What I didn’t realize is that DeShields was Kenny Lofton before Lofton was. DeShields had a full ride to run point for Villanova before being the 12th overall pick in the 1987 MLB draft by the Montreal Expos. And, of course, there was that little tidbit of him Spud Webbing a dunk contest in a battle across sports (I assume this was a Rock n Jock, but can’t find the video).
He made quick work of the minors, posting great OBPs and made his debut in 1990 at 21. He hit .289/.375/.393 in 129 games.
Unfortunately, a lot of that average was BABIP driven as he hit .349 on balls in play that year. He came back to earth in 1991, hitting .238/.347/.332 and would lead the league with 151 Ks. In addition, his .9623 fielding percentage that year was the seventh worst by a second baseman in a season since 1946. But he got on base and ran, accumulating 56 SBs. You combine his steals with Marquis Grissom (who had 76 swipes) and you get the 11th most prolific stolen base combo in MLB history.
His average bounced back in a major way in 1992, as he hit .292/.359/.398 with 46 steals. Again, if you pair him and Grissom (78 steals) you get a bad ass burglar combo – the 16th best duo in history. After four years with the Expos, he had a .277/.367/.373 line and 187 SBs.
The Dodgers, evidently thinking he was the next Lou Whittaker, traded a promising young pitcher by the name of Pedro Martinez for his services. That didn’t work out so well. DeShields struggled in LA, going .241/.326/.327 in three years.
After leaving the Dodgers in free agency, he played well for the Cardinals for two years, and then signed with the Baltimore Orioles. His first two seasons with the Orioles went well, but his third was horrid. He hit .197/.312/.309 and made the last out in Hideo Nomo’s no-hitter. The Orioles released him and the Cubs scooped him up. He played better for the Cubs and combined went 23/25 in SBs that year, tied for the 28th best stolen base percentage in a season in MLB history (min. 20 SBs).
Speed was clearly DeShields calling card from a positive standpoint. He ended his career with the 45th most SBs in MLB history: two ahead of Bobby Bonds and two behind Eric Young, Sr.
Of course, striking out and poor fielding would be DeShields calling card from a negative standpoint. He finished with 1,061 Ks, the 29th most in MLB history by a lefty (two behind Any Van Slyke, another erstwhile Oriole). The 151 Ks in ’91 were the 29th most in a season by a lefty (tied with fellow Flip Sider Ray Lankford). Hey, hopefully he can appreciate symmetry.
[Complete non-sequitur] For some reason I can’t divorce him from José Offerman in my head…and what do you know, Offerman is #1 on his similarity score.
Still, DeShields was a fun Luis Castillo-like player. He also put in work after his playing career, co-founding the Urban Baseball League and raising some athletes. You know about his son, but his eldest daughter appears to be the next preeminent female dunker.
In his work with the Urban League, he travels with fellow Flip Sider Oil Can Boyd as part of the Oil Can Boyd Urban All Stars.