Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Oates played baseball as a catcher with the Baltimore Orioles, Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees from 1970 to 1981, but never excelled as a hitting threat (batting just .250 with 14 home runs and 126 RBIs over his career) and was hampered by injuries at various points during his career. He began his career as a regular in 1972 and retired partway through the 1981 season. Oates later jokingly admitted that he wasn't a great baseball player; "I still don't know how I got to the big leagues, because I wasn't that good," he said in a 2003 interview. "I was a slap hitter. I kept my mouth shut. I did. I kept my mouth shut. I couldn't throw. I couldn't throw a lick."
Oates began managing in baseball and rejoined the Orioles organization at their Rochester AAA affiliate in 1988. The following year, he was promoted to the majors where he worked as first base coach under Frank Robinson, and in 1991, after Robinson started 13-24, Oates was promoted to the manager of the Orioles. In his first full season with the team, Oates led the Orioles to a 89-73 record and then to a 85-77 record in 1993, which helped him to win The Sporting News Manager of the Year Award. However, following the strike-shortened 1994 season, Oates was dismissed by new owner Peter Angelos .
Despite being let go by the Orioles, Oates was quickly hired by the Texas Rangers, who had just fired their previous manager, Kevin Kennedy. Oates proceeded to lead the Rangers to their first playoff appearance in team history during the 1996 season. Despite the team's poor ERA (the team averaged 4.65 collectively), the Rangers' batting lineup was incredibly potent, featuring Ivan Rodriguez, Will Clark, Mark McLemore , Dean Palmer , Rusty Greer , Juan Gonzalez and Mickey Tettleton ; the team finished 90-72. Oates won the American League Manager of the Year Award that year, sharing honors with the Yankees' Joe Torre.
Oates continued to lead the Rangers for several more seasons, leading them to AL West titles in 1998 and 1999. However, following a fourth-place finish in 2000 and beginning the 2001 season with an 11-17 record, Oates was let go by the Rangers. Many fans, however, blamed Rangers management for the team's woes, saying that team management placed unreasonable expectations on Oates, especially after spending US$252 million on free agent shortstop Alex Rodriguez.
Oates was considering returning to managing when he was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor, glioblastoma multiforme. Doctors gave Oates only about a year to live, but he survived for over three years—enough time to attend his daughter's wedding, his grandchild's birth, and his induction into the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame at The Ballpark in Arlington. During the ceremony at The Ballpark, he was given a standing ovation as Oates, weakened by the cancer and its treatment, required the help of his wife Gloria and a cane to walk. During his speech to the crowd, he said that he hoped it would be his friend, current Rangers manager Buck Showalter, who would finally lead the team to a World Series victory. Oates passed away at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center in Richmond, Virginia on Christmas Eve 2004.
His uniform number 26 is scheduled to be retired by the Rangers on August 5th, 2005. It will be only the second number retired by the Rangers, following that of Nolan Ryan (34). Jackie Robinson (42) is also retired, but it was retired by Major League Baseball for all teams. A commemorative patch will also be on all Ranger uniforms for the 2005 season honoring Oates (pending permission from Major League Baseball).
- Associated Press (2004). 'Courageous' Oates loses fight with cancer. Retrieved, Dec. 25, 2004.
- Baseball-Reference.com - managing record and playing statistics
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