John Duffie’s baseball career was brief, colorful

John Duffie’s major league career might have been brief but he did stand head and shoulders above his peers.

John Duffie from his baseball card.

Nicknamed “Stretch,” Duffie was 6’7” and the tallest player in Major League Baseball when he appeared with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1967.

Duffie, born in Greenwood, S.C., in 1945, grew up in Georgia and played baseball, football and basketball at Avondale High School in Atlanta.

He continued his baseball career at Brewton-Parker Junior College and, after graduating,  signed with the Dodgers.  He was the fourth, and last, player from the college to make it to the Major Leagues.

Duffie immediately made an impression in his first season in minor league baseball in 1966.  He finished with a 17-12 record, a 3.03 ERA and 177 strikeouts in 226 innings pitched. 

In 1967, Duffie was promoted to the AA Albuquerque Dodgers and finished the season with a 16-9 record and 22 complete games in 29 starts.  He earned a late season call-up to the Los Angeles Dodgers.  As the starting pitcher, Duffie pitched a total of 9.2 innings in losses to the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies. 

In 1968, he returned to the Dodgers farm system and was considered to be one of the more promising prospects in the organization.  He pitched briefly at the AAA level before his season was put on hold with a freak accident.

In July 1968, Duffie was helping another player push his car.  While pushing the car, Duffie slipped and fell and the car rolled over his leg, tearing ligaments in his right knee and injuring his left ankle.  He was rushed to the hospital for surgery.

Entering the 1969 season, Duffie seemed to have a chance of joining the Dodgers staff.  However, the trouble started in spring training when he missed the plane.  He was sent home from the team for a week after some issues in camp.  He started out the season with AAA Albuquerque.  A season removed from his leg injury, Duffie did not find the same success, finishing with an 8-8 record and 5.15 ERA.   That season was his last in baseball.

Following his career in baseball, Duffie and his family moved to Douglas, Ga. He worked for the maintenance department of the City of Douglas and retired as the supervisor of the department. 

He died on April 19, 2018, at the age of 72.

Sources

  • Chicago Tribune, 1968
  • John Duffie’s obituary

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