Claudell Washington, a former MLB outfielder who spent five of his 17 seasons playing in New York, died on Wednesday morning at the age of 65. Washington, who had been living in the San Francisco Bay area, had revealed in 2018 that he was battling prostate cancer and was discontinuing treatment, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
Born in Los Angeles and raised in Berkeley, Calif., Washington was originally signed as a 17-year-old by the Oakland Athletics and made his MLB debut for them in 1974, jumping from Double-A to the Majors at age 19 and going on to hit .571 in the World Series, helping the A’s win their third straight title.
The following year, his first full season, Washington hit .308 with 10 home runs and 77 RBI and made the first of his two All-Star appearances, but he was dealt to the Texas Rangers prior to the 1977 season and began a journey that saw him play for seven teams over his 17-year career.
Washington first came to New York in 1980, being dealt from the White Sox to the Mets on June 7 of that year, and he hit .275 with 10 homers, 42 RBI and 17 steals in 79 games as a corner outfielder. His claim to fame in Queens, however, is that he became just the third major-leaguer to have a three-homer game in both leagues, joining Babe Ruth and Johnny Mize when he jacked three homers in a 9-6 Mets win over the Dodgers on June 22.
He left as a free agent that winter, agreeing to a five-year, $3.5 million dollar deal with Atlanta that made him one of the highest-paid players in baseball, but after five-plus seasons in Atlanta – as well as a cameo in the hit film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, where he was the batter that hit the foul ball actor Matthew Broderick, as Bueller, catches in the stands at Wrigley Field – Washington returned to New York on June 30, 1986, being dealt (along with Paul Zuvella) from the Braves to the Yankees in exchange for Ken Griffey and Andre Robertson.
That season, Washington hit .237 for a Yankees squad that finished second in the AL East, and he re-signed with the team as a free agent that winter, going on to spend two more full years in pinstripes; he hit .279 in 1987 and .308 in 126 games in 1988, and the second of his 12 home runs that latter season marking the 10,000th round-tripper in franchise history.
Washington left again following the ’88 season to sign with the Angels, but would have one last swan song in the Big Apple, returning to the Yankees in April 1990 when California dealt him and Rich Monteleone to the Bronx for Luis Polonia.
That was the end of Washington’s career, as he played just 33 games as a Yankee that season and retired after the team released him in October 1990.