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joe lis, seattle mariners

Player: Lis, Joe

Card: 1977 Topps #269

Position: 1B

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“As soon as we get the next out, I want you to say something inspiring to fire us up,” said (Ken) Aspromonte. Before the Indians got the third out, however, Boston scored nine runs. “I’ve got just the right thing to say,” Lis told Aspromonte. “Are you crazy?” said Aspromonte. “We’re behind, 11-2.” “I know,” said Lis. “Here’s the pep talk: Our Father, Who are in heaven…” – Sportswriter Dan Coughlin in Baseball Digest (April 1976, Page 36)

Joseph Anthony Lis (b. August 15, 1946 in Somerville, NJ – d. October 17, 2010 in Evansville, IN), was a professional baseball first baseman, who played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Philadelphia Phillies (1970–1972), Minnesota Twins (1973–1974), Cleveland Indians (1974–1976), and Seattle Mariners (1977). He also played one season for the Kintetsu Buffaloes of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), in 1978.

Joe was born in Somerville, New Jersey and raised in nearby Manville, he moved with his family to Hillsborough Township as a pre-teen. Hillsborough did not have its own high school, so township students went to Somerville High School. Lis became a three-sport star at the school. Joe led the Somerville Pioneers to the New Jersey Group Three championships in both baseball and basketball. He batted .571 with 17 home runs his senior year. After graduation, John “Jocko” Collins signed the slugging shortstop for the Philadelphia Phillies on June 19, 1964.

A good power hitter in Minor League Baseball (MiLB), Lis swatted at least 33 home runs in three separate MiLB seasons. He batted .306 with 30 homers and an International League-leading 103 runs batted in (RBI) with the Toledo Mud Hens and shared Most Valuable Player (MVP) honors with Rich Dauer and Mickey Klutts in 1976.

Lis’ minor league career always suggested a potential for power but also demonstrated a talent for humor. For example, when Joe came to bat at Metropolitan Stadium, the organist played Judy Garland’s “The Trolley Song.” When asked why, Joe dead panned, “Well, there is the line that goes, ‘Clang, clang goes the bell.’ The guys tell me that is a similar sound they hear when the ball hits my glove, ‘Clank, clank goes the ball.’”

Another time that his teammates made fun of his defense occurred when his team needed to take a trip by bus. Because of rush hour traffic, there were many sudden stops. One stop caused a briefcase on the overhead rack to slide and collide with other luggage. After this happened two or three times, Ken Sanders yelled out, “Lis, I thought we told you not to put your glove up there.”

Lis entered the majors in 1970 with the Philadelphia Phillies, and was traded along with Ken Sanders and Ken Reynolds by the Phillies to the Twins for César Tovar on December 1, 1972. While relegated to playing mainly first base as a big leaguer, he also played left field, right field, third base, and even caught in one game.

Nevertheless, Lis never translated his minor league success into a full-time job in the major leagues. His most productive MLB season was 1973, with Minnesota, when he posted career-high numbers in homers (nine), runs batted in (RBI) (25), and games played (103), as a replacement for injured Harmon Killebrew.

Many baseball people noted that Joe played defense with his bat, but in Minnesota he was Killebrew’s defensive caddy, and his part-time status was noted by legendary umpire Bill Kunkel: when he entered one game as a defensive replacement, Kunkel said, “It’s good to see you, Joe; because when I see you, I know the game is almost over.

Joe finished his baseball career with the Triple-A Champion, Evansville Triplets, in the 1979 season.

Following his playing career, Lis coached youth baseball for over 30 years, including in the Newburgh American Legion from 1984 to 2002. In 2003, he became General Manager of the Evansville Wolfepack 18-year-old travel team. Lis also owned and operated the Joe Lis Baseball School since 1991, and worked at James R. Pyle Insurance Agency since 1989.

His son, Joe Lis Jr., played six years in the minor leagues.

Lis died from prostate cancer in Evansville, Indiana, at the age of 64, on October 17, 2010.

(excerpted from SABRBaseball AlmanacBR Bullpen & Wikipedia)


1970 Topps #56
1975 Topps #86
Image from Find-A-Grave
Art Card Image from When Topps had (base)balls Blog


Joe Lis is part of the Born in New Jersey Tour – Go To The Next Stop

Joe is part of the Philadelphia Phillies Player Tour – Go to the Next Stop

Joe is also part of the Cleveland Indians Players Tour – Go To the Next Stop

See Joe’s baseball cards at TCDB

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