Ronald Charles Plaza (August 24, 1934 – April 15, 2012) was American professional baseball player, coach and manager. Though he never made it to Major League Baseball as a player, he was a coach at the MLB level for the Seattle Pilots, Cincinnati Reds and Oakland Athletics. Prior to his death, he resided in St. Petersburg, Florida, and worked with Oakland as scout and coach for their minor league operations.
Born in Clifton, New Jersey, Plaza joined the Johnson City Cardinals in 1951 at just sixteen years old, and batted .302 with four home runs and 34 runs batted in. In 1953, with the Hamilton Cardinals, he led the Pennsylvania-Ontario-New York League with 37 doubles, was third in the league with 106 RBIs and was fourth in the league in walks. He also committed a league-leading 37 errors at third base.
Plaza shifted to second base with the Rochester Red Wings in 1956, and batted .297 his first season in triple A. His batting average slipped to .221 his second season with Rochester, however, he hit a career-high fourteen home runs.
He wrapped up an eleven-year playing career (all in the St. Louis Cardinals organization) in 1962 with the Atlanta Crackers, and immediately moved into coaching. He managed the 1963 Billings Mustangs to the Pioneer League finals his first season as a coach, and won the Florida State League championship in 1967 with the St. Petersburg Cardinals.
Plaza's first major league coaching job was the hitting coach for the Seattle Pilots in 1969. Pilots General Manager Marvin Milkes let Plaza go along with the rest of the coaching staff as the team struggled with bankruptcy and a host of other issues after completing their one and only season in Major League Baseball. His reign with the Pilots earned him mention in Jim Bouton's book Ball Four, as "The Drill Instructor."
He coached in the Cincinnati Reds' farm system following his stint in Seattle, and joined the big league club following the 1977 season. He was the third base coach in 1978, and was shifted to first base coach during the 1979 season by new Reds manager John McNamara. He was also first base coach in 1983.
By Dean Hanley
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