Top 100 Baseball Blog

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Mariano Rivera Hits an Inside-the-Park Home Run: The Baseball Historian's Notes for June 23, 2019

The 2019 baseball season is in full swing. Along with a full slate of exciting games, comes regular remembrances of players, teams and occurrences from the past. This is the next edition of the Baseball Historian’s Notes.

-There is an exciting new baseball museum exhibit at the Detroit Historical Museum. “Detroit Stars & The Negro Leagues” opened June 22nd to much fanfare, including hosting remarks by Joyce Stearnes Thompson, the daughter of former Stars’ outfielder Turkey Stearnes. The exhibit has a variety of displays, including relics, from the days of the famed Negro League team.

-Billy Martin Jr., the son of the late pugnacious New York Yankees infielder and well-known manager, recently sat down for an interview with the Post Bulletin. A sports agent and president of an independent baseball league, he is steeped in the game much like his father. The younger Martin, who has represented the likes of pitcher Tom Koehler, believes his father should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame, citing his impact on the game in multiple roles. His induction could eventually become a reality, depending upon the whims of the Veterans Committee.

-Nearly 85 years after he last made an appearance in a major league game, slugger Babe Ruth remains an American baseball legend of mythical proportions. His memorabilia is among the most coveted, and that was proven yet again by the sale of one of his game-worn jerseys from his time with the New York Yankees from the late 1920s, fetching a record price of $5.64 million. The jersey was part of an auction of other Ruth items made available by members of his family, including his granddaughter, Linda Ruth Tosetti. Naturally, the previous record was another Ruth jersey, which sold for $4.4 million back in 2012.

-Larry Stone of The Seattle Times celebrated the 50th anniversary of the lone season of the Seattle Pilots. Although the team was a miserable 64-98, they brought the fun and exciting experience of major league baseball to the northwest. Their sudden departure in the spring of 1970 to move to the Midwest and become the Milwaukee Brewers left a surprising void that was eventually filled by the emergence of the Seattle Mariners.

-Yankees’ left-handed starting pitcher C.C. Sabathia recently notched his 250th career victory, throwing six solid innings against the Tampa Bay Rays. The 38-year-old is now in his 19th season. He became the 48th pitcher to reach the 250-win level, and just seven weeks earlier had become the 17th pitcher to surpass 3,000 career strikeouts. Although not a slam dunk, he is continuing to build a strong case for the Hall of Fame. No longer the dominant force he once was, each accomplishment he continues to accrue is only going to give voters more to think about when his time comes to be on the ballot.

-His connection to PEDs has helped keep Roger Clemens out of the Hall of Fame thus far in his first seven tries on the ballot. Otherwise, the owner of 354 career wins and seven Cy Young Awards could have been a no-brainer first-ballot selection. While he waits to see how his candidacy plays out, he has added another Hall-of-Fame induction to his resume. The Pawtucket Red Sox, the Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, recently added the right-hander to their Hall of Fame. Although he pitched in a total of just nine games for the franchise, his 2-3 record and 1.63 ERA, along with his legendary status made him a natural fit. In the meantime, he will continue to wait and see if Cooperstown eventually comes calling.

-Mariano Rivera, the best reliever in the history of baseball, just played in his first Old-Timer’s game for the New York Yankees. Naturally, he played center field and hit an inside-the-park home run, only adding to the legend of the hurler who spent his entire 19-year big league career in pinstripes. He also pitched the final inning of the game, saving the win for his team—something he did a record 652 times while a member of New York’s active roster.

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You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

I have also authored a number of books (eBook and paperback) an topics of baseball that are available on Amazon.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Jeff Schaefer: Translating Versatility and Hard Work Into a Major League Baseball Career

Jeff Schaefer wasn’t the biggest, fastest or the strongest, but he was versatile and worked hard for everything he gained on the baseball diamond. Where many others failed to make the major leagues, he parlayed the gifts he did have into a career that stretched 14 seasons and included parts of five years at the big-league level.

Following a distinguished career at the University of Maryland, where he hit a combined .333, Schaefer was selected in the 12th round of the 1981 draft by the Baltimore Orioles. A second baseman, the right-hander gradually started playing more around the infield and occasionally in the outfield. However, he was a light hitter without top-end speed and in the winter of 1986, he was purchased by the California Angels, having reached Triple-A, but no further.

After one year in the Angels’ organization, he bounced to the Los Angeles Dodgers and then the Chicago White Sox, where he finally received his first major league chance in 1989. He appeared in 15 games for the South Siders, collecting a lone single (against Rob Murphy and the Boston Red Sox) in 10 at-bats, with a stolen base.

Continuing his experience of being a journeyman, he signed with the Seattle Mariners that offseason and became an important cog off their bench over the next three seasons, hitting a combined .208 with two home runs and 20 RBIs in 204 games (just 341 at-bats), playing second, shortstop and third base.

After eight at-bats with the Oakland Athletics in 1994, his professional playing career was over. He finished with a .203 career batting average but was valued for his ability to fill out a roster by being hungry and versatile.

Keep reading for more from Schaefer, as he shares some memories from his playing career.

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: Thurman Munson. He was grit. He was a gamer. He was the Captain.

What did you do to celebrate after being drafted and signing?: Nothing overly special; dinner with family and friends.

How difficult is it to persevere and keep fighting to make the major leagues after nine years in the minors?: Not as tough for me as it may have been for others. I loved playing the game. Yes, I wanted to be in the big leagues sooner, but I was just happy playing the game for as long as someone would let me.

What do you remember most about your major league debut (against the Oakland Athletics)?: Striking out... But I took three man hacks. The adrenalin was rushing through my veins like I never felt before

As someone who played with them for years, how would you compare the hitting skills of Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez?: Two different hitters completely. Edgar was a self-made professional hitter and Junior was a hitter made by God.

What is your favorite moment from your baseball career?: My first start ever was in Yankee Stadium. I grew up a Yankees fan and Jeff Torborg saved my first start for Yankee Stadium, so my family and friends could experience it with me.

Which of your teams was your favorite, and why was that?: Seattle. I knew I was playing with greatness...They just needed time. Griffey Jr, Edgar Martinez, Omar Vizquel, and Randy Johnson.

Who was your favorite coach or manager, and what made them your choice?: I played for Joe Maddon in Double-A and Charlie Manuel in Triple-A...Jeff Torborg will forever be favorite. He gave a kid who spent eight-and-a-half years beating the bushes his first shot.

What, if anything, would you have done differently in your baseball career?: Nothing. I beat the odds. No one slated me as big-league player. I was an organizational guy in just about everyone's mind except my own.

What have you been up to since your playing days ended?: Regional Director of USA Baseball NTIS, CBC Baseball www.cbcbaseball.net, President: www.UDACF.org, Chairman: www.Knotholecarolinas.org

I hope this YouTube video helps as well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0bLIxa5egq4 (Full video available here). 

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You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

I have also authored a number of books (eBook and paperback) an topics of baseball that are available on Amazon.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Todd Greene: Catching Up with the Slugging Backstop

Certain skill sets can get a baseball player noticed a lot more quickly than others. One of those is power, as that’s something that can’t be taught. One of the best slugging prospects in the last half-century was Todd Greene, who had the benefit of also being a catcher, which made his dangerous bat all the more coveted and helped him go on to an 11-year major league career.

The right-handed Greene was a prospect right out of high school, getting drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 27th round in 1989. He declined to sign and went on to Georgia Southern University instead. The St. Louis Cardinals rolled the dice and drafted him in the 14th round in 1992 after he had three very productive years, but he returned to school to finish his senior year. 

He wound up hitting a whopping 88 home runs and driving in 257 runs in 240 games while a member of the Eagles. The California Angels, recognizing such production, picked him up in the 12th round in 1993.

Listed at 5’10” and 195 pounds, Greene didn’t necessarily look the part of a hulking slugger; he just let his bat do the talking when it came to that. After hitting 15 home runs in short season ball in 1993, he hit another 35 in 1994 and 40 in 1995.

With little left to prove in the minors, the Angels brought up Greene in the midst of the 1996 season. He hit a home run in his second big-league game, blasting a long two-run shot off Brian Williams of the Detroit Tigers.  

With his bat much more of an asset than his glovework, Greene settled into a career as a backup catcher and pinch hitter. It was a role he was well suited for. Over the course of 11 seasons with the Angels, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees, Texas Rangers, Colorado Rockies and San Francisco Giants, he hit a combined .252 with 71 home runs and 217 RBIs in 536 games.

Years later, he continues to work in the game as a scout. Keep reading for his memories of his time in baseball.

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: Dale Murphy. I was a Braves fan, so he was naturally my favorite player.

What did you do to celebrate after being drafted and signing?: No celebration. I worked my tail off to be the best player I could be. 
How did you find out that you had first been called up the big leagues, and what was your reaction?: I was actually in Arizona getting ready for the Fall League when Ken Forsch called my home in Georgia. This is before cell phones. My sister got the message about 3:00 AM and I was in Anaheim about seven hours later.

What do you remember most about your major league debut (against the Detroit Tigers)?: Just being in the big leagues for the second time was awfully rewarding. I remember having my 1st at bat against CJ Nitkowski, who is now a good friend of mine.  I got my first hit versus Richie Lewis in my second at bat. I was called up in 1995 but did not get in a game.

In your opinion, who was the most underrated player you ever played with or against, and if you are feeling bold, is there anyone you can think of who was overrated?: Garret Anderson is the most underrated player I played with and against. There are several overrated players, but I’m not touching that one. 
What is your favorite moment from your baseball career?: Catching the first pitch from President George W. Bush before Game 3 of 2001 World Series.

Which of your teams was your favorite, and why was that?: The New York Yankees. Their fan base is great and made me feel like a part of the team immediately.

Who was your favorite coach or manager, and what made them your choice?: By far my favorite coach was Don Zimmer. Smartest baseball guy I’ve ever been around. Even though he was only my manager for a short time, Marcel Lacheman was my favorite manager.

What, if anything, would you have done differently in your baseball career?: I have no regrets, but would’ve trained differently to try and ensure I’d stay healthy.

What are you up to today?: Special assignment scout for the Arizona D-Backs. 

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You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

I have also authored a number of books (eBook and paperback) an topics of baseball that are available on Amazon.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Minor League Baseball Announces May Uncle Ray’s Players of the Month

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., June 5, 2019 — Minor League Baseball today announced the Uncle Ray’s Player of the Month Award winners for each of the 10 leagues for the month of May. In recognition of the honor, each winner will receive an award from Minor League Baseball and Uncle Ray’s, the “Official Potato Chip of Minor League Baseball.” 

Columbus Clippers (Indians) first baseman Bobby Bradley led the International League in home runs (12) and RBI (28), was second in slugging percentage (.740) and third in total bases (71) and OPS (1.113). His month was highlighted by a two-day surge which saw him go 7-for-8 with two doubles, three homers, four runs and six RBI May 7–8 against Charlotte. Bradley, 23, was selected by Cleveland in the third round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft out of Harrison Central High School in Gulfport, Mississippi. 

Round Rock Express (Astros) outfielder Kyle Tucker batted .333 in May and led the Pacific Coast League in home runs (11), runs (28) and total bases (80) and was third in RBI (28), slugging percentage (.741) and OPS (1.169). Tucker had a nine-game hitting streak from May 23– 31, homered in three straight games from May 2–4 and homered in four straight games from May 23–26. Tucker, 22, was selected by Houston in the first round of the 2015 First-Year Player Draft out of Plant High School in Tampa, Florida. 

Akron RubberDucks (Indians) outfielder Ka’ai Tom led the Eastern League in runs (21), on-base percentage (.434), slugging percentage (.635) and OPS (1.069) and was second in average (.333), hits (32) and total bases (61). He finished third in homers (seven) and walks (16). Tom hit safely in 20 of 26 games in May and recorded four three-hit games. Tom, 25, was selected by Cleveland in the fifth round of the 2015 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Kentucky. 

Tennessee Smokies (Cubs) infielder Vimael Machin led the Southern League in average (.369), hits (38), doubles (12), slugging (.534) and OPS (.974) and was second in total bases (55), third in on-base percentage (.440) and was fourth in RBI (17). He posted 12 multi-hit games and raised his season batting average from .250 to .346 during the month. Machin, 25, was selected by Chicago in the 10th round of the 2015 First-Year Player Draft out of Virginia Commonwealth University. 

Arkansas Travelers (Mariners) outfielder Jake Fraley led the Texas League in batting average (.371), hits (36) and RBI (26), was second in total bases (62), on-base percentage (.440), slugging percentage (.639) and OPS (1.080), and fifth in runs (19) and doubles (five). Fraley posted 13 multi-hit games and hit safely in 20 of his 26 games. Fraley, 24, was originally selected by Tampa Bay in Competitive Balance Round B of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft out of Louisiana State University. 

Lancaster JetHawks (Rockies) first baseman Luis Castro led the California League in runs (30), total bases (60), home runs (nine), RBI (22), walks (21), on-base percentage (.450), slugging percentage (.706) and OPS (1.156). His 30 runs scored were 10 more than anyone else in the league in May. On May 26, Castro went 4-for-4 with three homers, six RBI and scored four times against Rancho Cucamonga. Castro, 23, was signed by Colorado out of Caja Seca, Venezuela, on March 3, 2013. 

Salem Red Sox outfielder Jarren Duran led the Carolina League in batting average (.388), runs (23), hits (38), slugging percentage (.561) and OPS (1.021) and was second in total bases (55) and third in on-base percentage (.460). Duran, who was promoted to Double-A Portland on June 4, posted 11 multi-hit games and had a 16-game hitting streak from May 7–24 that included eight multi-hit games. Duran, 22, was selected by Boston in the seventh round of the 2018 First-Year Player Draft out of Long Beach State University. 

Fort Myers Miracle (Twins) outfielder Trevor Larnach led the Florida State League in average (.371), hits (36), doubles (10), on-base percentage (.456) and OPS (1.075). He finished second in slugging percentage (.619) and total bases (60), and third in walks (16). He recorded 11 multi-hit games and hit safely in 18 of his 26 games. Larnach, 22, was selected by Minnesota in the first round of the 2018 First-Year Player Draft out of Oregon State University. 

Great Lakes Loons (Dodgers) outfielder Niko Hulsizer batted .330 in May and led the Midwest League in home runs (10), RBI (26), total bases (72), slugging (.720) and OPS (1.166) and finished second in runs scored (24). Hulsizer hit in 10 straight games from May 20–30 and recorded 10 multi-hit games in May. Hulsizer, 22, was selected by Los Angeles in the 18th round of the 2018 First-Year Player Draft out of Morehead State University. 

Kannapolis Intimidators (White Sox) outfielder Ian Dawkins led the South Atlantic League in average (.419), hits (49) and on-base percentage (.473) and was second in runs scored (24) and total bases (66). His 11 doubles were fifth best in the league in May. Dawkins posted 14 multi-hit games in May and had separate hitting streaks of 10 (May 6–15) and 15 (May 18–31) games as he hit safely in 25 of 26 games from May 6–31. Dawkins, 23, was selected by Chicago in the 27th round of the 2018 First-Year Player Draft out of Sacramento State University

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You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

I have also authored a number of books (eBook and paperback) an topics of baseball that are available on Amazon.