Steinbach's career began as auspiciously as one could, when he slugged a pinch-hit home run in his first major-league plate appearance off Greg Swindell of the Cleveland Indians on September 12, 1986. The Oakland Athletics' third baseman-turned-catcher earned regular playing time the following year, when he traded off with Mickey Tettleton behind the plate and at designated hitter, ending up with a .284 average and 16 dingers.
A wild throw by teammate Mark McGwire fractured his orbital bone in May 1988 forcing him to miss almost a month, but Steinbach was nevertheless elected to the American League All-Star squad as the starting catcher. The selection was ridiculed by the press, as he was hitting only .216 at the break and platooning with Ron Hassey as the A's backstop. Ironically, with a home run in his first at-bat and a deep sacrifice fly in his second, the catcher took home the All-Star Game MVP honors. Fully healed after the break, he finished the 1988 season at .265.
Steinbach had much of the same role the following year, in the lineup most of the time switching between catcher and DH, along with a few stints in the outfield and at first. In the 1989 League Championship Series, Steinbach hit only .200 but had a homer and five RBIs as the A's defeated the Toronto Blue Jays in five games. He led the A's with seven RBIs, and cranked another home run in their World Series sweep of the San Francisco Giants.
Remarkably consistent for the Athletics from 1990 until 1995, Steinbach routinely batted between .270 and .290 and provided solid defense behind the plate. His 1996 power surge, in which he notched 100 RBIs and hit 35 home runs -- more than doubling his previous high of 16 -- made him an extremely appealing free agent. But despite a number of offers including a lucrative one from the Athletics, he opted for a lower salary to sign with his hometown Minnesota Twins on December 5, 1996.
Steinbach came back to earth for the Twinkies, putting up power numbers similar to his pre-1996 statistics. However, his bat speed slowed and his average dropped to .248 and .242 in 1997 and 1998 respectively. He was relegated to platoon duty in '99, splitting time with Javier Valentin, and retired at the end of the season. (SCL/GL)
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