Skip Lockwood is a great baseball name. It sounds like a fake name. It sounds like a name in a 1950’s movie for the guy who would play against Chip Hilton in the big game.
Claude Lockwood sounds like an intellectual, maybe a scientist, maybe someone who you would see in the halls of M.I.T.
As it turned out, Claude “Skip” Lockwood was both.
A native of Massachusetts, he was, like Chip Hilton, an all around athlete who was signed by the Kansas City A’s.
In those days, there was some insane process of great young players being “Bonus Babies.” In other words, if they signed a big contract, the team had to put them on the big league roster for a period of time. Inevitably, they would be overwhelmed, but the team would be able to show off their young stud before they went off to the minors.
Skip Lockwood was a bonus baby, one of the last ones. He played part of the 1965 season with the Kansas City A’s. He did so as a third baseman. He kicked around the A’s farm system as they moved from Missouri to Oakland without another big league call up.
Along the way, his bat did not prove worthy of his bonus and was converted to a pitcher, where he found some success. Eventually he was selected in the expansion draft by the Seattle Pilots. So after his unmemorable cameo in the majors in 1965 as an infielder, he made it back to the majors as a spot starter and reliever.
He was a Seattle Pilot, which means he caught the eye of Jim Bouton who was writing his book “Ball Four.” Bouton noted that Lockwood was not only a nice guy but clever, possibly smarter than most ballplayers.
Lockwood only pitched 6 games for Seattle in 1969 but he moved with the franchise to Milwaukee for the 1970 season. He was unspectacular but also not a disaster. His ERA was in the 3’s for a bad Brewers team. Hardly eye popping but good enough to stay on the parent team for the 1970, 1971, 1972 and 1973 seasons.
He was traded to the Angels for the 1974 season where he pitched exclusively as a reliever. Between the end of the 1974 season and the start of the 1975 season, Lockwood was passed between the Angels, A’s, Yankees and eventually landed with the Mets where he flourished.
Lockwood pitched to a 1.49 ERA in 1975. By 1976, he won 10 games out of the pen and saved 19, becoming a fan favorite. In 1977, he saved 20 games despite the team dumping Tom Seaver and other veterans while gutting the team. He continued his solid relief in 1978 and 1979, logging in a 1.49 ERA in his last season in Queens.
For the 1980 season, he signed with his boyhood team, the Red Sox, and bombed badly. Appearing in only 24 games, his ERA ballooned to 5.32 and he logged only a pair of saves for a team that needed a stable bullpen.
After trying to win a spot with the 1981 Expos, his career was done. He had the misfortune of being a dominant reliever for a bad team. It is tough to lead the league in saves when your team isn’t winning. But 3 times he finished in the top 10 in that category.
He left baseball and two years later finished his masters degree at M.I.T. His post baseball life has included continuing his education and furthering his intellectual curiosity.
Skip Lockwood earned his bonus with a solid 11 + years in the majors and being a fan favorite for a bad Mets team.
Claude Lockwood is continuing his journey to fulfill his mind.