Originally Posted by RedEye
Interesting. Could you give me a massively abridged version of what James says about Downing?
I lived in SoCal and would catch an occassional Angels game on TV. I didn't follow closely but I noticed the same thing about Downing that James outlines.
Downing came up as a sort of pudgy, non-remarkable part-time catcher. After five seasons with the White Sox, he was thrown in to a multiplayer trade to the Angels. After one lackluster season with the Angels, he put up a 142 OPS in 1979 at age 28. He then got hurt and played in 30 games the next season.
At age 30 he came back from injury as a big, slow, injury-hobbled leftfielder. It seemed like a desperate move to salvage his career. But he could always pick up walks, he now added power and by the end of the season he was the Angels lead-off hitter. Over the next 11 full seasons (up to age 41) his OB never fell below .350, usually hitting lead-off.
As James points out he morphed from a pudgy-faced guy with sandy blond hair to a dark-haired Christopher Reeves clone. He stopped wearing glasses. He didn't get contacts, he just stopped wearing glasses.
In retrospect he might've been a PED candidate, but he would've been a very early adopter. And his numbers weren't eye-popping.