Born June 7, 1944 (D-Day) in the Dominican Republic
Drafted in 4th round, 78th overall pick, by Seattle in 1973 MBBA Dispersal Draft
Debut April 1, 1973
Won Slick Fielder Award in 1979, 1980, 1981, 1983
Was selected to the 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980 All-Star Games
Sam Hell made his MBBA debut for the Seattle Storm at the age of 29 years old, following the 1973 initial dispersement draft. It was a time of much change and instability in the baseball world, as many players, young and old, were struggling to make a name for themselves in the upstart league.
For his part, Sam did a pretty good job establishing himself as a good player in 1973; the Dominican appeared in all 162 games that year for the Storm and blasted 24 home runs to go with 80 RBI. He wasn't the most recognized name on the Seattle roster (that honor would no doubt belong to future All-Star first baseman Zachary Johnson), but Sam showed up every day and gave it his best. He only hit .233 that year, but two things made him an automatic choice for centerfield - first of all, nobody else in Seattle, save Johnson and Harry Leferts, could hit a baseball, and second, he could play the outfield better than most every other player in the MBBA. The left-handed speedster covered acres of centerfield with every stride, and while he wasn't a big enough name to garner consideration for the Slick Fielder award yet, his teammates and coaches took notice.
Unfortunately for Seattle fans, Sam didn't get to enjoy the 1974 season the same way; in a cost-cutting move precipitated by new management, he was traded to Phoenix in a multi-player deal on February 10th, 1974.
This turned out to be a fortutious move for Hell; once free of the hitter's black hole that was the old Soundgarden Estates, he was able to make much more use of his offensive skills. In his first season with Phoenix, the 30-year-old had a superb season - he hit .282 with 25 homers, and scored 100 runs. He led the Talons in most offensive categories, was their clubhouse leader, and guided the team to a 94-68 record and the playoffs.
Unfortunately for Phoenix fans, their infatuation with their star centerfielder was to be short-lived. When contract negotiations hit a snag in mid-1975, Sam was once again traded, this time at the trade deadline to Mike Lynch's Des Moines Kernels. Hell arrived in Iowa in July '75 ready to play, and play he did - while his first half-season was spent getting caught up to the Cornfield way of doing things, he rebounded in 1976 with another Hell-like season; he hit .312, with 18 homers, 15 stolen bases, and a miniscule 29 strikeouts.
In 1977, once again, teams went calling for Sam's services, and with Des Moines' rebuild going nowhere, the star centerfielder was sent back to Seattle for two star pitching prospects (Jose Ramos and Isidro Gutierrez). His first selection to the All-Star team while playing for the Kernels made him an attractive catch, one GM A.J. Holz was willing to give up two top young arms for.
As soon as Sam stepped back inside Soundgarden Estates, it was clear as to why he was better off leaving it in the first place. The cavernous outfield and strong inbound wind gusts made a mortal of Hell again; hitting .319 before the trade, he put up just .239 with the Storm in the latter half of 1977. Luckily, management had a plan.
Enter King County Complex in 1978. Seattle moved to their brand new ballpark that season, and as their surroundings changed, so did their fortunes - and those of Hell. He took to the new ballpark immediately, and it seemed to be a tailor-made fit for his blend of superlative speed, power, and defensive wizardry. In 1978, his first full season in the new park, he produced his best numbers to date; in 156 games, he racked up 191 hits, hitting .310, pounding 26 homers and driving in 100 RBI. He also made the All-Star team for the second consecutive season.
What's more, he was finally playing for a winning team. The 1978 Storm were a worst-to-first Cinderella Story, and went 92-71 to take Frick Pacific honors for the first time in their history. Although they would lose 3-2 in the Doubleday to the hated Montreal Blazers, no one could blame Sam Hell for their playoff exit - he hit .391 (9 for 23) with a home run and 5 RBI in the five-game series.
Sam Hell would continue to be the Storm's best player, and clubhouse leader, for the next four seasons. His watermark campaign was in 1979, where he hit .329 with 31 homers and 101 RBI. He made the All-Star team twice more (in 1979 and 1980), giving him a total of four appearances in his career. He also finally started getting the recognition he deserved for his excellent defensive skills, winning the Slick Fielder award in 1979, 1980, 1981, and 1983 (the latter at the ripe old age of 39).
Hell's longevity was notable considering the injury-prone tag slapped on him early in his career; it is worthwhile to mention that he had one of his better seasons at the age of 38, hitting .302 with 17 homers and 76 RBI, and an astounding 10 triples (a personal best). It can be argued that with his relatively late entry into the MBBA at age 29, were it not for this timelessness, his Hall credentials would have been damaged. He would go on to play one more season, hitting .244 in limited play at the age of 39 in 1983, and most Seattle fans agreed that when he hung up his spikes following that season, that he made a graceful and appropriate exit from the grand game.
During Hell's heyday of 1978-1982, Seattle turned their fortunes around as a perennial cellar-dweller and had transformed into a team that won an average of 96 games per season. He was a complete player, a true gentleman and a clubhouse leader, and one of the best players to ever put on a Seattle uniform.
Herein You Find the Inducted