Top 100 Baseball Blog

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Logan Darnell is On Professional Baseball's Winding Path

For players, professional baseball is a journey that takes many twists and turns. Neither the path nor the destination can ever be foretold. Someone who can attest to that is pitcher Logan Darnell , who has just completed the 10th year of a career filled with changes and achievements.

The left-handed Darnell was a sixth-round draft choice of the Minnesota Twins out of the University of Kentucky in 2010. A starter, he progressed steadily through their minor league system, winning 31 games between 2011-2013. His development paid off by getting called up to the Twins for a brief time in 2014, spanning several call-ups. Appearing in seven games (four starts), he was 0-2 with a 7.13 ERA.

His debut was impressive, as he threw three perfect innings in relief against the Cleveland Indians in a 4-2 loss on May 6th. This included his first big-league strikeout, punching out Michael Brantley swinging in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Since his time in Minnesota, the lefty has not returned to the majors. He remained with the Twins’ system through 2016 and has since pitched in the minors for the Tampa Bays Ray and Washington Nationals. He has also played abroad and in the independent leagues. In 2019, he has pitched in Mexico, the Dominican Republic and for the Somerset Patriots as the independent Atlantic League.

Just 30 years of age. he is still pitching and looking to get back to the majors. In 10 years, across all levels, he is a combined 89-77 with a 3.96 ERA. He is a talented pitcher and given him being left-handed—which gives him even more added value, there’s no reason why this can’t be accomplished.

In the meantime, he recently answered some questions about his career.

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: I would say Ken Griffey Jr. or Tom Glavine. Being a lefty and a Braves fan, it was a no-brainer with Glavine.

Can you please describe what your draft experience was like, being taken in the 6th round by the Twins in 2010?: Draft day was pretty cool. Me and all my friends were riding 4-wheelers on the farm I grew up on. I didn’t want to make it a big deal. I wasn’t in much control of it, so I let it happen and got the call while I was heading back from that.

What is the "unspoken" competition like in the minor leagues where players are each working so hard to make it to the big leagues?: I truly believe if you don’t pull for your teammates and help each other grow as a player you’re missing out on some of the best parts of playing. Negative thoughts or hoping others do bad usually means you’re doing bad anyway. The key is  help others and get better, and if either one of you make it to the bigs it’s a success.

What do you remember most about your major league debut (against the Cleveland Indians)?: I remember shaking in the bullpen, trying to breathe calmly. Once I got out there, instinct took over. It happened really fast, but other than that my brother and a family friend came up and we all slept in same hotel room that night and talked about it all night.

Who is a player you played with or against you are still surprised didn't get a shot in the majors?: I’d say Nick Struck has some electric stuff out of the bullpen. He prolly should have gotten a shot. But there are so many guys good enough, but not enough spots.

What is your favorite moment so far from your baseball career?: So many great moments; the debut was fun; playing in the playoffs in winter ball in Venezuela was a blast! Throwing a combined no hitter with Trevor May was memorable. A lot of great moments with teammates I’ll remember more than a lot of the baseball accomplishments.

What are the main differences of playing in Mexico compared to Venezuela?: This is tough question because of the social distress of the country of Venezuela. Times are tough there and it is very draining mentally and physically to play there. I hope times will get better there soon because the people there deserve better. The baseball is good in both places, though.

Do you think you received a fair chance in the majors, and how badly do you want to make it back?: I think I got a chance; that’s all anyone can ask for. Whether it was fair or not gets into the category of opinion, and blaming others for things that may or may not be true. I have always said you make your own luck, and you can’t blame anyone but you for your circumstances. Just my logic. I’d love to get back for sure though; the competition is the best and the money doesn’t hurt.

What are the major differences playing in independent ball?: Indy ball is competitive now- reminds me of Triple-A before it became cool to have a ton of younger players there. Veterans and guys looking to get back in affiliate ball. Indy ball is all on you; not as much organizational rules or standards. Just show up play and do your job.

What is something from your career that you would like to do differently if you could go back in time?: If you could go back, all the mistake pitches, hanging breaking balls, homers given up, walks.. I’d prolly go back and not do those, but you also learn from those things. I wouldn’t change much; maybe complain less and be thankful more for what I had.

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

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

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Press Release: Minor League Baseball Position on Key PBA Issues December 13, 2019


During this week’s Baseball Winter Meetings in San Diego, representatives from Minor League Baseball (MiLB) and Major League Baseball (MLB) engaged in formal and informal discussions regarding the Professional Baseball Agreement (PBA) that were cordial and productive. Following those meetings, MLB has repeatedly and inaccurately stated the position of MiLB with respect to several key areas under consideration in the PBA negotiations. To correct the record, Minor League Baseball’s positions on the key areas are as follows: 

Facilities – Under the current standards outlined in the PBA, there are few, if any, facilities deemed to be noncompliant. MLB pays an architectural firm to inspect each and every MiLB facility at least once every three years. Written reports of their findings are in the possession of MLB and MiLB. MiLB has stated its agreement that there are facilities in MiLB that do not meet the changing player development needs MLB has identified, but that does not mae those facilities being non-compliant. MiLB has offered on multiple occasions to discuss and negotiate reasonable facility standards in the next agreement to address any unmet needs of MLB. Minor League Baseball has never expressed to MLB an unwillingness to address new standards and improvements in facilities. To state otherwise is untrue and a misrepresentation of the facts regarding the position of MiLB on facilities improvements. 

Player Health and Welfare – While not clearly defined, MiLB understands player health and welfare to include matters such as: game schedules, team travel, hotel and clubhouse conditions and amenities (weight training areas, training rooms space and amenities, dietary needs). MiLB has NEVER stated a reluctance or refusal to discuss these areas with MLB and to suggest otherwise is false.  

Schedules - In the current agreement, MLB teams have the right to review ALL Minor League Baseball schedules, veto non-compliant schedules and suggest changes to a league’s proposed schedule. If MLB has issues with a league schedule that is in compliance, they should come to the table and discuss changes to the PBA guidelines. MiLB has never indicated an unwillingness to review scheduling and schedule formats and has, in recent years, worked closely with the player development personnel of the individual MLB teams to adjust schedules and rethink scheduling philosophies to produce more desirable league schedules. MiLB is also troubled by MLB’s current position of wanting to cut the number of playing dates, which limits the club’s ability to generate revenue to cover what will likely be an increased cost of doing business under the next agreement. 

Team Travel – Under the current agreement, MLB teams review and approve travel itineraries for ALL MiLB affiliates. The current agreement has guidelines addressing mileage, commuter trips and departure/arrival times. The current agreement allows for “waivers” to the guidelines in the sole and absolute discretion of the MLB team. Any alleged inconveniences endured by the players have been experienced with the consent and approval of their employer. MiLB has advanced ideas that would improve player travel, to which MLB has not responded. Despite the Commissioner’s repeated misleading statements to the contrary, no minor league player in affiliated baseball is transported on a school bus. The only situation where MLB-contracted players travel by school bus or passenger van occurs in MLB-owned and operated leagues in Florida (Gulf Coast League), Arizona (Arizona Summer League) and the Dominican Republic (Dominican Summer League). 

Hotels – Hotel accommodations for MiLB teams on the road are the financial responsibility of the MiLB team. Under the current agreement, the MLB affiliate in each city is to review and approve the host hotel in each city. MLB identified 37 hotels of the 160 hotels used in 2018 as being “unacceptable” (often because, in the view of some player personnel, the hotels were not sufficiently close to restaurants). Fifteen of those hotels were rated acceptable by the majority of MLB team personnel who actually stayed at the property as a member of a visiting team or travel party. Ratings and comments were available through annual surveys conducted by the MiLB league office. In the balance of the cases, MiLB immediately addressed and corrected the situation deemed to be unacceptable. 

Clubhouse Conditions and Amenities – The unilateral MLB changes to roster limits (adding more players), coaching staffs (additional field personnel), support personnel (strength and conditioning, video, analytics, nutrition) have increased the need for space and amenities in MiLB stadiums. MiLB has acknowledged the need to address additional space to accommodate MLB’s changes. Matters of additional weight room space, additional training room space, separate commissary space to feed players and separate female clubhouse space are all legitimate issues to be addressed. In many cases MiLB teams have already worked with their MLB counterpart to address special needs despite no contractual obligation to do so. As in many cases with MLB’s argument, they fail to acknowledge issues are not a matter of non-compliance but rather a point to be addressed in a new set of standards. MiLB has made it clear that it is prepared to discuss changes to address these needs, which are created solely by MLB and not because of any failure to comply with existing standards. 

Player Salaries – While MiLB supports the idea of salary increases for the players, MiLB has no employer/employee relationship with any player as they are employed by the MLB team. Players are not MiLB employees and we cannot legally authorize or give a pay increase to the players. Only MLB can do that. As part of the ongoing negotiations, it is not a question of MiLB agreeing to a player pay raise. Rather, the issue is the amount of the additional subsidy that MLB is seeking from MiLB to help offset the cost of the pay raise it is considering for MLB’s minor league players.  

Subsidies – MLB’s stance that they are subsidizing MiLB teams is wildly inaccurate. MLB teams do pay for players, coaches and staff in MiLB along with certain player-related expenses of MiLB players and staff. MLB teams own these players’ contracts, assign where they should play, and realize the value of those future MLB players, either directly or as assets with value in a trade to another MLB organization. Ironically, almost 30 years ago, MLB demanded in a PBA negotiation that MiLB sever its employer/employee relationship with all players and took unilateral control of player contracts, benefits, rights and assignments, effectively removing MiLB from the player business. 

What is overlooked in MLB’s argument about subsidies is the value of money, goods and services MiLB contributes to the relationship each year. As part of the current agreement MiLB annually incurs expenses in excess of $60 million in cash, goods and services directly tied to players, coaches and staff. In addition, over $20 million a year is paid by MiLB to the commissioner’s office in the form of a “ticket tax” which is required under the current PBA, an amount equivalent to nearly 50% of player salaries below the Double-A level. MiLB teams also pay for a portion of the bats and baseballs used each year, and MiLB teams pay transportation cost (air and ground) for MLB-employed players and staff. 

MiLB purchases batting cages, batting practice equipment and maintains first class playing surfaces in the overwhelming majority of its facilities. All uniform costs are paid by the MiLB team. Although not required, most MiLB teams provide free housing and automobiles to its coaching staff and support personnel at a considerable cost to the local team. 

Furthermore, since 1997, MiLB has maintained an umpire development program designed not only to staff its leagues and train umpires to be the pool from which potential MLB umpires are selected. MiLB pays all of these incremental  development costs. MLB utilizes MiLB umpires as regular season vacation and injury replacements in MLB games, and acquires the contract of MiLB umpires when added full-time to the MLB umpiring staff, without reimbursing MiLB for these developmental costs. More than 35 umpires have advanced to full time MLB employment since this program was created.  

For all of these reasons, it is untrue to claim, as the Commissioner has, that MiLB is a “heavily subsidized” industry. Indeed, a reasonable argument can be made that the reverse is true. 

The Dream League scenario - MLB has sought to camouflage its Minor League contraction plan by claiming that baseball would continue in the 42 targeted communities in the form of so called "dream baseball leagues." However, in order to be eligible to join, the contracted teams would be required to agree to pay their players, manager, coaches, trainer, medical staff, and other baseball-related personnel, and assume responsibility for the significant workers’ compensation, housing, and a number of other costs, all of which typically have been the responsibility of MLB clubs. The incremental costs which these teams would be required by MLB to assume would be well in excess of $350,000 per year, which few, if any, of the contracted teams would be able to afford. Beyond that, many of the contracted teams are scattered in locations where it would not be feasible to play against one another. Thus, MLB's dream league is nothing more than a shell game designed to conceal the fact that its contraction plan will result in the elimination of professional baseball in 42 communities across the country.  

Furthermore, when looking at the sustainability of independent baseball teams, a 20-year look (1999-2019) at independent baseball’s five largest leagues shows that just over 100 teams participated in those leagues during that span, and that just 11 of the cities that fielded teams in 1999 still had a team in 2019. The 11 clubs that were in business all 20 of those years were Bridgewater (NJ), Crestwood (IL), Evansville (IN), Fargo (ND), Quebec City (QUE), Sauget (IL), Schaumburg (IL), Sioux City (IA), Sioux Falls (SD), Saint Paul (MN) and Winnipeg (MAN). It's worth noting that Bridgewater is outside of Newark, Crestwood and Schaumburg are Chicago suburbs, Evansville was once a Triple-A market, Fargo is the largest city in North Dakota, Sauget is across the river from St. Louis, Sioux City has over 80,000 residents, Sioux Falls is the largest city in South Dakota (over 175,000 residents) and Winnipeg has over 750,000 residents. 

In many of the independent cities in the five largest leagues, the lifespan of the independent franchise was less than five seasons, and just because the team survived that long certainly doesn't mean it was profitable in each of those years (in many cases they certainly were not). A significant number of independent teams have folded leaving substantial unpaid bills in their communities. 

It is clear the independent model does not work in smaller markets and is NOT a viable long-term option for the markets where MLB is looking to contract teams. Public financing of ballparks - MiLB teams have worked with many communities across America to develop stadium financing plans that include public, team and developer financing. Over time, many of these financing plans have shifted from primarily public funds to public/private and joint venture projects which benefit the entire community. The Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner are quick to point out that MiLB benefits from public subsidies, suggesting we add “no intrinsic value” to our host communities. Yet MLB has benefitted in much the same way over the years with new stadiums and new spring training complexes which in many cases are funded primarily from sources other than the MLB team. 

Relocations – Over the past 30 years, MiLB has approved a number of relocations. Despite MLB’s contention these relocations were solely for the benefit of the MiLB owner, many of the relocations occurred in the early 1990’s when existing MiLB cities were unable or unwilling to meet the new facility standards imposed by MLB in the 1990 PBA negotiations. In each case, regardless of the circumstances, the MLB affiliate realized improved and upgraded player amenities and player development assets. Additionally, under the current agreement MLB has the right to review each relocation request and void a Player Development Contract (“PDC”) if it disagrees with a relocation. To date, MLB has never voided a PDC in objection to the relocation of a MiLB team. An accurate review of the history discloses several MiLB relocations in the past few years have been requested by, and approved, for MLB-owned MiLB teams. In the past 25 years MiLB has facilitated six team relocations expressly intended to address a stated need of MLB (Florida State to South Atlantic, South Atlantic to Midwest and California to Carolina). 

During the Baseball Winter Meetings, MLB shared with the media an internal Carolina League email that offered existing Carolina League teams an opportunity to explore relocation to Wilmington, NC, and a proposed new facility. The facts are that MiLB discussed with the Carolina League MLB’s proposal to expand that league, and suggested that the league research viable sites to accommodate MLB’s proposal. It was not an offer for teams to relocate, but rather a request for an expression of interest. What MLB failed to disclose (after making the assertion that MiLB team owners jump from city to city in search of a better deal), were the responses to the very email they shared, which were that more MLB-owned teams reported an interest in relocating than non-MLB owned teams. The Carolina League never intended to leave an existing city as it would potentially backfill a current city in the event Wilmington, NC panned out. Several of the MLB owned clubs seeking to relocate had very recently received significant public investment in the facilities they would be leaving. 

League realignment – MLB’s proposed realignment of MiLB leagues lacks applicability, practicality and totally disregards Major League Rules, MiLB’s constitution as well as individual league rules of governance. MLB fails to disclose that MiLB has nevertheless expressed its willingness to consider how it could accomplish league realignment in order to address MLB’s travel concerns.  The observation by the Commissioner that MiLB has in any way adopted a “take it or leave it” position, on any issue is, to put it gently, demonstrably inaccurate. 

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

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

Friday, December 6, 2019

1946 Jackie Robinson - George Shuba Handshake to be Memorialized by Ohio Statue

YOUNGTOWN, Ohio -- A larger-than-life statue commemorating the inspiring 1946 handshake of Jackie Robinson, the first African-American Major League Baseball player, and George "Shotgun" Shuba, his white teammate, will inspire better relations among people of different racial backgrounds, say leaders of a group planning to build the statue in Ohio.
The Economic Action Group, a downtown Youngstown development advocate, and the newly formed Robinson-Shuba Commemorative Statue Committee aim to raise $400,000 to complete the statue and dedicate it on April 18, 2021, the 75th anniversary of what some have called "the handshake of the century" following Robinson's first home run in modern professional baseball.
"A handshake at home plate by players of different races is no big deal in America today, but in 1946 it was a historic moment," said Herb Washington, a local businessman and one of the co-chairs of the committee. "We want to memorialize that moment in a way that inspires people to relate more respectfully to those of other races. We need more Americans to follow the examples of Jackie Robinson and George Shuba."
Another committee member, Patty Brozik, a retired Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley president and banker, said the statue could put Youngstown in the national spotlight.
"Jackie Robinson fought through incredible hate and adversity throughout his career yet became one of the greatest baseball players the game has ever known," she said. "George's handshake demonstrated respect for Jackie's achievements and showed the world what things could be like without barriers based on race. We’re confident that many in the Mahoning Valley will want to join us in supporting this effort."
The committee is pursuing grants from local foundations and donations from the public at its website,
Statue would stand nearly 7 feet tall near Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre
The bronze statue would portray the handshake as captured in a landmark photograph now owned by Mike Shuba of Youngstown, George's son. Both players would stand nearly 7 feet tall in bronze at a site in Wean Park near the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre, where they would enjoy high visibility.
Robinson enjoyed a Hall of Fame career with Major League Baseball’s Brooklyn Dodgers, but he played previously with the Dodgers' minor league affiliate, the Montreal Royals, after playing in the Negro leagues. Robinson's first game with the Royals was a major media event in New Jersey against the Jersey City Giants, with a huge crowd in the stands and the city's schools ordered closed to mark the occasion.
In his second at-bat, with two other Royals on base, Robinson hit a home run. Both teammates who scored on the homer went into the dugout without waiting for Robinson to congratulate him.
Shuba, who was on deck, noticed that, so he stepped right up to shake Robinson's hand just as the future Hall of Famer was crossing home plate. The photo captured that moment -- the first handshake of black and white players on a modern professional baseball diamond.
"In our book, George is quoted as saying he didn't think at the time that shaking a black player's hand was a big deal," said Greg Gulas, a retired Youngstown State University sports information director and another committee co-chair. "He had played with black and white guys at Chaney High School and in sandlot games in Youngstown for years. He shook Jackie's hand because he had just hit a three-run homer. George was proud to be Jackie's teammate for the Royals and the Dodgers, not because Jackie was black but because he was an incredible baseball player."
Ernie Brown, a former Vindicator regional editor and another committee co-chair, added, "The fact that George stepped up after his teammates ignored Jackie's achievement suggests that Youngstown was a little ahead of the game when it came to putting racial differences aside. That is the vision of Youngstown for many, and this statue will remind Mahoning Valley residents and visitors about that vision."
‘The handshake’ has been a national story
The 1946 handshake drew additional waves of national news coverage in 1996, its 50th anniversary, and in 2014, when George Shuba passed away. A 2014 New York Times called the handshake “a simple, silent moment in baseball history.” MSNBC commentator Al Sharpton said George Shuba will “always be remembered for how he took the fight against racial injustice into his own hands with that handshake."
Mike Shuba, who serves as a special advisor to the committee, said the framed picture of "the handshake" graced the living room of the family's home since he was a child and was the only piece of baseball memorabilia his father ever displayed. George Shuba earned the nickname "Shotgun" because he reliably hit line drives with his consistent, compact swing.
During the 1990s and early 2000s, Mike and his father toured schools and youth centers across the United States to talk about the handshake and racial relations in sports.
“If my father were still around, he would be so thrilled and so proud,” Mike said. “That handshake with Jackie and the photo of it were among the highlights of his life.”
Statue sculptor has crafted Pope John Paul, U.S. presidents, star athletes
Marc Mellon, a Connecticut sculptor who has crafted dozens of high-profile bronze works, including those honoring Pope John Paul II, President George H. W. Bush, President Barack Obama and athletes Michael Jordan, Mickey Mantle, Arthur Ashe and Cal Ripken, has agreed to build the Robinson-Shuba statue and has also been serving as a special advisor to the committee. He recently completed an early study of the statue.

Pecchia Communications, a public relations firm in Youngstown, is supporting the project on a pro bono basis.

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

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

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Jack Spradlin: Lefty Pitcher Recalls His Professional Baseball Journey

Jack Spradlin was a left-handed pitcher who played at just about every possible level of professional baseball except for the big leagues. By no means was that a failure, as he had a long and interesting career playing the game that he loves.

On the radar of major league teams since high school, Spradlin was a 50th-round selection of the New York Mets in 2002. He did not sign then, nor in 2004 when the San Francisco Giants took him in the 43rd round. Finally, after a strong season at USC (University of Southern California) he was taken in the eighth round in 2005 by the Washington Nationals and started his pro career.

He began as a starter with the Vermont Lake Monsters in Rookie ball, but quickly transitioned to the bullpen in the coming years. Despite making near-annual progress through the Washington system, he never broke through to the big leagues. He left the organization after the 2010 season and continued playing through 2012 in independent ball. Along the way, he also played in Venezuela and Puerto Rico.

In seven professional seasons, he was a combined 23-28 with a 4.39 ERA in 215 games. He saved eight games and struck out 317 batters in 391 innings. Keep reading for some of his recollections about his time in baseball.

Jack Spradlin Interview:

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: My favorite baseball player growing up was Tony Gwynn I grew up in San Diego and as you know he’s not only a legend in San Diego but one of the greatest players to ever play the game!

Can you please describe what your draft experience was like, being taken in the 8th round by the Nationals in 2005?: My draft experience was great. I was playing for USC at the time and we were going to the super regionals. I snuck away the day before we traveled to Corvallis to be at home with my family in hopes to get a call that day! I had no idea I would be selected by the Nationals, but the phone call came in the eighth round and I was thrilled to get my pro career started and grateful to share the experience with my family.

What was your first professional experience like in Vermont?: My first pro experience wasn’t the greatest because a week after arriving to Vermont I found out I had a partial tear in my rotator cuff and needed to travel to Florida shortly after for rehab. Good news was I didn’t need surgery and was able to participate the following year in spring training.

What is your favorite moment from your baseball career?: One of my favorite moments in my baseball career was winning the Carolina league title in 2008. Another great experience was making the all-star team in short season A ball and receiving a jersey from Cal Ripken Jr. Also, him complimenting me on a great year. It doesn’t get much better than that, and I have the picture still which is awesome to have.

What was it like playing in Venezuela?: Playing in Venezuela was one of the best experiences of my life. I was living on an island called Margarita Island and it was beautiful. Not only did I have a good season and had the chance to play with and against some amazing players, but I also met my wife that year and we are happily married to this day with a beautiful son named Christian.

Who was your favorite coach or manager, and what made them your choice?: My favorite manager was Randy Knorr. He managed me for multiple seasons and he was very knowledgeable and taught me a lot about the game. Randy Tomlin was my pitching coach, and it was also a pleasure to learn and pick his brain as well.

What, if anything, would you have done differently in your baseball career?: If I could do something different it would have been to throw inside more often and really master a changeup.

What are you up to these days?: I work for a company called Inland Kenworth and am grateful to have such a great job but obviously nothing beats playing ball!

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

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

Monday, November 25, 2019

Minor League Baseball and Octagon Announce Strategic Media Content Partnership

Multi-tiered approach designed to drive deeper fan engagement, enhance media distribution offerings 
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. and STAMFORD, Conn., Nov. 25, 2019 — Minor League Baseball™ (MiLB™) today announced it has selected Octagon, the leading international sports marketing and media agency, to develop a long-term content, media and distribution strategy for the organization.    

The three-phase partnership includes conducting in-depth digital fan research and current digital platform analysis, developing a media content strategy and leading a targeted media rights distribution strategy. With the first two phases complete, MiLB and Octagon are now focused on approaching the marketplace to identify, secure and enhance new media distribution opportunities. “The media landscape is evolving quickly. Content rules the day and serves as the hook to current and next-generation fans,” said David Wright, chief marketing and commercial officer of Minor League Baseball. “We are committed to staying ahead of the content curve and investing in the necessary resources to best position MiLB to drive meaningful fan engagement and overall growth in a hyper-competitive space.” 

“There is no U.S. sports property comparable to Minor League Baseball. With more than 6,700 games and 16,000 hours of live content annually available to fans, MiLB’s reach and live content breadth is in a league of its own,” said Daniel Cohen, Octagon SVP, Global Media Rights Consulting Division. “We look forward to engaging with new media and technologies, to push the envelope on distribution and consumption that connects the next generation of fans with the stars of tomorrow playing in Minor League Baseball.” 

“Our fans are the lifeblood of our organization, and we must reach them both in and outside of the ballpark in ways that enrich their experience, amplify memorable moments and capture MiLB’s unique spirit,” said Katie Davison, MiLB’s senior vice president of digital strategy & business development. “Our vast network of teams, athletes and fans gives us immense storytelling potential, and we’re certain Octagon can help us bring these stories to life for fans and new audiences alike.” 

With a focus on technology, diversity and inclusion, and community impact, MiLB has experienced unprecedented growth in recent years across key business areas, including digital consumption, licensed merchandise sales, ballpark attendance and strategic national partnerships.  A continued commitment to drive deeper engagement with next-generation fans, coupled with MiLB’s vast national footprint (covering 81% of the U.S. population) and compelling storylines, MiLB is uniquely positioned for growth as it considers the changing patterns of how fans consume media.   

Some of Minor League Baseball’s areas of recent advancement include: 

• Digital Technology o Activating a network of 174 websites and 135+ online stores, and streaming nearly 6,700 games annually on MiLB.TV representing more than 16,000 hours of live content o Relaunching a new e-commerce platform  o Building the largest in-venue digitally connected network in sports and entertainment with ISM Connect who is investing more than $10 million across 50 MiLB ballparks o First sports property to provide fans with a bilingual chat bot via Satisfi Labs for Copa de la Diversión 

 • Ballpark Attendance and Licensed Merchandise Sales o A nearly 3% increase in overall attendance in 2019 vs. 2018 o A record in overall licensed merchandise sales of nearly $74 million across all 160 teams in 2018 

 • Diversity and Inclusion o Creating and maintaining the highly-successful Copa de la Diversión initiative to authentically engage with U.S. Hispanic fans and communities (92 teams in 2020)  
          o Building the largest LGBTQ+ initiative in sports and entertainment with MiLB Pride (71 teams in 2019) 
• Strategic National Partnerships o Launching a credit card partnership with Allegiant, the first of its kind between a sports property and airline o Roster of prominent multi-year national partnerships including Allegiant, Applegate, BUSH’S Beans®, ECHO Incorporated, Guardian Protection and, among others  

For more information about Minor League Baseball, visit 

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

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

Saturday, November 23, 2019

The 15-Year-Old Major Leaguer: Joe Nuxhall Discusses His Precocious MLB Debut

World War II impacted every aspect of life imaginable in the United States during the 1940s. As the conflict raged globally, adjustments were made everywhere, including in Major League Baseball, which had to get creative to field an entertaining product. This included one game where a 15-year-old boy named Joe Nuxhall, took to the mound against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Joe Nuxhall was born and raised in Hamilton, Ohio. By the time he entered high school he was the size of a grown man and pitched on a local semi-pro team with his father Orville, who was also a talented hurler. The young left-hander threw hard, but often didn’t know where the ball was going—a typical fault of someone that age.

In 1944, the Cincinnati Reds, like other teams in baseball were struggling with their operation. Many major leaguers were serving in the armed forces and attendance was way down, as people tightened their belts in relation to the war effort. Anything new, different or with the potential to provide a spark of talent was under consideration.

Seeking pitching talent, the Reds sniffed around Orville, thinking he could possibly be an asset. However, he rejected their overtures because of the five children he had at home with his wife. His son Joe was another matter, even though he was just 14 at the time.
After the next year’s basketball season was over, Joe signed a contract with the Reds in February of 1944, receiving a bonus of $500. Although the team intended to wait until the school year was over to have him do anything with the team, their war-depleted roster dictated thinking outside of the box and they were able to obtain permission for the young southpaw to be in uniform with them as of Opening Day.

It was common at the time for teams to sign young talent and have them with the team to gain experience, even if it didn’t come by playing in actual games. Of course, the major difference this time was such rookies were typically fresh out of high school; not out of middle school.

On June 10th, 1944 the Reds were being shellacked by the first-place St. Louis Cardinals in Cincinnati when the team decided to see what their boy wonder could do. Trailing 13-0 in the ninth inning, the schoolboy, a little over a month shy of his 16th birthday, came on to face a star-studded lineup headlined by future Hall of Famer Stan Musial.

Predictably, Nuxhall was wild. Perhaps it was his typical control issues, and very likely a healthy dose of nerves mixed in. Regardless, he lasted just 2/3 of an inning, walking five batters and giving up two base hits (including a single to Musial) a wild pitch and five runs before being pulled. The Reds lost the game 18-0.

Nuxhall was done in the big leagues for the time being. He pitched an additional game in the low minors in 1944 but was similarly routed. He pitched in the minors in 1945, but “retired” in 1946 so he could finish high school.

After graduation, Nuxhall returned to baseball to pitch in the minor leagues, still affiliated with the Reds. He made steady progress, but by that time the enlisted players had returned from the war and making a team required real polished talent.

Finally, in 1952, Nuxhall made his triumphant return to the Reds. He was now 23 and had refined his craft significantly since the last time he was in the majors. He went on to enjoy a 16-year big-league career spending all but 42 games with the Reds before retiring as a player after the 1966 season.

Nuxhall finished with career totals of a 135-117 record with a 3.90 ERA in 526 games. He was a two-time All Star and went on to spend nearly 40 years as a beloved radio announcer with the Reds, passing away in 2007 at the age of 79. He was inducted in the team’s Hall of Fame and has a statue outside their current stadium—quite the journey from when he was just a boy.

 On May 30, 1960 Sports Illustrated published an article by Roger Williams titled “Joe’s Bad Dream.” In it, Nuxhall spoke at length about his debut. Below, I will post some of his comments with some of my thoughts in italics.

On being noticed for the first time by Cincinnati scouts: “I had terrific control that day. The catcher just stuck up his glove and I hit it. Nobody could have been more surprised than I was. Mr. McKechnie [Bill McKechnie, the Cincinnati manager] and his coaches stood around watching me. My fast ball kept going right on target, so I threw a couple of knucklers. 'Son,' said Mr. McKechnie, 'cut that stuff out. Stick with the fast ball."

Pitching in front of the skipper, who was a future Hall of Famer, must have been surreal. The team was interested in his raw talent, but Nuxhall was obviously trying to act like a “real” big leaguer by flashing the exaggerated arsenal.

What did Nuxhall do with $5 pocket money he was given on his first road trip with the team?: "I went to a penny arcade and spent the whole five bucks swinging at pitches from Iron Mike."

The irony is great that the young pitcher spent his entire allowance on taking batting practice from a pitching machine. However, it may have been a solid investment, as he hit a combined .198 with 15 home runs during his career—excellent numbers for a hurler.

What did he think about his tryout with the Reds?: "What an occasion that was. I had a crazy patchwork uniform on. And since I didn't have any baseball spikes, I wore my dress shoes. They gave me a $500 bonus and a major league contract and, by golly, I was a big league ballplayer."

Being able to impress the scouts despite wearing dress shoes and a uniform he was likely ashamed of is a testament to his raw talent. In subsequent years, his appreciation for uniforms and equipment must have been significant.

What life was like when he first joined the Reds at 15: "No one worked with me too much. I'd go to the field on Saturday and pitch a little batting practice. My control was terrible and sometimes I'd be lucky to get one out of 10 over the plate. After batting practice, I'd sit on the bench and watch the game. I must have been a sight, too. I had dug up an old pair of baseball shoes that turned up so much at the toe that the front spike never touched the ground. And I used a beat-up Johnny Vander Meer glove. I had to take it off real gently, like a girl pulling off a kid glove, or all the stuffing would come out."

It must have been a lonely experience for him. Many of the players were trying to hold on to jobs they knew they were in danger of losing when soldiers eventually came back from the war. That would not have led to many of them taking on a mentoring role. Additionally, it would not have been easy for either Nuxhall or his teammates to really relate to each other given they were not from the same peer group.

What did he remember from his first game with the Reds?: "This was the fifth or sixth big league game I'd ever seen, and I was just sitting there like a spectator. All of a sudden Mr. McKechnie said, 'Joe, warm up.' I had no idea he meant me until he motioned me to the bullpen. I grabbed my glove and started out of the dugout—and tripped on the top step. I fell flat on my face. Everybody roared, I guess. I didn't hear a thing.

"Al Lakeman warmed me up in the bullpen and I sent him up the terrace three or four times chasing my wild pitches. I was shaking like an airplane engine on a palm tree.

"We went down without scoring in the eighth and I walked out to pitch the last inning. I don't remember about the warmup pitches—I must have been floating on a cloud. Joe Just, the catcher, didn't use any signs, because all I could throw was a fastball.

"Somehow, I got the first guy out, and I got the third man too. I don't recall who they were, but somebody grounded to Eddie Miller and somebody else popped one up." The somebodies were Second Baseman George Fallon, who grounded to Shortstop Miller, and Center Fielder Augie Bergamo, who popped out. Between the outs, Nuxhall walked Pitcher Mort Cooper and sent him lumbering to second when he threw a wild pitch to Bergamo. Then he went to a 3-2 count on Debs Garms, the third baseman, and walked him, putting men on first and second with two outs.

"Just about then, I started to realize where I was. I came down off that cloud fast and started shaking all over again. Golly, a couple of days before I'd been pitching to 13-year-olds!"
The game had 3,510 fans in attendance. Although very modest by major league standards, it must have been a wild experience for Nuxhall, who up until the point had pitched in front of a smattering of attendees at his youth and semi-pro games.

Did he remember facing Musial?: "I doubt if Musial remembers it, but I can just imagine what he was thinking: 'O.K., get that damned thing over the plate so I can get outta here.' He must have been real anxious to go, the way he hit me. I can still see that ball zooming by. He really shillelaghed it."

Musial was coming off having won the 1943 National League batting title and was already one of the best hitters in baseball, despite being just 24 himself. Giving up just a single may have been a minor victory.

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

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

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Minor League Baseball Grows Copa de la Diversión in 2020

Organization Builds Formula of Success Celebrating U.S. Hispanic Fans and Communities  
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., Nov. 14, 2019 — Minor League Baseball™ (MiLB™) today announced the continued longterm commitment to and celebration of its U.S. Hispanic fans and communities through the unveiling of its 2020 Copa de la Diversión™ (Fun Cup™) campaign and event series. Each of the 92 participating MiLB teams covering 34 U.S. states will transform its on-field brand to a culturally-relevant Hispanic persona, representing an extension of the team’s and community’s identity. Fans are encouraged to join Minor League Baseball’s ongoing celebration of its U.S. Hispanic communities by using #JoinLaDiversión on social media.  

MiLB’s Copa-specific website features each team’s unique identity, including the story behind its Hispanic on-field persona, and links for fans to purchase available apparel for select Copa de la Diversión (“Copa”) teams. Similar to years past, the 2020 participating teams will release their official on-field looks in March 2020 as the second part of the unveiling when on-field merchandise will be available for purchase on MiLB team store sites.  

The cornerstone of MiLB’s Es Divertido Ser Un Fan™ (It’s Fun to be A Fan™) Hispanic fan engagement initiative, Copa de la Diversión established an innovative new platform authentically connecting MiLB teams with their diverse communities, embracing the culture and values that resonate most with U.S. Hispanics nationwide.  

“Copa de la Diversión began as a fan and community-first initiative and remains as such,” said Cory Bernstine, director, marketing and business strategy for Minor League Baseball. “The initiative has become the blueprint for authentic and intentional fan engagement and its growth and success continue to infuse the Hispanic culture into the MiLB experience.”

The fourth year of celebrating Es Divertido Ser Un Fan, 2020 marks the third year of the Copa de la Diversión initiative, cementing MiLB’s commitment to U.S. Hispanic communities nationwide. The campaign had massive success in 2019, paving the way for the 2020 program, including: 

• 1.8 million fans attending nearly 400 Copa de la Diversión games 

• MiLB teams partnering with more than 200 local Hispanic/Latino organizations, donating more than $400,000 in cash and gifts-in-kind to local Hispanic philanthropies 

• Nearly 20% higher average attendance per Copa game vs. the average per game attendance 

Since launching Es Divertido Ser Un Fan in 2017, Minor League Baseball has continued to reinforce its position as a leader in creativity, innovation and community engagement with its intentional and authentic strategy to engage its U.S. Hispanic fans. In 2018, Copa de la Diversión was introduced with 33 teams and grew to 72 teams in 2019. The 2020 campaign adds 22 new teams and identities to MiLB’s “comunidades” of Copa de la Diversión, plus four rebrands from the previous year.  

In November 2018, MiLB announced an agreement with ECHO Incorporated making it the first commercial partner tied to Copa as the “Official Outdoor Power Tool of MiLB” and the “Official Outdoor Power Tool of Copa de la Diversión” (“Herramienta Oficial de la Copa de la Diversión”). Last month, ECHO extended its agreement with Minor League Baseball and Copa by becoming the “Official Outdoor Power Equipment of Copa de la Diversión™” (“Equipos Portatiles Motorizados - Equipos Oficiales de la Copa de la Diversión”). 

Additionally, MiLB announced a partnership with the Lupus Foundation of America (LFA) in December 2018 to become an “Official Charity of MiLB Copa de la Diversión,” making it the first-ever philanthropic partner tied specifically to MiLB's Hispanic fan engagement initiative. Minor League Baseball has raised awareness for the cause through the partnership and LFA’s ¡Adiós Lupus! campaign in ballparks. 

Minor League Baseball will announce the winner of the 2019 Copa de la Diversión (Fun Cup) event series next month at the Baseball Winter Meetings™ in San Diego.  

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

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

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Examining the 2020 Modern Era Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot

The National Baseball Hall of Fame has announced that 10 candidates will be considered as part of the 2020 Modern Era ballot for possible induction.  Those under consideration include Tommy John, Dwight Evans, Steve Garvey, Marvin Miller, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Don Mattingly, Ted Simmons, Lou Whitaker and Thurman Munson. If any of these renowned figures receive at least 75% of votes from a 16-member panel voting on December 8th at the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings in San Diego they will punch their ticket to Cooperstown. Do any of them belong, and if so, who? Let’s take a look.

Tommy John, Pitcher: The lefthander won 288 games and had a 3.34 ERA during the course of his career. However, he accumulated those stats across 26 seasons. Other detractors include never striking out more than 138 batters in any season, only making four All-Star teams and receiving Cy Young Votes (but no awards) in just four different seasons. That’s not to say he wasn’t an excellent player—he was, but on stats alone it is a stretch for the Hall. However, when you add in his being the inaugural recipient of the eponymous Tommy John Surgery, which has helped many baseball players since, he could be on the bubble for getting the requisite votes.

Dwight Evans, Outfielder: Possessing a powerful arm and superior skill with his glove, Evans gradually became a dangerous hitter. Spending all but one season of his 20-year big league career with the Boston Red Sox, he was a career .272 hitter with 385 home runs, 1,384 RBIs and 2,446 hits. The 256 home runs he hit between 1981-1989 were more than any other player in the American League during that time. He flew under the radar for much of his career, but his 67.1 career WAR is significantly higher than long-time teammate Jim Rice’s 47.7, which was good enough to get him into the Hall in 2009. Evans should have a strong case for getting the 12 votes needed.

Steve Garvey, First Baseman: An excellent all-around player, his legacy has dimmed some since he retired, as advanced stats have cast him in a somewhat different light. He was known as a tremendous defender, but his range was limited. He hit .284 with 222 home runs in 19 seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres, and while he won the 1974 National League MVP, the only major offensive stats he ever led the league in was hits (twice). His 38.1 career WAR is simply beneath the threshold of other first basemen in the Hall. It’s hard to imagine he will get the push needed to get to Cooperstown.

Marvin Miller, Executive: The long-time head of the players’ union passed away in 2012. It’s a n oversight that he was not enshrined prior to his death. Love him or hate him, he was directly responsible for the strengthening of the union, free agency and helping increase annual player salaries to the levels they are at today ($4.36 million in 2019). He was no favorite of owners, but a master strategist for the players. Simply put, few in the history of the game have impacted baseball as much as Miller, whose only obstacles will be the politics that have kept him out thus far.

Dale Murphy, Outfielder: The two-time National League MVP spent most of his 18-year career with the Atlanta Braves. He hit a combined .265 with 398 home runs, 1,266 RBIs and 2,111 base hits. Unfortunately, his last above average season came when he was just 31, he languished on a number of terrible teams and had a relatively short peak as a star (1980-1987). His 46.5 WAR and 121 OPS+ are both excellent in the grand scheme of things, but on the extremely low end for a potential Hall of Famer. Instead, he is more fitting for a charter member of the Hall of Very Good.

Dave Parker, Outfielder: In a very similar class to Murphy, “Cobra” had a 40.1 career WAR and a 121 OPS+ The left-handed hitter won an MVP Award and two batting titles on his way to a career marks of a .290 batting average. 339 home runs, 1,493 RBIs and 2,712 base hits in 19 seasons. He was not a strong fielder, but on the other hand had four top-five MVP finishes in addition to his win in 1978. He also had only one truly star season after he turned 28 (1985, when the then 34-year-old was with the Cincinnati Reds). It’s hard to make an argument that he is a Hall-of-Famer, given the criteria that has been used to induct members to date.

Don Mattingly, First Baseman: “Donnie Baseball” played his entire 14-year career with the New York Yankees. He was probably the best player in baseball from 1984-1987, winning a batting title, and MVP and finishing in the top eight three other times. Known for a sweet left-handed swing and possessing the grace of a ballerina in the field, he was unfortunately beset by back injuries that limited his production in later years and ultimately curtailed his career. He finished with six All Star appearances and nine Gold Gloves, but his overall numbers of a .307 batting average, 222 home runs, 1,099 RBIs, 2,053 base hits and 42.4 WAR are a weak resume for a first baseman.

Ted Simmons, Catcher: Making the mistake of playing simultaneously in the National League during the awesome spectacle that was the career of legendary catcher Johnny Bench, the switch-hitting Simmons continues to be criminally underrated. In 21 seasons, he hit a combined .285 with 248 home runs, 1,389 RBIs and 2,472 base hits. He also walked almost 200 more times than he struck out, was a solid defender and posted a career WAR of 50.3 There is little doubt he belongs in the Hall, but whether or not he gets in is most definitely up in the air. His career totals of a .307 batting average, 222 home runs, 1,099 TRBIs, 2,153 base hits and a 42.4 WAR are nice, but not Cooperstown-type numbers. His peak was strong, but not long enough to have deserved serios interest by the Committee.

Lou Whitaker, Second Baseman: One of the most underappreciated players in recent memory, “Sweet Lou” should have been admitted to the Hall years ago. An excellent defender, who also was a threat with the bat when that was not a common trait for second basemen, his 75.2 WAR is good for 78th all time, nestled between Johnny Bench and Luke Appling, both Hall-of-Famers. His career totals in 19 seasons, all with the Detroit Tigers, of .276 with 244 home runs, 1,84 RBIs and 2,369 base hits are excellent numbers for the position. His long-time running mate, shortstop Alan Trammell got into the Hall last year via the Veteran’s committee. Whitaker has better numbers in most categories and it’s a travesty every year he is kept out.

Thurman Munson, Catcher: After parts of 11 strong years with the Yankees, Munson was well on his way to making a no-doubt Hall of Fame case for himself when he tragically died in 1979 at the age of 32 in a plane crash. His career totals of .292 with 113 home runs and 701 RBIs (along with being a strong leader and defender) seems like a weak resume on its face. However, he had already accumulated an impressive 46.2 WAR and it can be pointed to the likes of Kirby Puckett and Addie Joss, who had careers cut short by tragedy but are in Cooperstown, as support for similar consideration for the all-time great Yankees’ receiver.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Dale Scott: The Umpire Experience

Umpires are truly overlooked for their contributions to baseball. Their ability to arbitrate games and interpret rules is done at an amazingly high success rate. Even their humanity during times when they make mistakes, or at a minimum, decisions that not all agree with, can bring an exciting and unexpected element to the game. One of the best umpires to ever strap on a face mask was Dale Scott, who had a distinguished 31-year career and it should come to nobody’s surprise if his name is eventually in consideration for the Hall of Fame.

Born in 1959 in Oregon, Scott grew up loving baseball. In addition to playing, he first started umpiring as a 15-year-old in high school. Like many other careers, one thing led to another and before he knew it he had a full-time job umpiring in the minor leagues in 1981 when he was just 22.

Young umpires must be able to handle the rigors of the grueling minor-league travel, along with adapting to dealing with players and managers of varying pedigrees and notoriety. The way Scott zoomed through the ranks was a testament to his skill and adaptability. 

In 1985, he umpired one game at the major league level. By the following year he was there to stay—on his way to a 32-year career. He started in the American League but was calling games in both leagues as of the 2000 season. Along the way, he officiated in three World Series, six League Championship Series, 12 Division Series and three All Star Games.

Scott also was behind the plate for a number of no-hitters, had run-ins with legendary managers and also became a crew chief in 2001. He gained national attention by publicly coming out in 2014 and was named to the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.

Unfortunately, Scott had to retire in 2017 after suffering a series of concussions on the job. He and his husband Michael, who has been with him since 1986, still live in Oregon. He leaves behind a baseball legacy that is not easily matched and should be an excellent candidate for consideration for enshrinement in Cooperstown one day. Keep reading for some of his recollections about his career.

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: I was a Dodger fan growing up, especially the 1974 NL Pennant winner. My favorite player was Steve Garvey since that was my favorite position.

How did you come to get into umpiring and when did you know it would be a viable career?: I started umpiring in the spring of 1975. I was 15 and a sophomore in high school. It became a career when I was hired to work in minor league baseball. But you don't know or think of it as a viable career until you make it to the major leagues since your "career" could be over at any level in the minor leagues. You don't know if you're going to make it all the way to the top until you actually get that call.

What is life like for a minor league umpire versus a major league umpire?: It's the same game of baseball but they're a world apart. Obviously, the money and benefits are a huge discrepancy, not to mention job security...something you don't have at any minor league level. But the difference in media intensity and scrutiny; in travel both in transportation (all first-class airfare by contract); but also the types of hotels you're consistently staying at; in clubhouse amenities (including having your uniforms and gear, that are in a big bulky trunk, air freighted from city to city). In Triple-A you carry your gear, a real headache, getting all of your equipment comped including undergarments for both cold and warm weather, in trips home on off days (you don't get too many off days in the minor leagues and rarely can afford to fly home) not to mention you get four weeks during the season off in the big leagues, and of course the consistent level of play you see day in and day out.

What do you remember most about your first major league game?: It was a one game call up on August 19, 1985...a make-up game from a rain out earlier in the season. I was in Omaha and flew (all of maybe 20 minutes) to Kansas City to work third base. I was very nervous but of course trying not to show it. George Brett was playing third and when he came out to start the game he said ‘hello Dale.’ I said hello back. He then said, ‘your first game?’ I actually looked down then said, ‘do I have a wet spot or something, how did you know it's my first game?’ He laughed, ‘no wet spot, I just hadn't seen you around!’ We both got a pretty good chuckle out of that.

Which hitter and pitcher that you personally saw were the most talented?: I've seen many outstanding hitters and pitchers in 32 years of service. To name a few hitters: Wade Boggs, Kirby Puckett, Ken Griffey Jr., Paul Molitor, Robin Yount, just to name a few. Pitchers: Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Justin Verlander, and many more.

What is the one game you umpired that you will always remember most?: So hard to pick one game when you have worked almost 4,000 regular season and 91 post season games. If I had to say one, it would be my first World Series; Game 3, October 20, 1998, New York Yankees at San Diego. My first post season plate game, Seattle at New York Yankees Game 2, October 4, 1995 (15 innings) and World Series Game 3, Arizona at New York Yankees, October 30, 2001 are both right up there.

Were managers like Earl Weaver and Billy Martin really as intense as their legacies?: I didn't have Weaver much; only one season (1986, my first). I was the last umpire to eject Billy Martin, on Memorial Day, 1988 in Oakland. He ended up throwing dirt on me and was suspended three games. He came back for a few weeks and then was fired, never to manage again. Both men were extremely intense and not easy to umpire, as they always had something to say... especially when you're a rookie or rather new on the staff.

Did you consider coming out publicly earlier in your career?: No, in fact I did everything I could to conceal my sexuality as I tried to carve my own path as a MLB umpire. Things and society changed and by the time I came out publicly in December, 2014, there was same-sex marriage in several states (including California where Mike and I got married in our backyard on November 2, 2013) and earlier that year MLB hired Billy Bean as Ambassador of Inclusion in a major outreach in professional baseball to be inclusive. It just seemed that I was being pretty hypocritical by not being honest after all the progress that had been made. My coming out was not a shock to the umpires on the staff nor the people I worked for on Park Avenue. It was however news to teams, fans and the media. I'm happy I did make that decision and I'm proud to be the first active male official in the five major sports (Baseball, Football, Basketball, Hockey and Soccer) to come out publicly.

What, if anything, would you have done differently in your umpiring career?: In retrospect, nothing. I had a great career, making it to the big leagues at age 26, working three World Series and three All Star Games, crew chief for 16 of my 32 years, I have no regrets.

Do you ever think about the possibility of your potential induction in the baseball Hall of Fame?: Not at all. I think in the history of baseball, some 150 years, there are only 10 umpires in the Hall. I personally think there should be more and have several names that deserve it, but the Hall is very stingy even considering umpires, let alone voting them in.

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

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