In this installment of the Players You Forgot Were Astros series, we look at the career of Davey Lopes.
Depending on the age of the baseball fan, you might know Davey Lopes either as a base-stealing phenom from the 1970s and 80s, or as a longtime coach for several major league teams. He’s been around the game seemingly forever, and he played for the Houston Astros for a brief time.
Lopes spent his best playing years with the Dodgers, breaking into the majors at age 27 in 1972. He quickly established himself as one of the game’s best base-stealing threats, notching three straight seasons of 59 or more steals from 1974-1976, including a career-best 77 in 1975.
He was a four-time All-Star in 10 seasons with the Dodgers and also won a Gold Glove at second base. He never hit for a high average, which prevented his counting stats from getting high enough for a legitimate Hall of Fame chance, but he was an elite base-stealer with a little pop in his bat, hitting 28 homers in 1979. He won a World Series with the team in 1981.
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Lopes came to the Astros in a July 1986 trade from the Cubs for relief pitcher Frank DiPino. Lopes was 41 years old at the time, but he was coming off a 1985 season in which he stole 47 bases and was caught just four times at age 40.
He played mostly as an outfielder for the Astros in 1986, then as a reserve/pinch hitter/pinch runner in 1987. He hit a combined .234/.347/.319 with 10 steals in 13 attempts in 84 games over the two seasons in Houston. Lopes retired after the ’87 season with career marks of 557 stolen bases and 42.4 WAR.
Lopes served as a longtime first base coach for several teams, having stints with the Orioles, Padres, Nationals, Phillies and Dodgers between 1992 and 2017. He also served as the manager of the Brewers from 2000 to 2002.
In particular, his baserunning expertise proved invaluable. This is what kept him on a major league coaching staff every season from 1992 until his retirement after the 2017 season. All told, he spent 42 seasons either on a major league roster or coaching staff. Just two of those came in Houston, but his impact in the game goes far beyond that.