George Altman was a power hitter in the early 1960’s and had two very good years. He came back to the Chicago Cubs as his career was declining and played part-time in the outfield.
Altman was one of the early ball players who played baseball in Japan, thereby extending in his career. He spent eight seasons in Japan and retired from the game at age 42.
Altman was noticed by the legendary scout Buck O’Neil while he played in the Negro Leagues in the late 1950’s. He was signed to the Cubs and came up to the big club in 1959, the same year that Billy Williams, now enshrined in baseball’s Hall of Fame, joined the club. Altman, was a big fellow at 6’4”, 200 lbs.
For several years, he was a left-handed power hitter who had success and was named to two All-Star teams in 1961 and 1962. In 1961, he hit a pinch-hit HR for the National League in the eighth inning. He hit two homers off of Sandy Koufax in the same game in 1961.
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Altman, known as “Big George”, was the only Cub to lead the team in runs batted in from 1955 to 1973 besides Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, and Billy Williams. He had 96 RBI in 1961 and hit 27 home runs while batting .303 for the year. He led the National League in triples with 12 in 1961.
In 1962, he batted .318 for the year, hitting 22 home runs and 27 doubles. He was named to the All-Star team that season.
Altman’s first stint with the Cubs was over as he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for pitcher Larry Jackson. Altman’s power number declined at age 30. He only hit nine home runs for the Cards and was dealt to the New York Mets where he again hit nine home runs.
He was traded back to the Cubs and played a reduced role in the outfield from 1965-67. In those three seasons, he totaled nine homers and 41 runs batted in.
I did not remember Altman in his All-Star seasons. But I did see him play in his second stint with the Cubs. I wanted him to blast one, which he rarely did then. He only had 196 at-bats in 1965. After his career with the Cubs ended, he went to Japan and played eight seasons for two teams and hit 205 home runs, he found his power touch again.
He did not play on competitive Cub teams. The team record in 1965 was 72-90. In 1961, Altman’s best year, the Cubs were 64-90. But he was one of the better power hitters on the team, with some great ones who went on to the Hall of Fame.