HF: Most fans probably don't know that you were first signed by the Red Sox. What is the background on that signing?
AO: I was drafted out of high school by the Red Sox in 1965, which was the first year of the draft. The Mets had given me a tryout that spring and Eddie Stanky, who was a Mets scout, said that they were going to draft me but the Red Sox sneaked in.
HF: What were your reactions when the Mets drafted you the next year?
AO: The Red Sox left me unprotected following the 1966 season and the Mets drafted me and sent me to Triple A ball for 1967.
HF: You were an outfielder "by trade," as Lindsey Nelson used to say, but the Mets tried you at third base. What were some of the challenges that you faced playing third base?
AO: Not really. I was a shortstop originally and played all positions in high school. The Mets wanted me to play third base. In 1969 they had Cleon Jones, Tommie Agee, and Ron Swoboda in the outfield. I was supposed to be the Opening Day third baseman that year but Gil Hodges, the Mets manager, thought that I would be too nervous and I didn't play. I really wanted to play centerfield, not third because I had been an All-Star centerfielder in the minors. I was one of the fastest players on the team so why did they want to put me a third base? Finally, I played three games at third in Philadelphia, got a lot of hits, made one error, and that was it at third base for the Mets.
HF: You were part of a trade that is rated as the best in Kansas City Royals history and one of the worst the Mets ever made. What were your reactions to leaving the Mets?
AO: I was watching the Today Show when Joe Garagiola announced that Amos Otis had been traded to the Kansas City Royals, along with pitcher Bob Johnson, for third baseman Joey Foy. I was caught off guard but it was December 3, 1969, which is my father's birthday, and he said it was for the best. I went from the team that had won the World Series to an expansion team that had just finished its first season.
HF: As the Royals centerfielder, you won three Gold Gloves, making many catches, some spectacular, one handed. You were among the outfielders who popularized the one handed catch. Why didn't you use two hands?
AO: I had always caught using two hands but we had an outfielder with the Royals named Pat Kelly, who was Cleveland Browns' star running back LeRoy Kelly's brother. Pat used to get nervous trying to catch a fly ball. His hands started to shake and he dropped too many of them. I told him to wait for the last second and then catch the ball with one hand. He was successful. Using one hand let me get rid of the ball faster. Sometimes, when I had to be sure, I would use two hands. It was actually Rico Carty who started catching with one hand the year before.
HF: In 1971, you stole five bases in one game. Please tell us about it.
AO: It was the first time in forty-four years that someone stole five bases in a game. I beat out three infield hits and stole second each time. Going to the bottom of the seventh, the score was 3-3. With two outs and no one on, I hit a line drive single to center, stole second, stole third, and scored the eventual winning run when catcher Darrell Porter threw wildly to third trying to throw me out.
HF: The following season, with Nolan Ryan on the mound, you stole home in the fourth inning, scoring the game's only run in a 1-0 Royals win. It was just the second time since WWII that the only run in a game was scored on a steal of home. How does an attempted steal of home compare to an attempted steal of second or third?
AO: Stealing home is different. It is unusual. Stealing home against Ryan was more important because it was Nolan. After that, he always threw as hard as could when he faced me. In that game, John Mayberry, a left handed batter, was up with a 3-2 count. They changed the pitch from a curve to a fastball. It was low and inside to Mayberry and I scored easily.
HF: Many fans and scouts are impressed by hard throwing pitchers such as Nolan Ryan and Ron Guidry yet pitchers such as Greg Maddux and Tommy John also have great success. Who were the toughest pitchers you faced?
AO: I was a breaking ball hitter. I liked facing finesse pitchers because unless you got to a hard thrower early, he usually got stronger as the game went on. In 1973 I hit twenty-six home runs and fifteen of them were off breaking balls or change ups.
HF: The 1977 and 1978 Yankees defeated the Royals in the playoffs on their way to their 21st and 22nd World Championships. How good were those Yankees teams?
AO: We played the Yankees in 1976 and Chambliss beat us with the home run but we were just thrilled to be in the playoffs. In 1977 I thought that we had a better team, but we lost but in 1978 I thought the Yankees had the better team.
HF: Who was the best manager for whom you played?
AO: I don't like to rate them. To me, they all were the best. Almost every manager I played for won a World Series. Jack McKeon last year, Whitey Herzog with the Cardinals in 1982, Bob Lemon with the Yankees in 1978, and Gil Hodges with the Mets in 1969 all won it. Jim Frey came so close in 1980.
HF: This past season, many Yankees players and most Yankees fans considered beating the Red Sox in the playoffs to be the most important goal of the season. How did the Royals feel in 1980 after beating the Yankees in the playoffs but then losing the World Series to the Phillies?
AO: Winning the World Series is the ultimate goal. 1980 was a heartbreak because we led in each of the first five games, but the Phillies kept coming back on us and when we lost Game 5, we went into Philadelphia trailing, three games to two. We got ten hits off Carlton in Game 2, but we couldn't hold a 4-2 lead going into the eighth. You don't get to Carlton like that too often. He pitched a much better game and won Game 6. It was disappointing.
HF: Mr. Otis, it was a real pleasure to listen to you. Your memory is amazing and I am sure it helps fans recall things they thought they had forgotten. Thank you very much.
AO: You are very welcome and feel free to discuss baseball with me anytime.