Former Major League utility man Paul Dade passed away on August 25, 2016, after a short battle with cancer. He was 64.
Dade spent parts of 13 years playing professional baseball, including six different seasons in the Majors with the California Angels, Cleveland Indians, and San Diego Padres. He entered the pro game when he was selected with the tenth overall pick of the 1970 draft by the Angels out of Nathan Hale High School in Seattle, Washington.
Dade worked his way through the Angels farm system steadily until a breakout season at the age of 23 in 1975 when he set numerous personal bests in 109 games with Double-A El Paso and Triple-A Salt Lake City. He hit .351 with a .447 on-base percentage, providing the two teams with 28 doubles, six triples, 19 homers, and 98 runs batted in while scoring 93 times.
The strong performance in the minors earned him a quick cup of coffee with the Angels at the end of the season. He made his Major League debut on September 12, 1975, and appeared in eleven games with the Halos before the season ended. His first big league hit was a double and occurred the day after his first game.
He spent April and May of the 1976 season on the Major League roster, but appeared just 13 times as either a pinch-hitter, a pinch-runner, or defensive replacement, but never in a starting role. After being sent back to the minors, he led the Pacific Coast League in batting, hitting .363 in 91 games.
His strong performance at the Triple-A level caught the eye of Indians general manager Phil Seghi. A member of the first “re-entry draft” for players who had completed their options during the 1976 season, Cleveland and Oakland both made claims to the utility man, with the Indians adding him to the club on February 7, 1977, on a two-year, $100,000 contract.
“I consider him to be a fine addition to our club. He gives us added versatility and speed,” said Seghi in a story in The Plain Dealer on February 8, 1977. “He has outstanding credentials. If we’d had Dade in our organization, we would have been very high on him, and we would have given him this same opportunity to make our big league club.”
“I didn’t get a fair shake with the Angels,” Dade was quoted in the February 8 story. “They never gave me a real chance to prove what I could do in the big leagues. That’s the main thing I wanted – an opportunity in the big leagues, and the Indians are giving it to me.”
He got that fair shake with the Indians, logging regular work with the club in his first two seasons in Cleveland in 1977 and 1978. His most productive big league seasons came with the Tribe while working at all three outfield spots, third base, and a one-game appearance at second for managers Frank Robinson and Jeff Torborg during his time with the club.
In his first full season in the Majors in 1977, Dade hit .291 with the Indians. He played in a career-high 134 games that season, setting personal bests in runs (65), hits (134), and RBI (45).
He appeared in 93 games the following year, hitting .254 with a dozen doubles, three homers, and 20 RBI.
His short stay in Cleveland ended in June of 1979, when he was traded to the San Diego Padres for a first baseman who would spend the next 20 years working in some capacity in the Indians organization, Mike Hargrove.
Dade hit .278 combined for the 1979 season, including .276 with the Padres. He appeared in 68 games for the club the following season in a variety of roles, making 65 plate appearances while hitting .189. He spent the 1981 season in Japan with Hanshin, released for arguing with the manager over playing time, before playing one final season closer to home with Triple-A Portland in 1982.
Life after baseball kept him in his familiar Pacific Northwest, where he worked for Allpak Container, a box-making company in Renton, Washington, for 27 years. Still a baseball fan, he would watch the local Seattle Mariners on TV, but the former high school star was otherwise an outsider to the game he once loved.
“Guys at work always ask me why I’m still here, why I’m not doing what I’d like to do,” Dade shared in an interview in 2005 in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “I can’t tell you what happened. I decided not to play anymore and every [baseball] opportunity after that was closed, a dead-end street. That’s why I work to make ends meet.”
Labeled impatient by some during his playing days, there was some belief that his participation in the early stages of free agency may have earned him a bad reputation. He was also at a disadvantage that a manager that took to him in the Hall of Famer Robinson was fired just 57 games into Dade’s first season in Cleveland in 1977.
He had a scare in 2005, when a pain in his side at work revealed the need for the removal of one of his kidneys.
“That made me a cancer survivor,” Dade stated in the 2005 interview while revealing the foot-long scar from the surgery.
Dade’s obituary shared that he was a fan of sports as a whole, rooting for his hometown Seattle teams and those in Cleveland. Described as a big NBA fan, it is likely he took in some satisfaction watching Cleveland’s team, the Cavaliers, win the NBA Finals in June with Seattle’s former team, the Supersonics, no longer in existence.
For Indians fans, he may be best remembered as the first Tribe player to wear double-zeroes on the field and as the man whose trade in 1979 brought in Hargrove, who would guide the club in the future to a pair of World Series during the Indians’ dramatic rebuild and return to glory during the 1990s.
His playing career may have been shorter than hoped, but he will be remembered fondly by his family, friends, teammates, and fans for his time both on and off the field.
“It’s so easy to be good one day and gone the next,” Dade said in 2005.
Photo: Cleveland Memory Project (Dade pictured right)
*editor’s note – A thank you to Jason Berger of Allpak Container for passing along the news of Mr. Dade’s passing.