As a kid, I loved speed in my baseball players. My favorite team as a kid (and now) was the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers never featured much speed, but whenever they did, that guy instantly became my favorite player. Seriously, what’s more exciting than the stolen base or the triple? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Vince Coleman was a favorite, though Ricky Henderson never did much for me. My absolute favorite though was Otis Nixon, then of the Atlanta Braves. I really first was obsessed with baseball in 1991. That season featured the stories of two perennial doormats making a run at the postseason in the Minnesota Twins and the Atlanta Braves.
Nixon led off for that Braves team and man could he fly. He was routinely featured on highlight reels for his wall-climbing catches. I loved those catches and all of the steals, but I also liked Otis Nixon because he looked like a walking corpse. He did not look like a professional athlete. Nixon was bone-skinny and I hate to think what an HDTV would have meant to this poor man’s face. Ugh.
Anyway, Nixon stole 72 bases in 1991, placing him 2nd in the National League. What makes that accomplishment both sad and amazing is that Nixon missed the final month-plus of the season and the postseason due to a drug suspension from Major League Baseball. The Braves were in the midst of the penant chase and the postseason and Otis Nixon finds time to get suspended for cocaine abuse. Classy.
Nixon got his stuff together for the following season and played in the big leagues through the 1999 season. He finished his career with nearly 1,400 hits and 620 stolen bases, good for 16th on baseball’s all-time list. He was also a notorious thief in the minor leagues as well, once stealing 107 bases in a season. Speed ran in the family as Otis’ brother, Donell, once stole 144 bases in a minor league season.
Since retiring, Otis has gotten his life in order. He is now a Christian and runs On-Track Ministries. It should be noted that his site also runs as a means to promote his book and his playing days. Good stuff. He is married to a gospel singer (she turns 70 in March!) and he stays busy Keeping it Real.