Otis Nixon used his legs to carve out a successful 17-year Major League Baseball career. Known for his speed, Nixon racked up 620 stolen bases, including 160 in three years with the Atlanta Braves. Nixon played for nine different teams between 1983-1999. Nixon, who battled drug problems during his career, continued with the struggle after his playing days were over. Nixon’s post-baseball life included drug arrests and a bizarre two days when he went missing with a missing-persons report being filed.
Otis Nixon’s baseball career
Otis Nixon was selected third overall by the New York Yankees in MLB’s draft in June of 1979. He made his big-league debut as a September call-up with the Yankees in 1983. Nixon’s time spent with the Yankees was short-lived as he played just 13 games and went 2-for-14 with a pair of stolen bases.
In February of 1984, Nixon was traded to the Cleveland Indians as part of a deal for Toby Harrah. Nixon played four years with the Indians and in his second and third seasons with the team, he stole 20 and 23 bases, respectively. Nixon had his best years with the Atlanta Braves from 1991-1993 after he was traded from the Montreal Expos. He set a Braves record with 72 stolen bases in 1991.
With the Braves, Nixon got substantially more playing time, recording more than 400 plate appearances in a season for the first time. In three years with Atlanta, he swiped 160 bases. His career was marred by drug problems as he was arrested on drug charges in 1987 while with the Indians. In 1991, he failed a drug test and was suspended by Major League Baseball which forced him to miss the 1991 World Series.
Nixon’s secret to base-stealing success
Otis Nixon didn’t have any offensive power, smacking just 11 home runs in his lengthy career. His career batting average was .270. Despite those shortcomings, Nixon found his strength on the baseball field, using his speed to his advantage. He also used his smarts by studying pitchers to help steal 620 bases in his career.
“I would watch a pitcher, Nixon told Next Level Ballplayer, “and within the second inning, I could tell you exactly what’s going to happen. Part of it’s a gift and part of it is that I worked at this. I have a trained eye to be able to watch a guy and almost tell when you get ready to go.”
Nixon stole more than 40 bases in 10 seasons. When he was 40, he stole 26 bases during his second stint with the Atlanta Braves in 1999. He played his final game on Oct. 3, 1999.
Nixon reported missing in 2017
During his baseball career, Otis Nixon was arrested in 1987 on drug charges and then was suspended for 60 days by MLB in 1990. After his career was over, Nixon was still plagued by drug issues. In 2013, he was arrested for having a crack pipe and crack cocaine on him during a traffic stop, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
In 2015, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Nixon was booked into the Fulton County jail for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He turned himself in. In 2017, Nixon was supposed to attend a golf outing and never showed up, causing panic among family, friends, and relatives.
Nixon, 58 at the time, was reported missing by his girlfriend. He never showed up to the golf on Saturday and wasn’t heard from at all Sunday as police used social media to ask for the public’s help in finding him. On Monday, he was found safe and no criminal charges were filed. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the question of his whereabouts was never answered. It still hasn’t been publically addressed.
“Otis Nixon has been located and is safe,” Woodstock police posted on Twitter. “We appreciate the assistance from the public and media.”