Who knows? Maybe Money will be in their class someday.”8

On April 10, 1968, the 6-foot-1, 170-pound, 20-year-old Money made his major-league debut, against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He hit a double in three at-bats with two RBIs. After playing in four games, Money was optioned to Triple-A San Diego (Pacific Coast League). In 127 games for the Padres, he batted .303 and was voted the PCL’s all-star shortstop and voted its best defensive infielder in a poll of managers and fans. Money was also named San Diego’s most popular player.

Recalled to the Phillies in 1969, Money played four seasons for Philadelphia. He was selected as the Topps Major League Rookie All-Star shortstop in 1969. Money continued to live in Vineland and commuted to Philadelphia. He and Larry Hisle helped lower the average age of the veteran team. His 1969 season was thoroughly unimpressive (.229 in 127 games). Money said it was hard to play in your hometown because you can’t get away from baseball; even when you go to the grocery store, people walk up to you and ask why the team isn’t playing well. The 1970 season was better: .295 with 14 home runs, and Money was named the New Jersey Athlete of the Year.

In 1971 Money felt really good, and he hit the first home run in new Veterans Stadium, on April 10, Opening Day. But the Phillies’ hitting coach, Wally Moses, tried to get the pull-hitting Money to go the other way, and his batting average plunged to .223 in 1971 and .222 in 1972. Money said being shuffled from third base to left field and then to second base did not help matters. Through all of this, he never complained. It didn’t help that future Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt was an emerging rookie third baseman for the Phillies. On October 31, 1972, Money was traded by the Phillies with Bill Champion and John Vukovich to the Milwaukee Brewers for Earl Stephenson, Ken Brett, Ken Sanders, and Jim Lonborg. Money said the trade worked out well for both teams: The Phillies wanted pitching help and the Brewers wanted help in the infield.

The Brewers, coming to Milwaukee from an expansion team in Seattle in 1970, were a young team, and Money automatically found a connection: He grew with the team. Money went back to being a pull hitter and took 15 minutes of extra batting practice before each game. The manager wanted Money to practice pulling pitches to the metal bleachers out in left field, even though that was foul territory. It worked, and Money hit the ball better. In 1973 his batting average rose to .284. Money recalled seeing the baseball as big a beach ball. Manager Del Crandall credited Money as being a reason for the Brewers’ improvement from 65 victories in 1972 to 74 in 1973. “Don is really starting to produce with the bat,” Crandall said. “He’s swinging with authority and has been consistent. We couldn’t ask any more of the trade than we have received.”9 Money also led American League third basemen with a .971 fielding percentage that year.

The 1974 season was bittersweet for Money. He set a major-league record for third basemen with 86 consecutive errorless games and the fewest errors (5) in one season; the records still stood in 2018. Money had a record-high .9894 fielding percentage that was bettered by Tony Fernandez (.9910) in 1994. The bitter part came when he wasn’t selected to the American League All-Star team until the last minute as a reserve by manager Dick Williams. (He didn’t play in the game.) Also, Brooks Robinson was chosen over Money for the third baseman Gold Glove, an award that Robinson won every year from 1960 to 1975 for the Baltimore Orioles. Having the best all-around season of his career, Money and thousands of fans were disappointed. Money’s new nickname became “Brooks,” after Robinson, but he was never able to win a Gold Glove.

The 1975 season was another disappointment for Money because of a string of injuries. He still managed to hit .277 in 109 games. During the offseason, negotiations between the Brewers and the New York Mets began. Rumors had Rusty Staub coming to the Brewers for Money, but the trade never happened. After the season surgery was needed to repair scar tissue from a previous hernia operation.10

In 1976 Money got off to his best start since 1970. He was being used more as a DH and finished the season hitting .267 in 117 games. That year Money was selected to his second All-Star team. (He was hitless in one at-bat.)

In 1977 Money was moved to second base after the third-base job was given to newly acquired Sal Bando. Several teams tried to get Money, but he was not traded. Playing in 152 games, he batted .279 and had personal highs in home runs (25) and RBIs (83). Selected as a reserve to his third All-Star team, Money was injured and was replaced on the squad by the Brewers’ Jim Slaton. Money played 23 games in the outfield because Sixto Lezcano was on the disabled list.

In 1978 Money made his final All-Star team. He batted a career-best .293, hit 14 home runs, and drove in 54 runs with over 500 plate appearances in over 100 games for the last time in his career. During the season Money played every position in the infield: 19 games at first base, 36 at second base, 25 at third base, and two at shortstop. He was a designated hitter in 15 games.

In the remainder of his career, Money was plagued by injuries. In the second week of the 1980 season, he suffered a knee injury and was out of the lineup for a month. He also missed games because of a rib cage injury and underwent surgery for torn cartilage. In 1981 he only played in 60 games (56 back at third base) as the Brewers made it to the postseason.

The 1982 season was Money’s most memorable. He said the team was not jelling at the start until manager Harvey Kuenn took over for Buck Rodgers. The team steadily improved, and the comradery was better than ever. The team was full of good players and great friends who hung out off the field. Money played in the most games (96) since his All-Star season in 1978, batting .284 with 16 home runs. The Brewers finished the season 95-67 and faced the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. The Cardinals won the Series in seven games, but Money was happy to finally get to have a World Series plate appearance. (Don Jr. was a batboy during the Series.)

Money’s final season of major-league baseball came in 1983, when he played in 43 games and batted .149, mainly as a DH. Ted Simmons was the primary DH for the Brewers, so Money could see the writing on the wall.

When Milwaukee offered Money a small contract to stay with the team in 1984, he decided to take his talents to Japan. The Brewers released him on January 17, 1984. The Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes in the Japan Pacific League were his final team. Money batted .260 with 8 home runs in 29 games played over a three-month span. But things were far from ideal. Money had brought his family with him to Japan, and there were a lot of off-field issues. He said he had a bad interpreter who didn’t allow him to have truthful conversations with his manager, Isami Okamoto. The family’s apartment was not as nice as the one promised to him, and he was paid once a month in the tunnel of the ballpark. Money said the last straw came when the team told him that he wasn’t playing well because his family was distracting him. He decided that his baseball career was over, and the next day the family boarded a flight home.

After coaching at Sacred Heart High School in Vineland, New Jersey, for five years, Money became the manager of the Class A Beloit Snappers, a Milwaukee farm team in the Midwest League, in 1998. His old teammate Cecil Cooper was now the Brewers’ minor-league director, and Cooper offered him the position. After managing the Snappers from 1998 to 2004 and taking the team to the playoff finals in 2003, Money managed the Double-A Huntsville Stars (Southern League) from 2005 to 2008. In 2007 Money was named the Southern League Manager of the Year after taking the Stars to the finals in 2006 and 2007. From 2009 to 2011, Money managed the Nashville Sounds, the Brewers’ Triple-A affiliate in the Pacific Coast League. In 2012 he was the hitting coach for the Helena Brewers, an Advanced Rookie affiliate of the Brewers in the Pioneer League. Finally, for half of 2012 and from 2013 to 2015, Money was a special instructor for the Brewers. This position entailed traveling to the Brewers’ farm teams for 10 to 12 days at a time. Money worked with young talent and prepared them for the big leagues. This position was also welcomed by Money because he got to spend more time at home with his family.

In 1969 Money had married his wife, Sharon, whom he had known for several years while growing up. Together they had two children, Don Jr. (born in 1970) and Shannon (1971). Don Jr. has three children, Kelsey, Don, and Shelby who is currently a collegiate hockey goalie. Shannon has three children, Alexis, Buddy, and Cooper. Buddy, a third baseman, was selected in the fifth round of the 2017 first-year player draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks. As of 2018 Money also had two great-grandchildren, Everleigh and Emma, both daughters of Kelsey. Don and Sharon lived in Vineland.

In 2005, Money was elected to the Brewers’ Walk of Fame with Harvey Kuenn. The four-time All-Star said that it was the “greatest honor of all,” and added that it meant even more entering with Kuenn, who was a great friend. The Walk of Fame was established in 2001 with the opening of Miller Park. It is on the plaza area outside the ballpark near the statues of Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Robin Yount, former Commissioner Bud Selig, and Bob Uecker. Each inductee is honored with a granite-shaped home plate set in the ground.11 The Brewers consider the Walk of Fame the equivalent of a team hall of fame. As of 2018 it had 19 members.

In 2014 Money was elected to the Brewers’ Wall of Honor, which is outside the ballpark and was created to commemorate Brewers players who have made a significant contribution to the team. The inaugural class of 2014 consisted of 58 members.

 

Sources

In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author also accessed Baseball-almanac.com,

Baseball-reference.com, and the Don Money player file at the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library.

 

Notes

1 Unless otherwise noted, all quotations from Money are from the author’s interview with him on March 14, 2018.

2 [Where does The Sporting News say this?

3 Ray Kelly, “Scout Says Money May Be Phils’ Shortstop in ’68,” Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, December 19, 1967.

4 Ed Rumill, “Money ‘Best Young Infield Prospect,’” Christian Science Monitor, March 14, 1968.

5 Joseph C. DeLuca, “Don Money — “Mr. Steady,” 1988. [is there a publication name?

6 Bill Robinson, “Philadelphia Hopes Money Was Enough for Ace Bunning,” St. Petersburg Independent, March 6, 1968.

7 Arthur Daley, “It’s Only Money,” New York Times, March 19, 1968.

8 Ibid.

9 DeLuca.

10 Ibid.

11 www.mlb.com/brewers/ballpark/attractions/walk-of-fame.

Full Name

Donald Wayne Money

Born

June 7, 1947 at Washington, DC (USA)

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