|Birth: ||Jul. 21, 1940|
|Death: ||Dec. 3, 1996|
He played for the Houston Colt .45s from 1963-1964, the Houston Astros from 1965 to 1968, the Montreal Expos from 1969 to 1972, and the Philadelphia Phillies in 1972.
John Bateman began his major league career as one of the Baby Colts, the group of youngsters who made up the bulk of the roster of the 1963 Houston Colt .45's. But he was not even the youngest rookie catcher on the team, as 20-year old Jerry Grote had him beat by a couple of years and was the starter in the famous September 27 game when Houston started an all-rookie line-up averaging 19 years of age against the New York Mets (Boxscore). He was however the team's starting catcher, playing in 128 games while posting a .203 average and striking out 103 times. However, he was a fine defensive catcher and knew how to lead a pitching staff and kept his job in 1964 in spite of his light bat, as his average dipped to .190. By 1965, he was reduced to part-time duty, hitting .197 in 45 games, but his hitting would improve the next year, as in 1966 he hit .279 in 131 games for the renamed Houston Astros, with 24 doubles and 17 home runs, to regain his starter's job. Unfortunately for him, he was unable to keep up this level of production, and after hitting .190 in 1967 and .247 in 1968, he was out of a job, especially as the Astros had just acquired defensive whiz Johnny Edwards from the St. Louis Cardinals on October 11, 1968. He was thus left unprotected in the Expansion draft held three days later. The Montreal Expos made him their third choice in the draft, giving a clear indication that he was to be their starting catcher.
In fact, John Bateman was the first catcher in the history of the Expos. He was in the line-up on opening day, April 8, 1969 against the New York Mets (Boxscore) and for the Expos' home opener April 14 against St. Louis (Boxscore). Jarry Park had just been cleared of its snow cover that day, and the field was in pretty appalling condition, such that Bateman was slowly sinking in the mud behind home plate as the game moved along. He also caught Bill Stoneman's first no-hitter on April 17 (Boxscore) in Philadelphia. But those were the only highlights of a season when his lack of hitting made him lose Manager Gene Mauch's confidence. In fact, his former Astros teammate Ron Brand actually caught more games than him that first season, and outhit him .258 to .209. Bateman did hit 8 home runs in 235 at bats, but his average was only .216 when he went on the disabled list on June 12, and he couldn't claim his job back when he returned on July 4. In addition, he rubbed Mauch the wrong way by being lackadaisical about his physical condition and not caring much for all the small rules which Mauch imposed on his troops.
All of this meant that Bateman started the 1970 season in AAA with the Buffalo Bisons. He was recalled to Montreal on May 12 and hardly missed a game the rest of the way, hitting .237 in 520 at bats, but with 21 doubles, 5 triples and 15 home runs, while driving in 68 runs. His 15 double-plays that year are an all-time Expo mark, even if the other defensive records he set were all eventually broken by Gary Carter. On July 2 (Boxscore), he hit a grand slam and drove in seven runs against the Cardinals, a team record that would stand until 1982. The other highlight for him that year was hitting the last ever home run in Philadelphia's Connie Mack Stadium off Bill Laxton on September 29 (Boxscore). He had another very busy season in 1971, catching 137 games once again. He hit .242 with 10 more runs and 56 RBIs. In the season's last month, Mauch decided to bench him to let rookie Terry Humphrey catch a few games, something which reignited the conflict between the two strong personalities. They almost came to blows in the lobby of the team's hotel in St. Louis during the season's last road trip. From that point on, Bateman's days with the Expos were numbered.
Nevertheless, John Bateman opened the 1972 season on the team's roster, but as the third catcher, behind Humphrey, who had won the regular job in spring training, and John Boccabella. Even though Humphrey was injured in the season's second game Bateman saw very little action, only getting into seven games behind the plate, and 18 overall, before being traded to the Phillies for veteran Tim McCarver. He was the Phillies' starting catcher the rest of the season, playing in 82 games, but hitting only .222 with 3 home runs and 17 runs batted in. At least, he had the privilege of catching Cy Young Award winner Steve Carlton who was having an exceptionnal year for a god-awful team. That was the end of his professional baseball career, but he then turned to softball, playing with the barnstorming Eddie Feigner's King and His Court, a team whose gimmick was to have four players play against a fully-staffed opposing team.
Jean-Paul Sarrault: Les Expos, cinq ans après, les Éditions de l'Homme, Montréal, 1974, pp. 83-84
John was born July 21, 1940, in Fort Sill, an Army post in Lawton, Oklahoma. The Bateman family traces its roots to the Midwest in the early 19th century. During the Civil War John’s great-grandfather Thomas served in the Union army from Logan County, Illinois. In the 1890s Thomas’ son Alvin trekked south during the Oklahoma land rush. Staking land in former Indian Territory the farmer and his wife Euphema Alberta “Bertie” (nee Sandusky) raised four children. The youngest child — by a wide margin — was Thompson J.W. (“TJ”) Bateman.
Woodland Memorial Park Cemetery
Created by: OkieBran
Record added: Feb 11, 2006
Find A Grave Memorial# 13317740