Unser was TSN’s AL Rookie of the Year in 1968, despite hitting just .230 with 66 runs and 30 RBI as Washington’s everyday centerfielder, because he established himself as second only to Paul Blair defensively. He led AL outfielders in assists, double plays, and total chances per game and finished just two back in putouts. In 1969 he improved his average to .286 and led the league with eight triples (setting a ML record for fewest to lead the league). Traded to the Indians for 1972 and then to the Phillies for 1973, he improved his hitting in the NL, showing a bit more power; he had his best season in 1974, batting .264 with career highs of 61 RBI and 72 runs in 454 at-bats. After that season he was traded to the Mets with Mac Scarce and John Stearns for Tug McGraw and two utility outfielders, and he reached a new personal best by batting .294. He slumped the next season and was never again an everyday player.
He began pinch hitting in 1977 with the Expos, and although he was not successful at first (7-for-58 in 1977-78), he improved on returning to the Phillies in 1979, batting .304 in the pinch and tying a ML record with homers in three straight pinch at-bats (June 30, July 5, 10). He pinch hit .316 in the Phillies’ 1980 World Championship season. In the decisive Game Five of the LCS, he went 2-for-2 after coming in as a pinch hitter and then staying in the game, and he drove in a run and scored two, including the game winner in the tenth inning as the Phillies beat the Astros 8-7 to take the series. In Game Two of the World Series, he hit a pinch double off Royals relief ace Dan Quisenberry in the Phillies’ eighth-inning come-from-behind rally. In Game Five, another pinch double off Quisenberry in the ninth inning tied the game; Unser moved to third on a sacrifice fly and scored the game winner on an infield single.
Del’s father Al caught for the Tigers and Reds during WWII.