Spencer hit a career-high 20 HR in his rookie 1953 season, although he batted only
.208. He was used flexibly at shortstop, third base, and second base in manager Leo
Durocher's complex lineup manipulation. After missing 1954-55 in the military, Spencer
returned to his everyday utility role in 1956, then won the shortstop job in 1957.
After leading the league's shortstops in errors in 1957 and 1958, he was moved to
second base in 1959. Meanwhile, his hitting improved, although he sacrificed some
power for average. In 1958, the Giants' first year in San Francisco, he hit .256
with 73 walks, 17 HR, and career highs of 71 runs and 74 RBI. After the 1959 season,
he was traded to the Cardinals with Leon Wagner for Don Blasingame
and then joined
the Dodgers in mid-1961, resuming his supersub role. After his retirement he became
one of the earlier exports to Japanese baseball (1964-68, 71-72), and introduced
hard sliding to that country; he was reportedly the first baserunner to break up
a double play there. He pursued HR titles in 1964 and 1965, but was walked almost
every time he batted down the stretch both years. He totaled 152 HR in Japan, topping
30 three times, and hit .275.