RIP to Mike Overy, a relief pitcher with the California Angels in 1976. He died on September 22 in Sun City West, Arizona. He was 70 years old.
Harry Michael Overy was born in Clinton, Ill., on January 27, 1951. He attended Clinton High School and, when he wasn’t pitching on that team, played on American Legion teams as well. As a high school senior, he played for a Lincoln American Legion club and routinely reached double-digit strikeout totals in his starts. The right-hander then attended Olivet Nazarene College, though he did his pitching for the Bloomington Bobcats of the Central Illinois Collegiate Baseball League. His overpowering fastball caught enough attention that he was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the eighth round of the 1972 June Amateur Draft. Overy and the White Sox couldn’t come to an agreement, but he agreed to a contract with the California Angels when they drafted him in the second round of the 1973 Secondary Draft. Overy had been attending Olivet Nazarene College in Bourbonnais, Ill. (An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Overy attended Nazarene Michigan like Vern Ruhle. Thank you to a reader who played in a game between the two schools and saw Overy defeat Ruhle.)
Overy was sent to the Quad Cities Angels of the Midwest League. He was immediately placed into the bullpen and became a late-inning specialist. In 36 games, he threw 56 innings and had a 5-2 record with a 3.38 ERA, 73 strikeouts and 9 saves. He also made a couple of starts and handled himself pretty well. In one of those games, he worked 5 innings and struck out 7 in a 5-4 win over Decatur. He allowed all 4 runs but picked up the win when second baseman Jerry Remy drove in the go-ahead run in the fourth inning.
Overy moved up to the Salinas Packers of the California League in 1974, and he struck out a career-high 107 batters in just 64 innings. In one instance, he came into a game against San Jose with his team losing 3-1, the bases loaded and nobody out. He promptly struck out the side and fanned 7 overall to pick up the 5-3 win. “As a short relief man, I think I would rather come into a game with the bases loaded,” he said afterwards. “I concentrate better under the pressure.”
As he continuously worked his way up the Angels’ minor league system, Overy picked up the nickname of “Bullet,” thanks to his fastball. His control was a little uneven at times, but that arm could not be overlooked. While he never took over the role of closer on any of those teams, he still picked up a fair number of saves each year. His best season was for the Salt Lake City Gulls in 1976, when he was 25 years old. He won 9 games in 39 relief appearances, with 10 saves, a 2.05 ERA and 99 strikeouts. Jimy WIlliams, who had gone up through the minors with Overy as his manager, trusted him as the go-to reliever whenever he needed an out in a pressure situation.
“I’m not afraid to start him,” Williams said. “But I figure he’ll help us a lot more by coming out of the bullpen in late innings. If I start him, then I have to rest him for four days. But this way I can pitch him three or four nights in a row.” Williams also praised his pitch development, as the hurler had added a slider and occasional change-up to his arsenal.
Overy had failed to stick with the Angels in spring training in 1976, but he was biding his time for a chance. “I’m happy because I haven’t reached my peak. My fastball is quicker and gets faster every year,” he said. “I can control the breaking pitch now.” He also had a backup plan in case he didn’t reach the majors. Overy majored in social welfare and psychology in college and had planned to pursue a living outside of baseball if he hadn’t reached the majors within three years.
The Angels finally gave Overy a chance when he was brought to the major leagues in August of 1976, replacing outfielder Bobby Bonds, who had suffered a broken bone in his right hand. Manager Norm Sherry didn’t hesitate to put him into a pressure spot in his first major-league game. The Angels were beating Milwaukee 3-1 on August 14, and starter Don Kirkwood allowed a leadoff double to Robin Yount in the ninth inning. Kirkwood was pulled for Overy, who immediately gave up an RBI single to George Scott. Overy retired Mike Hegan on a pop fly to shortstop, but then Darrell Porter slammed a 2-run homer to right field, putting Milwaukee on top. Overy fanned Bernie Carbo and Gorman Thomas to get out of the inning, but he was tagged with the loss in the 4-3 ballgame.
After the game, Sherry defended using the rookie in a tough situation. “That’s what he’s here for. That’s what he’s been doing all year long in the minors. It was the ideal situation for him,” Sherry said.
Overy pitched a total of 5 games for the Angels in 1976. Following his loss, Sherry put him right back into the next game against the Brewers, again in the ninth inning with runners on base. He retired Yount and Scott, allowing one of the runners to score. His longest performance came on August 28 against the Yankees. With the Angels down 7-1, Overy threw 3 innings, allowing a run on 2 hits and a walk. His final appearance came on September 9 against Kansas City. He entered the game in the eighth inning with a 5-4 lead. There was a young pinch-runner named Willie Wilson on first base, and Overy attempted to pick him off. The throw was wild, Wilson made it to second base, and Freddy Patek scored from third base. Wilson was credited with a stolen base, and it was the very first of his 668 career steals. Overy was charged with the loss in the game when he allowed Dave Nelson to single in the ninth inning. Overy was pulled in favor of Mickey Scott, and Scott surrendered a game-winning hit to George Brett.
In his 5 games, Overy had an 0-2 record and 6.14 ERA. He worked 7-1/3 innings and allowed 6 hits, 3 walks and 8 strikeouts.
Following his brief run in the majors, Overy returned to the Gulls for the next four seasons. He started 12 games in 1977 and ended the year with a 7-5 record and 4.33 ERA. But for the most part, he remained a late-inning relief weapon, and he performed well, though his strikeout totals began to drop. By 1980, he was a part-time coach for the Gulls, assisting manager Moose Stubing. He officially retired after the season. His 8-year run in the minor leagues left him with a 45-31 record and 66 saves. He struck out 582 batters in 645 innings of work.
Overy was honored by Clinton High School in 2013 when he was added to the school’s Wall of Honor. Information about his post-baseball life is not immediately available. He is survived by a son, Brian, and daughter, Erica.
For more information: Legacy.com