Nixon was a quintessential leadoff hitter, sporting a high on-base percentage combined with little power and blazing speed -- he claimed to be faster than his brother, Mariners and Giants outfielder Donnell. But despite his promise with the Indians and Expos, Nixon didn't get the opportunity to play everyday until the 1990s, ironically, when the power game greatly outweighed the need for speed. However, the fleet-footed outfielder did make his presence known, swiping 620 bags during his 17-year career, not to mention more in the 1990s than any other ballplayer, beating Rickey Henderson by 15.
Originally in the New York Yankees' system, Nixon was involved in a trade to the Cleveland Indians for Toby Harrah in February 1984. With the Tribe, Nixon became manager Pat Corrales's "secret weapon," used as a switch-hitting bunter or pinch runner late in close games. When the Indians failed to live up to expectations in 1987, Nixon became a luxury and was sent down to the minors. The outfielder was also found to have a penchant for another speed -- cocaine -- and he underwent drug rehabilitation later that year. The Montreal Expos gave him a chance in 1988, and he stole 46 bases in 271 at-bats while providing late-inning defense in centerfield.
Hoping to replace the awkward Lonnie Smith in left field, the Atlanta Braves traded three players to the Expos for Nixon during spring training of 1991. The acquisition proved worthwhile, as Nixon set career highs that year in both batting average (.297) and stolen bases (72), in his first season of regular playing time. On June 16, 1991, Nixon tied a major-league record when he stole six bases in a game against his old Montreal teammates. As his shoes were sent for by the Hall of Fame, Nixon was informed of the old Philadelphia Athletics second baseman Eddie Collins, whose feat his feet had tied; he responded, "I don't even know who that guy is."
Unfortunately, though Nixon helped the Braves to their first postseason since 1982, he was not allowed to play that October, nor until late April of the following year. On September 16, 1991, the speedy outfielder tested positive for cocaine, violating his agreement to the aftercare treatment program he was on since '87. The Braves took him back in 1992, and he contributed 88 stolen bases towards the team's pennant-winning campaign. During the World Series, Nixon drove home the tying run in the bottom of the ninth of Game Six, but then recorded the final out of the Series in the 11th.
The Minnesota Twins, looking to replace the leadoff spot in the order, which would soon be left vacant by second baseman Chuck Knoblauch, signed the 39-year-old Nixon to a one-year deal. Despite missing a month with a broken jaw sustained at the cleat of Royals rookie Felix Martinez, the veteran stole 37 bags that year, good enough for eighth in the American League.
That December, Nixon signed a one-year deal with the Atlanta Braves to be their fourth outfielder and backup leadoff hitter while he chased some milestones of his own. On April 23, 1999, Nixon stole second base against the Florida Marlins' battery of Livan Hernandez and Mike Redmond for his 600th career stolen base. He ended up compiling 26 steals that year, and probably would have added more to his total, but missed a month and a half with a neck sprain sustained in a late July brawl with the Philadelphia Phillies. That postseason, his final hurrah in the majors, Nixon went 2-for-3 with three stolen bases in limited time. (ArB/AG/ArB)
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»April 1, 1991: Expos trade OF Otis Nixon and minor league 3B Sol Rodriguez to the Braves in exchange for C Jimmy Kremers and a player to be named later.
»June 16, 1991: In a 7-6 loss to Montreal, the Braves' Otis Nixon steals six bases to set a new National League mark, and tie the major league record of Eddie Collins, who did it twice in 1912. Nixon singles to lead off the 9th and steals 2nd. After two are out, he steals 3B uncontested. Told afterwards he had tied the record, a surprised Nixon remarks, "I thought the record was held by Rickey Henderson or Vince Coleman. I don't know who this guy (Collins) is."
»September 16, 1991: It's a day for suspensions. Atlanta OF Otis Nixon is suspended for 60 days (the remainder of the season) for violating baseball's drug policy. Nixon, who had been arrested on charges of cocaine possession in 1987, is currently leading the National League with 72 SBs. He will miss the NL playoffs due to the suspension. Cincinnati P Norm Charlton is suspended for seven days and fined an undisclosed amount for admitting he intentionally threw at Dodgers C Mike Piazza in a game played on September 9th.
»October 24, 1991: The Braves win their 3rd game in a row, 14-5, to take the Series lead. Lonnie Smith, David Justice, and Brian Hunter pound out home runs, with Smith becoming the 1st player to homer in three consecutive Series games since Reggie Jackson in 1977. Smith became Atlanta's starting LF when Otis Nixon was suspended for failing a drug test in September.
»August 14, 1992: Atlanta OF Lonnie Smith gets five hits, and drives home six runs, in the Braves’ 15-0 whitewashing of the Pirates. Brian Hunter and Otis Nixon each have four hits. Tommy Glavine coasts to his 18th win and his league leading fifth shutout. Starter Zane Smith allows four runs in a third of an inning to lose.
»April 6, 1993: In his National League debut, Cubs P Jose Guzman takes a perfect game into the 8th inning against Atlanta, finally settling for a 1-hit, 1-0 victory. Otis Nixon's single with two outs in the 9th is the Braves' only hit.
»August 14, 1996: The Red Sox clip the Blue Jays, 8–6, on a 4-run 9th inning. Jacob Brumfield has a pair of homers for the Jays and Otis Nixon swipes four bases.
»July 28, 1997: In the 1st game of a doubleheader, Milwaukee P Steve Woodard, recalled just that morning, hurls eight innings of 1-hit ball to defeat the Blue Jays, 1-0. Mike Fetters tosses a hitless 9th for the Brewers. Toronto's only hit is a double by CF Otis Nixon.
»August 12, 1997:
The Blue Jays trade OF Otis Nixon to the Dodgers in exchange for C Bobby Cripps.
»August 27, 1997:
The Dodgers best the Pirates, 9-5, with the help of five hits by OF Otis Nixon and six RBIs from C Mike Piazza. LA now leads the NL West by one 1/2 games over the Giants.
»April 4, 1998:
The Twins' Mike Morgan hurls the first seven innings of Minnesota's 3–2 loss to KC. In doing so, he ties a modern major league mark, shared by Bob Miller and Ken Brett, by appearing in a game with his 10th team. In the game, Minnesota OF Otis Nixon has his jaw broken while sliding into 2B when he is kicked in the face by Royals SS Felix Martinez.
»December 1, 1998:
The Braves sign free agent OF Otis Nixon. The peripatetic speedster was a starter for Atlanta in 1991–93.