The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
Periodically, I will post new entries about current baseball topics.  The posts will typically be a mixture of commentary, history, facts, and stats.  Hopefully, they will provoke some  of your thoughts or emotions. Clicking on the word "Comments" associated with each post below will open a new dialog box to enter or retrieve any feedback.
Former base-swiper Maury Wills would have loved to play under the proposed 2023 base-stealing rules

Major League Baseball announced plans to bring back the stolen base. New rules for the 2023 season will make it easier for teams to use the stolen base as an offensive weapon. It’s part of an attempt to make the game more exciting and create more tempo during games.


Shortly after this announcement was made, we got news of the death of Maury Wills, who made a name for himself as the premier base-stealer in the big leagues in the 1960s. He took the baseball world by surprise in 1962 when he broke Hall of Famer Ty Cobb’s 1915 record of 96 stolen bases. No one had ever come close to Cobb, but Wills smashed the mark with 104 steals while playing the Los Angeles Dodgers.


After toiling in the minors for eight years, Wills finally made his major-league debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers at age 26 in 1959. He took over the starting shortstop position for the Dodgers in 1960, and promptly led the National League in stolen bases with 50. No one in the National League had swiped 50 bases since Max Carey did it in 1923. Wills led the league again in 1961 with 35.


With 208 hits and 51 walks, Wills had plenty of opportunities to steal bases in 1962, the year the Dodgers moved into their new stadium. He was a terror on the bases, putting together the best season of his career as he stole 104 stolen bases while being caught attempting to steal only 13 times. The switch-hitter batted .299 and scored 130 runs. His efforts earned him the National League’s Most Valuable Player Award.


For the next three seasons, Wills continued to lead the league in steals, including 94 in 1965.


During the decade of the 1960s, Wills led all major leaguers with 535 stolen bases. His closest competitors weren’t that close -- Lou Brock with 387 and Luis Aparicio with 342.


Wills retired in 1972, finishing with 586 career stolen bases. Cobb was the career leader at the time with 897. The only players to surpass Wills in a single season were Lou Brock (118 in 1974), Rickey Henderson (130 in 1982 and 108 in 1983), and Vince Coleman (110 in 1985, 107 in 1986, and 109 in 1987).


Base-stealing is rarely used as a high-leverage weapon in today’s game. With the emphasis on home runs for scoring runs, managers have been less willing to risk giving up outs on unsuccessful stolen base attempts. By comparison, in 1982 when Henderson set the all-time record for stolen bases in a season, the entire 26 teams in the major leagues attempted 4,993 stolen bases. So far this season the 30 major league teams have attempted 3,078 stolen bases.


The new 2023 rules will create more opportunities for stolen base attempts. Bases will become 18-inches square, versus the current 15 inches, thus creating a 4 ½ inch shorter distance between bases. Furthermore, pitchers are limited to two disengagements (pickoff attempts or step-offs) per plate appearance. However, this limit is reset if a runner or runners advance during the plate appearance. If a third pickoff attempt is made, the runner automatically advances one base if the pickoff attempt is not successful.


Wills and these other base thieves would likely be even more proficient if they played under the new rules being instituted for next season.

Flashback: New Orleans native Lenny Yochim made Venezuelan winter league history in 1955 with no-hitter

New Orleans native Lenny Yochim had been a standout pitcher at Holy Cross High School and several minor league teams including New Iberia and New Orleans. Yet when he got his opportunity to play with Pittsburgh Pirates in the major leagues, he had difficulty sticking with the team.


Fringe major leaguers like Yochim often played winter ball in the Caribbean to hone their skills, with the hope of improving their chances for a major-league roster spot the next spring. Yochim played four seasons in the Venezuela Association during his career, and in 1955 he became a national sensation in the country when he pitched the first no-hitter in the league’s eight years of Organized Baseball.


Leading up to his 1955 winter league stint, Yochim had signed his first professional contract following his graduation from Holy Cross High School in 1947. He played five seasons in the minors before making his major-league debut on September 18, 1951. His late-season call-up with the Pittsburgh Pirates included only two games. He got another opportunity with the PIrates in 1954, but it lasted only 10 games.


Yochim had previously played in the Venezuelan winter league in 1952-1954. After spending most of the 1955 season with the New Orleans Pelicans, he returned to Venezuela to play for Caracas. New Orleanian Hal Bevan, who was vying for a roster spot with the big-league Kansas City A’s, was Yochim’s teammate. Other major leaguers on the Caracas team included Venezuelan natives Pompeyo Davalillo and Chico Carrasquel and American players Gail Harris and Earl Battey.


In the historic game on December 8, Yochim got the start for Caracas against Magallanes. The opposing team featured major-leaguers Jack Lohrke, Norm Larker, Bob Borkowski, Gale Wade, and Raymond Monzant, who was the Magallanes starting pitcher. The rivalry between the two teams was analogous to the Yankees playing the Red Sox.


In the night-time game played at University Stadium in Caracas, Yochim didn’t allow a hit, while the only two Magallanes base-runners came via walks.


Bevan and Yochim contributed two hits apiece for Caracas, who scored two runs in the second inning and one in the seventh for a 3-0 final score.


In a clubhouse interview after the game, Yochim said, “I depended chiefly on my screwball.” He said it was the first no-hitter of his professional career.


The next day’s sports pages in Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional contained a full-page story and box score of the game, including a photo of Yochim being carried off the field by the Caracas fans. The story mentions that some of the fans tried to tear pieces of his uniform as souvenirs.


Yochim pitched one more season in the minors in 1956, helping Atlanta win the Southern Association championship, before retiring. He had a 100-63 record in the minors and 1-2 record in the majors.


He went on to spend 37 years as a scout for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He received the “Pride of the Pirates” Award in 1996 recognizing the person in the Pirates organization who displayed sportsmanship, character, and dedication during a lifetime of service.


Yochim was named to the Diamond Club of New Orleans Hall of Fame in 1972, the Sugar Bowl New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame in 1995, and the New Orleans Professional Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.

Yankees vs. Twins: the "Curse of Knoblauch"

For the last 22 seasons, when the New York Yankees needed a boost to their record to remain in contention for a playoff berth, they could always count on the Minnesota Twins to contribute to the cause. The Twins haven’t had a winning record in a season against the Yankees since 2001, when the Twins captured four of six regular-season games.


An even more mind-rattling situation between the Yankees and Twins is the fact that the Yankees have eliminated the Twins in the first round of the American League playoffs in six of those seasons, including 2003, 2004, 2009, 2010, 2017 (wild card), and 2019. The Yankees’ cumulative post-season record against the Twins during those seasons is an astonishing 16-2.


What is it about the Yankees that they have easily dominated the Twins for over 20 years?


Recall the “Curse of the Bambino” that supposedly plagued the Boston Red Sox until they won the 2004 World Series, their first since Babe Ruth played with the Red Sox in 1918. Two years later, Ruth was sold to the Yankees, where he was the main cog in building a Yankee dynasty.


Well, it got me to thinking the Yankees may hold a modern-day “curse” over the Twins.


Looking at the history of the Twins, they last won a World Series in 1991. On their roster that season was second baseman Chuck Knoblauch, who won the Rookie of the Year award. He was a four-time all-star for the Twins, but they traded him to the Yankees in 1998 for four prospects.


Knoblauch proceeded to play on four World Series teams with the Yankees from 1998 to 2001, collecting three world championship rings, while the Twins haven’t won a pennant since 1991.


Aha! I discovered the source for the Yankees’ domination of the Twins—the “Curse of Knoblauch.”


Knoblauch was certainly no Babe Ruth, but he became an integral part of the Yankee lineup during those four seasons, three as their second baseman and one as the leftfielder. The “Curse of Knoblauch” also doesn’t have the same ring as the “Curse of the Bambino,” but Twins fans can nonetheless blame Knoblauch for inflicting the jinx on their team.


Knoblauch had left the Yankees by the time the two teams played against each other in the ALDS in 2003 and 2004, so there was no opportunity for him to gloat over the Twins in playoff competition.


Now, in the final month of this season’s race to the playoffs, the Twins suffered the latest effect of the “Curse of Knoblauch,” as the Yankees took three games in their four-game series last week. The Twins are only 2-6 against the Yankees this year. As of the fourth game in the series on Thursday, the victories allowed the Yankees to stay ahead of the Rays by 4 ½ games. On the other hand, the Twins were no longer tied with Cleveland for first place in the AL Central and were tied with Chicago for second place, 1 ½ games behind the Guardians.


Of course, Knoblauch has had nothing to do with the Twins’ bad luck against the Yankees or any other team all these years. My postulation of the “Curse of Knoblauch” is strictly an attempt at tongue-in-cheek humor.


The Twins are still in the running for a playoff berth. But heaven forbid if they run up against the Yankees in the playoffs again.

Who are the real New York Yankees?

Through the end of June, the Yankees had been practically unbeatable with a 58-21 record. In July, they leveled off (13-13 record), but there wasn’t too much of a cause for alarm then. They were still 12 games ahead of the next team in the AL East. However, from August 1 through August 27, the Yankees have been playing like the lowly Washington Nationals, with a 9-15 record. It begs the question, “Who are the real Yankees?”


A few weeks ago in my blog email, I posed the question, “Are the Yankees swooning?” That question was relevant then and is even more relevant now, with 35 games remaining.


Have we been seeing the real Yankees for the past two months? Or is this just a temporary setback.


Injuries have taken its toll on the team and I tend to think that’s been the main contributor to their drop-off in performance.


Giancarlo Stanton, who had 24 homers and 61 RBIs, went out on July 23 with left Achilles tendonitis. Matt Carpenter, a free agent signee on May 26 who was surpassing all expectations with a slash line of .305/.412/.727 and 15 homers, went out on August 8 with a left foot fracture. The Yankees have missed their bats. Outfielder Harrison Bader, whom the Yankees acquired from the Cardinals at the trade deadline, has yet to play due to left Achilles tendonitis.


Part of the Yankees’ success story prior to July was that the team’s bullpen had performed well, even though it had taken a hit with injuries. Albert Abreu missed the month of May, and Chad Green was lost for the remainder of the season on May 19, while Aroldis Chapman missed the month of June, and Jonathan Loaisiga missed the month of June and half of July. Their replacements had adequately filled the gaps caused by injuries.


Abreu, Chapman, and Loaisiga came back to the active roster in June and July. But there’s been another revolving door with the pitching staff in July and August.


The bullpen took further hits with the loss of relievers, including Michael King who was lost to a season-ending arm surgery on July 23, Clay Holmes (their best reliever who has been out since August 12), Miguel Castro (out since July 10), and Clarke Schmidt (only three appearances during those two months). Abreu went back on the injured list on August 21 with right elbow inflammation, while Chapman is back on the 15-day IL.


Starter Luis Severino has been out since July 13, but he was effectively replaced by Domingo German, who pitched for first time during 2022 on July 21.


Overwhelmed in following all the changes in the Yankees’ pitching staff? Aaron Boone must have been pulling his hair out dealing with the situations.


The Yankees’ front office apparently was worried about their pitching situation, so they acquired starter Frankie Montas and relievers Scott Effross and Lou Trivino at the trade deadline. But they gave up the steady Jordan Montgomery in the process. Montas, Montgomery’s replacement in the starting rotation, has had only one quality start in four appearances. He has yet to demonstrate why the Yankees sought him out. Effross went on the injured list on August 20, after eight relief appearances.


Injuries aside, the main storyline for the Yankees this season has been slugger Aaron Judge, who is on a pace to hit 60 home runs and is making a strong case for AL MVP. He’s been the one constant for the Yankees throughout the year. Besides Stanton and Carpenter, before their injuries, Judge has gotten offensive help from Anthony Rizzo, Gleyber Torres, and super-utility player DJ LeMahieu.. Third baseman Josh Donaldson has been an offensive disappointment like Joey Gallo, who the Yankees thankfully dealt to the Dodgers at the trade deadline.


The Yankees still rank first or second in most of the team batting and pitching stats in the American League. Despite their sluggish (“swooning”) months July and August, one of the main reasons they still have a comfortable lead in the AL East is that they are 35-23 against division opponents.


The projected roster for September is encouraging, which is why I think the Yankees will get back on track before the post-season.


Stanton returned late last week. Carpenter’s foot didn’t require surgery, and he will return in late September. Bader is targeting the first week of September to return. Newly acquired outfielder Andrew Benintendi hasn’t yet hit like he did with the Royals, but he’s an improvement over Gallo.


Reliever Zach Britton, who has yet to pitch this season because he has been recovering from Tommy John surgery last September, is now throwing in re-hab assignments. Holmes will be activated after he finishes his time on the injured list on August 29 and return to the closer role. Severino is on a re-hab pace to get four or five starts during the balance of the regular-season schedule, and eventually join Gerrit Cole, Jamison Taillon, German, and Montas in the rotation. Wandy Peralta, Lucas Luetge, and Ron Marinaccio have been solid middle relievers, while Trevino has proven to be a solid addition in the bullpen.


Beginning in September, the Yankees have 18 remaining games against their tough division opponents. If they can win 60% of those games (as they have to date), they should continue to maintain their division lead.


Injuries are the bane of every team. Always has been. Always will be. Yes, they had several hiccups in July and August. At this point, it appears the Yankees have a path to get beyond their health issues and return to their winning ways.

Flashback: 1974 Rummel-based baseball teams ranked among the best ever in New Orleans

In a city with a long, rich tradition of high school and American Legion baseball, dating back to the 1920s, identifying the New Orleans area’s best teams of all time would be a difficult undertaking. Yet on two occasions several years ago, the 1974 Archbishop Rummel High School Raiders and the Rummel-based Schaff Brothers American Legion team were designated among the all-time best in the city. When considering the combined achievements of both teams, largely consisting of the same players, they are arguably the best ever baseball team in the city.


In 2003, the Times-Picayune produced its list of all-time Top 10 high school teams in the New Orleans area which included the 1974 Rummel High School squad. The Raiders’ case was based on the 22-2 record, including 19 consecutive wins on their way to a state championship.


In 2009, Ken Trahan, then president of NewOrleans.com/Sports, convened a comprehensive panel of local baseball coaches, sportswriters, historians, and former players to rank the best American Legion teams in New Orleans history. Rummel’s 1974 Schaff Brothers team and the 1980 Jesuit-based Odeco Drillers team were tied for first. The rationale for naming Schaff was based on a 30-4 record, including 28 consecutive wins, as they finished tied for third in the American Legion World Series.


There will be no argument from Larry Schneider as to which team was the all-time best. He was the coach for both the prep and Legion teams in 1974. Forty-eight years later, Schneider says about those teams, “They never gave up. They played hard all the time. It was hard to go undefeated in prep district play and to run off a long string of wins in Legion, but we were consistent. The players believed in themselves and they enjoyed the game.”


The Raiders’ prep team was used to winning. They had gotten all the way to the state finals in 1973, but lost to New Iberia, 2-1. After winning both rounds of district play in 1974 with duplicate 7-0 records, Rummel waltzed through the district playoffs with a one-hitter by senior Rick Zibilich and a five-hitter by sophomore Kenny Francingues. The duo had shouldered the pitching chores all season and saved their best for the state playoffs. Francingues hurled a two-hitter over Baton Rouge Tara in the semis, while Zibilich countered with a no-hitter, including 14 strikeouts, over Baton Rouge Broadmoor in the finals.


Rummel finished 22-2 for the season, including 19 consecutive wins. Schneider was named Coach of the Year for the Times-Picayune All-City team, while Zibilich was named the MVP. Catcher Dom Giambrone and infielder Jim Kropog also received All-City honors. Francinges and outfielder Steve Foster joined them on the All-District team. Zibilich was also named to the Class 4A All-State team.


With an already talented prep team, the Rummel-based Schaff Brothers American Legion roster was bolstered even more by the addition of college-eligible players Vince DeGrouttola, Frank Judice, Don Albares, and Tommy Casse. Schaff, who had finished with a 16-1 record in 1973, was the favorite to repeat as Second District champion, according to the Times-Picayune. Additionally, there was a suggestion Schaff could even advance far into the national playoffs.


DeGroutolla, who had just completed his freshman season pitching for Tulane, took Francingues’ place in the pitching rotation during Legion district play. The 15-year-old Francingues was still eligible for Babe Ruth league competition. Looking back, Francingues talks about an agreement between his Babe Ruth coaches and Schneider that Babe Ruth participation would take precedence in the event of scheduling conflicts. He wound up pitching sparingly for Schaff during district competition.


In Schaff’s opening game of district play, DeGroutolla put the league on notice with a perfect game, 14-strikeout performance against Bonnabel’s Bayou Rigging. But after three wins, Schaff surprisingly lost two consecutive games to Shaw-based Tasty Bread and Chalmette Post 360.


Schaff rebounded when Zibilich tossed a no-hitter against East Jefferson-anchored Metairie Post 350, and Francingues worked in a rare start against Bayou Rigging, producing 10 strikeouts. With Chalmette winning the first round, Schaff finished tied for second with Tasty, posting a 7-2 record. Schaff proceeded to sweep its opponents in the second round, including four-hit and five-hit performances by DeGroutolla. Schaff closed out district play with a 17-2 record, including 14th straight wins.


Zibilich and DeGroutolla were outstanding during Second District competition. They were practically an unbeatable one-two punch. The Times-Picayune reported Zibilich went 6-0 with a 0.93 ERA, while DeGroutolla finished with a 7-1 record and 1.52 ERA. Zibilich, who played shortstop when not pitching, also captured the district batting title with a .423 average.


In the Second District championship series, Schaff swept Chalmette in two games to advance to the South Louisiana Regional.


Schaff squeezed by Brother Martin-based Deviney’s, 5-4 in 10 innings, in the first game of the South Louisiana tournament. Deviney’s coach, Tom Schwaner, who led his squad to a 16-3 record as First District champion, recently recalled that he had “tried every trick in the book just to stay even with them.” He added, “I remember being mentally spent after that game They were great on both sides, hitting and pitching, and they just had more weapons than us.”


After defeating familiar foe Chalmette, 9-1, on Francingue’s four-hitter, Schaff turned its attention to a seasoned De La Salle-based Melville Equipment team. Zibilich shut down Melville with 18 strikeouts in a Schaff 7-0 win that left them the only undefeated team in the winner’s bracket. Melville coach Gerry Burrage recently recalled that Zibilich had great command, with a good curve. Melville worked its way back to the championship round, needing two wins to take the title.


But Schaff claimed the regional title when DeGrouttola went the distance in an 11-inning contest, 5-4. Right fielder Gus Malespin was the hero of the day. In the top of the 11th, Melville put a runner at second base with two outs. Melville’s Rick O’Krepki lined a single to right that Malespin fielded and threw the runner out at the plate. Malespin then led off the bottom of the 11th with a walk and eventually scored the winning run on Don Albares’ single. Burrage vividly remembers another good play in the championship game. He said, “We had a chance to go ahead earlier, but their outfielder Judice makes a miraculous back-handed catch to end our rally.”


Schaff’s record went to 22-2 at that point. Times-Picayune sportswriter John Joly suggested that the Rummel prep and Legion teams were on par with the best local teams over the past 10-12 years.


Schaff faced North Louisiana champion New Iberia in the state finals. Schaff fought back from deficits twice to forge a 15-9 win in the first game, and then captured the title with a 6-3 victory on DeGroutolla’s four-hitter. Schneider said he and the team felt a measure of revenge after having been defeated by New Iberia in the state prep finals the year before.


Schaff advanced to the Mid-South Region 4 tournament in Memphis. Schneider remembers telling his players that they were well-prepared to compete in the next levels of tournament play, because they had already faced tough competition in the First and Second Districts in New Orleans, against teams like DeViney’s, Chalmette, Tasty Bread, and Melville Equipment.


The Schaff players took Schneider’s words to heart, as they swept all of their opponents in the Mid-South Regional, including Fort Smith in the championship game.


One of the memorable contests in that tournament was a 12-inning affair against Brazosport, Texas, Schaff’s second opponent of the tournament. The outcome was indicative of Schaff’s clutch capabilities, as Zibilich pitched the entire game, striking out 21, both career highs. With the game tied in the bottom of the 11th inning, right fielder Malespin saved the game when he made a running shoe-string catch with runners on first and third. Giambrone and team captain Matt Bullinger drove in 12th-inning runs to cinch the dramatic victory, 6-4. Schneider said at the time, “When you win a game like that, you just have to get a lift. It was about the toughest game we played all year, but the kids never stopped hanging in there.”


Schaff earned its first entry in the American Legion World Series which was being played in Roseburg, Oregon. The mid-season predictions that the Rummel-based team could go far in the post-season had come true.


Schaff defeated Bristol, Connecticut with five runs in the top of the 9th inning for a 7-4 win in the first game. However, the victory did not come without great cost to the team. Catcher Giambrone, who had been named the Mid-South Region 4 tournament MVP, broke his hand in the game. Zibilich followed with a four-hitter to defeat Oswego, Oregon, 3-0.


Facing an imposing Puerto Rican team, the defending national champions, Schaff played sloppily and lost, 6-3. Puerto Rico apparently took the wind out of their sails, as Schaff fell apart in a 13-1 loss and elimination by Cheverly, Maryland. In recent discussions with Coach Schneider and Francingues, both echoed sentiments that playing without Giambrone after his injury in the first game made a significant difference in their final outcome in the Series. Schneider said, “Without a doubt, we missed him at some crucial times during the World Series.”


Schaff finished the season with a 30-4 record, including 27 consecutive wins.


Francingues, who has coached baseball for 38 years, characterized the makeup of those Rummel teams. “We had talent on the field and on the bench. We had depth in pitching. If we could score at least four to five runs a game, we had a good chance of winning because our pitching staff was pretty stingy in giving up runs.” He added, “I was the luckiest man in the world playing for Rummel with the type of hitting team we had.” He’s also quick to add, “Our captain Matt Bullinger was the best defensive first baseman I ever played with, and that includes teammates I had later in the pros, like future MLB all-star Kent Hrbek.”


Francingues has high praise for Coach Schneider. “He was a really good game coach. He let us play. For example, he let us call our own pitches. Coach was a stickler for fundamentals in fielding and hitting. We were well-prepared when the season started.”


Another testament to being ranked among the best local teams ever was the number of players that progressed to collegiate ranks. Zibilich played for Ole Miss, DeGrouttola and Francingues for Tulane, Bullinger for USL, Giambrone and Judice for LSU, Wayne Golden and Gus Malespin for SLU, Jimmy Kropog for UNO, and Tommy Casse for Nicholls State. Francingues, Bullinger, and Malespin went on to play in the pros. DeGroutolla was drafted but did not sign.


Additional players on the combined teams that have not been previously mentioned included Nick Olivari, Clay Morgan, John Lorino, Tommy Bryant, Ray Boudreau, Eric Leingang. Other prep team members included Chuck Melito, Tim Richard, and Steve Speeg.


Two years later, Schaff made a return trip to the American Legion World Series in Manchester, New Hampshire. In their fourth game, they were eliminated by the Arlington Heights team from Des Plaines, Illinois. Malespin was named American Legion Player of the Year for his performance in the tournament.


Schaff finally gained its first American Legion World Series title in 2006 over Terre Haute, Illinois.

 

Hometown Heroes: Southeast Louisiana products in MLB, MiLB (July 31)

Here’s the monthly update of pitching and hitting stats for many of the 2022 major-league and minor-league players who prepped or played collegiately in the New Orleans area and Southeast Louisiana. All stats are cumulative for the season, through Sunday July 31. Below are some of the highlights for July.


DJ LeMahieu (LSU) had his best month of the season with a slash line of .344/.462/.490, with 4 HRs and 11 RBIs.


Will Harris (Slidell HS, LSU) finally came off the Injured List, but struggled in his first few minor-league outings.


Alex Lange (LSU) is averaging 11.7 strikeouts per 9 innings and has a 146 ERA+ with Detroit.


Philadelphia’s Aaron Nola (Catholic HS, LSU) is third in the National League in strikeouts (152) and WHIP (0.938).


Texas Rangers infielder Josh Smith (Catholic HS, LSU) hit his first MLB home run on July 11, a three-run slam.


Jacob Berry (LSU) was the 6th overall pick in the 2022 MLB Draft by the Miami Marlins, receiving a $6 million bonus. Other MLB draftees from the area include Cade Doughty (LSU, 2nd round, supplemental pick of the Blue Jays), Eric Reyzelman (LSU, 5th round pick of Yankees), and Paul Gervase (LSU, 12th round pick of Mets).


 

MLB


Alex Bregman—Astros (LSU) 73 G, .242 BA, .350 OBP, 13 HR, 55 RBI


Jake FraleyReds (LSU) MLB: 17 G, .180 BA, .255 OBP, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 1 SB; MiLB: 13 G, .262 BA, .392 OBP, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 2 SB


Kevin Gausman—Blue Jays (LSU) 19 G, 7-83.30 ERA, 103.2 IP, 122 SO


Ian Gibaut—Guardians (Tulane) MLB: 9 G, 0-0, 5.79 ERA, 9.1 IP, 16 SO; MiLB: 17 G, 2-0, 3.20 ERA, 19.2 IP, 19 SO


Alex Lange—Tigers (LSU) 44 G, 4-1, 2.70 ERA, 40.0 IP, 52 SO


Aaron Loup—Angels (Hahnville HS, Tulane) 42 G, 0-3, 4.71 ERA, 36.1 IP, 44 SO


DJ LeMahieu—Yankees (LSU) 93 G, .285 BA, .389 OBP, 11 HR, 42 RBI


Wade Miley—Cubs (Loranger HS, Southeastern) MLB: 4 G, 1-0, 2.84 ERA, 19.0 IP, 12 SO; MiLB: 2 G, 5.68 ERA, 6.1 IP, 4 SO (On 15-day Injured List)


Aaron Nola—Phillies (Catholic HS, LSU) 21 G, 7-8, 3.25 ERA, 138.2 IP, 152 SO


Austin Nola—Padres (Catholic HS, LSU) 68 G, .241 BA, .313 OBP, 2 HR, 26 RBI


Michael Papierski—Reds (LSU) MLB: 21 G, .161 BA, .266 OBP, 0 HR, 1 RBI; MiLB: 40 G, .210 BA, .297 OBP, 3 HR, 28 RBI


Tanner Rainey—Nationals (St. Paul’s HS, Southeastern) 29 G, 1-3, 12 SV, 3.30 ERA, 30.0 IP, 36 SO


Jake Rogers—Tigers (Tulane) On 60-day Injured List


Josh Smith—Rangers (Catholic HS, LSU) MLB: 37 G, .221 BA, .333 OBP, 1 HR, 11 RBI, 2 SB; MiLB: 44 G, .266 BA, .370 OBP, 4 HR, 30 RBI, 8 SB


 

Triple-A


Drew Avans–-Dodgers (Southeastern) 78 G, .291 BA, .382 OBP, 5 HR, 28 RBI, 22 SB


Greg Deichmann—Cubs (Brother Martin HS, LSU) 68 G, .225 BA, .282 OBP, 7 HR, 29 RBI, 7 SB


J.P. France—Astros (Shaw HS, Tulane, Miss. State) 20 G, 2-4, 1 SV, 4.55 ERA, 85.0 IP, 105 SO


Cole Freeman—Nationals (LSU) 47 G, .233 BA, .285 OBP, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 14 SB


Will Harris—Nationals (Slidell HS, LSU) 3 G, 0-1, 15.43 ERA, 2.1 IP, 1 SO


Cole Henry–-Nationals (LSU) 9 G, 1-0, 1.71 ERA, 31.2 IP, 34 SO; Currently on 7-day Injured List


JaCoby Jones—Royals (LSU) 38 G, .214 BA, .270 OBP, 4 HR, 13 RBI, 2 SB (Released June 12)


Eric Orze—Mets (UNO) 28 G, 4-2, 5.05 ERA, 41.0 IP, 57 SO


Kramer Robertson—Mets (LSU) MLB: 2 G, .000 BA, .000 OBP, 0 HR, 1 RBI; MiLB: 72 G, .242 BA, .398 OBP, 7 HR, 30 RBI, 20 SB


Cam Sanders – Cubs (E. D. White HS, LSU) 19 G, 2-7, 5.35 ERA, 70.2 IP, 79 SO


Shawn Semple—Yankees (UNO) 3 G, 1-0, 7.04 ERA, 7.2 IP, 3 SO; Currently on 60-Day Injured List


Andrew Stevenson—Nationals (St. Thomas More HS, LSU) 87 G, .281 BA, .339 OBP, 7 HR, 41 RBI, 26 SB


Grant Witherspoon – Rays (Tulane) 74 G, .281 BA, .351 OBP, 11 HR, 42 RBI, 11 SB


 

Double-A


Jared Biddy–-Rockies (Southeastern) 21 G, 3-1, 3.00 ERA, 33.0 IP, 33 SO


Nick Bush—Rockies (LSU) 19 G, 7-6, 3.68 ERA, 100.1 IP, 98 SO


Hudson Haskin—Orioles (Tulane) 73 G, .264 BA, .351 OBP, 11 HR, 34 RBI, 3 SB


Kody Hoese—Dodgers (Tulane) 56 G, .269 BA, .299 OBP, 5 HR, 30 RBI, 1 SB


Andrew Mitchell—Mets (Jesuit HS, Delgado, Auburn) 23 G, 1-1, 3 SV, 6.37 ERA, 29.2 IP, 30 SO


Braden Olthoff–-Angels (Tulane) 17 G, 5-5, 1 SV, 3.06 ERA, 85.1 IP, 62 SO


Kaleb Roper—White Sox (Rummel, Tulane) 19 G, 2-4, 7.68 ERA, 65.2 IP, 67 SO


Mac Sceroler—Reds (Denham Springs HS, Southeastern); Currently on 60-Day Injured List


Zach Watson—Orioles (LSU) 67 G, .186 BA, .246 OBP, 7 HR, 19 RBI, 2 SB


 

High-A


Donovan Benoit–-Reds (Tulane) 26 G, 3-4, 4.34 ERA, 37.1 IP, 49 SO


Collin Burns-–Orioles (De La Salle HS, Tulane) 72 G, .277 BA, .337 OBP, 6 HR, 30 RBI, 11 SB


Daniel Cabrera—Tigers (John Curtis HS, Delgado, LSU) 82 G, .252 BA, .314 OBP, 7 HR, 32 RBI, 6 SB


Brendan Cellucci—Red Sox (Tulane) 31 G, 1-3, 4.84 ERA, 44.2 IP, 60 SO


Saul Garza-–Royals (LSU) 23 G, .167 BA, .222 OBP, 0 HR, 10 RBI, 0 SB


Zack Hess—Tigers (LSU) On 60-Day Injured List


Aaron McKeithan–-Cardinals (Tulane) 60 G, .283 BA, .390 OBP, 4 HR, 23 RBI


Chase Solesky—White Sox (Tulane) 19 G, 3-7, 4.75 ERA, 85.1 IP, 58 SO


Bryce Tassin—Tigers (Southeastern) 28 G, 2-2, 4.87 ERA, 44.1 IP, 39 SO, 1 SV


Tyree Thompson--Rangers (Karr HS) 14 G, 1-0, 7.13 ERA, 17.2 IP, 18 SO


Justin Williams—Phillies (Terrebone HS) 15 G, .259 BA, .322 OBP, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 4 SB


 

Low-A


Jack Aldrich-–Royals (Tulane) 20 G, 1-2, 4.81 ERA, 39.1 IP, 31 SO, 2 SV


Connor Pellerin–-Yankees (Episcopal HS Baton Rouge, Tulane) On 60-Day Disabled List


Todd Peterson—Nationals (LSU) 14 G, 0-2, 2 SV, 5.09 ERA, 17.2 IP, 21 SO


 

Rookie League


Jacob Berry – Marlins (LSU) 3 G, .167 BA, .231 OBP, 0 HR, 2 RBI


 

Independent League


Antoine Duplantis—Mets (LSU) Ind:  43 G, .298 BA, .314 OBP, 5 HR, 21 RBI, 10 SB; MiLB: 26 G, .132 BA, .184 OBP, 1 HR, 7 RBI


Nick GoodyMexican League (LSU) 14 G, 2-1, 2 SV, 2.40 ERA, 15.0 IP, 24 SO; Ind. 15 G, 0-2, 5 SV, 4.20 ERA, 15.0 IP, 24 SO


 

Japanese League


Kyle Keller–-Hanshin (Jesuit, Southeastern) 31 G, 0-3, 2.79 ERA, 29.0 IP, 41 SO

Will Clark's No. 22 retired this weekend by San Francisco Giants

New Orleans native Will Clark added to his collegiate and professional baseball honors this weekend by having his jersey number 22 retired by the San Francisco Giants. He played for the Giants from 1986 to 1993, as part of his 15-year major-league career.


Clark, a former Jesuit High School standout, joins the likes of Christy Mathewson, John McGraw, Bill Terry, Gretna native Mel Ott (Number 4), Carl Hubbell, Monte Irvin, Willie Mays, Barry Bonds, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda, and Gaylord Perry in receiving this recognition. Except for Clark and Bonds, all of these former Giants players are in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.


The ceremony to retire Clark’s number, which took place on July 30 at San Francisco’s Oracle Park, was originally planned for July 11, 2020, but had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Acquiring the nickname “Will the Thrill” from teammate Bob Brenly, Clark made an immediate impact when he joined the Giants as a rookie in 1986. In his first major-league at-bat, he hit a home run on his first swing off Houston Astros pitcher Nolan Ryan in the Astrodome. It was the start of his heroics with the Giants.


Twitter video of Clark’s first home run: https://twitter.com/i/status/1550833289102905344


In 1987 Clark helped the Giants win their first division championship since 1971, when he led the Giants with 35 home runs and 91 RBIs. He became known for his smooth, sweeping swing, prompting sportswriters to tag him with the moniker “The Natural.”


The Giants won the National League pennant in 1989, their first since 1962. Clark finished second to teammate Kevin Mitchell in the voting for NL MVP, when he had a .333/.407/.546 slash line, 23 home runs, and 111 RBIs. He lost the league batting title to Tony Gwynn (.336) on the last day of the season.


Clark single-handedly dismantled the Chicago Cubs in the 1989 NLCS by hitting .650/.682/1.882, with two home runs and 8 RBIs in five games. But the Giants were swept by the Oakland A’s in his only World Series appearance.


Youtube video of Clark’s 1989 NLCS Game 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNLW6sEBlaQ


He led the National League in total bases (303) in 1991, contributing to his fourth-place finish in the MVP voting, and won his second Silver Slugger Award and the Gold Glove Award for first basemen.


Clark was an All-Star Game selection in five of his eight seasons with the Giants. He signed as a free agent with the Texas Rangers after the 1993 season. He spent five seasons with Texas before moving on to Baltimore and St. Louis during his final two years. He retired at 36 years old after the 2000 season. His career stats include a .303/.384/.497 slash line, 2,176 hits, 284 home runs, and 1,205 RBIs.


The jersey number retirement is just one of many post-career honors Clark has garnered.


In his native state of Louisiana where he played for American Legion and high school baseball teams for Jesuit High School, he has been inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame (2003), the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame (2012), the New Orleans Professional Hall of Fame (2007), the Sugar Bowl Hall of Fame (2003), and the Diamond Club of New Orleans Hall of Fame (2001).


In the state of Mississippi, where he was an All-American at Mississippi State University, he holds a place of honor in the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame (2008) and the Mississippi State University Hall of Fame (2003). He was inducted into the Mississippi State Baseball Ring of Honor in 2019.


Clark was included into the inaugural class of the College Baseball Hall of Fame (2006) and was named to the College World Series Legends Team (2010), in a poll of college baseball writers and Division I coaches.


The Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame in California honored him in 2007.


Clark currently serves as a special assistant for the Giants organization.


For more on the baseball career of Will Clark, Crescent City Sports has a nine-part series on one of the best players the metro area has ever produced.

Hall of Famer Mel Ott an enigma in MLB all-star games

The 92nd MLB All-Star Game is coming up on July 19 at Dodger Stadium, and it’s an appropriate time to recall how former New Orleanian major leaguers fared in the annual mid-summer classic. One player who was paradox in All-Star Game contests was Gretna native Mel Ott. Considering the consistent offensive production by the Hall of Famer during his 22-year big league career, his performance in 11 all-star games was surprisingly mediocre at best.


One of the early “phenoms” in major league baseball, Ott signed with the New York Giants as a 17-year-old in 1926. After two years as an understudy of Giants manager John McGraw, Ott was a regular in McGraw’s lineup in 1928 at 19 years of age. He immediately lived up to expectations with a slash line of .322/.397/.524, 18 home runs, and 77 RBIs.


In 1929 Ott posted career highs in home runs (42) and RBIs (151) and was well on his way to becoming one of the best ballplayers in Giants history.


He went on to become one of the most productive hitters in major-league history, batting .302 and blasting 511 home runs and 1,860 RBIs during his career that ended in 1947. Ott was the National League career leader in home runs when he retired, and his record stood until Willie Mays passed him in 1966. The left-handed slugger was famous for his batting stance which featured a high leg lift before making contact with the ball.


However, Ott’s excellence in hitting didn’t carry over to All-Star Games. His first appearance came in 1934, in only the second year the American League all-stars faced their National League counterparts. He was selected for the next 11 seasons as well, making him one of the longest-tenured all-stars at the time.


But Ott managed only five hits in 24 all-star plate appearances, and he failed to hit a home run or RBI for which he had become famous. (He led the NL in home runs in five of the seasons he was named to the all-star team.)


In researching his career, there is no obvious explanation for Ott’s meager all-star performance. After all, he was facing the American League’s best, including future Hall of Famers such as Lefty Gomez, Red Ruffing, Lefty Grove, Bob Feller, and Hal Newhouser. Perhaps he was just saving his best for the regular-season games.


A long-time popular baseball park and playground in Gretna bears Ott’s name. A section of Louisiana Highway 23 in Gretna was named Mel Ott Parkway by the Louisiana legislature in 2004. He was the target of Leo Durocher’s now-famous phrase “Nice Guys Finish Last.”


Last year at All-Star Game time, I posted an article about New Orleans native Connie Ryan’s noteworthy performance in the 1944 All-Star Game. He fared better than Ott, who went hitless.

Tom Schwaner: A New Orleans baseball institution

Baseball followers in New Orleans during the mid-1950s through 2000 were well familiar with Tom Schwaner. That’s because his baseball career spanned those years playing at the high school, college, and professional levels, followed by long stints as a high school and college coach. Except for the years he played professionally, he was a fixture in local baseball, capped by his 14-year tenure as the head baseball coach at the University of New Orleans.


Last week, I had the pleasure of talking to Schwaner, now 83 years old, about his extensive career.


A three-sport letterman at St. Aloysius, Schwaner also played football and track in addition to his favorite sport, baseball. Schwaner said about his high-school days, “I couldn’t wait for one season to roll over to the next, but baseball was the one I thought I had the best chance to excel in.”


After his senior season in high school in 1957, Schwaner played for Coach Rags Scheuermann on the All-American Amateur Baseball Association all-star team that played in the national tournament in Johnstown, PA. It was through this relationship that Scheuermann offered him a baseball scholarship at Loyola University in New Orleans. Schwaner recalled, “I had already enrolled at LSU, but when Rags came up with the scholarship offer at the last minute, I couldn’t pass it up.”


Schwaner played two seasons at Loyola for Scheuermann. “He taught me just about everything I know about baseball,” said the former shortstop.


After his stellar sophomore season that included a .415 batting average, six homers, six triples, and seven doubles, Schwaner thought he would be signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Dodgers scout Tony John had closely followed him at Loyola and indicated he would get an offer. But the Dodgers’ offer never came, and Schwaner signed with the St. Louis Cardinals who produced a lucrative bonus offer, reported by the Associated Press to be $50,000.


According to the Associated Press, Cardinals farm director Walter Shannon called Schwaner “the outstanding shortstop prospect in the United States.”  Shannon said,” Tom has shown marked improvement over the past two seasons. He can run, field, hit, and throw. He’s aggressive and has a wonderful attitude toward the game.”


Scheuermann, who had coached other amateurs in the city receiving substantial bonuses, told the Times-Picayune, “I’d have to say that Tom probably is the best boy I have ever coached.” Scheuermann said, “He thinks like a major leaguer. I’m happy to see him get this wonderful opportunity. I’m certain he’ll be a credit to the game.”


Schwaner’s first minor-league assignment was with Class A York in the Eastern League in 1959. Schwaner remembers his first at-bat was against a menacing Juan Marichal, a future Hall of Famer with the San Francisco Giants. “I was overmatched in my first minor-league season,” he said. “Remember, I had only played 18 games with Loyola that season.” He was optioned to Class D Keokuk later in the season, where his roommate was 17-year-old Tim McCarver, who went on to play 21 major-league seasons.


He worked his way up to Class AA Tulsa toward the end of the 1961 season and then started the 1962 season with them. However, he was hitting under .200 when he was released to Class A Binghampton in the Kansas City A’s organization toward the end of what was his last season. In four minor-league seasons, he batted .246 with 34 home runs and 218 RBIs.


Schwaner recalls his professional career. “I had a lot of fun, but I had to weigh my chances of getting to the big leagues, and I remember major leaguers were only making about $12,000 per year at the time. I didn’t see that as an enticing future. And being married with two children, I decided to move on.”


Schwaner returned to New Orleans and secured a job as math teacher and baseball coach at Rummel High School for the 1962-63 school year, the school’s first year of operation. Having earned his master’s degree at Loyola, he was also assistant principal during his last two years of employment with Rummel. After a two-year stint as principal at St. John Vianney in 1972 and 1973, he became the baseball coach at Brother Martin High School through 1977.


During his years as prep coach, his Rummel-based Schaff Brothers American Legion teams won the district championship in 1968, followed by state titles in 1970 and 1971.


With Brother Martin-based Deviney’s, he won the American Legion district title in 1974, when he was named the Coach of the Year. In 1975, Brother Martin High School won its first-ever district title and finished second in the state playoffs. Schwaner was named the All-City Coach of the Year.


After 16 years in a prep coaching career, Schwaner applied for a coaching job at the University of New Orleans. Schwaner says head coach Ron Maestri initially took him on as a volunteer coach, while he taught math classes at UNO and Xavier University. The role later became a full-time assistant coaching job.


UNO was in its heyday as a college program under Maestri. He led the Privateers to six NCAA Regional appearances during 1977 to 1983, including the College World Series in 1983. Schwaner credits Maestri with building teams with top talent from around the country that contributed to a nationally-recognized program.


After 13 seasons as UNO’s head coach, Maestri retired and turned over the reins to Schwaner in the spring of 1985. With his first season at the helm in 1986, Schwaner continued the Privateers’ winning tradition with three straight NCAA Regional teams in 1987-89. UNO had a fourth Regional appearance under Schwaner in 1996.


Schwaner recalled, “I had a number of good teams, but I’d have to say the 1988 team was probably the best because it featured future major leaguers Ted Wood, Brian Traxler, and Joe Slusarski.”  The team won the American South Conference regular season championship. Schwaner pointed out that Slusarski and Wood represented UNO in the Olympics that summer.


He earned American South Coach of the Year honors in 1989. During his 14 seasons, he coached over 40 players who played professional baseball, including another major leaguer, Jim Bullinger.


Schwaner retired from UNO after the 1999 season with a 462-373 record, which is currently the second highest winning percentage in UNO history, trailing only Maestri.


The Schwaner baseball family tree continued with Tom’s son Jeff, who played for Louisiana Tech, and his grandson Tyler, who played for University of Louisiana Monroe. Tom’s nephew Scott played for UNO (including 1983 with the College World Series team), while great-nephews Nick played for UNO and Taylor played for Southeastern Louisiana. Nick also played two seasons in the Tampa Bay Rays organization. Schwaner is quick to point out the family’s athletes also included daughter Karen, who played AAU basketball, and granddaughter Lindsay, who played soccer with Southern Mississippi.


Whenever the history and tradition of New Orleans baseball is discussed, Tom Schwaner belongs in the conversation, not only because of his longevity in the sport, but also because of what he accomplished as a player and coach across multiple levels of the sport.

 

Former Jesuit and Loyola star Don Wetzel swapped his baseball glove for a history-making business career

We never think about what we’d do without ATM machines. We take them for granted nowadays. Looking back at the history of ATMs, you’ll find former New Orleanian Don Wetzel as the inventor.


Before Wetzel embarked on his business career and created the ground-breaking technology over fifty years ago, he was a Jesuit High School prep baseball and American Legion star in the 1940s. He also played a season for Loyola University and then pursued a professional baseball career as a 19-year-old. However, with counsel from a veteran major leaguer, he decided to leave the sport he loved after three pro seasons and complete his college education. His course correction ultimately led to a career in financial services and banking, where he developed and implemented the first commercial use of ATMs.


I caught up with Wetzel earlier this week to talk about his baseball career. Now 93 years old living in Dallas, he was happy to recall his time at Jesuit High School and Loyola University and in the minor leagues with the Giants organization.


He was an All-Prep performer as an infielder with Jesuit for three straight years beginning in 1944. Jesuit won Louisiana state championships in 1945 and 1946, with 5-foot-7, 140-pound Wetzel playing a key role. The Times-Picayune called Wetzel “one of the finest fielding infielders of the league.” Other key contributors of the 1946 team included additional All-Prep Blue Jays: first baseman Tookie Gilbert (MVP of the league), pitcher Hugh Oser, catcher Jack Golden, and outfielders Stanley McDermott and Monroe Caballero.


When coach Eddie Toribio’s roster for the 1946 summer American Legion team for Jesuit players was formed, Oser, Golden and infielders Pete Tusa and Rene Kronlage were missing due to an age limitation for Legion participation. Gilbert opted to skip the American Legion season so that he could participate in a prestigious high school all-star game in Chicago.


The absence of these players forced Toribio to use less experienced players as backfills. The average age of the team was 16 years old. Yet Jesuit defeated Shreveport for the state title and Little Rock for the regional title. In three regional games, Wetzel collected seven hits in 16 at-bats, scored five runs, and handled 21 chances without an error. The Blue Jays defeated Thomasville, Georgia for the sectional championship, earning them a berth in the Little World Series in Charleston, South Carolina. Jesuit’s last appearance in the Legion World Series came in 1934.


Their World Series opponents were Trenton, Los Angeles, and Cincinnati. After going into the loser’s bracket with a loss to Los Angeles, Jesuit rebounded with wins over Cincinnati, Los Angeles, and Trenton twice to capture the championship. Wetzel and pitcher Pat Rooney were named to the all-tournament team. Wetzel was the second-best hitter in the tournament, with nine hits in 20 at-bats for a .450 average. He received the tournament’s sportsmanship award.


Wetzel said about the team’s success. “I was surprised we went as far as we did. We were left with a very young team that lacked experience at several positions. But we pulled together to play good ball.”


Wetzel got an opportunity to play baseball for Loyola in 1947, along with several of his American Legion teammates. Loyola finished with a 17-4 record with two ties, as Wetzel led the team in batting average.


Wetzel recalled he was scouted by Gernon Brown, the long-time Jesuit baseball coach, who was then working for the New York Giants. He said, “Brown offered me a contract after my freshman season, so I decided to give it a try. It was my first time being away from home, but I enjoyed it. I was around people who loved baseball. We would rent housing from local residents during the season.”


Wetzel said he was initially assigned to Jersey City in the Giants organization but then was sent to Class B Trenton in the Interstate League for his first season, where he batted .243 with 61 RBIs. Trenton finished second in the league during the regular season, and then defeated York in the playoffs.


He started out with Trenton for the 1949 season, and after 50 games was sent to Class C St. Cloud in the Northern League. Between the two teams, he batted .236 with five home runs and 46 RBIs. His on-base percentage was an impressive .416.


He returned to St. Cloud in 1950, where his manager was Charlie Fox who was then only 28 years old. Fox would eventually wind up in the major leagues as a manager for San Francisco, Montreal, and the Chicago Cubs. St. Cloud won the regular season title, with Wetzel batting .274.


Wetzel said he got sound advice from fellow New Orleanian Connie Ryan, who was a major leaguer at the time. “Connie told me that if player didn’t make the major leagues within five years, the chances of eventually making it were very slim. Since I hadn’t progressed in my three years, I decided to quit and return to college full time.”


Wetzel had continued to attend classes at Loyola around his baseball seasons. He finished his degree in 1951 and went to work for IBM. Wetzel said, “At first, I went to work for a service bureau affiliate of IBM in the financial industry. I started out as a machine operator.” He progressed through the ranks at IBM as a service bureau manager, systems engineer, sales representative, and regional industry representative. The banking industry became his specialty.


He left IBM in 1968 and joined Docutel Corporation, where he first pitched the idea of a banking terminal available for use by customers. In 1969 he implemented the first “cash box” (an ATM that only dispensed cash) which was installed at Chemical Bank in Long Island, New York. Later on, he formed his own company that consulted with banks on providing remote ATMs, as well as ones that performed other banking functions.


In an interview with Fox News in 2019, on the 50th anniversary of the first ATM, Wetzel said his first attempts to market the ATM for use at banks was met with great skepticism. He said, “People [bank officers] thought I was nuts. They would say, ‘You mean a cash machine that anyone could just walk up to and use? I don’t think so. We have tellers who do that.’ Then I had to explain why I thought it would be of great value to their customers.”


ATMs eventually caught on throughout the banking industry and the rest is history.


In a 2019 ceremony at the site of the first ATM, a bank official declared, “The ATM revolutionized the banking industry, and its impact on our economy cannot be overstated.” Wetzel became known as the “father of 24-hour banking.” It is estimated there are over 3.5 million ATMs installed across the world.


In a 1995 interview with the National Museum of American History, Wetzel talked about how his professional baseball career influenced him later in his business and personal life. He said, “I think I learned two things. One was I met a lot of people that I would never have met and was able to interact with them. So, I learned about that – a lot about people, and how they feel, and how they react under situations that sometimes are a little pressing and trying. The other thing I learned was how to live away from home. You know, that’s an education in itself, and of course I’d always lived at home. So those two things helped me greatly.”


Wetzel says he still gets requests in the mail for his autograph. However, the requests are not because of his baseball career, but from people who remember his ground-breaking contribution to modern society.

Hometown Heroes: Southeast Louisiana products in MLB, MiLB (June 30)

Here’s the monthly report of pitching and hitting stats for many of the 2022 major-league and minor-league players who prepped or played collegiately in the New Orleans area and Southeast Louisiana. All stats are cumulative for the season, through Thursday June 30. Below are some of the highlights for June.


DJ LeMahieu (LSU) had a productive month of June with a slash line of .272/.398/.424, 4 HRs, 12 RBIs, as the Yankees went 22-6 for the month.


Austin Nola (LSU) got hit first hit, an RBI single, off his brother Aaron Nola (LSU) on June 24. It turned out to be the winning hit of the game for the Padres.


Alex Lange (LSU) has four wins in relief for a struggling Detroit Tigers team. He has the most appearances (31) of any Tigers pitcher, and he’s still sporting a nifty 1.95 ERA.


After being traded by the Astros to San Francisco and making his MLB debut in May, Michael Papierski (LSU) was selected off waivers by the Cincinnati Reds on June 25 and placed on the MLB roster.


Kramer Robertson (LSU) was claimed off waivers by the Atlanta Braves on June 5 and then claimed off waivers by the New York Mets on June 27. He is currently playing for Triple-A Syracuse.


Andrew Stevenson (LSU) is making his case for a callup with the big-league Nationals, with a slash line of .311/.377/.476, 6 HRs, 33 RBIs, and 20 stolen bases for the season.


After a horrid start in the first half of June, Collins Burns (De La Salle HS, Tulane) is currently on a 14-game hitting streak that includes the first three home runs of his pro career.


Greg Deichmann (Brother Martin HS, LSU) stepped up his game in June with a .295/.375/.590 slash line with 5 HRs, 18 RBIs.


Grant Witherspoon (Tulane) was promoted to Triple A Durham in the Rays organization, after a slash line of .294/.346/.490, 7 HRs, and 33 RBIs at the Double-A level.


 

MLB


Alex Bregman—Astros (LSU) 73 G, .242 BA, .360 OBP, 9 HR, 38 RBI


Kevin Gausman—Blue Jays (LSU) 15 G, 6-6, 2.93 ERA, 86.0 IP, 97 SO


Ian Gibaut—Guardians (Tulane) MLB: 1 G, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 1.1 IP, 0 SO; MiLB: 17 G, 2-0, 3.20 ERA, 19.2 IP, 19 SO


Will Harris—Nationals (Slidell HS, LSU) On 60-Day Injured List


Alex Lange—Tigers (LSU) 32 G, 4-1, 2.22 ERA, 28.1 IP, 34 SO


Aaron Loup—Angels (Hahnville HS, Tulane) 32 G, 0-2, 4.33 ERA, 27.0 IP, 31 SO


DJ LeMahieu—Yankees (LSU) 68 G, .262 BA, .359 OBP, 7 HR, 31 RBI


Wade Miley—Cubs (Loranger HS, Southeastern) MLB: 4 G, 1-0, 2.84 ERA, 19.0 IP, 12 SO; MiLB: 1 G, 0.00 ERA, 4.0 IP, 3 SO (On 15-day Injured List)


Aaron Nola—Phillies (Catholic HS, LSU) 16 G, 5-5, 3.13 ERA, 103.2 IP, 117 SO


Austin Nola—Padres (Catholic HS, LSU) 54 G, .235 BA, .306 OBP, 2 HR, 23 RBI


Michael Papierski—Reds (LSU) MLB: 7 G, .200 BA, .250 OBP, 0 HR, 0 RBI; MiLB: 40 G, .210 BA, .297 OBP, 3 HR, 28 RBI


Tanner Rainey—Nationals (St. Paul’s HS, Southeastern) 25 G, 1-2, 11 SV, 2.88 ERA, 25.0 IP, 30 SO


Jake Rogers—Tigers (Tulane) On 60-day Injured List


Josh Smith—Rangers (Catholic HS, LSU) MLB: 12 G, .258 BA, .439 OBP, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 2 SB; MiLB: 44 G, .266 BA, .370 OBP, 4 HR, 30 RBI, 8 SB


 

Triple-A


Drew Avans–-Dodgers (Southeastern) 56 G, .283 BA, .385 OBP, 5 HR, 22 RBI, 13 SB


Greg Deichmann—Cubs (Brother Martin HS, LSU) 50 G, .238 BA, .296 OBP, 6 HR, 26 RBI, 5 SB


Jake FraleyReds (LSU) MLB: 15 G, .116 BA, .208 OBP, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 SB; MiLB: 4 G, .182 BA, .400 OBP, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 SB (60-day Injured List)


J.P. France—Astros (Shaw HS, Tulane, Miss. State) 15 G, 2-3, 4.62 ERA, 62.1 IP, 83 SO


Cole Freeman—Nationals (LSU) 37 G, .217 BA, .276 OBP, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 11 SB


Cole Henry–-Nationals (LSU) 9 G, 1-0, 1.71 ERA, 31.2 IP, 34 SO


Jacoby Jones—Royals (LSU) 38 G, .214 BA, .270 OBP, 4 HR, 13 RBI, 2 SB


Eric Orze—Mets (UNO) 21 G, 2-2, 4.88 ERA, 31.1 IP, 47 SO


Kramer Robertson—Mets (LSU) MLB: 2 G, .000 BA, .000 OBP, 0 HR, 1 RBI; MiLB: 53 G, .233 BA, .393 OBP, 6 HR, 25 RBI, 17 SB


Shawn Semple—Yankees (UNO) 2 G, 1-0, 8.31 ERA, 4.1 IP, 3 SO; Currently on 60-Day Injured List


Andrew Stevenson—Nationals (St. Thomas More HS, LSU) 68 G, .311 BA, .377 OBP, 6 HR, 33 RBI, 20 SB


Justin Williams—Phillies (Terrebone HS) 1 G, .250 BA, .250 OBP, 0 HR, 0 RBI; Currently On 7-Day Injured List


Grant Witherspoon – Rays (Tulane) 56 G, .298 BA, .350 OBP, 8 HR, 35 RBI, 19 SB


 

Double-A


Nick Bush—Rockies (LSU) 14 G, 5-5, 3.57 ERA, 75.2 IP, 71 SO


Hudson Haskin—Orioles (Tulane) 58 G, .269 BA, .348 OBP, 9 HR, 31 RBI, 2 SB


Kody Hoese—Dodgers (Tulane) 37 G, .284 BA, .306 OBP, 3 HR, 21 RBI


Andrew Mitchell—Mets (Jesuit HS, Delgado, Auburn) 17 G, 0-1, 4.88 ERA, 24.0 IP, 26 SO


Braden Olthoff–-Angels (Tulane) 13 G, 3-4, 2.94 ERA, 64.1 IP, 54 SO


Kaleb Roper—White Sox (Rummel, Tulane) 14 G, 2-4, 6.55 ERA, 57.2 IP, 57 SO


Cam Sanders – Cubs (E. D. White HS, LSU) 14 G, 1-4, 3.95 ERA, 57.0 IP, 66 SO


Mac Sceroler—Reds (Denham Springs HS, Southeastern) On 60-Day Injured List


Zach Watson—Orioles (LSU) 52 G, .199 BA, .260 OBP, 4 HR, 14 RBI, 2 SB


 

High-A


Jack Aldrich-–Royals (Tulane) 15 G, 1-2, 3.82 ERA, 33.0 IP, 28 SO, 1 SV


Donovan Benoit–-Reds (Tulane) 20 G, 3-2, 3.14 ERA, 28.2 IP, 35 SO


Jared Biddy–-Rockies (Southeastern) 14 G, 2-1, 2.92 ERA, 24.2 IP, 23 SO


Collin Burns-–Orioles (De La Salle HS, Tulane) 53 G, .279 BA, .350 OBP, 3 HR, 20 RBI, 10 SB


Daniel Cabrera—Tigers (John Curtis HS, Delgado, LSU) 61 G, .254 BA, .307 OBP, 4 HR, 19 RBI, 6 SB


Brendan Cellucci—Red Sox (Tulane) 24 G, 1-3, 5.50 ERA, 36.0 IP, 51 SO


Zack Hess—Tigers (LSU) On 60-Day Injured List


Chase Solesky—White Sox (Tulane) 15 G, 3-6, 4.41 ERA, 65.1 IP, 46 SO


Bryce Tassin—Tigers (Southeastern) 20 G, 2-2, 5.24 ERA, 34.1 IP, 28 SO, 1 SV


Tyree Thompson--Rangers (Karr HS) 8 G, 0-0, 7.00 ERA, 9.0 IP, 5 SO


 

Low-A


Connor Pellerin–-Yankees (Episcopal HS Baton Rouge, Tulane) On 60-Day Disabled List


Aaron McKeithan–-Cardinals (Tulane) 39 G, .264 BA, .368 OBP, 2 HR, 13 RBI, 1 SB


Todd Peterson—Nationals (LSU) Currently On 7-Day Injured List


 

Rookie League


Kody Hoese—Dodgers (Tulane) 41 G, .281 BA, .304 OBP, 4 HR, 24 RBI


Saul Garza-–Royals (LSU) 15 G, .208 BA, .263 OBP, 0 HR, 7 RBI, 0 SB


 

Independent League


Antoine Duplantis—Mets (LSU) Ind:  16 G, .271 BA, .297 OBP, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 5 SB; MiLB: 26 G, .132 BA, .184 OBP, 1 HR, 7 RBI


Nick GoodyMexican League (LSU) 14 G, 2-1, 2.40 ERA, 15.0 IP, 24 SO; Ind. 9 G, 0-1, 2.70 ERA, 10.0 IP, 16 SO


 

Japanese League


Kyle Keller–-Hanshin (Jesuit, Southeastern) 27 G, 0-3, 3.24 ERA, 25.0 IP, 35 SO

2013's No. 1 draft pick Mark Appel finally reaches the big leagues

Stanford University pitcher Mark Appel was on top of the world in 2013, when he was made the first overall draft pick of the MLB June draft by his hometown Houston Astros. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound righthander was expected to be in the Astros rotation within a couple of years. But his career didn’t come close to turning out that way. Now, nine years later, Appel has finally been called up by the Philadelphia Phillies and will soon make his major-league debut.


The three years following his No. 1 draft selection were a huge disappointment for Appel and the Astros. He struggled with his pitching, not showing the consistency he had at Stanford. Some of his issues were attributed to lack of confidence. He was also beginning to experience arm problems.


The Astros gave up on their $6.35 million investment (Appel’s signing bonus in 2013) in December 2015 by trading him and four other minor-leaguers to the Philadelphia Phillies for closer Ken Giles and a minor leaguer. His MLB prospect ranking had dropped from No. 17 in 2014 to No. 70 prior to 2016.


He started the 2016 season at the Triple A level with the Phillies but was shut down after eight starts to undergo surgery to remove a bone spur in his elbow. Appel returned in 2017, but his control suffered, as he posted a 5.14 ERA and 1.738 WHIP.


Frustrated by his lack of progress in getting to the majors, he began thinking about a career outside of baseball. Prior to the start of spring training in 2018, Appel decided to step away from the game indefinitely. He said he was at peace with his decision if didn’t return.


But he found the desire and will to return to baseball in 2021. Although his attempt at a comeback was a long shot, he longed for one more attempt for an opportunity to reach the majors. He returned to the Phillies organization but his results, split between the Triple A and Double A levels, weren’t much different from when he retired three years earlier.


Now 30 years old, Appel came back for the 2022 season in a reliever role. In 19 appearances, he’s been remarkable, posting a 5-0 record to go along with an impressive 1.61 ERA and 0.929 WHIP.  It’s the best he’s been since his days at Stanford.


When Appel finally makes his long-awaited debut, he’ll avoid being only the third No. 1 overall draft pick in history to never play in the majors.  The other two were Steve Chilcott (1966) and Brien Taylor (1991).


“I have a story that’s not too common for first round picks,” said Appel. “But I think it’s common for a lot of minor league baseball players that go through struggles, find hardships and learn how to persevere through the midst of it.”


It’s been a long, arduous journey for Appel. But he teaches us a lesson about hope and determination.


Good luck, Mark.

Flashback: 1980 Jesuit baseball team repeats as the state's prep and Legion champions

In April, Crescent City Sports featured a story about the 1936 Jesuit High School team that won the state baseball championship with a roster whose entire starting lineup made the All-Prep team, including seven who went on to professional careers. In fact, there have been numerous other Jesuit-based teams which have had success in prep and American Legion seasons. 1980 was one of those special seasons.


Based on information from Jesuit’s baseball website, there have been 21 seasons in which Jesuit won state high school championships and 12 seasons in which Jesuit-based teams have won American Legion state titles. However, there have been only three years in Jesuit’s history in which the Blue Jays captured both the prep and Legion state titles in the same season. Two of those came in back-to-back years, 1979 and 1980, with the third in 2021.


Following Jesuit’s repeat of the state high school championship in 1980, their American Legion squad used its state title as the springboard that ultimately landed them in the American Legion World Series in Ely, Minnesota. The team finished fourth, unable to claim a championship like their 1946 and 1960 predecessors. Yet Frank Misuraca, Jesuit’s coach from 1967 to 1981, told the Times-Picayune after the 1980 season, “Without a doubt, this is the best ball team I’ve ever had, based on their accomplishments.”


The 1979 Jesuit High School team, with only four seniors on the roster, defeated New Iberia in the state prep finals. Junior pitcher Dickie Wentz was an all-state selection, posting a 9-1 record and a 1.71 ERA in 13 appearances. He was joined by senior first baseman Bobby Caire (.396 batting average) and junior second baseman Casey Snyder (.375 batting average). The Jesuit-based Odeco American Legion team proceeded to also win the 1979 state championship over Abe’s Grocery from Lake Charles.


The 1980 team boasted a veteran roster containing 11 senior members, including seven who were starters from the year before. Several of the players had been together since their Babe Ruth league days when they played for legendary coach Firmin Simms.


One of Jesuit’s seniors, Rodney Lenfant, recently recalled the 1980 team. “Coach Misuraca was all about preparation, preparation, preparation. Our work started in January and for the first month we weren’t allowed to touch a baseball. After several grueling weeks of near bootcamp-like experience getting us in shape, we were finally allowed to hit and throw the baseball.”


Lenfant’s senior teammate John Faciane said about Misuraca,  “He actually set the tone for the team when we were sophomores in 1978. He stressed fundamentals and got us to pay attention to the little things. We were not the most physical team, but we knew how to play. As a result, we were never out of a game.” Faciane’s assessment would be borne out by Jesuit’s comeback to win the state prep title and three occasions in Legion play when they rebounded from the loser’s bracket.


Pitching was expected to be a strength, with three returning starters who had experience in 1979, led by Dickie Wentz. Brian Shearman and Faciane were the other key hurlers, with third baseman Lenfant available in reserve. All four would figure into the 1980 season’s prep plans by Misuraca. The returning position players were led by Snyder and Gregg Barrios who had been an all-district outfielder in 1979.


The Blue Jays won the first-round of prep district play in 1980 with an undefeated record, including two wins over rival Rummel. At one point early in the season, Jesuit’s pitching staff rattled off a string of 36 scoreless innings. But Rummel rebounded in the second half and defeated Jesuit twice to clinch the 11-AAAA district title. Both teams earned spots in the state playoffs.


Jesuit defeated East Jefferson in an 11-inning thriller, followed by a win over Belaire, to advance to the state finals against Rummel. Brad Escousse delivered key hits in both games. On the fourth attempt to schedule the championship game, due to three earlier rainouts, Jesuit got revenge against Rummel, who held the momentum from their previous two district wins. The Blue Jays won, 3-2, on the shoulders of Shearman, who relieved Wentz early in the game, and catcher Steve Riley, who hit the go-ahead home run. Jesuit won its first back-to-back state high school titles since 1945, 1946, and 1947. The 1980 team finished with a 22-3 record.


Lenfant remembers the win over Rummel as especially gratifying since members of both team were friends off the diamond. He said, “That win was the highlight of our Jesuit careers, as it was a repeat of the state championship. It was made even sweeter by knowing those guys so well on a personal level and due to the two losses they put on us in the second round of District play.”


Wentz recently recalled how Faciane and Shearman were key to the prep team’s success. “As high school pitchers, I’m not sure you could find many better than those guys. They both had more guts than a daytime burglar, but with different stuff.” Wentz added, “Shearman was sneaky fast, threw a heavy fastball and had a wicked ‘slurve.’ Faciane was NOLA prep’s version of Gregg Maddux, and he could throw a grape through a donut hole from 60 feet, six inches.”


Yet the hard-throwing Wentz was no easy opponent either. He was joined by Snyder, Barrios, and Riley on the All-Metro team. Shearman and Barrios joined them on the All-District 11-AAAA team, with Barrios being named Player of the Year.


Following the high school season, Wentz weighed his options of being selected by a major-league team in the June MLB draft versus attending college. He had been recruited by numerous colleges and had received interest letters from most of the major-league teams. The three-time All-Metro pitcher had been reported by Times-Picayune sportswriter Brian Allee-Walsh as the “best left-hander to come out of New Orleans since Mel Parnell,” who prepped at S. J. Peters High School in the 1940s and became an all-star pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. Wentz decided to accept a scholarship from Tulane.


The Jesuit-based Odeco Drillers’ starting lineup carried over from the high school championship squad, with two exceptions. Wynn Landry backfilled shortstop Tim Parenton, who opted to begin preparations related to his football scholarship at Mississippi State. Landry also added to the pitching depth as an occasional reliever. Sophomore Will Clark took over the first baseman’s job on a full-time basis, after playing as designated hitter for most of the prep season.


Odeco clinched the First District American Legion title behind Wentz’s two-hit shutout over Saucer Marine. The Drillers finished 15-4-1 in district play. Brad Escousse led the district with a .526 batting average.


Odeco was upset in their first game of the Southeast Louisiana Regional by Shaw-based Conmaco. But they fought their way out of the loser’s bracket to face undefeated Pelstate Automobile. Odeco wound up as the regional champion with two wins against Pelstate, the last one in 10 innings. Lenfant commented about Odeco’s comeback in the regional, “No other team had five arms, any one of which they could bring in at any time, and that made all the difference in our ability to come from behind time and time again.”


The next round of the Legion playoffs pitted Odeco against Morgan City in the South Louisiana tournament. The hard-throwing Wentz pitched one of the most topsy-turvy games of his career in the first game. He struck out 19, but also issued 10 walks and seven hits. Riley hit a grand slam home run in the eighth inning to lift the Drillers to an 8-4 win. Wentz remembers that Riley crushed the ball. “He was a big guy, and he kind of lumbered about. Pitchers tried to sneak the ball past him, but he had incredible wrists and a fast bat.”  In the next contest, Faciane pitched eight strong innings, while Warren Cuntz collected four RBIs in Odeco’s 15-3 win, advancing them to the state finals.


Odeco had little trouble with Crowley in the state finals, backed by two masterful pitching performances. Shearman won the first game, while Wentz, who struck out 18, won the title game. The victories earned them a spot in the Mid-South Regional. Wentz recalls about his outing, “I just remember throwing darts. The ball just jumped. Coach Misuraca took me out after eight innings, but I remember thinking I could throw five more innings if I had to. It was an incredible feeling.”


For the second time in their playoff run, Odeco went into the loser’s bracket after their first game in the Mid-South Regional. Jackson, Mississippi defeated them, 6-2. With the aid of their pitching depth, they rebounded with victories over Nashville, Memphis, and Little Rock. Lenfant, who got the win against Memphis, remembered how special it was to pitch in the stadium of the Memphis Chicks, a minor-league affiliate of the Montreal Expos at the time.


Odeco faced Oklahoma in the finals, winning 5-4 on Will Clark’s game-winning hit. Lenfant recalled the upstart Clark, who batted in the bottom third of the lineup at the time, had a breakout tournament in the Mid-South regional. People started to take notice of his hitting. After the game, Misuraca praised his team, “We came here with a job to do and the kids did it. Even after we lost Wednesday, the kids were still intent on staying until Sunday. We got embarrassed in that first game [against Jackson] and that made us determined to come back.”


Odeco advanced to the American Legion World Series in Ely, Minnesota. It was the first appearance by a Jesuit-based team since the 1960 Tulane Shirts team that won the title behind the play of future major leaguer Rusty Staub and Dick Roniger.


For the third time during their Legion playoff run, Odeco didn’t fare well in their first game of the World Series as Boyerton, Pennsylvania edged them, 2-1. But Wentz stepped up again with 14 strikeouts in a 6-3 win against Warwick, Rhode Island.


Odeco followed with a win over Palo Alto, California, whose team was primarily comprised of college-eligible freshmen. Faciane came on in relief in the fourth inning and gave up only two hits in 6 2/3 innings. He recalled one of the highlights of his career was striking out future major leaguer Bob Melvin to end the game.


However, Odeco’s run ended when Honolulu, Hawaii scored 10 runs in the third inning in a blowout win, 15-3. Odeco sent six pitchers to the mound in what turned out to be a futile effort. Honolulu’s star pitcher Sid Fernandez, who later pitched in the majors, shut down Odeco early. The Hawaiian team wound up defeating Boyerton for the championship. Lenfant remembered Fernandez as a sophomore pitcher who was the fastest pitcher the team had faced, throwing in the low-to-mid 90s.


Odeco finished with a 30-8 Legion record.


Wentz recalled, “I don’t think we ever had a moment where we didn’t believe we could win. In general, over ’79 and ’80 I think the collective belief among us was that we knew we were a better team. We may not stack up against some teams as individuals, but as a team, there was none better. Faith and trust, we had it in spades.”


Gerry Burrage, who coached against Jesuit and Odeco, with De La Salle in prep and Chiquita Brands in American Legion, recently said, “In my 30 years of coaching, I would rank these Jesuit-based teams in the top five best teams. They had a balanced team, including depth in the pitching staff, which Misuraca used wisely. There were no weak spots, and they usually didn’t beat themselves.” He added, “Their roster was built for tournament play.”


The two-year cumulative record of both the prep and Legion teams was 102-25. Misuraca told the Times-Picayune after the World Series, “I’ve had some good kids at Jesuit, but this [1980 team] is the best. And that’s not knocking any of the kids I’ve had here. But this team’s accomplishments make it the best of my career.”


Most of Jesuit’s starters continued their baseball careers in college. In addition to Wentz, Tulane also signed Riley, Barrios, Lenfant, and Shearman. Cuntz signed with LSU, while Escousse and Landry got tryouts with the Tigers. Parenton played baseball at Mississippi State, in addition to football. Faciane signed with Nicholls State, and Snyder signed with Notre Dame. Two years later, Clark signed with Mississippi State and followed with an illustrious 15-year major-league career. Riley and Barrios played briefly in the minors, while Parenton was a manager in the minors for three seasons.


In 2012 Retif Oil made the next American Legion World Series appearance by a Jesuit-based team, when they captured the national title over Brooklawn, New Jersey.

Hometown Heroes: Southeast Louisiana products in MLB, MiLB

Here’s the monthly report of pitching and hitting stats for many of the 2022 major-league and minor-league players who prepped or played collegiately in the New Orleans area and Southeast Louisiana. All stats are cumulative for the season, through Sunday May 31. Below are some of the highlights for May.


Mike Papierski (LSU) was traded by the Houston Astros to the San Francisco Giants for pitcher Mauricio Dubon. He made his MLB debut with the Giants on May 21.


Kramer Robertson (LSU) made his MLB debut on May 10 with the Cardinals. He is the son of Kim Mulkey, LSU’s head coach for the women’s basketball team.


Josh Smith (LSU) made his MLB debut on May 30 and went 3-for-4 in his first game with the Rangers.


Kevin Gausman (LSU) continued his control mastery, as he has issued only 6 walks in 61 innings and sports the lowest walk rate in the league. His record for the Blue Jays is 5-3, with an ERA of 2.51 and 1.066 WHIP.


Tanner Rainey (Southeastern) is one of the few bright spots for the Washington Nationals pitching staff. The closer has five saves and a 2.35 ERA.


Aaron Nola (LSU) is second in the National League in strikeouts with 74, trailing Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes with 78. His WHIP is 0.94, also second only to Burnes.


Wade Miley (Southeastern) came off the Injured List and made his 2022 debut on May 10.


 

MLB


Alex Bregman—Astros (LSU) 49 G, .226 BA, .345 OBP, 6HR, 27 RBI


Kevin Gausman—Blue Jays (LSU) 10 G, 5-31, 2.51 ERA, 61.0 IP, 70 SO


Will Harris—Nationals (Slidell HS, LSU) On 60-Day Injured List


Alex Lange—Tigers (LSU) 22 G, 2-1, 1.83 ERA, 19.2 IP, 25 SO


Aaron Loup—Angels (Hahnville HS, Tulane) 21 G, 0-2, 4.82 ERA, 18.2 IP, 20 SO


DJ LeMahieu—Yankees (LSU) 42 G, .256 BA, .333 OBP, 3 HR, 19 RBI


Wade Miley—Cubs (Loranger HS, Southeastern) MLB: 3 G, 1-0, 3.38 ERA, 16.0 IP, 10 SO; MiLB: 1 G, 0.00 ERA, 4.0 IP, 3 SO


Aaron Nola—Phillies (Catholic HS, LSU) 10 G, 2-4, 3.56 ERA, 60.2 IP, 74 SO


Austin Nola—Padres (Catholic HS, LSU) 36 G, .223 BA, .288 OBP, 1 HR, 14 RBI


Michael Papierski—Giants (LSU) MLB: 5 G, .000 BA, .100 OBP, 0 HR, 0 RBI; MiLB: 30 G, .200 BA, .298 OBP, 1 HR, 17 RBI


Tanner Rainey—Nationals (St. Paul’s HS, Southeastern) 15 G, 1-1, 5 SV, 2.35 ERA, 15.1 IP, 18 SO


Jake Rogers—Tigers (Tulane) On 60-day Injured List


Josh Smith—Rangers (Catholic HS, LSU) MLB: 2 G, .600 BA, .714 OBP, 0 HR, 0 RBI. 1 SB; MiLB: 40 G, .273 BA, .382 OBP, 4 HR, 29 RBI, 8 SB


 

Triple-A


Drew Avans–-Dodgers (Southeastern) 31 G, .235 BA, .343 OBP, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 7 SB


Greg Deichmann—Cubs (Brother Martin HS, LSU) 30 G, .204 BA, .243 OBP, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 3 SB


Jake FraleyReds (LSU) MLB: 15 G, .116 BA, .208 OBP, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 SB; MiLB: 10 G, .200 BA, .333 OBP, 1 HR, 1 RBI


J.P. France—Astros (Shaw HS, Tulane, Miss. State) 10 G, 1-3, 5.73 ERA, 37.2 IP, 47 SO


Cole Freeman—Nationals (LSU) 20 G, .241 BA, .286 OBP, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 5 SB


Ian Gibaut—Guardians (Tulane) 10 G, 1-0, 4.76 ERA, 11.1 IP, 11 SO


Jacoby Jones—Royals (LSU) 31 G, .196 BA, .256 OBP, 3 HR, 11 RBI, 2 SB


Andrew Mitchell—Mets (Jesuit, Delgado, Auburn) 10 G, 0-0, 5.17 ERA, 15.2 IP, 14 SO


Eric Orze—Mets (UNO) 13 G, 0-2, 6.52 ERA, 19.1 IP, 31 SO


Kramer Robertson—Cardinals (LSU) MLB: 2 G, .000 BA, .000 OBP, 0 HR, 1 RBI; MiLB: 36 G, .203 BA, .391 OBP, 5 HR, 15 RBI, 12 SB


Shawn Semple—Yankees (UNO) 2 G, 1-0, 8.31 ERA, 4.1 IP, 0 SO; Currently on 7-Day Injured List


Andrew Stevenson—Nationals (St. Thomas More HS, LSU) 43 G, .293 BA, .369 OBP, 2 HR, 16 RBI, 14 SB


Justin Williams—Phillies (Terrebone HS) 1 G, .250 BA, .250 OBP, 0 HR, 0 RBI; Currently On 7-Day Injured List


 

Double-A


Jared Biddy–-Rockies (Southeastern) 9 G, 4.02 ERA, 15.2 IP, 12 SO


Nick Bush—Rockies (LSU) 9 G, 4-2, 3.94 ERA, 48.0 IP, 46.0 SO


Daniel Cabrera—Tigers (John Curtis HS, Delgado, LSU) 37 G, .182 BA, .245 OBP, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 5 SB


Antoine Duplantis—Mets (LSU) 26 G, .132 BA, .184 OBP, 1 HR, 7 RBI


Hudson Haskin—Orioles (Tulane) 39 G, .272 BA, .374 OBP, 7 HR, 23 RBI, 1 SB


Cole Henry–-Nationals (LSU) 7 G, 0-0, 0.76 ERA, 23.2 IP, 28 SO


Kody Hoese—Dodgers (Tulane) 37 G, .284 BA, .306 OBP, 3 HR, 21 RBI


Braden Olthoff–-Angels (Tulane) 8 G, 2-1, 2.23 ERA, 40.1 IP, 40 SO


Kaleb Roper—White Sox (Rummel, Tulane) 9 G, 0-3, 6.75 ERA, 34.2 IP, 38 SO


Mac Sceroler—Reds (Denham Springs HS, Southeastern) On 60-Day Injured List


Zach Watson—Orioles (LSU) 35 G, .175 BA, .263 OBP, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 2 SB


 

High-A


Donovan Benoit–-Reds (Tulane) 12 G, 1-0, 2.60 ERA, 17.1 IP, 21 SO


Collin Burns-–Orioles (De La Salle HS, Tulane) 29 G, .305 BA, .387 OBP, 0 HR, 13 RBI, 7 SB


Brendan Cellucci—Red Sox (Tulane) 15 G, 1-3, 7.06 ERA, 21.2 IP, 29 SO


Saul Garza-–Royals (LSU) 4 G, .333 BA, .429 OBP, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0 SB; Currently on 7-Day Injured List


Zack Hess—Tigers (LSU) On 60-Day Injured List


Todd Peterson—Nationals (LSU) Currently On 7-Day Injured List


Chase Solesky—White Sox (Tulane) 9 G, 2-3, 4.19 ERA, 38.2 IP, 28 SO


Bryce Tassin—Tigers (Southeastern) 12 G, 1-1, 4.50 ERA, 24.0 IP, 21 SO, 1 SV


Tyree Thompson--Rangers (Karr HS) 4 G, 0-0, 1.93 ERA, 4.2 IP, 3 SO; Re-assigned to ACL Rangers


 

Low-A


Jack Aldrich-–Royals (Tulane) 9 G, 1-0, 3.32 ERA, 19.0 IP, 22 SO


Connor Pellerin–-Yankees (Episcopal HS Baton Rouge, Tulane) On 60-Day Disabled List


Aaron McKeithan–-Cardinals (Tulane) 18 G, .263 BA, .368 OBP, 1 HR, 5 RBI


 

Independent League


Nick Goody—Mexican League (LSU) 14 G, 2-1, 2.40 ERA, 15.0 IP, 24 SO


 

Japanese League


Kyle Keller–-Hanshin (Jesuit, Southeastern) 18 G, 0-3, 3.31 ERA, 16.1 IP, 19 SO

Flashback: Phenom Boo Ferriss took the baseball world by storm in mid-1940s

This week’s blog post is a story about Dave “Boo” Ferriss and his first two seasons as a major leaguer with the Boston Red Sox in 1945-46. He won more games in his first two seasons that anyone in history, except Grover Cleveland Alexander. Ferriss became an instant sensation in New England, and the rest of the country found out about him when The Sporting News put his caricature on the front page of a June 1945 issue. He was a “phenom” before the word became popular in describing budding stars.


Click the link below to another of my websites where the story about Ferriss is posted, including photos and images.


Flashback: Phenom Boo Ferriss took the baseball world by storm in mid-1940s | Baseball's Relatives (wordpress.com)

Early musings about the 2022 MLB season

A lot has already happened in the first six weeks of the 2022 seasons. There have been broken records, impressive debuts, disappointments and surprises, old-timers and newcomers. Here are some of my observations about the season so far.


In my pre-season projections back during the first week of April, I predicted Buck Showalter would need a full season to right the ship with the New York Mets. He’s proven my wrong; his Mets currently lead the NL East by 7 ½ games over the Braves. His pitching staff has really come on strong, ranked in the top five in most pitching categories. We knew newcomer Max Scherzer would bring stability to their starting rotation, especially with Jacob deGrom on the Injured List. But other Mets pitchers have stepped up, too. It now looks like Mad Max will join deGrom on the Injured List for 6-8 weeks due to an oblique strain suffered last week.


Boston second baseman Trevor Story was supposed to add another big bat to the lineup. He was a highly-prized free agent during the off-season, with the Red Sox shelling out some big dollars to sign him. But he didn’t hit his first home run until May 11, and a lot of BoSox fans began to wonder just what did they get? Then he hits three homers at Fenway against Seattle on May 19 and another on May 20. Red Sox Nation is feeling a little better now.


The St. Louis Cardinals have four potential Hall of Famers on their roster this year. They re-acquired Albert Pujols, who is a sure-fire first ballot electee. In his 19th Cardinals season, catcher Yadier Molina merits Hall of Fame induction for both his offense and defense. Nolan Arenado is the premier third baseman in baseball with the glove, having won nine consecutive Gold Glove awards. Not too shabby with the bat either, Arenado’s a four-time Silver Slugger Award winner. If first baseman Paul Goldschmidt can add a few more banner years, he’ll be a solid candidate for the Hall. And I’m not counting pitcher Adam Wainwright, who’s been in the top 3 for Cy Young Award in four seasons. Wainwright and Molina have been batterymates 307 times in their careers (third place on the all-time list).


Twins pitcher Jhoan Duran threw the fastest recorded pitch of 2022 at 103.3 miles per hour. Reds pitcher Hunter Greene broke the record for most 100+ mph pitches in a game with 39. Remember when we used to gawk at pitchers who could throw consistently in the mid-90s?


39-year-old Justin Verlander has found the Fountain of Youth. It looks like the Tommy John surgery that kept him out of the 2020 and 2021 seasons is working. He’s 5-1 with a 1.38 ERA and WHIP of 0.679. Can he pitch until he’s 46 years old, like the original Tommy John did in the 1980s?


Will Mike Trout finally make it back to the post-season this year? It’s been eight years since he and the Los Angeles Angels made a playoff appearance. They are trailing the division-leading Astros by only 1 ½ games. Trout and two-way star Shohei Ohtani are leading the way for the Angels. Outfielder Taylor Ward is having a breakout season, leading the AL in all categories of the slash line with .370/.481/.713.


The Yankees look impressive with the best record in the AL, 28-10, as of Friday. However, if you look more closely at their schedule, 12 of their wins have come from the lowly Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers, and Kansas City Royals. The only Yankees opponent currently with a winning record is Toronto. They haven’t played second-place Tampa Bay yet. The verdict is still out on whether the Yanks can maintain their lead. The good news is that they have a healthy roster for a change. Look for Joey Gallo (.176/.294/.333) to get dumped by the Yankees.


In 2021 it was Chicago White Sox rookie Yermin Mercedes who took MLB by storm at the start of the season. After the first month, he had a slash line of .415/.455/.659 with 5 homers and 16 RBIs. In 2022, Mercedes started the season in the minors. Cleveland rookie Steven Kwan was the talk of the town during the first month of this season for having not swung and missed until his 40th at-bat of the season. At the end of April, he was batting .354/.459/.500, and now he’s at /.265/.374/.373. Is he just a flash in the pan, too?


The award for “Worst MLB Team of the Year” so far goes to the Cincinnati Reds. They are officially in “tanking” mode, so it’s no surprise. Besides having the worst record in both leagues, they rank near the bottom of the NL in practically every hitting and pitching category. Future Hall of Famer Joey Votto is in the worst funk of his career, batting only .122 with no homers and three RBIs in 22 games before a 15-game absence due to COVID-19 diagnosis. He returned to the lineup this week.


Dusty Baker won his 2,000th game as a manager. In his 25th year as skipper that has included stints with the Giants, Cubs, Reds, Nationals, and now Astros, he is making his way to the Hall of Fame. The 73-year-old is proving that “old school” managers can adjust to “new school” thinking and win.

Former Jesuit, LSU, and Pelicans baseball star Jesse Danna was a winner at every level

Jesse Danna was a boxing standout at age 15, but it was ultimately in baseball where he made his mark. He was a champion in a lightweight boxing division, yet when it came to pitching a baseball, he was a genuine “heavyweight.” The diminutive left-hander was the leading pitcher for his team at every level of competition, including high school, American League, college, and professional.


Danna first appeared in New Orleans sports pages in 1933 as a competitive boxer at St. Aloysius High School. The 15-year-old fought in the 112-pound class, recording four knockouts in ten winning decisions leading up to the state tournament. The scrappy freshman claimed the state title with five wins in his weight classification.


Danna swapped his boxing gloves for a baseball glove in the summer of 1933 when he was an outfielder for the St. Aloysius-based American Legion team.


He transferred to Jesuit High School and played for their Legion team in 1934, becoming the go-to pitcher in critical games for coach Gernon Brown. He was the winning pitcher in city, South Louisiana, and state playoff games, as Jesuit captured the state Legion title. The Blue Jays breezed through the Sixth Regional tournament in Little Rock, followed by the Western Sectional where Danna defeated Wichita and Seattle. Jesuit earned a berth in the Legion World Series in Chicago. After defeating Cumberland, Maryland, in the first contest for Jesuit’s 18th consecutive win of the season, Danna lost a heartbreaker in 13 innings in the second game. Cumberland defeated Jesuit in the deciding championship game.


Danna was a second-team All-Prep player for Jesuit High in 1935, when the Blue Jays won the city and state championships.


Jesuit went undefeated in 1936 and captured the city and state prep titles. The team featured eleven players who earned All-Prep honors, including Danna and seven others on the first team. The Blue Jays had seven future professional players, including major leaguers Charlie Gilbert, “Fats” Dantonio, and Connie Ryan, as well as future major-league scout George Digby. The 1936 team was ranked the best high school team of all-time in the New Orleans area by the Times-Picayune in 2003.


Danna enrolled at LSU in 1937and played one season of freshman ball followed by lettering in three years on the varsity squad. He quickly established himself in the starting rotation for coach Harry Rabenhorst.


As a junior in 1939, the little lefthander helped the Tigers win their first SEC baseball championship with a 10-2 conference record. Danna was credited with five of the wins. He posted fifteen strikeouts in one of his victories. During his senior season, the Times-Picayune called Danna “one of Louisiana State’s greatest pitchers in university baseball history.”


He enrolled in medical school in the fall of 1940, a promise he had made to his dad. After getting a scouting report on Danna, Brooklyn Dodgers manager Leo Durocher asked him to join the team at the end of the 1941 season. He stayed six weeks but never signed a contract with the Dodgers.


After convincing his father to give pro baseball a try, Danna signed with the New York Giants in 1942 and was initially assigned to their Jersey City affiliate in the International League. His contract called for a $5,000 bonus if he remained with the team by July 1. However, the Giants released him before that date. He signed with the Atlanta Crackers at mid-season but suffered a broken left hand when he was hit by a line drive. When Atlanta wanted to send him to a lower classification to rehabilitate, he exercised an option in his contract to gain his release if he didn’t play for Atlanta. Danna went home to New Orleans where he signed with the Pelicans, then a St. Louis Cardinals affiliate, for the remainder of the season. He won only two of 11 decisions for the entire season.


The New Orleans Pelicans, a Brooklyn Dodgers affiliate in 1943, offered Danna a contract to return. He had a breakout year with league-leading 22 wins and only 7 losses. He posted a 3.16 ERA, slightly behind Ed Lopat’s league-leading 3.05. He was the last Pelicans pitcher to win 20 or more games. Danna’s catcher with the Pelicans was his former Jesuit teammate “Fats” Dantonio. The Pelicans finished in second place, four games behind the Nashville Vols. It was their highest finish since 1935. The Pelicans lost the playoff in five games to Nashville.


Over the winter Danna took a job with Pendleton Shipyards in New Orleans where he also played for their semi-pro team. In late April 1944 he signed with the Pelicans, but his season wasn’t as favorable as the previous year, since he finished with an 11-18 record for the last-place Pelicans.


Danna won 17 games for fourth-place New Orleans in 1945. The Pelicans qualified for the playoffs and upset the league-leading Atlanta Crackers in the first round, with Danna earning two of the wins. But the Pels wound up losing to Mobile in the final round.


The Pelicans repeated its fourth-place finish again in 1946, with Danna leading the team with 15 victories. The Pelicans, which had become a Boston Red Sox affiliate, pressed regular-season champion Mobile to seven games in the first round of playoffs but wound up losing. Danna received votes for the Southern Association’s MVP honors.


After starting the 1947 season with the Pelicans with a 4-4 record, Danna was released to manage the Class D Valley Rebels (Georgia) in the Georgia-Alabama League. He was also on the roster as a player. He finished with an 18-6 record and led the league with a 2.15 ERA, in roughly half of a season. Valley finished in third place and then won the playoffs over Opelika. Danna’s brother Charlie was the catcher on the team. They were both named to the league’s post-season all-star team.


A well-respected manager in the Georgia-Alabama League, Danna was offered another contract as the skipper for Valley in 1948. He was credited with developing young, inexperienced pitchers into winners. He had no problem inserting his own name into the lineup, as he posted a 22-6 record and 2.06 ERA. He was the winning pitcher on both ends of a doubleheader on three occasions. The team finished in first place during the regular season and won the playoffs by defeating Newnan in the first round and sweeping Carrollton in four games in the finals. The Danna brothers appeared in a mid-season all-star game pitting Alabama players against their Georgian foes.


Following his success in the previous two years with Valley, Danna had ambitions to move up the ladder as a manager in the pro ranks. Valley president Fob James had nothing but praise for Danna, “Jesse is a fine disciplinarian and a smart baseball man. His 1948 club was composed largely of rookies sent to the club by the Boston Red Sox. Big league scouts and other old baseball men say that Danna did as fine a job in teaching these rookies inside baseball as could be found on any professional ball club.”


However, with Valley in last place in mid-May 1949, Danna was released as manager, ending his hope to manage at higher levels. During the remainder of the season, he was able to catch on as a player with Class C Thibodaux in the Evangeline League and then Class C Helena in the Cotton States League. It was the last season of his career.


Danna’s career minor-league record was 113-81, including 69 wins with the Pelicans.


New Orleans native George Strickland, a teammate of Danna’s with the Pelicans and later a major-league player and manager with the Cleveland Indians, had the following assessment of Danna: “He didn’t throw particularly hard. He was a control guy. I think he could set you up. He could throw it by you if you looked at enough junk.” 


Danna used his managerial experience to coach the NORD-D. H. Holmes team to national championships in the National Rookie League in 1954 and 1955. He was inducted into the Diamond Club Hall of Fame in 1975.


Danna died in 2005 at age 87.

Former New Orleans major leaguer Zeke Bonura an offensive threat in 1930s

Sportswriter Furman Bisher of The Sporting News once wrote about former major leaguer Zeke Bonura, “He played what was known as a stationary first base. Neither he nor the bag moved. He hit a ton but fielded as if he had another ton on his back.”


The writer’s sentiment fairly summed up Henry “Zeke” Bonura’s major-league baseball career. From 1934 to 1939, he was one of the most productive hitters in the majors. But at the same time, he had a reputation as a defensive liability as a first-baseman.


Bonura was born in New Orleans in 1908. His father and relatives owned the Vaccaro Brothers Steamship Line and a large fruit and vegetable distribution company in the city, a factor that would later play into one of Bonura’s nicknames. He attended St. Stanislaus College, a preparatory high school in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, where he became a standout athlete in baseball, basketball, football, and track and field, serving as captain of each of his teams. For a time, he held the American record for javelin throw, established at an A. A. U. track meet in San Francisco in 1925.


He acquired the nickname “Zeke” from one of his St. Stanislaus teammates who exclaimed, “Look at that huge physique,” as Bonura was dressing for a football game. The moniker stuck with him the rest of his life.


Bonura attended Loyola University in New Orleans for two years, where he continued his athletic prowess. He and football teammate Marmont Schwartz had planned to continue their gridiron careers at Notre Dame. But after a tryout with the local New Orleans Pelicans baseball team, he decided to pursue a baseball career instead.


The 20-year-old right-handed hitter was an immediate success in 1929 with the Pelicans, who were managed by New Orleanian Larry Gilbert. Bonura batted .322 in 131 games for the third-place club. After hitting .359 in 85 games in his third season with the Pelicans, he was sold to Indianapolis for the rest of the season.


Bonura was again sold after the 1931 season to Dallas in the Texas League. The husky, 6-foot, 200-pounder developed a power stroke with the Steers, hitting 45 homers over two seasons. He was the voted the league’s Most Valuable Player in 1933, leading in home runs, RBIs, and runs.


He joined the struggling Chicago White Sox in 1934. After winning only four of its first 15 games, third baseman Jimmie Dykes also assumed the role of manager, replacing Lew Fonseca. Bonura was one of the bright rookies that came into the league that season. He led the last-place White Sox with 27 home runs (a new club record) and 110 RBIs while batting .302. He was a popular player with his teammates and the Chicago fans, who were desperate for something positive with the struggling team. Bonura was famous for bringing his teammates bananas from his father’s business and was aptly referred to as “Bananas” Bonura.


For three consecutive seasons beginning in 1935, Bonura was a holdout in signing his contract with the White Sox. He believed he deserved higher salaries than the ones offered, based on his offensive contributions to the team. His holdouts delayed his getting in shape for the upcoming season, situations that aggravated Dykes. They developed a “love-hate” relationship—Dykes loved Bonura’s bat in the White Sox lineup but hated the disruption Bonura caused each spring.


Bonura established himself as one of the leading hitters in the league. In 1935, he batted .295 with 21 home runs and 95 RBIS. Despite not being in shape at the start of the 1936 season, due to his holdout, he responded with a .330 batting average, 12 homers, and 138 RBIs (fourth in the American League in 1936 and still third all-time in White Sox history). 1937 saw him hitting .345 (fourth in the American League) with 19 home runs and 100 RBIs. During his first four seasons with the White Sox, he averaged only 28 strikeouts per year.


While Bonura’s fielding percentage as first baseman wasn’t below average, he was criticized by Dykes and sportswriters for allowing ground balls to get past him at first base. He was slow and immobile around the bag. His defensive play would become the biggest criticism against him in an otherwise prolific major-league career.


Bonura ultimately fell out of favor with Dykes, who had him traded to Washington for first baseman Joe Kuhel before the 1938 season. It was an unpopular move with Chicago fans, since Bonura owned the Windy City because of his play and his personality.


Bonura’s batting average dropped 56 points with the Senators in 1938, but he continued to display a powerful bat with 22 home runs and 114 RBIs. (He was the Senators’ single-season home run leader until Roy Sievers surpassed him in 1954.) But his fielding struck a sour note with the Senators’ front office, and they dealt him to the New York Giants, where he played with fellow New Orleanian Mel Ott in 1939. He led the Giants in batting average (.321) and RBIs (85) that season.


Following a season split between Washington and the Chicago Cubs in 1940, Bonura became eligible for the military draft. He was the leading hitter for the Minneapolis Millers in the American Association in June 1941 when he was inducted into the Army. He was assigned to Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, as an assistant to the athletic officer. However, the 32-year-old Bonura was discharged later that year because of the Selective Service 28-year age rule.


Bonura was recalled into the Army in January 1942, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He spent 20 months in North Africa where he was awarded the Legion of Merit medal by General Dwight Eisenhower, for his leadership in organizing GI baseball teams and leagues. He became known as the “Judge Landis of North Africa.” He was later stationed in Europe, where he continued to organize and promote baseball events for the troops.


After missing four baseball seasons during World War II, Bonura returned to baseball in 1946 at age 37. He went back to Minneapolis as player-manager, but he lasted less than a month before being released. He finished out the season as player-manager with Thibodaux in the Evangeline League. He managed eight more seasons with several teams in the low minors, finally calling it quits after the 1954 season.


His major-league career stats included an impressive .307/.380/.487 batting line, 119 home runs, and 704 RBIs in seven seasons.


One of the finest all-around athletes from Louisiana, Bonura was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 1989 and the New Orleans Diamond Club Hall of Fame in 1966.


Bonura remained a popular figure in New Orleans after his baseball career was finished. Terry Alario Sr., a former West Jefferson High School, American Legion, and Northwestern State pitcher in the 1960s, recalls being coached by Bonura in an All-American Baseball League all-star game in 1967. Alario said, “I mostly remember his sense of humor and his unbelievable knowledge of baseball. Listening to him was like opening an encyclopedia.”


Bonura was frequently remembered in local newspaper sports columns for his on-the-field achievements and his colorful personality. Long-time Times-Picayune sports editor Bob Roesler wrote in 1969, “Baseball needs more Zeke Bonuras to liven up the action.” Bonura died in 1987 at age 78.

Memorable Baseball Games in the Superdome: A's and Giants preview 1989 World Series

The primary impetus for building the Louisiana Superdome in the early 1970s was a new home for the New Orleans Saints. The “father” of the Superdome Dave Dixon also envisioned the facility would be home for NBA and MLB franchises. He had the foresight to ensure the design for the stadium included configurations to accommodate baseball and basketball games in addition to football. After numerous attempts to entice a major league team to New Orleans, city and state officials struck out in attracting a big-league team. That’s not to say the Superdome didn’t host baseball games. During 1976-2003, major-league exhibition games, a minor league team’s regular-season games, and college games were played in the domed facility. Over the next few weeks, we’ll highlight some of these memorable baseball games.


March 28, 1989: San Francisco Giants vs. Oakland A’s


Ever since the Louisiana Superdome opened in August 1975, New Orleans’ efforts to attract a major-league franchise had difficulty gaining traction. In September 1988, Louisiana governor Buddy Roemer commissioned a New Orleans sports group to identify potential investors from the Deep South to finance a franchise for the Dome. Roemer was thinking that an existing team might become available in 1989. He was prepared to offer owners tax breaks or other concessions to make the Superdome an attractive home stadium.


San Francisco businessman Edward DeBartolo, who already had investments in the New Orleans Centre shopping mall, was thought to be a target by Roemer to join a regional ownership group. Without a large money-backer, New Orleans was presumed to trail behind Washington D. C., Tampa-St. Petersburg, and Denver for a team.


Roemer and his baseball task force made a pitch to major-league officials at their winter meetings in Atlanta in early December, in an attempt to improve their standing with MLB. As a follow-up to those meetings, Superdome officials were able to book the defending American League champion Oakland A’s and the San Francisco Giants for an exhibition series in the spring of 1989. The city hoped a large turnout for the games would help demonstrate its viability as a major-league market and improve the image of the Superdome as a baseball facility.


The A’s and Giants were natural rivals even though they didn’t play each other during the regular season. Both of the teams were from the Bay Area in San Francisco and had recent success in their respective leagues. Their spring exhibition games against each other in Arizona weren’t taken lightly, and there was an expectation the intensity would carry over to their Superdome appearances.


A’s outfielder Dave Parker said about the upcoming series, “It’s an exhibition game, yet it’s not an exhibition game. We want to beat them and they want to beat us. There’s a little extra going here.” A’s slugger Mark McGwire added, “I’m sure this is more like a regular-season game than a spring training game.


New Orleans native and former Jesuit High School player Will Clark was returning home with the Giants. Since arriving in the majors in 1986, he had established himself as one of the premier players in baseball. Jose Canseco, part the A’s “Bash Brothers” tandem with Mark McGwire, missed the series due to a wrist injury.


The first game of the two-game series on March 28 drew an impressive crowd of 32,020 on a Tuesday night. The game was scoreless until the sixth inning when Dave Henderson hit a solo home run for the A’s off Jeff Brantley, who had just come into the game for the Giants to relieve starter Scott Garrelts.


A’s starter Todd Burns got into the sixth inning, having allowed only a single by Jose Uribe in the third inning. He gave up a leadoff double to Brett Butler, who advanced to third on a wild pitch. Ernest Riles’ single scored Butler to tie the score, 1-1. Clark followed with a single, but the A’s snuffed out any further runs on two fielding gems by shortstop Walt Weiss.


The Giants jumped ahead in the seventh on a single by Butler that scored Andres Santana, 2-1.


Clark drew a walk with one out in the eighth and advanced to second on Kevin Mitchell’s single. Clark scored on James Steel’s single, making the score 3-1.


With a Giants win seemingly in hand, the A’s had more to say about the outcome. In the ninth inning, Oakland mounted a comeback with a walk to Terry Steinbach, a single by Weiss, and a double by Stan Javier that scored a run. Weiss scored on Luis Polonia’s ground out to Clark at first base, which tied the score again. Henderson’s single provided the go-ahead run, for a final score of 4-3. It was the third time during spring training that the Giants lost to the A’s in the ninth inning.


Before a crowd of 31,815 on Wednesday night, the A’s also won the second game, 4-2, with a solid defensive effort. The A’s Javier prevented a home run in the eighth inning with a spectacular catch at the left field wall on a smash by Riles. McGwire hit the only home run of the game in the eighth, with a shot off the facing of the second deck.


American League president Bobby Brown, a former Tulane baseball standout in the 1940s, attended the games and was impressed with the Superdome. He said, “I think it’s a very adequate park for major-league baseball. The alleys (358) are a little close, but everything else is well-suited.” On the prospect of New Orleans being able to attract a team, he noted, “I think New Orleans ranks with any other cities which has applied for a franchise.”


Will Clark would have the best season of his career in 1989, when he helped the Giants win their first National League pennant since 1962. He posted a batting line of .333/.407/.546, while hitting 23 home runs and 111 RBIs. Clark was runner-up to Tony Gwynn for the batting title. He finished second in the MVP voting to teammate Kevin Mitchell.


Oakland’s sweep of San Francisco in the Superdome exhibition game turned out to be a preview of the 1989 World Series, when the A’s swept the Giants in four games. That was the year the earthquake in the Bay Area that interrupted the World Series.

Memorable Baseball Games in the Superdome: All-Time All-Star Game treats sparse crowd

The primary impetus for building the Louisiana Superdome in the early 1970s was a new home for the New Orleans Saints. The “father” of the Superdome Dave Dixon also envisioned the facility would be home for NBA and MLB franchises. He had the foresight to ensure the design for the stadium included configurations to accommodate baseball and basketball games in addition to football. After numerous attempts to entice a major league team to New Orleans, city and state officials struck out in attracting a big-league team. That’s not to say the Superdome didn’t host baseball games. During 1976-2003, major-league exhibition games, a minor league team’s regular-season games, and college games were played in the domed facility. Over the next few weeks, we’ll highlight some of these memorable baseball games.


June 2, 1984: American All-Stars vs. National All-Stars


Despite the persistence of the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana to acquire a major-league team, going back to the early 1970s, their efforts were unsuccessful. In the spring of 1984, Superdome officials were still making their pitch to Major League Baseball to acquire a team. The Superdome was the site of major-league spring exhibitions games for the fifth consecutive year and the second Pelican Cup game between Tulane and UNO. In early June, there was a different baseball attraction in the Superdome.


Denver-based entertainment promoter Barry Fey came up with the idea to gather a collection of former major-league all-stars to play in the “All-Time All-Star” series. The first game occurred in Denver in 1983 and drew over 56,000 fans in Mile High Stadium. Fey thought New Orleans would be good site for one the games planned for 1984, since the city was still pursuing opportunities to showcase the Superdome.


Fey arranged for the American All-Stars to face the National All-Stars on June 2 in New Orleans. He got a bargain by paying each player $1,500 plus expenses. And they included some of the biggest names in baseball history:  Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Warren Spahn, Brooks Robinson, Whitey Ford, and Bob Feller.


The retired players looked forward to performing on the field again. Banks, the former Chicago Cubs slugger with 512 career home runs, said, “It’s just not an old-timers game. We look upon it as an event where we have a chance to perform again…to be with people who have followed our careers.” Warren Spahn, who won 363 career games, mostly with the Braves, said, “We still enjoy putting the uniform on. None of us can hit like we used to and none of us can throw like we used to. But in each of the dugouts, everybody wants to win.”


Gene Mauch was the manager for the Americans, while Herman Franks was the skipper for the Nationals. Spahn and Feller drew the starting pitcher assignments. The last time they had faced each other as pitchers was in Game 5 of the 1948 World Series, when the Boston Braves defeated the Cleveland Indians.


Feller had fond memories of New Orleans since he had spent spring training in the city with the Cleveland Indians in 1938 as an 18-year-old phenom.


 

The Nationals starting lineup featured an all-Chicago Cubs infield consisting of Banks at first base, Glenn Beckert at second, Don Kessinger at shortstop, and Ron Santo at third.


In the bottom of the first inning, Hank Aaron, the all-time home run leader at the time, didn’t disappoint the crowd. He hit a home run to deep left field off Bob Feller with Willie Mays on base to claim an early Nationals lead. Aaron had warmed up with two home runs in a pre-game home run derby. His slam recalled another occasion when he hit a home run in New Orleans on April 1, 1974, when the Atlanta Braves played an exhibition game against the Baltimore Orioles at Kirsch-Rooney Park. Three days later, Aaron tied Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record in a regular-season game against the Cincinnati Reds.


Spahn gave way to former teammate Johnny Sain in the third inning, reminiscent of the 1948 season when the Boston Braves routinely used the two hurlers on only two days rest. “Spahn and Sain and pray for the rain” became the team’s mantra during their run for the National League pennant.


The score remained 2-0 until the bottom of the sixth. The Nationals banged out five straight hits for five runs against Phil Regan, the sixth American’s pitcher in the game. Billy Williams produced a two-run double, while Orlando Cepeda hit a two-run single. The game ended after the scheduled seven innings, 7-0.


The crowd was estimated at 10,000, well below the expectations of the game’s organizers. The earlier major-league exhibition series had attracted the fewest number of fans (24,286) in the five years the Superdome hosted major-league baseball. The inaugural series in 1980 had 88,542 in attendance.


Times-Picayune sportswriter Peter Barroquere reported that Bill Curl, Hyatt vice president for marketing and public relations, believed New Orleans baseball fans “would no longer accept and support exhibition baseball.” Curl said, “They’re [fans] saying, ‘When we have the team, tell us about it and we’ll buy a ticket. But don’t ask us to buy a ticket to get a team. Don’t ask us to continue to support anything less than a New Orleans team playing a full-fledged major-league schedule and be enthusiastic about it.’”


Despite the lack of current fan support, Curl said it wouldn’t diminish the city’s efforts to bring in a major-league team.


Barroquere wrote that he believed there were three factors working against the city in getting a franchise at that time. He offered, “There was no buyer for a baseball team in New Orleans. No prospective buyer of a team would likely accept a deal which includes a city and state tax package that goes up to 14 percent next year. Baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn was averse to putting a franchise in New Orleans.”


 

Most New Orleanians didn’t understand all the reasons why the Superdome had yet to get a major-league team. But on that night in June, the crowd was treated to a rare spectacle involving some of the greatest players of all time.

 

 

Memorable Baseball Games in the Superdome: Louisiana vs. Florida in first Busch Challenge

The primary impetus for building the Louisiana Superdome in the early 1970s was a new home for the New Orleans Saints. The “father” of the Superdome Dave Dixon also envisioned the facility would be home for NBA and MLB franchises. He had the foresight to ensure the design for the stadium included configurations to accommodate baseball and basketball games in addition to football. After numerous attempts to entice a major league team to New Orleans, city and state officials struck out in attracting a big-league team. That’s not to say the Superdome didn’t host baseball games. During 1976-2003, major-league exhibition games, a minor league team’s regular-season games, and college games were played in the domed facility. Over the next few weeks, we’ll highlight some of these memorable baseball games.


February 20, 1987: LSU, Tulane and UNO vs. Miami, Florida State and Florida


The Louisiana Superdome was scheduled to host the NCAA’s biggest basketball event, the Final Four tournament, at the end of March in 1987. But before that event took center stage, the Superdome hosted the Busch Challenge tournament, a novel concept by Superdome officials to pit the top three baseball programs from Louisiana against the top three teams from Florida in a round-robin format. The first Busch Challenge took place on February 20-22 and became one of the premier annual college baseball events in the country, lasting 14 years.


Busch and Winn-Dixie were the two major sponsors among eight corporate benefactors that provided financial support for the local colleges hosting the tournament. The Times-Picayune reported the total cost for the three-day event was $120,000. The commitment of funding from the sponsorship was a significant factor in attracting the major college programs from Florida, since their costs for travel, housing, and meals were guaranteed.


LSU coach Skip Bertman told the Times-Picayune that Busch Challenge I was the only tournament of its kind. He said, “Next to the College World Series, you won’t find a better college tournament.” And Bertman would know, since his Tigers squad had advanced to the CWS in 1986.


The tournament field represented an impressive collection of major college baseball programs. In addition to LSU, Miami and Florida State competed in the CWS the previous year. Florida State finished as the runner-up to Arizona for the championship. Tulane lost to LSU in a regional. UNO and Florida were in re-building mode in 1986, with both having been in a recent CWS. Florida State coach Mike Martin told the Times-Picayune, “The six teams are traditionally as strong as any in the South. I’m excited (to play in this tournament.) I’d pay to see the games.”


Major-league scouts were licking their chops over the talent that would be appearing in the tournament. Local major-league scout Lenny Yochim of the Pittsburgh Pirates told the Times-Picayune before the event, “Lots of kids who are playing in that tournament are going to be drafted.” He estimated there would be as many as 30 scouts in attendance. Joey Belle, Barry Manuel, Mark Guthrie, and Stan Loewer were among the top 1987 MLB draft prospects from LSU. UNO’s Rob Mason and Tulane‘s David Smith, Tookie Spann, and Sam Amarena were expected to draw attention from the scouts for the upcoming June draft.


Day 1 of the tournament consisted of the following tripleheader games: Tulane vs. Florida; UNO vs. No. 3 ranked Florida State; and No. 2 ranked LSU vs. Miami.


Tulane posted a dramatic come-from-behind win over Florida, 11-10, in the opening game on Friday.


Tulane’s Rob Elkins, who had entered the game in the fifth inning as a pinch-hitter, smashed a two-out grand slam into the right field seats to overcome the Gators. “It was up and in,” Elkins told the Times-Picayune. “I was looking inside and he got the curveball in.”


Green Wave second baseman Ronnie Brown also hit a grand slam, in the fifth, which closed the score, 10-7. All of this action came after Florida had jumped out to a 10-1 lead. Tulane pitcher Ricky Purcell was brilliant in six innings of relief, allowing one hit while striking out eight. He got credit for the win.


In the second game, UNO junior right-hander Brian Muller was effective in containing Florida State. He gave up seven hits and four walks in the Privateers’ 3-1 win.


UNO scored all three of its runs in the second inning. The Seminoles threatened in the ninth inning, when Muller walked two batters and gave up a single that loaded the bases with two outs. But he managed to induce a ground out that secured UNO’s victory.


 UNO coach Tom Schwaner was pleased with Muller’s performance. He said, “We had two pitchers warming up. But Brian kept battling back. I was glad he went the distance. Against a club like Florida State, it will give him confidence the rest of the season.”


The Florida contingent of teams avoided a sweep when Miami defeated LSU, 7-2, before 7,639 fans.


Miami’s starting pitcher Kevin Sheary held the Tigers in check for the first six innings on six hits, before being relieved. The game wasn’t a pretty one for the Tigers, as Miami took advantage of LSU’s sloppy play in the field. LSU went through five pitchers, including starter Dan Kite who lasted only one inning and took the loss.


UNO, LSU, and Florida State took wins in the Saturday trio of games, while Florida State, Tulane, and Florida claimed wins on Sunday. Louisiana’s five wins gave them bragging rights as the winner of the inaugural Busch Challenge.


The three-day attendance total was 26,973, including Saturday’s 10,879 and Sunday’s 8,455.


Highly-regarded Miami coach Ron Frasier praised the tournament’s success. He told the Times-Picayune, “This tournament was one of the best ideas anybody ever came up with to promote college baseball. It gives people a chance to see how far we’ve progressed in the last 15-20 years. You saw some great baseball out there.”


Future major leaguers on the tournament’s rosters included: UNO—Joe Slusarski, Ted Wood, and Brian Traxler; LSU—Ben McDonald, Russ Springer, Barry Manuel, Jack Voigt, and Joey (Albert) Belle; Tulane—Gerald Alexander; Florida State—Richie Lewis, Jerry Nielsen, Rafael Bournigal, and Deion Sanders; Miami—Joe Grahe, Wade Taylor, and Mike Piazza; Florida—Jamie McAndrew and Rod Brewer.


Louisiana’s opposition in future tournaments included colleges from California, Oklahoma, North Caroline, Georgia, Mississippi, Texas, and Alabama.


In 1993, Winn-Dixie became the primary sponsor and the event changed its name to Winn-Dixie Showdown. The last year of the tournament was 2000.

 

Memorable Baseball Games in the Superdome: Major league baseball returns with Yankees-Orioles exhibition series


The primary impetus for building the Louisiana Superdome in the early 1970s was a new home for the New Orleans Saints. The “father” of the Superdome Dave Dixon also envisioned the facility would be home for NBA and MLB franchises. He had the foresight to ensure the design for the stadium included configurations to accommodate baseball and basketball games, in addition to football. After numerous attempts to entice a major league team to New Orleans, city and state officials struck out in attracting a big-league team. That’s not to say the Superdome didn’t host baseball games. During 1976-2003, major-league exhibition games, a minor league team’s regular-season games, and college games were played in the domed facility. Over the next few weeks, we’ll highlight some of these memorable baseball games.


March 15-16, 1980: New York Yankees vs. Baltimore Orioles


The Superdome held its first major-league exhibition series in 1976 to showcase the shiny new stadium to prospective MLB owners and officials, with the hopes New Orleans could attract a franchise. Four years later the city was still pitching its famed domed stadium to potential owners. On March 15-16, 1980, major league baseball returned to the Superdome which hosted a two-game series between the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles. It would be the first of four consecutive years New York came to the city.


The Yankees had prior history with New Orleans. The club used the city as its spring training site from 1922-1924. The Yankees came to New Orleans in 1948 to play the Pelicans in a two-game exhibition series. The New Orleans Pelicans were a Double-A minor-league affiliate of the Yankees in 1957 and 1958. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner had an affinity for Louisiana through his relationship with legendary Grambling football coach Eddie Robinson. Steinbrenner donated part of his team’s proceeds from the Superdome exhibition series to the university.


Baltimore, under manager Earl Weaver, was coming off an American League pennant in 1979, while the Yankees ended with a disappointing fourth place in the American League East after winning the World Series the year before. When the Yankees decided not to bring Billy Martin back for the 1980 season, Dick Howser was named the new skipper.


A crowd of 45,152 attended the first game of the series. At the time, it was a record for a baseball game in New Orleans. With the crowd shouting “Reg-gie, Reg-gie,” Yankees slugger Reggie Jackson provided the highlight of the game when he hit a line-shot home run off Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer in the second inning.


The Orioles got on the scoreboard first in the top of the second inning, when Al Bumbry had a base-loaded infield hit that scored Gary Roenicke. Jackson hit his game-tying solo home run in the bottom half of the frame and the Yankees went ahead, 2-1, when Oscar Gamble, who had doubled, scored on an error by the Orioles on a ball hit by Eric Soderholm.


All the rest of the scoring for both teams occurred in the fourth inning.


In the top of the fourth with Mike Griffin pitching for the Yankees, Billy Smith singled, followed by walks to Rick Dempsey and Mark Belanger. Ken Singleton singled in two runs to give the Orioles a 3-2 lead.


In the bottom of the fourth, Jackson almost got the best of Palmer again, sending outfielder Roenicke to deep left-center on a long drive that fell short of the fence. After Gamble flew out, Palmer hit Jim Spencer, followed by Soderholm who reached base a second time on an Orioles miscue. Palmer loaded the bases with a walk. Brad Gulden doubled to score two runs to give the Yankees the lead again. Bobby Brown hit an infield single that scored Gulden. With the bases loaded, Bobby Murcer cleared them with a double. Jim Spencer added a solo home run for good measure. The final score was 9-3.


Jackson remarked after the game, “I don’t think the ball carries that well. Had the ball carried well, I would have had two. However, he was impressed with the crowd, adding “I thought the crowd was very appreciative. They enjoyed seeing baseball, and they enjoyed seeing the Yankees.


In the second game of the series the next day, popular Louisiana native Ron Guidry was the starting pitcher for the Yankees. But he didn’t fare well for the hometown crowd, as he was chased with four runs in the first inning. The Orioles went on to a 7-1 thrashing of the Yankees in front of 43,399 fans.


After the first game, Steinbrenner was favorable about what he saw in the Superdome. On the prospects of New Orleans acquiring a major-league franchise, he said, “You look out and see 45,000 people coming to an exhibition game, and not just coming out, but the attitude of the people, talking baseball, wearing caps…baseball is making a big mistake if they didn’t put a franchise in here.”


In response to a report to major-league owners several years earlier that the Superdome was not suitable for baseball, Steinbrenner added, “Last night was the first time I ever saw a baseball game indoors, and I couldn’t believe I was indoors. I don’t know how anybody could not like the idea of putting a team in New Orleans.


But Steinbrenner’s sentiments didn’t carry over to other prospective owners of a team in New Orleans. The city continued to host major-league exhibition games up until 1999, but without success in gaining a commitment. Ultimately, the Superdome wasn’t the main reason for not attracting a team. There was never a local backer for the team who could take an ownership interest, and there was concern over insufficient economic buying power from the region to support a team over a 162-game schedule.

 

Memorable Baseball Games in the Superdome: Pelican Cup Takes Shape in the Superdome


The primary impetus for building the Louisiana Superdome in the early 1970s was a new home for the New Orleans Saints. The “father” of the Superdome Dave Dixon also envisioned the facility would be home for NBA and MLB franchises. He had the foresight to ensure the design for the stadium included configurations to accommodate baseball and basketball games in addition to football. After numerous attempts to entice a major league team to New Orleans, city and state officials struck out in attracting a big-league team. That’s not to say the Superdome didn’t host baseball games. During 1976-2003, major-league exhibition games, a minor league team’s regular-season games, and college games were played in the domed facility. Over the next few weeks, we’ll highlight some of these memorable baseball games.


April 3, 1981: Tulane vs. UNO


Tulane and University of New Orleans were boasting nationally-ranked baseball programs in 1981 when the two schools played in the inaugural game of the Pelican Cup series in the Louisiana Superdome. Only a few days earlier, the Superdome had hosted a major-league exhibition series with the New York Yankees facing the Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Mets, and Philadelphia Phillies, averaging 25,000 fans per game. Superdome promoters hoped to match those crowd sizes forth the Pelican Cup, but the game fell short in drawing a comparable crowd. 12,342 fans were still treated to a thrilling game decided by UNO’s walk-off home run in the ninth inning.


Ron Maestri’s UNO squad, 28-6, was ranked 14th nationally, while Joe Brockhoff’s Tulane charges, 20-7, were ranked 22nd in the nation. The two schools were meeting for the 23rd time, with Tulane leading the series, 13-9. Their game on April 3 was the first of the Pelican Cup series that is still played today on the respective campuses.


At the time, NCAA staff said they did not maintain official attendance records of regular-season college baseball games. Superdome officials had prepared for a crowd of 25,000, which was more than double the attendance of even the best baseball programs in the country drew. With admission for the game only one dollar, Brockhoff had no doubt fans would get their money’s worth. He told the Times-Picayune, “As far as intensity, quality teams, and the place you play, the combination of those three makes this game one of the best games around.”


Both coaches were expecting a high-scoring game, partly because neither team had a dominant pitcher as in recent years, but also because the Superdome featured a fast artificial turf and an environment where balls could quickly leave the field.


Oddly, UNO hosted a game against Cornell on its campus earlier in the day, but it was because the game had been scheduled before the Pelican Cup contest was arranged in the Dome.


Unbeaten (5-0) freshman Brian Migliore drew the starting pitcher assignment for the Green Wave, while Ronn Dixon took the hill for the Privateers.


Errors ruled the night for both teams. UNO took a 5-1 lead after four innings, largely due to Tulane’s four miscues in the field. Migliore settled in and held UNO scoreless for the next four innings. Meanwhile, the tide turned on the Privateers. The Green Wave managed to score two runs in the eighth and three in the ninth to take the lead, 6-5. Three of Tulane’s the five runs were unearned due to four Privateer errors.


In the bottom of the ninth, Migliore struck out the leadoff batter and then retired Howie Brodsky on a fly out. After walking Gary Morlas on four pitches. UNO shortstop Augie Schmidt followed with a walk-off home run to the shortest part of left field to secure the Privateers’ win, 7-6.


Tulane leftfielder Reggie Reginelli tried to appeal to the umpire that a fan had interfered on Schmidt’s home run by reaching out and touching the ball before it cleared the fence, but his plea went on deaf ears.


Migliore told the Times-Picayune that he felt he had to challenge Schmidt after falling behind on the count. “I just made a bad pitch,” he said.


UNO’s Dixon turned in a credible pitching performance, yielding only three hits and two earned runs in seven innings. Paul Mancuso got credit for the winning decision with a relief appearance in the eighth.


It was the fourth time during the season that Tulane lost a game with a one-run lead going into the ninth inning. A dejected Brockhoff said, “I’m beginning to believe we are snake-bitten.


Tulane finished the season with a 37-26 record, while UNO compiled a 48-16 record that earned them a berth in a Division I Regional for the third consecutive year.


Schmidt, who had also homered in the earlier game against Cornell, would go on to win the Golden Spikes Award in 1982 as the nation’s top college player and was the first overall pick in the 1982 MLB Draft by the Toronto Blue Jays. Paul Maineri, who became head coach at LSU, appeared in the game for UNO.


For the next three seasons, Tulane and UNO returned to the Superdome for Pelican Cup re-matches.

 

Memorable Baseball Games in the Superdome: LSU and Tulane battle on "Night of Records" 20 years ago

The primary impetus for building the Louisiana Superdome in the early 1970s was a new home for the New Orleans Saints. The “father” of the Superdome Dave Dixon also envisioned the facility would be home for NBA and MLB franchises. He had the foresight to ensure the design for the stadium included configurations to accommodate baseball and basketball games in addition to football. After numerous attempts to entice a major league team to New Orleans, city and state officials struck out in attracting a big-league team. That’s not to say the Superdome didn’t host baseball games. During 1976-2003, major-league exhibition games, a minor league team’s regular-season games, and college games were played in the domed facility. Over the next few weeks, we’ll highlight some of these memorable baseball games.


April 10, 2002: LSU vs. Tulane


Throughout its history, the Louisiana Superdome has been the site of countless sporting events with huge crowds, involving the New Orleans Saints, New Orleans Jazz, Sugar Bowl, and NCAA Final 4 championships. On April 10, 2002, LSU and Tulane squared off in a baseball game at the Superdome billed as a “Night of Records.” The size of its crowd didn’t approach those other events, but at the time its 27,673 fans was the largest single-game crowd to ever attend a collegiate baseball game.


LSU (20-13) and Tulane (18-16) were having lackluster seasons in 2002, but it didn’t deter interest in the game. The game had originally been scheduled for Zephyr Stadium in Metairie, but Tulane and LSU officials agreed to move the game to the Superdome.


The promoters for the LSU-Tulane contest had intentions of breaking the all-time record for a college game (24,859) that occurred in the 1999 College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. Tulane assistant athletic director Scott Sidwell said, “Having an opportunity to break the record was the driving force behind the move.” LSU athletic director Skip Bertman said, “This was a no-brainer. I’m all for the record, and I hope we get it. The difference now is we have a facility to do that, and we have wonderful supporting people in Louisiana.”


24,000-plus tickets were sold prior to the game, which ensured the largest crowd to attend a regular-season game. That previous record was 21,043 in 1996, when Texas and TCU faced each other at The Ballpark in Arlington in Arlington, Texas.


The walk-up crowd purchasing tickets put the attendance well above the record, with a total of 27,673. Each fan was treated with a cardboard placard that said “I was there! Night of Records.”


LSU’s Bo Petit and Tulane’s Kris Kline drew the starting pitcher assignments.


Petit was perfect through the first four innings before issuing a hit and a walk in the fifth. He was able to get out of the inning unscathed on a timely double play.


Meanwhile, LSU built an 8-0 lead after five innings. LSU shortstop Aaron Hill hit a two-run home run in the third inning, which chased Kline from the game. LSU hit three solo home runs (by Sean Barker, Jason Columbus, and Chris Phillips) off Green Wave pitcher Beau Richardson in the fifth. Green Wave head coach Rick Jones wound up using six pitchers in the game.


Tulane got on the scoreboard in the seventh inning when Michael Aubrey hit a two-run single off Clay Harris. Gerald Clark hit a bases-loaded double to score three runs in the bottom of the ninth for a final score of 9-5.


Petit, who raised his record to 4-5, said after the game, “When you have a lead, it makes it easier to pitch. Luckily, our team fed off the crowd a little and keep the intensity alive.


Obviously disappointed with his team’s performance Jones said, “To be part of history is a special thing.”


First-year LSU head coach Smoke Laval commented, “College baseball all over the country should be excited. If we can do it in Louisiana, don’t be surprised to see it in other places.”


Laval’s prediction was correct about future record crowds. The College World Series routinely has 30,000-plus fans in attendance, including one in which LSU played North Carolina in 2008. The current all-time mark (40,106) was set in 2004, when the University of Houston played San Diego State in the first game played at Petco Park in San Diego.


Previous Crescent City Sport stories about baseball games in the Superdome include the first baseball game in the Superdome in 1976, the New Orleans Pelicans home opener in 1977, and a high school playoff doubleheader in 1977.

Predicting the 2022 MLB Division Winners

MLB’s Opening Day has been delayed to April 7 due to the protracted negotiations on the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. But that’s okay. MLB will still get in a full season, with doubleheaders scheduled to catch up on games that had to be cancelled.


It will be interesting to see what affect the shortened spring training will have on teams. Rosters are being expanded to 28 players (29 for doubleheaders) through May 1 to allow for additional pitchers on the rosters. That should help those clubs whose starting pitching is not up to par yet. But what about the position players? I can envision a lot of pulled hamstrings early on. It begs the question of whether these types of issues will have an effect on the final standings. Pennants can’t be won in April, but they can be lost if teams get off to a poor start.


Here are my predictions for the six major-league divisions. Note that MLB will have six teams from each division in the playoffs this season.


American League East


I extolled the virtues of the Toronto Blue Jays in my blog post last week, and they are my favorites to win the division. I believe they will overcome the losses of Robbie Ray and Marcus Semien with the best overall roster in the league. The Yankees will beat out Tampa Bay for the second spot. The additions of veterans Anthony Rizzo (with a full season) and Josh Donaldson, and a true shortstop in Isiah Kiner-Falefa, upgrades the team from last year. If Gerret Cole produces like he’s capable, the Yankees will claim a playoff berth. This is still the toughest division in baseball.


American League Central


The Chicago White Sox will repeat as division champs. They were the runaway leaders last year (13 games over second-place Cleveland), and with their lineup from last year largely intact again, they will be hard to beat. Detroit, who’s been in re-building mode the past few years, is poised to claim second place. Manager AJ Hinch doesn’t have a lot of big-name players in his lineup but look for his youngsters to jell. By the end of the season, expect to know much more about Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene, two former first-round draft picks.


American League West


The Seattle Mariners narrowly missed a post-season berth last year despite a late-season surge. With the addition of Robbie Ray, 2021 Cy Young Award winner, all-star second baseman Adam Frazier, and all-star outfielder Jesse Winkler, the Mariners will deliver on higher expectations this year and win their first division title since 2001. The Houston Astros’ hopes for a repeat division championship seem hinged on the return of Justin Verlander, who missed last year with recovery from Tommy John surgery. With the loss of shortstop Carlos Correa to free agency and Lance McCullers Jr. starting the season in the IL, the Astros will have to a battle for second place with the Los Angeles Angels. The Halos will have Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon healthy this season to augment AL MVP Shohei Ohtani in the batting lineup.


AL Playoff Teams


Toronto, New York, Tampa Bay, Chicago, Seattle, Houston


National League East


Recent history says the Atlanta Braves won’t repeat as World Series champion (the Yankees were the last in 1999-2000), but they will win their fifth consecutive division title. They lost the face of their franchise in Freddie Freeman. Yet believe it or not, the Braves got better by signing first baseman Matt Olson through free agency. Outfielders Marcell Ozuna and Ronald Acuna Jr. (in May) will return to full-time status after missing much of last season due to injuries. Former Dodger reliever Kenly Jansen provides a big lift in the bullpen. The Phillies will make a run at the Braves with new sluggers Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber, but their pitching staff remains below average. The Mets’ new manager Buck Showalter will need a year to make the Mets legitimate contenders.


National League Central


I like the Milwaukee Brewers to win the division, based solely on their pitching staff. Christian Yelich is due for a resurgence after having two subpar seasons. The Cardinals will be their closest competitor, mainly due to their offense led by Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. I guess the Cardinals added Albert Pujols for sentimental reasons, maybe to let him retire in a Cardinals uniform. The rest of the division is in “tanking” mode. The Cubs, Pirates and Reds will be fodder for the rest of the league.


National League West


Dave Roberts declared his Dodgers will win the World Series this year, and he just may be right. They will regain the division title after San Francisco interrupted their string of eight consecutive titles last year. The Dodgers have one of the most talented teams in recent history with their collection of MVPs, CY Young Award winners, and all-stars. San Francisco has health and age issues and won’t come close to winning 107 games like they did last year. They will compete for second place with the San Diego Padres, who will be starting the season without superstar Fernando Tatis Jr., who foolishly injured his wrist during the off-season in a motorcycle accident. New Padres manager Bob Melvin was a solid hire. Unlike Showalter with the Mets, Melvin will get the Padres into the playoffs in his first season at the helm.


NL Playoff Teams


Atlanta, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Los Angeles, San Diego


World Series Winner


Dodgers over Blue Jays

Toronto Blue Jays poised to be threat in tough AL East

Tampa Bay, Boston and New York have been dominating the AL East for quite a while. In 2021 the Toronto Blue Jays had their best record since 2015 with 91 wins. Yet they still finished in fourth place and didn’t qualify for a post-season spot. With key roster additions over the offseason to compensate for two major losses, they are poised again to challenge for the top spot in the AL East.


Every team had to deal with the continuing effects of the pandemic in 2021, but none of them had to play in an alternate home stadium. Since the city Toronto was off-limits for the first half of the season due to it COVID mandates, the Blue Jays started out the regular season at their Dunedin, Florida spring training site. On June 1, the team began playing at Sahlen Field in Buffalo, New York. They finally got back to their true home field at Rogers Centre in Toronto on July 30.


At that point, the Blue Jays were three games above .500, in fourth place, 9 ½ games behind the division-leading Rays. By season’s end, they had improved to 20 games above .500. Perhaps playing in their normal home stadium contributed to that. Yet they were unable to make up any ground on the Rays, who had a lights-out season.


Last season, the Blue Jays had both the best pitcher and hitter in the American League in pitcher Robbie Ray and first-baseman Vlad Guerrero Jr. Ray was the Cy Young Award winner. Guerrero Jr. finished second in the MVP voting, based on leading the league in runs, home runs, OBP, SLG, OPS, OPS+, and total bases.


The loss of Ray to free agency during the offseason was a big blow to the starting rotation, but they have offset his departure by obtaining Kevin Gausman, who had the best year of his career with the Giants last year (14-6, 2.81 ERA, 1.042 WHIP and 145 ERA+). They also acquired free-agent starting pitcher Yusei Kikuchi, who figures to slot into the rotation.


Besides Ray, the Blue Jays’ 2021 rotation included Hyun Jin Ryu who won 14 games last year. Jose Berrios was acquired at the trade deadline last year from the Twins and the Blue Jays extended his contract for seven years after the 2021 season. Berrios finished ninth in the Cy Young Award voting. Alek Manoah went 9-2 as a rookie.


Even without Ray the Blues Jays head into the new season with one of the best starting rotations in the American League.


In the bullpen, Jordan Romano mans the closer role. In his first full season in 2021, he recorded 23 saves and seven wins, while posting a 2.14 ERA. The Blue Jays have the advantage of Ross Stripling and Nate Pearson in middle relief. Both have been starters before, so they can provide a lot of innings out of the bullpen and can also be used as spot starters when needed. Adam Cimber, who came over from Miami during last season, demonstrated good control, issuing only 16 walks in 72 2/3 innings between the two teams. Veteran reliever Yimi Garcia was added in the offseason from Houston.


Offensively, the Blues Jays were among the top three teams in the American League by leading in home runs, slugging percentage, and on-base-plus slugging percentage, while finishing second in batting average and third in on-base percentage.


But one of their key contributors, second baseman Marcus Semien, was lost to free agency after he recorded the best season of his career. He was as an all-star, Gold Glove Award winner, and Silver Slugger Award winner, finishing third in the MVP voting. The Texas Rangers grabbed Semien during the offseason.


Toronto was proactive after the lockout in trading prospects to the Oakland A’s for Matt Chapman, likely the best defensive third baseman in the league. He’ll also partially offset Semien’s loss offensively, as he averages 31 home runs per 162-games during his five-year career.


Shortstop Bo Bichette played his first full season with the Blue Jays and fulfilled the expectations set for him when the Blue Jays made him their second-round selection in the 2016 MLB Draft. The all-star led the league in hits (191), while also hitting 29 bombs and 102 RBIs. Cavan Biggio and Santiago Espinal will compete for playing time at second-base. In any case, Biggio provides flexibility in the lineup with his ability to play multiple infield positions as well as outfield.


George Springer missed most of the first half of last season due to injury, but when he came back, he didn’t miss a beat with 22 home runs and 50 RBIs. He’s joined in the outfield by Teoscar Hernandez, who had a breakout season with 32 home runs, 116 RBIs ands a .298 batting average. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (21 homers, 84 RBIs) will fill the other starting outfield spot. Raimel Tapia was acquired for Randal Grichuk in a trade last week, adding a much-needed lefty bat and speed off the bench, but the Jays give up Grichuk’s power.


If there is a weakness in the everyday offense lineup, it would be the catcher position. Danny Jansen looks to split time with Alejandro Kirk, who has more pop in his bat.


Charlie Montoyo starts his third season as manager of the Blue Jays. He has steadily improved during his short tenure. With the amount of talent on the team, expectations will be higher in 2022. His job doesn’t get any easier though, since he matches up in his division against some of the top managers in the league in Kevin Cash, Alex Cora, and Aaron Boone. The Jays were 28-29 against them last season. If he can improve that, the Jays will have a better chance of getting into a playoff scenario.


The Blue Jays have an exciting team. They’re young and they bash the ball with the best of teams, two factors that make them one of the most popular teams in all of baseball.

New Orleans area players found careers in baseball after playing days

While professional baseball players aspire to have lengthy major-league careers, the reality is that most of them won’t ever reach the big leagues. And even if they make it to the “Show,” the average length of major-league careers is around three to four years.


Some retired players have a passion for the game that doesn’t allow them to give it up altogether. They are able to leverage their experience and knowledge of the sport to find careers after their playing days are over.


Here are several New Orleans area players that found post-career success with jobs in player development, scouting, coaching, managing, and front office operations.


Blake Butera was a four-year letterman at Mandeville High School. He was an all-metro and all-state performer in 2011. He played at Boston College from 2012 to 2015, where he posted a slash line of .265/.375/.344 in 207 games. Butera was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 35th round of the 2015 MLB Draft. He spent two minor-league seasons in the Rays organization, hitting.235 with three home runs and 31 RBIs. He became the youngest minor-league manager in 2018 at age 25. Butera compiled an 88-62 record in two seasons with Hudson Valley. He was named Manager of the Year in the Low-A East League after leading the Class A Charleston RiverDogs to an 82-38 record, the best winning percentage in the minors in 2021. Butera’s father Barry Sr. and brother Barry Jr. also played minor-league baseball.


Jeremy Bleich was a three-time all-metro pitcher and twice an all-state performer for Newman High School during 2003-2005. The left-hander accepted a scholarship with Stanford University where he was a starter and closer during his three seasons, which included a College World Series appearance in 2008. Bleich was the overall 44th selection of the 2008 MLB Draft by the New York Yankees. He toiled in the minors for 10 seasons before making his major-league debut with the Oakland A’s in 2018. In 280 career minor-league games, he posted a 36-37 record with a 3.90 ERA. He pitched in only two major-league games. Bleich played for Team Israel in the 2016 World Baseball Classic and the 2021 Olympics. After a knee injury ended his playing career in 2019, he joined the Pittsburgh Pirates major-league staff as an analyst focused on defensive shifting and positioning through analytics and scouting.


Randy Bush was a second-round selection out of the University of New Orleans by the Minnesota Twins in the 1979 MLB Draft. He spent his entire professional career with the Twins, logging 12 major-league seasons in which he batted .251 with 96 home runs and 409 RBIs. He was a member of World Series championship teams in 1987 and 1991. Following his playing career, he held a variety of jobs in the Chicago Cubs organization, including minor-league hitting instructor, special assistant to the GM, interim GM, and assistant GM. He is currently a senior advisor to baseball operations. Bush was head coach for the University of New Orleans from 2000-2004.


Jack Cressend prepped at Mandeville High School before signing with Tulane University. He lettered for the Green Wave during 1994-96, where he posted an 18-15 record with a 4.37 ERA. He led the team in strikeouts in 1995 and 1996. One of his highlights was a 15-strikeout game against Missouri in 1996. Cressend was signed as a non-drafted free agent with the Boston Red Sox in 1996. He spent five seasons in the majors with the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians during 2000 and 2004. He compiled a 5-5 record and 4.20 ERA in 122 games. After his playing career, he became a scout in the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers organizations. He is currently a national pitching cross-checker in the Dodgers’ scouting organization.


Bobby Dickerson prepped at East St. John High School and played at Nicholls State University from 1984-1987. He was selected by the New York Yankees in the 23rd round of the 1987 MLB Draft. The infielder spent seven years as a player in the minors in the Yankees and Baltimore Orioles organizations. From 1993 to 2012, he held jobs in player development, coaching, and managing in the Orioles, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Chicago Cubs minor-league systems. He got his first major-league coaching position in 2013 with the Orioles, where he spent six seasons. After a season with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2019, he joined the San Diego Padres coaching staff for two seasons. He was named the MLB Coach of the Year in 2020 by Baseball America. He is currently the infield coach for the Phillies.


Michael Johns was drafted out of Tulane by the Colorado Rockies in the 19th round of the 1997 MLB Draft. The shortstop played the 1997 and 1998 seasons in the Rockies organization and batted .215 in 121 games. He followed that with one season in an independent league in 1999. After a stint in high school coaching, he became a minor-league coach in the Tampa Bay Rays organization. He was later elevated to a minor-league manager in the Rays system, where he spent 2010 to 2017 at the Rookie and Class A levels. Johns is currently the field director in the Rays minor-league system.


Ron Marigny, a standout at St. Augustine High School, was originally drafted out of high school by the Cincinnati Reds in the 30th round of the 1983 MLB Draft. He didn’t sign with the Reds, instead attended Tulane University from 1984 to 1986. He compiled a .340/.428/.502 slash line, 16 home runs, and 143 RBIs in 179 games. He was named to the second team Freshman All-American Team in 1984 by Baseball America. In the 1986 MLB Draft, he was taken by the Detroit Tigers in the eighth round. He spent three seasons in their minor-league system compiling a .252 batting average, six home runs, and 174 RBIs. After his playing career, Marigny embarked on a career in scouting. He has been a scout for the Arizona Diamondbacks, national crosschecker for the Los Angeles Angels, scouting supervisor for the Oakland A's and most recently national crosschecker for the Atlanta Braves.


J.P. Martinez played his prep career for Newman High School. He initially signed with LSU but later transferred to UNO for the 2003 and 2004 seasons. The right-handed pitcher was selected by the Minnesota Twins in 2004 in the 9th round of the MLB Draft. In five minor-league seasons in the Twins and Baltimore Orioles organizations, he had a 1 7-14 record and 3.36 ERA in 203 games, mostly in relief. Following his last season in 2008, he coached for Newman and Pope John Paul II High School in Slidell. Martinez became a pitching coach in the Twins organization, including 2018-2020 as the Twins minor-league pitching coordinator. He served as assistant pitching coach for the San Francisco Giants in 2021.


Matt Paul prepped at Slidell High School before playing at Southern University, where he was an infielder for the 2003 SWAC champions. He was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 18th round of the 2004 MLB Draft. He played two seasons in the Dodgers system before a shoulder injury rerailed his playing career. Paul secured a job as a scout with the Dodgers, including eight seasons as a regional supervisor, and earned a reputation as a top talent evaluator. He currently works for Reynolds Sports Management as the Director of Southeast Scouting and Development. His brother Xavier played in the majors for six seasons during 2009-2014 for the Dodgers, Pirates, Reds, and Diamondbacks.

Flashback: 2021 MLB season included family ties highlights

During the first part of last week, we were still anxiously waiting for the 2022 MLB season to kick into gear. I had prepared a piece that looked back at the history of the game to get our baseball “fix.”


So, even though the MLB and MLBPA finally got agreement on the new CBA last Thursday, I decided to go ahead with my flashback article. However, we need only to go back to last season to recall several  games in which family ties played a role. Throughout the majors in 2021, there were fifteen pairs of brothers, four pairs of cousins, and three sets of brothers-in-law. Following are some of their game highlights.


The most unique occasion of brothers playing on the same team occurred on August 12, when Austin and Andrew Romine were batterymates for the Chicago Cubs against the Milwaukee Brewers. There have been prior situations in baseball history where brothers have been pitcher and catcher in the same game. But what makes this one unique is Andrew, normally an infielder, was brought into pitch for the Cubs in a blowout game with his brother behind the plate. They were the first brother duo to appear as batterymates since 1962 when Larry and Norm Sherry played for the Dodgers.


Austin, who had just been activated by the Cubs before the game, came in as catcher after a pinch-hit appearance. Andrew, who started the game at shortstop, went to the mound in the ninth inning with the Brewers leading, 16-3. Andrew wasn’t able to shut the Brewers down as he gave up a solo home run to Luis Urias. However, he did manage to strike out Jackie Bradley Jr. to end the inning. It wasn’t the first time Andrew took a turn on the mound. He had seven previous appearances as pitcher, including a game on September 30, 2017, in which he played all nine positions.


Who does a mother root for when one of her sons bats against his brother in a game? That’s the situation the mother of Bradley and Kyle Zimmer experienced when they played against each other on September 27. Cleveland Indians outfielder Bradley got the best of Kyle, who had just entered the game as a reliever for Kansas City, by hitting a solo home run in the bottom of the eighth inning. It was Bradley’s eighth homer of the season. The last time a brother homered off his brother was Joe Niekro, who hit his only major-league home run off his brother Phil on May 29, 1976.


Mexican-born brothers Luis and Ramon Urias posted highlights on the same day on April 13, when each hit their first home run of the season. However, both of their home runs came in losing causes, as Ramon’s Orioles lost to the Seattle Mariners, 4-3, and Luis’s Milwaukee Brewers lost to the Cubs, 3-2.


Aaron and Austin Nola had only faced each other in a practice game while playing for LSU until they squared off on August 21 for the first time in the majors. Aaron, the Philadelphia Phillies ace pitcher, was in his seventh season, while Austin was in his third as a catcher with San Diego. Aaron had a perfect game going through six innings that included striking out Austin and inducing him into a pop fly out. Aaron lost his perfect game and no-hitter in the seventh inning, including a walk to Austin, but pitched into the eighth inning until being relieved. The Phillies wound up losing the game in the tenth inning, 4-3.


Brothers Jordan and Justus Sheffield opposed each other as pitchers for the first time in a spring training game on March 4. Jordan was in his first major-league season with the Colorado Rockies, while Justus was in his fourth major-league season and third with the Seattle Mariners. Jordan is a righty, while Justus throws from the left side. They have yet to pitch against each other in a regular season game. While both were in the minor leagues in 2019, they were on opposing teams for a series but were not in the game at the same time.


When the Cleveland Indians acquired Josh Naylor in 2020, it set up the possibility he and his brother Bo will be teammates. They went to the Indians’ spring training camp together in 2021, but Bo wound up going to Double-A Akron for the regular season, while Josh played a full season with the Indians. The brothers had played on the same team only once in their careers, which occurred in a youth league.


Brothers Jake and Joe McCarthy have yet to play in the majors at the same time, but they did see action with Triple-A teams that opposed each other on July 1. Jake played for Reno against Joe’s Sacramento team. Jake got one hit, while Joe went hitless. In a later game in the series between the two teams, both players had RBI-doubles. Joe had made his major-league debut with the San Francisco Giants in 2020, but did not appear in the majors last season, while Jake wound up making his debut with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2021.


Rafael Devers and his cousin Jose Devers played against each other for the first time. Jose made his major-league debut with the Marlins in 2021, while Rafael was in his fifth season with the Red Sox. On May 28, the two teams faced each other, but it was an uneventful game for both players who went hitless in Boston’s 5-2 win. The cousins had grown up together in the Dominican Republic.


When the Cincinnati Reds called up Delino Deshields Jr. last September, he joined his father Delino Deshields Sr., the first-base coach for the team. It was the first time they had ever shared a dugout. They had previously been on opposing teams in 2019 and 2020.


Other major-league brother pairs who played against each other in the same game numerous times in 2021, as well as in earlier years, included Corey (Dodgers) and Kyle (Mariners) Seager and Yuli (Astros) and Lourdes Jr. (Blue Jays) Gurriel.


Other major-league cousins who played on opposing teams in 2021, as well as in earlier years, included John Andreoli (Padres) and Daniel Bard (Rockies).

Former De La Salle and Tulane star Collin Burns preparing for minor league season

After an encouraging start to his professional baseball career last year, 21-year-old Collin Burns is looking to make more headway in the minors this year. The former De La Salle High School and Tulane shortstop has already reported to the Baltimore Orioles’ minor-league spring training camp and is putting in the hard work to get ready for the April 15 start of the season.


Burns had an impressive junior season last year with Tulane University, recording a slash line of .353/.410/.571 with eight homers, 50 RBIs, and 20 stolen bases. He was fourth in the American Athletic Conference in batting average and runs scored, fifth in slugging percentage, and third in stolen bases. He was selected as an All-American Conference first team member. The shortstop was named to the All-America second team by the NCBWA and third team by Collegiate Baseball.


He was selected in the sixth round by the Orioles in the MLB Draft last June. He got off to a good start by batting .429 in five games in the rookie Florida Complex League, followed by 19 games for Delmarva in the Low-A East League, where he batted .279 with 10 RBIs.


I caught up with Burns earlier this week. He is training in Sarasota, Florida, where he was among half of the Orioles’ minor-leaguers selected to begin spring training early. The remainder will report on March 7. He says he’s impressed with the extensive minor-league staff that assists with hitting and fielding drills, strength and conditioning, and nutrition. He says there are “a lot of good baseball minds” available at the training site whose experience he can draw on. The instructors have emphasized that “it is okay to fail in practice since that’s the time to learn from mistakes.”


Burns is working on several facets of his game, including getting bigger and stronger, seeing good pitches, and improving his “damageability,” a term he says the Orioles’ staff uses to emphasize hitting line drives and hitting the ball in the air. While he hasn’t hit against live pitching yet, he says the machine work is challenging, especially hitting high-velocity pitches.


Burns credits Tulane head coach Travis Jewett and his staff for preparing him for the transition to pro ball. He said the practices employed by Tulane were very similar to what he’s participating in now in Sarasota.


He played both shortstop and second base during his minor-league stint last year. He says versatility is valued, and he won’t mind playing wherever the organization wants. He said, “With the types of shifts being used today, the fielding positions have become blurred anyway.”


Burns hasn’t been told yet where he will start the 2022 season—whether he’ll return to Delmarva or go to High-A Aberdeen. The Orioles’ draft picks for the last three years have included shortstops who were selected in the first or second rounds, so he will have stiff competition.


Burns was an All-Metro performer for De La Salle High School in 2018. He helped the Cavaliers reach the quarterfinals in the state prep playoffs.


Stay tuned to follow Burns and other New Orleans area and Southeast Louisiana major-league and minor-league players this season. Their progress will be reported later this season in a monthly “Hometown Heroes” update by Crescent City Sports.

 

Ranking former New Orleans MLB players using the WAR statistic

If you’ve recently followed the careers of Major League Baseball players, you’re probably aware there’s a statistic called WAR (Wins Above Replacement). Current players like Mike Trout and Mookie Betts are among the leaders. Ever wonder how some of New Orleans’ former players compare when measured by WAR?


MLB.com defines WAR as a “measurement of a player’s value in all facets of the game by deciphering how many more wins he’s worth than a replacement-level player at his same position (e. g. a Minor League replacement or a readily available fill-in free agent).”


WAR quantifies each player’s value in terms of a specific number of wins. For position players, its calculation includes hitting, fielding, and baserunning. Pitchers have a different WAR calculation.


While the stat was first introduced around 2008, it is able to be calculated for all MLB players regardless of when they played. Thus, it became a useful tool for comparing players across eras and across positions. For example, Mike Trout can be compared with Mickey Mantle, or third baseman Alex Bregman can be compared with outfielder Aaron Judge.


Below are tables showing WAR for the Top 7 position players and Top 5 pitchers from New Orleans, ranked by WAR, using Baseball-Reference.com calculations.


Position Players

 

Player

 

Timeframe

No. of Seasons Played

 

Career WAR

 

WAR in Best Year

Mel Ott, OF

1926-1947

22

110.9

1938 (8.9)

Will Clark, 1B

1986-2000

15

56.5

1989 (8.6)

Rusty Staub, OF-1B

1963-1985

23

45.8

1970 (6.3)

Zeke Bonura, 1B

1934-1940

7

21.5

1937 (4.3)

Connie Ryan, 2B-3B

1942-1954

12

17.7

1952 (3.6)

Lou Klein, IF

1943-1951

5

8.1

1943 (6.5)

George Strickland, SS

1950-1960

10

6.8

1953 (2.7)

 

Pitchers

 

Player

 

Timeframe

No. of Seasons Played

 

Career WAR

 

WAR in Best Year

Howie Pollet

1941-1956

14

34.3

1946 (6.8)

Mel Parnell

1947-1956

10

27.7

1949 (8.0)

Jack Kramer

1939-1951

12

11.3

1944 (5.2)

Chad Gaudin

2003-2013

11

2.4

2013 (1.5)

Steve Mura

1978-1985

7

1.0

1980 (1.3)

 

It’s not surprising that Mel Ott’s (McDonough Gretna HS) WAR is head-and-shoulders over all the players, since he is a Hall of Fame player. He had a career batting line of .304/.414/.533 with 511 and 1,859 RBIs. He was an 11-time All-Star and received league MVP votes in 13 seasons, with Top 7 finishes in five seasons. He spent his entire career with the New York Giants, never playing in the minors. By comparison, Mickey Mantle had a 110.0 WAR; Frank Robinson had a 107.0 WAR, and Ken Griffey Jr. had an 83.8 WAR.


Will Clark (Jesuit HS) had a career batting line of .303/.384/.497 with 284 home runs and 1,205 RBIs. He was a six-time All-Star and a Top 5 vote-getter for league MVP honors in four seasons. Clark played for the Giants, Rangers, Orioles, and Cardinals. By comparison, Keith Hernandez had a 60.3 WAR and current Cincinnati first-baseman Joey Votto has a 64.6 WAR.


Rusty Staub (Jesuit HS) was a six-time All-Star with a batting line of .279/.362/.431, 292 home runs, and 1,466 RBIs. He collected over 500 hits for four different teams, including the Astros, Expos, Mets, and Tigers. Later in his career, he became a valued DH and pinch-hitter. By comparison, Tony Perez had a 54.0 WAR and Steve Garvey had a 38.1 WAR, while Harold Baines had a 38.7 WAR.


If there had been a Rookie of the Year Award in 1934, Zeke Bonura (Loyola) would have won it based on his .302 average, 27 home runs, and 110 RBIs. Four of his seven seasons were with the White Sox. He also played for the Giants, Senators, and Cubs. He finished with a batting line of .307/.380/.487, 119 home runs and 704 RBIs.


Connie Ryan (Jesuit HS) was a National League All-Star in 1944 with the Boston Braves. He was a member of the 1948 Braves that won the National League pennant. In his best season in 1952, he had 12 HRs and 48 RBIs for the Phillies. His career batting line was .248/.337/.357. Ryan played for five different teams, the most seasons with the Braves (7).


George Strickland (S.J. Peters HS) was a light-hitting shortstop for the 1954 Cleveland Indians that captured the American League pennant with 111 wins. He started out his career with the Pirates, followed by eight seasons with the Indians. His career batting line was .224/.313/.311.


Lou Klein (S.J. Peters HS) had his best season as a rookie in 1943 for the pennant-winning St. Louis Cardinals, when he batted .287 with seven home runs and 62 RBIs. However, his career was impacted by jumping to the Mexican League for more money in 1947 and 1948, and he never regained his form from the rookie season. His career batting line was .259/.330/.381.


When the St. Louis Cardinals won the 1946 World Series, it was Howie Pollet (Fortier HS) who led the St. Louis Cardinals pitching staff. It was his career-best season withs 21 wins and 2.10 ERA. He finished fourth in the NL MVP voting. The left-hander was a three-time All-Star who won 20 games in 1949. He finished his career with a 131-116 record. Pollet also played for the Pirates, Cubs, and White Sox. By comparison, Dizzy Dean had a 46.2 WAR and Joe Niekro had a 29.7 WAR.


Mel Parnell (S.J. Peters HS) had his career-year in 1949 when he led the league in wins (25), ERA (2.77), complete games (27), and innings pitched (295.1). He pitched a no-hitter against the White Sox in 1956, the last by a Red Sox left-hander. The lefty defeated the New York Yankees 15 times between 1949 and 1953. His career stats include a 123-75 record, a 3.50 ERA, and 20 shutouts. He is a member of the Red Sox Hall of Fame. By comparison, Whitey Ford had a 57.0 WAR and Hal Newhouser had a 62.7 WAR.


Jack Kramer (S.J. Peters HS) played for the hapless St. Louis Browns for eight seasons. However, his best season came in 1944, the year the Browns won their first-ever National League pennant. The big right-hander was a two-time All-Star with a career record of 95-103 and 4.24 ERA. He also played for the Giants, Red Sox, and Yankees.


Chad Gaudin (Crescent City Baptist HS) was a journeyman pitcher having played for nine different clubs in his 11 seasons. His time with the Yankees in 2009 earned him a World Series ring. The right-hander’s career record 45-44 and 4.44 ERA in 344 games.


Steve Mura (Redemptorist HS, Tulane) was the second pick of the San Diego Padres in 1976. He had his best season with the Padres in 1979 when he posted a 3.08 ERA in 38 appearances, mostly in relief. As a starter, he won 12 games for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1982 when they won the World Series. His career record was 30-39 with a 4.00 ERA in 167 games.

We can't blame global warming for messing with the Hot Stove Season

The only persons who showed up for the opening of major-league training camps in Florida and Arizona last week were the mail carriers. MLB owners ordered a lockout of the players on December 2, after initial talks between Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association stalled, and the training sites have been dormant since then. There are probably some people who would want to blame global warming for the situation, but unfortunately it doesn’t apply to this man-made disaster.


MLB and the MLBPA have been stuck in the mud on agreeing to a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA). And it’s looking like they will need something drastic to happen to pull them out of the muck. But this was predictable back in mid-November when the two sides held their first bargaining sessions. They were miles apart.


From the outset, there didn’t seem to be genuine effort on either side then to gain agreement quickly. The result has been a Hot Stove Season that barely got off the ground before the MLB owners ordered the lockout, which has put a damper on the off-season.


Both sides have put forward proposals, the latest by MLB on February 12 and a counter proposal by the union on February 17. Representatives of the two sides are scheduled to meet every day this week to continue the negotiations.


How much longer it will take to hammer out an agreement is anyone’s guess. The current situation has already put the baseball season out of whack. Minimally, the spring training season will be shortened. MLB has already cancelled spring games through March 4. How many more will be affected? The undesirable case is Opening Day of the regular season on March 29 has to be delayed. MLB has declared the CBA must be agreed to by February 28 in order to not affect the regular season. Worst case is games have to be eliminated from the regular season schedule. If that happens, everyone loses—the owners, the players, and the fans (yeah, remember them?).


One of the downsides of the lockout has been the absence of a buildup of the upcoming season. Building the anticipation for the new season is one of the main features of the Hot Stove Season. This off-season, fans got cheated out of most of the usual back-and-forth debates on sports talk shows and social media about which teams would be contenders and which would be pretenders.  With the uncertainties of the upcoming season, there just didn’t seem to be the same intensity of anticipation.


A few key free-agent signings, including Max Scherzer, Corey Seager, Javier Baez, Robbie Ray, and Marcus Semien, occurred before everything shut down. But the majority of the other free agents were left in the lurch, including highly sought-after Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, Kris Bryant, and Freddie Freeman. The lockout caused baseball’s winter meetings to be cancelled. That’s usually when many player transactions occur, both trades and free-agent signings. In a normal Hot Stove Season, baseball enthusiasts would have been conjuring up all kinds of fantasy trades to improve their favorite teams.


Major League Baseball does a relatively poor job of marketing its product, even in the best of times. I imagine advance ticket sales for this season have been negatively impacted. That can’t be good for the owners, some of whom are still reeling from the shortened 2020 season when revenues took a nosedive. The owners are in control over whether the season starts on time, and they don’t want to go down that road of cancelling any games. But the lockout is their main leverage over the players’ union.


So, fans are playing the waiting game for the negotiations to be completed. They are tired of watching last year’s games on the MLB Network and reading articles historical games and players from past years.


It’s been a rather quiet time over the winter because the lockout curbed most of the normal off-season activities. The end of the Hot Stove Season is usually marked by the first players arriving at spring training camps.  Ironically, it is being extended this year due to the lockout.


Some would say the current state of negotiations is caused by the greediness of the owners. Some would argue it’s the players wanting to get revenge for the previous CBA. Others would say it’s the stubbornness of both sides in not looking at the long term. In any case, one thing it can’t be attributed to is global warming. Not this time.

Black History Month: Former Algiers resident Herb Simpson a Black forerunner in minor leagues

Even though Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in major-league baseball in 1947, some minor leagues in Organized Baseball were still being integrated for the first time in the early 1950s. New Orleans area native Herb “Briefcase” Simpson, a Black baseball player born in Harahan and raised in Algiers, was acclaimed as one of the pioneers in the integration of minor-league baseball.


Simpson began playing baseball for local Black semi-pro teams in the area before joining the Army during World War II.


After returning from military service, he played with several Black all-star barnstorming teams, including the Harlem Globetrotters baseball team owned by Abe Saperstein, who is also known for his Globetrotter basketball team. One of the other teams was the popular Seattle Steelheads, which Saperstein had owned.


After a year with the Chicago American Giants in the Negro Leagues in 1950, Simpson went into the minors. Negro Leagues historian Ryan Whirty said in a 2015 interview with WWL.com that “Simpson became the first Black player to integrate two different minor-league circuits” while playing for the Spokane Indians (Class A Western International League) and the Albuquerque Dukes (Class C West Texas-New Mexico League).


With Spokane in 1951 he batted .282. He got a call by the Dukes in 1952 to replace a first baseman who had broken an ankle. In three seasons with Albuquerque, he compiled batting average of .324 from 1952 through 1954. Simpson told the Times-Picayune in 2010 that he had to endure the evils of segregation, often eating at separate tables and securing separate lodging from the rest of the team. But he said he was always backed by his teammates who, once they got to know him, “started liking me just like everyone else.”


It was in the minors that he acquired his nickname “Briefcase.” A sportswriter once asked him if he was related to Harry “Suitcase” Simpson, another prominent Negro League player and later a major-leaguer. There was no relation, but because Herb was 5 feet, 8 inches tall, the sportswriter dubbed him Herb “Briefcase” Simpson.


After leaving the minors in 1954, he played for the local New Orleans Creoles and the New Orleans Black Pelicans until retiring in 1963.


Simpson was one of the players featured in the 2008 book When Baseball Went to War. His biography indicated that after infantry training in Wyoming and Oklahoma, he was assigned to a quartermaster corps and sent to England as part of the Allied buildup of troops prior to the Normandy landing. While waiting for the invasion, he joined an all-white team that played in what was called the “battle leagues.”


The Seattle Mariners recognized Simpson on numerous occasions when the club celebrated Black baseball heritage at home games.


After his playing days, he lived in Algiers and remained involved with many civic, religious, and charitable organizations. Whirty said, “Herb played for the love of the game, and he enjoyed every minute of it, just like he enjoyed every minute of his life.” He added, “Herb wasn’t just a great baseball player and a sports trailblazer, but he was also a gracious, humble man who served his community and became a local ambassador for the fading memories of the Negro Leagues.”


Simpson died in 2015 at age 94.

 

Black History Month: Female Negro League trailblazer Toni Stone played for the New Orleans Creoles

With this month being Black History Month, it‘s an appropriate time to remember Toni Stone, who became the first female player for the Negro American League in 1953. She had ties to New Orleans as a member of the New Orleans Creoles, a Black minor-league baseball team, from 1949 to 1952.


Stone, whose given name was Marcenia Lyle Stone, was born in 1921 in St. Paul, Minneapolis. By 1937 she was playing with men’s semi-pro teams in the area, but eventually found her way to San Francisco playing for the barnstorming Sea Lions.


In 1949 Stone began playing with the Creoles, then a member of the Texas Negro League. Negro Leagues historian Larry Lester described the Creoles as “a very good semi-pro team.” Managed by Wesley Barrow, the team would also play exhibition games against opponents like the Kansas City Monarchs from the Negro American League. The Creoles often played in Pelicans Stadium when not in use by the New Orleans Pelicans minor-league team.


By that time, the Negro Leagues were in serious decline since Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the major leagues in 1947. Indianapolis Clowns owner Syd Pollock decided he needed an attraction to boost attendance for his entry in the Negro American League. He inked the 5-foot-7 ½-inch, 148-pound Stone in 1953 to a contract for a reported $12,000 per year, which was a substantial salary even for major leaguers at the time. Thus, she became the first female to play regularly in the organized Negro Leagues. She was billed as the “female Jackie Robinson.”


While Stone’s appearances may have been regarded as box office draws for the Clowns, she was a legitimate ballplayer, too. She was said to “break up double plays with the best of them.” She usually played several innings at second base each game before being substituted. Newspaper reports said she was 22-year-old, but in fact she was ten years older.


Pollock’s plan worked. At every city where the Clowns played, they were drawing extraordinary crowds who came to see the novel player. What’s more, she didn’t disappoint the crowds. At one point during the season, she had the fourth-highest batting average in the league, although she had considerably fewer plate appearances than other leaders that included future major-league Hall of Famer Ernie Banks.


After the 1953 season, Stone’s contract was sold to the Kansas City Monarchs, and she was replaced by another woman, Connie Morgan. She retired after the 1954 season. Over her two-year career in the Negro Leagues, her batting average was .243.


With women currently breaking barriers in Organized Baseball, including Rachel Balkovec as minor-league manager in the Yankees organization and Katy Krall in the Red Sox organization as major-league coach, they join the original trailblazer Toni Stone.

Former De La Salle and Tulane two-sport athlete Johnny Arthurs' storied career would fill multiple scrapbooks

When the topic of best overall athletes in New Orleans sports history is brought up, many remember Johnny Arthurs from the 1960s. Like countless kids, he began playing organized sports at early age. He was eight years old when started baseball and ten years old in basketball. But unlike many kids who quit playing around 12 years of age, Arthurs went on to play in practically every level of organized sports in New Orleans, including NORD, Biddy, Babe Ruth, American Legion, high school, AAABA, and college. His sports career concluded with a brief stint in the NBA.


Throughout his sports journey, Arthurs was a member of several championship teams and was named to numerous all-star teams. The accomplishments of Arthurs and his teams would fill lots of scrapbook pages.


His first taste for playing on a championship team occurred in 1957 with a Wisner Playground 10-and-under baseball team that won the New Orleans Recreational Department (NORD) city championship. Two years later, Arthur’s team won the title again. He credits coach Ronnie Aucoin for teaching him the fundamentals.


In his second season in the NORD-Security Biddy Basketball League in 1960, he won his first scoring crown. He was selected for an all-star team that won the Southeastern United States Biddy Basketball tournament. The team advanced to Bridgeport, Connecticut, for the International Biddy tournament, where they finished third out of 14 teams. Arthurs was named to the All-America second team.


Later that summer Arthurs’ 13-year-old Ramelli’s baseball team won the NORD-Bunny Friend League.


At this point in his young career, Arthurs recalls that he favored baseball over basketball, because it was a more sociable sport. He said, “Baseball practices allowed for a lot of banter among teammates while taking batting practice or shagging balls. I liked that.” He added, “Since I played first base, I was able to talk to the opposing team’s runners and the first-base umpire during the games.” But his preference would soon change after he entered high school.


Arthurs began an illustrious career at De La Salle High School by playing on the junior varsity basketball team that won the Catholic League championship for the 1961-62 season with a 28-3 record. As a freshman, he also played on the Cavaliers’ JV baseball team.


De La Salle sponsored a team in the Babe Ruth private school baseball league in the summer of 1962, and Arthur’s team advanced to the South Louisiana regional tournament.


As a sophomore, Arthurs was a starting forward on the De La Salle basketball team for the 1962-63 season.


However, it wasn’t until his junior year in 1963-1964 that he had a breakout season in Cavaliers basketball. De La Salle was runner-up for the Catholic league district title with a 21-5 record, as Arthurs led the district in scoring. The Cavaliers lost to Baton Rouge’s Istrouma High in the state quarterfinals. Arthurs was named De La Salle’s most valuable player and his performance earned him selections to the all-Catholic district, all-city, and all-state teams.


De La Salle got revenge against Istrouma in the spring by defeating them for the 1964 state baseball title.


Arthurs continued with baseball in the summer when he played for the Lakeside Ramblers American Legion team. The Ramblers were First District champions. They defeated Ruston for the state title and overcame Memphis in a 14-inning of the regionals championship game in Little Rock. Arthurs led the Ramblers in hitting during the regionals. They advanced to the Legion World Series in Waterloo, Iowa, where they were ultimately knocked out by Charlotte, North Carolina.


De La Salle basketball coach Johnny Altobello predicted Arthurs would have a productive senior year in 1964-65. A Times-Picayune reporter posed the following question to Altobello, “How good is Arthurs?” The De La Salle mentor, who had a 426-67 coaching record at the time, said, “Why, he’s the best schoolboy player in the city and I’d say Johnny is one of the best I’ve ever coached.” He added, “He’s got everything you want in a basketball player—strength, speed, size (6-3, 180), stamina, and can play any position. He’s got a tremendous jump shot.”


Altobello was correct. Arthurs led the district in scoring average for the second consecutive year with 23.9 points per game. He was named to all-district, all-city and all-state teams again. Coach and Athlete magazine named him to their All-American team.


In April 1965, Arthurs signed a grant-in-aid scholarship with Tulane University after reportedly receiving “24 or 25” offers. Tulane head basketball coach Ralph Pedersen pulled off a recruitment coup on the same day by signing all-state performer Billy Fitzgerald from Jesuit High School. Arthurs’ and Fitzgerald’s baseball and basketball careers had paralleled each other during their prep days and would continue as teammates at Tulane. Fitzgerald would eventually play professional baseball in the Oakland A’s organization.


Arthurs averaged 18.8 points per game for Tulane’s freshman team during the 1965-66 season, while the team averaged a healthy 102.6 points per game. The team finished 19-0 that season under Coach Tom Nissalke, who later became a successful coach in the professional ranks. Nissalke observed about Arthurs, “Johnny came here as a great shooter, but developed into a fine defensive player and rebounder.” His freshman performance foretold what was to come in his next three varsity seasons.


After playing on the Tulane freshman baseball team in the spring of 1966, Arthurs played summer ball for Hecker Oilers in the NORD Mid-City Kiwanis All-American Baseball League. He was selected by coach “Rags” Scheuermann for the all-star team that competed in the AAABA national tournament in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The team fought its way to the finals, only to be defeated by Detroit, who was led by future major leaguer Tom Paciorek.


Arthurs returned to basketball gym in the fall, where he started as a sophomore forward for Tulane during the 1966-67 season. One of his highlight games was a 33-point performance in a come-from-behind win against the University of Detroit in the Motor City Tournament. He averaged 15.4 points per game for the season, as Tulane compiled a 14-10 record. He finished second on the team in points and rebounds.


He lettered as a sophomore first-baseman for the 1967 Tulane baseball team that finished 8-12. One of his highpoints was a two-homer game against Florida State.


Arthurs began the 1967-68 basketball season where he left off the previous year. The junior forward was a scoring machine for the Green Wave, leading the team with an average of 19.4 points per game. He also tied with Dan Moeser for the team’s highest rebound average. LSU’s scoring sensation Pete Maravich emerged on the college basketball scene that season. In LSU’s win against the Green Wave, Maravich ripped the nets with 52 points. Lost in the flurry of attention for Maravich, Arthurs put on his own show with 31 points.


Arthurs lettered in baseball again in 1968 for the Green Wave who finished 10-10 under coach Milt Retif. Over the summer, he attended a basketball camp conducted by legendary Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach. Playing guard, he worked hard on the defensive and playmaking aspects of his game.


He approached the 1968-69 basketball season nearing the 1,000 career points milestone. It didn’t take long for him to eclipse the mark, and soon after he was being closely followed by the sportswriters in his pursuit to break Jim Kerwin’s all-time Green Wave scoring mark of 1,462 points set in 1961-63.


The Green Wave participated in the holiday season All-College Tournament in Oklahoma City. Arthurs scored a career-high 41 points in a loss to Wyoming, followed by 29 points against Pacific. Arthurs was named to the all-tournament team that also featured tournament MVP Maravich and future Hall of Famer Bob Lanier.


Arthurs recalls a Green Wave game against national powerhouse UCLA at Pauley Pavilion. He believes the match-up originated as a result of Tulane and UCLA having undefeated freshmen teams during 1965-1966. Two-time All-American Lew Alcindor (later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) was in his senior season and led the Bruins to a runaway victory, while Arthurs scored only 10 points. A few months later Arthurs found out he would have a future connection with Alcindor.


Tulane defeated LSU at the Wave gym in February, even though Maravich scored 66 points to break Bob Petit’s record of 60. Arthurs was high scorer for Tulane with 29. Years later, Arthurs recalled that it was an impossible task to guard Maravich who would take 40 to 50 shots a game. He told the Times-Picayune, “He [Maravich] played for the love of basketball. In a way, he was a purist who lived for the bounce of the ball, the way it swishes when it goes through the net, the patterns of a fast break…” Arthurs recently recalled memories of the LSU sharpshooter, “He was ahead of his time. People said he shot a lot, but it takes skill to get off a good shot.”


Arthurs ended his senior season breaking the Tulane career scoring record with 1,501 points. He averaged 25.6 points per game for his career. He was named to the Helm Foundation All-American team.

While Arthurs was gaining his third letter in baseball on the 1969 squad that posted a 15-3 record, he was drafted by the New Orleans Buccaneers of the American Basketball Association (ABA), the rival league of the more established NBA. Arthurs says he seriously considered signing with the Bucs because they offered him a no-cut contract with a guaranteed minimum salary of $14,500 per year. A month later, the Milwaukee Bucks of the NBA drafted him in the sixth round. Alcindor, the national college player of the year, was picked by the Bucks in the first round. Arthurs said he decided to sign with Milwaukee because of the greater challenge of playing in the NBA.


Over 10,000 fans attended the Bucks’ first intrasquad game in late June. They were primarily there to see Alcindor make his debut, although Arthurs played well with 18 points. Bucks coach Larry Costello’s post-game assessment of Arthurs was encouraging. “John Arthurs played very well, especially when you realize he’s changing from forward to guard. He really hustled and can shoot.”


Arthurs roomed with Alcindor during training camp and also on road games during the regular season. He recalls Alcindor’s athleticism for the 7-foot-1 giant. “He looked like a giraffe, but he would be the winner in wind sprints during practice.”


Arthurs started the season with the Bucks in 1969 and played in 11 games before he was called to serve six months of active duty training with the National Guard in early December. He had to miss the rest of the season, finishing with 35 points, 17 assists, and 14 rebounds in 86 minutes played.


Before the next NBA season started in 1970, Arthurs was traded to Detroit as the “player to be named later” in a 1968 trade in which Dick Cunningham was obtained by Milwaukee. Arthurs went to training camp with the Pistons but hurt his back and was cut right before the season started.


Arthurs says he went back to Milwaukee to play the for Bucks’ team in a developmental league. But after a year, he decided it was time to move on from basketball.


As one would expect with a noteworthy career like Arthurs, he got his share of post-career honors, adding even more pages to the scrapbook. He is a member of the De La Salle Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the Tulane T-Club Hall of Fame in 1980. His basketball game jersey was retired by Tulane in 1993. The Louisiana Basketball Hall of Fame inducted him in 2001, and he was honored by the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame in 2002 for his basketball and baseball contributions. Arthurs still holds Tulane basketball single-season records for average points per game, total points, and most field goals.


Now 74, Arthurs remains active with different sports nowadays. He enjoys tennis, golf, and fishing, especially fly-fishing. He still follows basketball by attending Green Wave and New Orleans Pelicans games.

Turn Back the Clock: Wisner Playground fostered a lifestyle in Uptown neighborhood

There was a time spanning the 1950s through the 1970s when Wisner Playground was the center of activity in the surrounding New Orleans Uptown neighborhood. Men and women now in their 50s, 60s and 70s still vividly recall their teams, coaches, practices, and games that consumed their days at the playground during that era. They refer to the connection of their neighborhood with the playground as a “lifestyle” for the kids and parents who lived in the area.


According to the Times-Picayune, Wisner Playground came about in 1938, when the mayor of New Orleans was authorized to establish a playground in the square bounded by Upperline, Lyons, Annunciation and Laurel streets. The playground was named after the late Edward Wisner and funded by proceeds from the Wisner Foundation established upon his death in the early 1900s. Houses that occupied the area were purchased and razed to make room for the new playground.


The New Orleans Recreation Department (NORD) was founded in the late 1940s to organize the playgrounds and recreational facilities of the city in order to provide opportunities for youngsters from ages 8 to 18 to participate in sports, swimming, and other recreational activities. NORD became the envy of other American cities for its progressive city-wide organization of facilities and leagues, particularly for youth baseball. Wisner Playground was one of many other city recreational facilities to ultimately fall under NORD’s direction, and it still remains that way today.


Larry Scott was the NORD playground supervisor assigned to Wisner from 1970 to 1980. He had participated in sports at the playground from six years old through junior high school. He recalls that it consisted of one backstop on a baseball diamond and a cement basketball court. There wasn’t enough space for a full 100-yard football field, so practices took place on a shortened field. Scott says the playground was practically used all day in the summer for practices by the various teams and league games scheduled there. He would spend all day coaching his teams and pitching batting practice for other teams. Scott said, “Wisner Playground was the hub of the neighborhood. It was like a second home to the kids.” He credits Ronnie Aucoin, Rene Esquerre, and Jerry Burrage with setting the standard for Wisner coaches. Scott believes the successes of Wisner were largely due to its dedicated coaches and a committed group of parents.


Esquerre was recruited by Aucoin, the first playground supervisor, as a summer coach in 1956 as a 15-year-old. Esquerre wound up remaining there as a coach and supervisor into the late 1960s, before . Esquerre recalls that some years his baseball teams played up to 60 games a season, competing in multiple leagues and tournaments from April to August. He remembers what became known as the “August League” which was very popular at the playground, because it was a time at the end of summer when boys from all age groups would choose teams and play easy-pitch baseball.


Burrage had played sports at the playground as a youngster and wound up being hired as a coach by Esquerre. Burrage says, “I probably coached over a hundred kids in various sports during my 3-4 years at the playground. My time there was a contributing factor to my whole future in coaching that included various high schools in the New Orleans area.”


Johnny Arthurs, who played basketball and baseball for Tulane University and played in the NBA with the Milwaukee Bucks, says he started participating in the playground’s sports as an eight-year-old. He was on the Wisner 10-year-old and 12-year-old teams that won NORD city championships in 1957 and 1959. His coach for both teams was Aucoin, while his older brother Billy assisted with the 12-year-old team.


Arthurs recalls that he would leave his house early in the mornings and spend all day at the playground with the same group of boys, usually grabbing a po-boy for lunch at nearby Munster’s Bar and Grill. His parents told him he just had to be home by nightfall. Arthurs said, “The playground provided a comfort level for us and our parents, because we’d stay occupied there all day.” He reflected on his time at the playground, “Wisner was the steppingstone to my total sports career that included high school, college, and professional levels.“


Wisner Playground had girls teams for softball, basketball, volleyball, and track. Ann Nunez says she played all the sports, starting at six years old, with Scott as her coach. She liked the fact that the teams had dedicated coaches who taught fundamentals of the sports. Nunez said, “There was something to do every day at the playground, if you played all the sports. There was a wonderful, family-oriented environment. It was a great time in my life. I wish my son could have grown up and played sports in that environment.”


One of Nunez’s teammates was Erin O’Connor, who also played all the sports. She prided herself in being able to strike out the boys in pickup games at the playground. She recalls that her teams won city championships in all the sports. O’Connor, whose nickname was “Skinny,” says her athletic experience at Wisner Playground contributed to her attaining a volleyball scholarship at the University of New Orleans. Scott calls O’Connor one of the best female athletes to come out of the playground.


Alden Hagardorn was a baseball, basketball, and football coach at Wisner Playground from 1970 to 1981. He was a product of St. Henry ‘s and lived just a few blocks from the playground. He admits he wasn’t much of an athlete but instead gravitated toward coaching, after he started keeping score for teams with whom his father coached and his younger brother Jerry played.


When he was 20 years old, Hagardorn became an officer of the Wisner Playground Boosters Club primarily made up of parents of the kids. He eventually became president of the organization. He recalls the parents’ dedicated involvement in the club that arranged for full uniforms and equipment for all of the playground teams. The boosters held an annual awards banquet for the kids, providing trophies and jackets for championship teams. During the football season, they sponsored a homecoming parade throughout the neighborhood, where the players rode on trucks, the homecoming court rode in convertibles, and the police department band marched with the kids. The football team had cheerleaders, and there was even a crowning of a homecoming queen chosen from the playground. Hagardorn says that homecoming was a neighborhood-wide event, with heavy involvement by the parents.


Hagardorn said, “The booster club supported all of the sports programs and events without ever having the kids pay for anything.” The boosters provided most of the funding, with assistance from businesses who helped with boys’ baseball uniforms. Instead of having a concession stand on the playground to raise money, refreshments were bought at nearby Munster’s Bar and Grill, and the parents would often convene there after games. Hagardorn added, “We brought business to them, and in return they helped us raise money for the playground by holding bingos at their place. The owners of Munsters were very generous to Wisner. They were a part of the neighborhood experience.”


Gasper Mangerchine played on the same championship teams with Johnny Arthurs in the late 1950s. He points out that besides the sports that were an integral part of the playground, there was a covered shelter where kids could also play board games during the summer. Mangerchine is currently one of the organizers of an annual Wisner Alumni Reunion. It brings together people, who have been part of the Wisner experience over the years, to reminisce about the playground’s heyday. Mangerchine says the reunions are usually held at Grits Bar on Lyons Street, and there have been years when as many as 250 people attended the event. O’Connor says she had put together a photo album for the Wisner Playground reunions years ago.


Bob Braniff remembers playing on 11-and-under NORD baseball teams at Wisner in the mid-1950s. His coaches were Aucoin and Esquerre. He recalls playing against a talented Allan Montreuil, who eventually played in the major leagues with the Chicago Cubs. Years later as an adult, Braniff came back to play at Wisner Playground with his company’s softball team in a city-wide men’s league that scheduled games there.


In addition to Arthurs, Wisner Playground produced other athletes who went on to play professional sports: Frank Wills with the Kansas City Royals, Cleveland Indians, Seattle Mariners, and Toronto Blue Jays; Marty Wetzel with the New York Jets; Dow Edwards with the New England Patriots; and Gerry Schoen with the Washington Senators. Joe Scheuermann, the highly successful athletic director and head baseball coach at Delgado Community College, is a former athlete from the playground.


The smaller, neighborhood playgrounds with extensive recreational programs like Wisner don’t exist anymore in the city. Wisner Playground remains under the NORD umbrella, but it doesn’t have programs for sports as it once had. According to Hagardorn, there is an eight-year-old and ten-year-old Little League program whose games are currently played at Wisner. The facility now features a dog run.


Playground coaches such as Aucoin, Esquerre, Burrage, Scott, and Hagardorn, along with the neighborhood’s parents, put their hearts and souls into Wisner Playground over the years. The kids were the beneficiaries of their efforts. It was a time and environment long-cherished by the athletes, parents, and coaches.

 

Flashback: Joe L. Brown's stint with New Orleans Pelicans prepared him for job as Pittsburgh Pirates GM

Joe L. Brown was one of the longest-tenured general managers in Pittsburgh Pirates history. From 1955 to 1976, he was the head of baseball operations for the Pirates organization that won two World Series championships. Prior to taking on the role with the Pirates, Brown held front office jobs as general manager and president of the New Orleans Pelicans, a Pirates affiliate, from 1951 to 1954.


Brown was the son of Joe E. Brown, a popular comedian and actor who started on Broadway in the 1920s and eventually became a film star in Hollywood in the 1930s and 1940s. The elder Brown had played semipro baseball and reportedly was made an offer to play for the Boston Red Sox, but he chose an entertainment career path instead. His baseball interests carried over to the entertainment industry, as he starred in a trilogy of movies that had baseball themes. He continued his baseball interests, including a part-ownership of a Triple-A club in Kansas City in the 1930s.


The younger Brown didn’t follow in his father’s footsteps in show business, instead assuming his interest in baseball with the intention to become a professional player. Brown became acquainted with Branch Rickey, who became a mentor to him. However, Brown broke all the bones in his right elbow as a teenager while working out with the Pirates in spring training. The injury ended his hopes as a baseball player.


In the years surrounding World War II, he worked in various jobs with teams in the low minors. He began working for the Pirates in 1950 as business manager of their Class-B Waco affiliate. In 1951 he joined the New Orleans Pelicans as general manager.


The Pelicans had suffered through several lean years prior to Brown’s tenure, and his first season with them wasn’t any better with a 64-90 record in 1951. He was appointed president of the club the next season, and with future Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh at the helm, the Pelicans began a turnaround. The 1954 team posted its best finish since 1947, with a 94-60 record, two games behind Atlanta in the Southern Association. Local New Orleanians who occupied roster spots under Brown included Hal Bevan, Lenny and Ray Yochim, Stan Wentzel, Mel Brookey, Lou Klein, and Larry LaSalle.


Pittsburgh promoted Brown to the Pirates’ front office in 1955, and he replaced Branch Rickey as general manager the following year. He inherited a young team that finished in seventh place in 1956 (66-88-3) and 1957 (62-92-1). He turned to his former Pelicans manager Murtaugh toward the end of the 1957 season as his new Pirates manager.


The 1958 Pirates won 22 more games than the previous year and finished in second place in the National League, eight games behind Milwaukee. A full season with Murtaugh as the manager and the maturation of young players such as Roberto Clemente, Bill Mazeroski, Bill Virdon, and Bob Skinner made a dramatic difference. Brown was recognized by The Sporting News as Major League Executive-of-the-Year.


The Pirates took a step backward with a fourth-place finish in 1959. With the addition of pitcher Harvey Haddix, third baseman Don Hoak, and catcher Smoky Burgess, the Pirates finally put it all together in 1960 and won its first pennant since 1927. They upset the New York Yankees in a dramatic, seven-game World Series, only their third world championship in franchise history.


For the next nine seasons, the Pirates could finish no higher than third place. Brown brought back Murtaugh as manager, and they won the National League East Division in 1970 with a team that Brown had re-engineered to include young players, Manny Sanguillen, Richie Hebner, Al Oliver, Dave Cash and Bob Robertson, to complement veterans Clemente, Mazeroski, and Willie Stargell. However, the Pirates were swept in three games by the Cincinnati Reds in the National League Championship Series.


The core of the team remained intact in 1971. Brown added pitchers Nelson Briles and Bob Miller, helping the Pirates repeat as NL East Division winner. This time they defeated the San Francisco Giants in the NLCS and then proceeded to defeat the Baltimore Orioles in seven games in the World Series.


The Pirates won three more division titles (1972, 1974 and 1975) with Brown leading the Pirates’ front office. Although he retired after the 1976 season, he had helped the Pirates build the foundation for another World Series title in 1979.


Former Pirates player and scout Lenny Yochim had a close relationship with Brown. A New Orleans native, Yochim pitched for the New Orleans Pelicans, while Brown was team president. As a scout with the Pirates, Yochim worked for Brown when he was the Pirates GM.


Brown enjoyed the most successful run of any general manager in Pirates history. He was the recipient of the inaugural “Pride of the Pirates” award in 1990, an honor that recognizes members of the Pirates organization who have demonstrated the qualities of sportsmanship, dedication, and outstanding character during a lifetime of service.

2021 San Francisco Giants 'lead the league' in family ties

My compilation of baseball’s relatives for the 2021 season demonstrates that baseball’s bloodlines are as prevalent as ever. There were 592 active major and minor-league players with one or more relatives in pro baseball. That equates to about one in every seven players in the major and minors combined. Those active players had 835 family relationships. Furthermore, there were 648 active non-players (managers, coaches, scouts, executives, etc.) who have one or more relatives in pro baseball, representing 1,180 relationships.


The San Francisco Giants stood out above the rest of the franchises in having a predominance of relatives throughout the organization, both on the field and in the front office. It makes you wonder if this was by design (preference for hiring players and non-players with baseball in their bloodlines) or just a coincidence.


Below are the highlights of some of the 31 players in the Giants organization who had family relationships in 2021.


The number of third-generation players (grandsons) in baseball has been growing over the past several years. The most notable one for the Giants is Mike Yastrzemski, who just completed his third major-league season. He is the grandson of Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, one of the all-time great Red Sox players. His father, Mike Yastrzemski, played five seasons in the minors with the Braves and White Sox. Conner Menez pitched briefly for the Giants in 2021. He is the grandson of former major-leaguer Bill Plummer, a 10-year veteran who primarily played with the Cincinnati Reds. First-year minor-leaguer Kyle Harrison is the grandson of Skip Guinn, who had a brief major-league career during 1968-1971.


Twin brothers who have played in the major leagues are a rarity, with only 10 occurrences in the history of the game. Giants pitcher Tyler Rogers led the National League with 80 appearances, compiling a 7-1 record with 13 saves. His brother Taylor Rogers is currently a relief pitcher for the Minnesota Twins.


The Giants organization had another pair of twins, Luis Alexander Basabe and Luis Alejandro Basabe, both of whom played in the minors in 2021. Luis Alexander had previously played in the majors for the Giants in 2020.


Brothers Braden and Hunter Bishop played in the Giants organization in 2021. Braden was selected off waivers from Seattle in May and pitched in the Triple-A level. Hunter, a first-round draft pick of the Giants in 2019, pitched at the Rookie and Class A levels.


Shortstop Brandon Crawford, who finished fourth in the NL MVP voting is the brother-in-law of Yankees ace Gerrit Cole.


Outfielder Joe McCarthy played at the Triple-A level for the Giants in 2021. He had played briefly with the big-league Giants in 2020. His brother, Jake McCarthy, made his major-league debut as an outfielder with Arizona in 2021.


Outfielder Jacob Heyward played in the Giants system in Double-A ball. He is the brother is 12-year veteran Jason Heyward of the Cubs, who is a five-time Gold Glove Award winner.


The Giants’ first-round draft pick (14th overall) in 2021 was Will Bednar, who helped lead Mississippi State to the College World Series championship. His brother is David Bednar, a major-league pitcher for the Pirates.


Below are the highlights of some of the 41 non-players in the Giants organization who had family relationships in 2021.


Felipe Alou has long been associated with the San Francisco Giants as a player, manager, and now as a special assistant. His two brothers, Matty and Jesus, had long careers in the majors. The trio of brothers once played in the same outfield with the Giants. Felipe’s son is Moises Alou, a 17-year major-league veteran, who is currently a scout in the Dodgers organization. His son Luis Rojas was manager of the Mets for the past two seasons. His son Jose Alou heads is a scout for the Giants. His son, Felipe Alou Jr., heads up the Dominican Academy for the Giants.


The Giants big-league coaching staff included Brian Bannister, son of former MLB pitcher Floyd Bannister, and Shawon Dunston, father of Shawon Dunston Jr.


The Giants’ scouting department included Bert Bradley, Ellis Burks, Brad Cameron, Keith Champion, Todd Coryell, Chuck Fick, Jim Gabella, DJ Jauss, Michael Kendall, James Mouton, Luis Polonia Jr., Ciro Villalobos Jr., Jeff Wood, and Matt Woodward, all of whom have relatives in professional baseball in various roles.


The Giants’ minor-league coaching staff included Lance Burkhart, Jolbert Cabrera, Gary Davenport, and Damon Minor, all of whom had relatives in pro baseball. Minor is the twin brother of former major-leaguer Ryan Minor, a minor-league manager in the Tigers organization. Both brothers were former major-league players.


Duane Kuiper and his brother Jeff Kuiper occupy the broadcast booth for the Giants. Duane is one of the Giants’ play-by-play broadcasters, while Jeff is a broadcast producer.


Zach Minasian Jr. works in the Giants’ front office. His brother Perry Minasian is the general manager for the Los Angeles Angels, while brother Calvin Minasian is the equipment/clubhouse manager for Atlanta. Their father Zach Minasian Sr. was formerly the clubhouse manager for the Texas Rangers. The three brothers started their baseball careers as assistants to their father in the Rangers’ clubhouse.


Bruce Bochy, former Giants manager and current special advisor for the Giants’ front office, is the father of former major-league pitcher Brett Bochy and minor-league infielder Greg Bochy. Bruce’s brother, Joe Bochy, played in the minors and was later a scout for the Giants.

Flashback: Former Shaw and Legion star Rocky Lefevre made his pitch for a career in pro baseball

Keith “Rocky” LeFevre was not unlike many young baseball players who loved to play baseball. He had a solid prep and American Legion career for Archbishop Shaw teams and became one of the first players from the Westbank school to go into pro baseball. He went on to have bright moments in his career in the Montreal Expos organization. He reached the Triple-A level in the minors but the Expos ultimately gave up on him.


LeFevre lettered in baseball for three years at Shaw. One of his early successes included a 12-strikeout, two-hit win against Terrebone High School in 1965. Following his performance, a local sportswriter for the Times-Picayune wrote, “Remember the name Rocky LeFevre.” He wound up losing more games than he won in his first year, but three of his losses came in three games in which he allowed a total of five hits.


He was named to the district All-Legion team in 1966. In 1967 he threw two one-hitters in the prep league against Jesuit High and was recognized as Shaw’s MVP for baseball at the end of the season. LeFevre signed a grant-in-aid scholarship with the University of Southwestern Louisiana for the 1967-68 school year.


He pitched for USL as a freshman in 1968. LeFevre says he doesn’t recall his won-lost record, but remembers he led the team in innings pitched and strikeouts. Over the summer he played Legion ball again and was named to the district All-Legion team. The Times-Picayune reported that Lefevre was being scouted by the New York Mets and Boston Red Sox.


After being drafted by the Montreal Expos in the fifth round of the January 1969 MLB draft, he decided to take an offer from baseball scout Red Murff to sign with the Expos organization. The Expos were in its first year as a National League expansion club. (Murff was well-known for signing Nolan Ryan for the New York Mets a few years earlier.)


LeFevre pitched for Class A West Palm Beach in his first pro season in 1969. In 44 games in relief, the right-hander posted a 5-4 record, nine saves, and 2.18 ERA in 62 innings. He played for Double-A Jacksonville in 1970. One of the highlights of his career was a callup from Jacksonville by the major-league Expos to play in an exhibition game against the Boston Red Sox in a day off for both teams. Playing in Montreal’s Jarry Park, LeFevre appeared in the last two innings for the Expos, striking out three and giving up only one hit and one walk. He got a chance to meet fellow New Orleanian Rusty Staub, who was playing his first season with the Expos. LeFevre says Expos manager Gene Mauch told him after the game, “I’ll see you in spring training.”


He pitched for Quebec in the Double-A Eastern League in 1971, when he experienced another career highlight. He was selected to play in the league’s all-star game and pitched three scoreless innings in relief for his squad.


However, LeFevre’s career took a detour in 1972. He recalls about his situation then, “I didn’t feel like I was going anywhere with the Expos. I saw several of my teammates getting promoted, and I felt I was as good as they were.” Consequently, he voluntarily left the organization and was put on the restricted list for the entire season. In retrospect, he says now, “I hurt myself by sitting out that season.”


He returned to Quebec in 1973, when he spent most of the season as a starter. His ERA was an impressive 2.74, while he significantly reduced his walks and hits per inning (WHIP) to 1.152. One of his best games was a 7-inning one-hitter against Pittsfield on May 14.


One of LeFevre’s teammates with Quebec was future Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter, who was 19 years old at the time. They roomed together in the same house with other teammates when they played home games.


Carter and Lefevre were teammates again for Triple-A Memphis in the 1974 season. Carter led the team with 23 home runs and 83 RBIs, earning a late-season callup to the big-league Expos. LeFevre recalls that he and his teammates made a prediction about Carter’s promotion. “Johnny Bench (Cincinnati Reds all-star catcher) better look out. There’s a new catcher in the majors and people will find out pretty quickly how good he is.” On the other hand, LeFevre’s effectiveness as a pitcher regressed. He made eight starts in 33 appearances. His ERA ballooned over two points to 4.76, while his WHIP increased to 1.635.


The Expos gave up on LeFevre, since they didn’t have much invested in his development. They decided to sell him to Tampico in the Mexican League, where he had been playing winter ball. LeFevre thinks that he was essentially buried by the Expos. He wished the Expos had traded him to another major-league organization, where he could have possibly gotten a fresh start. He pitched well for Tampico, posting a 10-9 record and 2.81 ERA in 20 starts. But his career was over after that season.


LeFevre learned that the game you love can sometimes be harsh. But he wouldn’t trade his experience for anything.

Controversial picks abound on my mythical 2022 Hall of Fame ballot

I suppose it could be said every year of Baseball Hall of Fame balloting, “This year’s election should be really interesting.” Well, this year’s evidence is the fact that three controversial superstar players are in a “do or die” situation, because they are in the last of ten years of eligibility on the ballot. And two more controversial superstars are entering the balloting for the first time. How the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) will treat them is sure to be interesting to watch. The results of the balloting for the 2022 class will be made known on January 25.


The five players I’m referring to are Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Curt Schilling, who have been unsuccessful in nine tries so far; and Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz, who are first-timers on the ballot. Bonds, Clemens, Rodriguez, and Ortiz have all been linked to PED use, whether the suspicions are true or not. Schilling has drawn criticism the past couple of years for his views on social and political issues. If it weren’t for these real or perceived transgressions, they’d all be shoo-ins for the Hall.


Last year might have been the year for Bonds, Clemens, and Schilling to get over the minimum of 75% of the votes to be elected, since all of the new entrants on the ballot were borderline candidates for the Hall. But that didn’t happen. For the first time since 2013 the baseball writers didn’t elect any candidate. None of the three moved the needle much toward election. Schilling got close with 71.1% of the votes, while Bonds and Clemens continued to hover around 60%, as they have for the past few years.


Actually, it would be somewhat of shock to the baseball world if any of the five is elected this year. I don’t envision the nearly 400 voters will reconsider their position from previous years on Schilling, Bonds, and Clemens. And I think most of the voters will paint Rodriguez and Ortiz with the PED brush, at least in their first year.


In any case, if any of the BBWAA voters are looking for input, here’s my two-cents worth.


For a couple of years now, I have personally put the PED-era stigma behind me. I don’t have any reservations about voting for the best players in the game, regardless of how others might perceive them.


My carryovers from the 2021 class included Bonds, Clemens, Schilling, Todd Helton, Gary Sheffield, Manny Ramirez, Omar Vizquel, Jeff Kent, Billy Wagner, and Andruw Jones. I had added Wagner and Jones for the first time last year to complete my mythical ballot with the allowed maximum of ten players.


Sheffield and Ramirez also have the PED stigma hanging over their heads. Ramirez tested positive for PEDs in 2009 and 2011. The 2007 Mitchell Report on PED use implicated Sheffield before an official MLB rule and penalties were implemented. Vizquel’s fine career has been tarnished in the last two years by off-the-field allegations involving domestic abuse and sexual harassment.


The newcomers are not without their issues, too. Rodriguez admitted to PED use and was suspended by MLB for the entire 2014 season. Ortiz was one of 104 players who tested positive for PED use in what was intended to be an anonymous testing process by MLB in 2003. However, Ortiz’s name and results were later leaked to the press.


A-Rod’s and Big Papi’s numbers speak for themselves. Without the specter of PEDs, they’d be sure-fire, first-ballot Hall of Famers. Along with Rodriguez and Ortiz, the upper echelon of this year’s class of new eligible players includes Jimmy Rollins and Mark Teixeira. I put them in the category of being in the Hall of “Very Good,” but not the Hall of Fame. Scott Rolen (in his fifth year on the ballot) has been getting a lot of ink lately from baseball analysts and commentators. He received 52.9% of the votes last year and will likely garner more this year. But he’s in that Hall of Very Good in my book.


So, my mythical ballot this year includes Bonds, Clemens, Schilling, Helton, Sheffield, Ramirez, Vizquel, Jones, and newcomers Rodriguez and Ortiz. I dropped out Kent and Wagner who were on my ballot last year. I know I’m bucking the system, as eight of my ten picks have some kind of controversary surrounding them. But these are the best ten players on the ballot. Several of them are among the best players of all time. They need to be in the Hall of Fame with a bronze plaque, not in some secondary Hall exhibit mentioned as noteworthy players of their era.

Flashback: Former New Orleanian Lou Klein involved in two of baseball

Native New Orleanian Lou Klein had one of the more interesting careers in baseball, although he had limited success as a player in the major leagues. He is remembered for being a participant in two of the strangest times in major-league history, when 18 major leaguers “jumped” to the Mexican League in 1946 and the Chicago Cubs experimented with the “College of Coaches” in 1961.


Klein had prepped at S. J. Peters High School in New Orleans during the late 1930s. He was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1940 and by 1943 had secured the second baseman’s job with the big league Cardinals. He exceeded all expectations in his rookie season by batting .287, with seven home runs and 68 RBIs for the pennant-winning Cardinals. The Cardinals dominated the New York Yankees in a five-game World Series. Klein was named to the major leagues’ All-Rookie team by The Sporting News.


Like most major leaguers at the time, World War II interrupted Klein’s baseball career, as he enlisted in the Coast Guard. He missed all of the 1944 season and most of 1945 while in military service. He made a poor decision by being enticed to play in the Mexican League in 1946, because he and other players were ultimately banned from Organized Baseball until 1949.


Klein’s last two major-league seasons as a player occurred in 1949 and 1950. He bounced around the minors until 1958, including the 1953 season with the New Orleans Pelicans. From 1955 to 1958, he also served as manager of his minor-league team in the Cubs organization. He ended up as a coach and part-time manager of the Cubs until 1965, as part of the “College of Coaches.”


Here are more details about Klein’s participation in two of baseball’s most unusual times:


Klein among MLB players who “jumped” to the Mexican League


In 1946, Mexican businessman Jorge Pasquel became president of the Mexican League, in which he was also was an owner of a team. Wanting to raise the status of the league and his team to be comparable with the major leagues in the United States, Pasquel and his brother Alfonso lured major-league players to play in Mexico at salaries higher than they were making in the United States. Lou Klein was one of 18 players who “jumped” to the Mexican League. Other prominent major leaguers included Max Lanier, Mickey Owen, and Sal Maglie. Klein, who had returned to the St. Louis Cardinals after World War II, reportedly accepted $50,000 for his services.


The players who defected to the Mexican League were banned from baseball by commissioner Happy Chandler for five years. The allure of the Mexican League didn’t pan out, as the Pasquel brothers fell on tough times financially. It left the affected players in limbo for a number of years. Klein played for independent teams in Mexico and Canada. Chandler reinstated the players in 1949, and Klein returned to the St. Louis Cardinals.


Klein a member of failed “College of Coaches”


Chicago Cubs owner Philip K. Wrigley became frustrated after the 1960 season in which his team won only 60 games and finished in seventh place (out of eight teams). Furthermore, the team had not finished over .500 since 1946. He developed a plan for the 1961 season to use a collection of veteran coaches from his organization to rotate through his minor-league system and the Cubs’ major-league team. The major league coaches would take turns as “head coach” on a rotating basis throughout the season, rather than having a single manager. Wrigley’s concept became known as the “College of Coaches.”


In 1961, Klein joined the major-league coaches after having been the manager of Carlsbad in the Class D Sophomore League for 127 games. He took over as the fourth “head coach” near the end of the season, and the Cubs had a 5-6 record during his tenure. Wrigley’s approach produced results that weren’t much better than the previous season. The Cubs remained in seventh place with 64 wins.


However, the Cubs continued the College of Coaches approach in 1962. Klein was the second manager in the rotation this time, and his teams won only 12 of 30 games. Overall, the Cubs regressed, finishing in ninth place (out of 10 teams) with only 59 wins, the lowest number in team history.


The Cubs’ failing experiment was essentially abandoned the next season as Bob Kennedy retained the head coach’s job throughout the entire season. He continued in that role until June 1965, when he was moved to the Cubs’ front office. Klein finished out the season as head coach with a 48-58 record.


Wrigley’s new-fangled approach turned out to be one of the most disastrous strategies in baseball’s history.

Boy, am I glad Gil Hodges finally got elected to the Hall of Fame

Gil Hodges was a very productive player. He was an integral part of Dodger teams from 1948 to 1959 that were probably the best in baseball during that era, except for the New York Yankees. For many years, he’s been overlooked for the Baseball Hall of Fame, at first during his 15 years of eligibility on the ballot and 19 times by the Hall’s veteran committees. I’m glad Hodges finally got in, but probably for a different reason than most of his devoted fans.


Hodges was voted into the Hall last week by the Golden Days Era (1950-1969) committee (one of the new names for what used to be called the veterans committee), along with Tony Oliva, Jim Kaat, and Minnie Minoso. Negro Leaguers Buck O’Neil and Bud Fowler were also voted in by the Early Baseball Era (pre-1950) committee


For a long time now, he’s been the subject of numerous campaigns to get him elected, supported by countless arguments articulated in sports columns, talk shows, and websites making the case for his election. Since he fell off the ballot after his 15 years, he’s drawn more support than probably any other Hall of Fame candidate considered by the veterans committee. In fact, we’ve been worn out by all the passionate conversations about his not having been already elected. Personally, I got tired of hearing the whining each time he failed to get elected.


I believe Hodges has benefitted from being part of the Dodgers “system,” that featured extraordinary consistency of the players on the roster during 1948-1959. The players included Hall of Famers Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Roy Campanella, Sandy Koufax, and Don Drysdale. Other key players, who were part of those Dodgers teams that won six pennants and two World Series during this timeframe, were Don Newcombe, Carl Erskine, Junior Gilliam, Johnny Podres, Clem Labine, and Carl Furillo.


Although Hodges received votes for National League MVP in eight seasons, he was never the top vote-getter.  His highest finish was seventh place. He was rarely the most valuable player on his own team, only exceeding his teammates in 1950 and 1957 for total vote points.


By modern metrics, during his prime years (1948-1959), his OPS+ was 127. For his entire career, it was 120. His career WAR was 43.9, only better than 15% of Hall of Famers. His black ink was only better than 10% of HOFers. (According to Baseball Reference website, “black print” is a measure of how often a player has led the league in "important" statistical categories. It is named as such because league-leading numbers are traditionally represented with boldface type on Baseball-Reference.com.) Hodges never led the National League in any of the significant batting categories. First basemen Dick Allen (157), Fred McGriff (134), Will Clark (137), and Don Mattingly (127) have career OPS+ numbers higher than Hodges, and they aren’t in the Hall either.


Hodges supporters have argued his major-league managerial career should also add to his Hall worthiness. His main contribution in that role was winning the 1969 World Series with the “Miracle” Mets. It was indeed a great accomplishment, but his won-loss percentage is .467 during his entire nine seasons with the Mets and Washington Senators.


I’ve told you all the reasons why I don’t consider Hodges more Hall-worthy. Here’s the other side.


Hodges was an eight-time National League all-star. He was exceeded only by Duke Snider for most home runs by Dodgers during 1949-1959. He hit 370 homers during his career. Sports Illustrated writer Tom Verducci maintains Hodges was “best of his era” for first basemen, because he recorded more hits, runs, homers, and RBIs than any active first basemen during 1948-1959. He was a Gold Glove winner three times.


Verducci also points out that Hodges received enough votes by the veterans committee in 1993, only to be disallowed because one of the voters was his former teammate Roy Campanella, who did not attend the meeting when the votes were taken.


Hodges has had a halo surrounding him since his playing days. From all accounts, he was a genuinely good guy. He was under-appreciated because he just went about his business every day, never one to create a lot of fanfare for himself. Plus, he didn’t have a catchy name like “Pee Wee” or “Duke.”


His election last week finally brings closure for his family and his many ardent supporters. That’s a good thing. I suppose we can finally put behind us all those hearty endorsements for his election. That’s a good thing, too.

It's too early to panic with the MLB owners' lockout

Major League Baseball’s owners initialed a lockout of major-league players when the owners and the Major League Baseball Players Association did not finalize a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) by December 1, the expiration of the old CBA. It sounds like a drastic move for the sport, but the reality is the lockout is just the next negotiation tactic in what will likely be a protracted process. The MLBPA put an aggressive proposal on the table in May and hasn’t budged off of it in the negotiations thus far.


MLB didn’t have to issue the lockout order right now. The two sides could have continued to operate under the old CBA, so that normal business operations could continue. However, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred rationalized that the lockout is part of the negotiation process and is designed to put pressure on the players to continue new CBA negotiations in earnest. In any case, it came as no surprise to the players association that the owners pulled the trigger on the lockout. The last owner lockout occurred 26 years ago. Essentially there has been labor peace in baseball since then.


The issues swirling around the negotiations are fairly complex; but when you boil them down, each side’s objective is rather simple. The players want a larger share of the revenue. The owners want to keep the status quo for the CBA—maintain the current revenue sharing percentages and ensure competitive balance among the teams. How both sides’ objectives are ultimately achieved is where the difficulty lies. The devil is in the details.


The union’s argument for a larger share of revenue is that baseball franchise values have sky-rocketed in the past few years, and they want consideration for contributing to that situation. The franchises are setting records for increased revenue, and the players want to increase their share of a larger pie. The MLBPA believes it got fleeced in the 2016 CBA, with respect to the allocation of revenue. Currently the owners have 57%, while the players get 43%.


The union has several constituents it is representing: the players with 0-3 years in the majors; the players eligible for free agency, the older players (usually 30 years or more), and the high-end superstars. However, their focus this time seems to be on the pre-salary arbitration players.


Following are some of the union’s demands, in addition to receiving a larger percentage of revenue.


The union wants to reduce the time required for two-year players to become eligible for salary arbitration. It maintains that the younger, high-performing players are being underpaid. Furthermore, they want players to be able to enter free agency sooner. However, the owners see this change as bad for fans because the better players on small market teams will leave sooner.


The union believes the 30-plus-year-old players are often not paid appropriately, since major league clubs are opting for younger, lower-paid players instead of signing older free-agent players seeking longer-term contracts and dollars that reflect their years of service. The older players are then forced to accept one or two-year deals at considerably less than market value.


Furthermore, the union wants the league to discourage teams that do “tanking” to lower their overall salary expense. The union sees this as a practice by the lower-end owners to improve their profits, because their rosters mainly consist of players under team control.


The union wants the league to institute a lower competitive balance tax, so that potentially more teams will exceed the maximum and be required to contribute taxes on overruns, which benefits the smaller market teams. The union believes that teams who receive a proportionate share of dollars from the competitive balance tax are not spending the money on player salaries, but instead are pocketing the money as profit. The union wants the league to require teams to spend the luxury money on the players.


As a backdrop to these MLBPA demands, the owners’ collective spending on player salaries has declined each year since 2017.


The owners are concerned about changes that would affect competitive balance. Small-market teams are especially hurt by earlier salary arbitration and a faster path to free agency. They tend to fill their rosters with younger players under team control at lowers salaries. Accelerating arbitration or free agency would cost them more and create more turnover of their players.


But what do the players have to offer in return for some of these concessions? Perhaps the only proposal is to agree to expanded playoffs that would involve fourteen teams. This would have a dramatic increase in revenue that benefits both sides.


Other items that could become part of the negotiation include an NBA-style draft lottery, a pitch clock, and universal DH.


In issuing the lockout now, the owners don’t want to make the same mistake as in 1994. During the negotiations then, the owners didn’t lock out the players, and the players went on strike in August that wound up cancelling the playoffs and World Series.


In reality, the lockout doesn’t become critical until teams start reporting for spring training. So, there are at least two months for the two sides to come to an agreement. One of the impacts, if it does take that long, is that it leaves a lot of free agents in limbo until right before they are to report. That’s because teams and players can’t communicate on trade or free-agent transactions during a lockout.


So, if you were planning to attend spring training in Florida or Arizona in March, it’s too early to think about canceling your trip.

 

 

Flashback: Third time's a charm for 2006 Rummel-based American Legion team

Rummel High School-based American Legion teams have a rich history of competitive baseball in the New Orleans area. Of course, the ultimate goal of all Legion teams is to win all the marbles in the annual American Legion World Series. Rummel had two unsuccessful cracks at the overall championship in the 1970s, before the 2006 team, sponsored by Nationwide Restoration, captured the national title.


New Orleans area baseball teams have competed in the American Legion World Series numerous times since the event began in 1926. Yet there have been only five years in which area teams have captured the overall championship. In addition to the 2006 Rummel squad, the other teams include the 1936 S.J. Peters-based Zatarain Papooses, 1946 Jesuit-based Post 125, 1960 Jesuit-based Tulane Shirts, and 2012 Jesuit-based Retif Oil.


Rummel’s American Legion past included two teams, coached by Larry Schneider, which reached the American Legion World Series in 1974 and 1976. Sponsored by Schaff Brothers, the team finished fourth in both years. (Note: In 2009 Ken Trahan convened a panel of historians, sportswriters, coaches, and former players who spanned several decades to determine the best American Legion teams in metro New Orleans history. The 1974 Schaff team tied for the No. 1 ranking with 1980 Jesuit-based Odeco, while the 1976 Schaff team ranked No. 6.)


Thirty years later Rummel was still turning out good teams, both in prep and Legion competition. Coach David Baudry’s Nationwide team had won the state Legion title in 2005, earning a trip to the Mid-South Regional. However, they were eliminated by Enid, Oklahoma, the eventual World Series champion.


The Rummel High School team, also coached by Baudry, won the District 8-5A championship in 2006. His talented team included All-Metro performers Robby Broach, Ryan Scott, Brent Brignac, and Mike Liberto. Brett Palermo, Kirk Cunningham and Dane Maxwell were All-District selections. Baudry was named the Coach of the Year in Rummel’s district. In the prep state tournament, Rummel reached the semi-finals but was eliminated by eventual champion Barbe.


All of those players transitioned to the Nationwide American Legion team that summer, while Baudry added eligible college freshmen who brought additional experience, including Kevin Weidenbacher and Matt Brown.


Nationwide swept its competition in the Louisiana Southeast Region tournament in Ponchatoula, defeating Holy Cross-based Ponstein’s in the finals. Baudry had confidence in the team’s talent. However, he told the Times-Picayune at the time, “My main concern is, do they want to go through the long grind again to reach the World Series.”


Nationwide handily won its first three games in the State Legion tourney in Shreveport against St. Amant, Shreveport, and Bossier, behind the pitching of Brown, Carl Labit, and Broach. Although they lost, 10-7, to a strong East Ascension Gauthier-Amadee team in the fourth game, Rummel still advanced to the finals. Nationwide rebounded in the finals against Gauthier-Amadee, winning decisively on a three-hitter by Maxwell, 13-1. Baudry credited his team’s success to its top two hitters, Liberto and Broach, being able to get on base for the middle of the lineup featuring Scott and Cunningham.


Nationwide advanced to the Mid-South Regional for the second year in a row. One of their foes at the tournament site of Crowley, Louisiana, was the Enid, Oklahoma team that eliminated them in 2005. Baudry expected to cross paths again with Enid. He said in a Times-Picayune interview, “I feel like our experience level will help us. I think if we are dedicated to playing hard, we have a chance to be around on the final day.”


Nationwide combined a 16-hit attack with a three-hit performance by Matt Brown to defeat Campbellsville, Kentucky, in the first game, 17-4. In their second game against Texarkana, Nationwide had to rally twice to overcome the Texas entry, 16-11. Ben Usner was credited with the win after pitching the final three innings, while Liberto and Maxwell led the hitting attack.


The team recorded shutouts in their next two games against Enid and Tupelo, Mississippi, as Broach and Maxwell turned in masterful performances on the mound. Facing Enid again in the finals, Nationwide gained a measure of revenge from 2005, with a 5-1 victory, their 40th of the season. Brignac was the winning pitcher with 10 strikeouts. Palermo was the hitting star for Nationwide, going 3-for-4 and driving in three of the team’s five runs. Maxwell was named the tournament MVP.


Nationwide advanced to the final eight teams in the national championship round in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It had been 46 years since a New Orleans area team won the American Legion World Series, and it had been 30 years since the Rummel Schaff Brothers team claimed a World Series berth. Hoping to end the drought, Baudry believed one of the keys to his team’s success was the experience that was retained with the seniors and college freshmen. Baudry told the Times-Picayune, “They know what to expect. Baseball is a high priority to them, and they have already played at a high level.”


Nationwide was feeling good about it chances. They had been battle-tested on their journey to the Word Series, including the victory over last year’s champion. Chris Accardo, father of Nationwide’s catcher Brett Accardo, had played for the Schaff Brothers team that went to the World Series in 1976. Familiar with the usual level of competition in the World Series, he remembers cautioning the squad about its confidence going into the tournament. He recalls telling them, “Guys, this is not like playing at Mike Miley playground. Your opponents will be a level above what you are accustomed to playing.”


Sure enough, Nationwide was set back on its heels in their first game against a very experienced team from Terre Haute, Indiana. Terre Haute took an early lead, 6-1, and Nationwide wasn’t able to catch up, putting up only two more runs. The team bounced back with a 7-6 win a seesaw battle with Lincoln, Nebraska. Baudry said about the win, “They are not satisfied with coming up here for a little vacation. They want to stay awhile.”


After playing inconsistently in the first two games, Nationwide mounted a strong attack against Milton, Massachusetts. Maxwell turned in a fine pitching performance, while Accardo led the offense with a grand slam home run. The elder Accardo vividly remembers his son’s dramatic hit . “I was just hoping Brett could deliver one run with the bases loaded, but then he hit it out. It was the biggest moment of my life.” Nationwide won convincingly, 10-4. Baudry said after the game, “Maybe we’re over the hump now. I just think we’ve been playing tight, and I think now maybe we might be able to relax.”


Nationwide’s fourth game entailed a re-match against Terre Haute. This time the outcome was vastly different, as Nationwide built up an early 14-0 lead that included sending 13 player to the plate in the second inning. Terre Haute tried to fight back but fell short in the 14-9 loss. Broach then struck out 11 against Middleton, Virginia, in Nationwide’s fifth game in which they won, 6-2. The victory advanced them into the finals in a winner-take-all game against Terre Haute.


In the final game, Nationwide’s starting pitcher Matt Brown faced off with Terre Haute’s ace Josh Phegley, a future major leaguer. Terre Haute was a different team from one that took a shellacking in the fourth game. They led until the bottom of the eighth inning, but then Nationwide put together three runs for a final winning score of 6-4. Brown hurled a complete game with 11 strikeouts and got the necessary offense from several teammates.


The Rummel-based Legion program had finally captured the World Series title on its third attempt. Liberto was named the tournament MVP and joined on the all-tournament team by Weidenbacher, Broach, and Cunningham. Baudry was complimentary of his team after the game. He told the Times-Picayune, “We’re very resilient. These guys, the last two nights, made big, big pitches and that’s the big key. We left everything we had out on that field.”


Fifteen years later, Baudry, currently head baseball coach at Hahnville High School, reflects on the 2006 team and its accomplishment, “At the beginning of the summer, I thought we had something special. We had a lot of returning players from the year before. I knew if we could stay healthy, we’d be around at the end of the summer. He added, “We had good competition at the district level that prepared us for the post-season tournaments. Our pitching always gave us a good chance to win. They pounded the strike zone. They knew if the ball were hit, our defense would make the plays.” Baudry was complimentary of the support by the parents of the players, recalling they rented a bus to travel with the team.


Brady Benoit, who was Baudry’s assistant coach in 2006 and is now the head baseball coach at Northshore High School in Slidell, offered his assessment. “The talent on our team was off the chart. It seemed like we had a different guy step up every night to lead the team. The players knew someone would pick up the slack, and they didn’t care who got the spotlight.” Benoit added, “People couldn’t believe that all our players came from one school, whereas the other tournament teams were comprised of all-stars from several teams.”


Still today, Larry Scott, father of Ryan Scott, has fond memories of the momentous season. He said, “The three months that we spent together that summer was the most fun for the parents, including the Field of Dreams visit in Iowa and the long bus ride to Cedar Rapids. We were like a family and everyone has many great memories.”  Ryan was honored with the American Legion Louisiana Player of the Year award and received a scholarship.


The Nationwide team was treated to a game at the 2006 MLB World Series at Detroit’s Comerica Park, where they were recognized in a pre-game ceremony.


The complete roster for the 2006 Nationwide Restoration (Post 175) squad included: Brett Accardo, Brent Brignac, Robby Broach, Matt Brown, Kirk Cunningham, Gregory Dick, Cory Hoffman, Tyler Koelling, Carl Labit, Mike Liberto, Dane Maxwell, Matt O’Connor, Brett Palermo, Ryan Scott, Ben Usner, Kevin Weidenbacher, and Kyle Zara. Team manager was Anthony Longo. A testament to the team’s talent was that eleven of the players went on to play baseball at the collegiate level.

Family Ties Still Flourishing in 2021

One of my special interests in baseball, going back about 30 years, has been the prevalence of relatives in professional baseball, including the majors and minors. My interests manifested itself in a book I authored in 2012, where I published my initial research efforts about baseball’s relatives. Appropriately, I titled the book “Family Ties: A Comprehensive Collection of Facts and Trivia about Baseball’s Relatives.” Since then, I have continued extensive research and documentation of the occurrences of family relationships in the sport, except it is now maintained in a database, with annual updates posted on my website “Baseball’s Relatives.”


There is no single source you can go to find all the family ties in baseball. There are several websites that provide lists of major-league players who are fathers, sons and brothers, but that’s about it. Several factors distinguished the information in my book from the other lists on these websites: 1) I not only included players, but also managers, coaches, scouts, executives, owners, front office personnel, broadcasters, and umpires who had relatives in baseball; 2) I also included minor-league players; 3) I included additional family relationships (uncle, nephew, cousin, grandson, etc.); 4) I included relatives who participated in non-baseball sports. The additional information I gathered resulted from reading baseball-related websites, books, magazines, and newspapers.


I thought I had a pretty comprehensive set of information in the Family Ties book. There were over 3,500 baseball personnel identified, covering all of the baseball roles. But I acknowledged in the book that my information was not exhaustive, if only for the reason that each new baseball season would bring in new players who had family relationship in the sport.


I just finished the 2021 season updates of my database.  I now have accumulated over 8,300 major-league and minor-league players, managers, coaches, scouts, executives, owners, front office personnel, broadcasters and umpires. All of these represent over 12,000 family relationships (father, son, brother, uncle, nephew, cousin, etc.) in baseball. There are another 1,400 family relationships with athletes in other major sports at various levels (amateur, college, professional, and Olympics).


For the past several years, most of my updates have been found in major-league team media guides. Most of the teams are pretty good at identifying in the bios of their players any relatives they have in baseball or another sport.


The 2021 season information can be viewed at https://baseballrelatives.wordpress.com/family-ties-2021-season/


Here are a few stats and interesting facts from the 2021 season:


 

  • 592 active major and minor league players have one or more relatives in pro baseball. That’s equates to about one in every seven players in the majors and minors combined.

 


 

  •  Those 592 players had 835 family relationships.

 


o   Nationals minor-leaguer Jake Boone and major-leaguer Vlad Guerrero each have six relatives. If Boone makes the majors, his family would become the first four-generation MLB family.


o   Minor-leaguer Trei Cruz has five family members in pro baseball. If he reaches the majors, the Cruz family would become only the sixth three-generation MLB family.


 

  •  648 active non-players have one or more relatives in pro baseball.

 


 

  •  Those 648 non-players had 1,180 relationships.

 


o   Jerry Hairston Jr. (Dodgers broadcaster) and Shawn Roof (Tigers minor-league manager) each have nine relatives in pro baseball.


o   Phillies executive Andy MacPhail has seven relatives, which includes four generations of front office personnel, going back to Larry MacPhail who began his career in the 1930s.


o   With more and more major-league and minor-league coaching and front office personnel being hired without playing experience, this category of relatives will likely decline over time.


 

  •  32 players with relatives made their MLB debut.

 


o   Reds pitcher Riley O’Brien is the grandson of former major-leaguer Johnny O’Brien, whose twin brother Eddie was also a major-leaguer.


o   Rays phenom Wander Franco has two brothers (both also named Wander) who played in the minors. They are nephews of retired MLB brothers Willy and Erick Aybar.


o   Brothers Trevor and Tylor Megill made their debuts with the Cubs and Mets, respectively.


 

  •  62 players with relatives made their minor-league debut

 


o   The last names of several of these rookie minor-leaguers are very familiar (Glavine, Kessinger, Niekro, Pettitte, and Boone).


 

  • 18 players with relatives were selected in the MLB Draft which consisted of 20 rounds. (In 2020 there were five rounds.) When here were 45 draft rounds in 2019, 77 players with relatives were drafted. There will be more of a shift toward undrafted free agent signings with limited rounds.

 


 

  • 362 players and non-players had relatives in other sports and levels. Below are some examples.

 


o   Royals manager Mike Matheny has four sons who played college baseball, one of which made it to the minors. His daughter played hockey in college.


o   Orioles second baseman Jahmai Jones’s father and three brothers played in the NFL.


o   Cubs outfielder Trayce Thompson’s father and two brothers played in the NBA.


 

  • By far, the San Francisco Giants had the most active players with relatives (31) and the most active non-players with relatives (41). It makes you wonder if this was by design (preference for hiring players and non-players with baseball in their bloodlines) or just a coincidence.

I envision a future trend in which we’ll see a reduction of family ties in baseball. The pipeline for new entrants is being reduced in several areas. There are now fewer draft rounds and fewer minor-league teams, which affects both the number of players and coaches. Many jobs in major- league front offices are being filled nowadays with personnel who did not play professional baseball. Scouting staffs are being reduced by many teams because of the availability of technology to evaluate players without seeing them in person.

Flashback: Will Clark involved in 1993 MLB free agency controversy

With Major League Baseball already into the off-season, navigating the free agency situation is occupying significant time by major-league front offices. General managers are looking to augment their rosters with players who can help turn their teams into a pennant contender next spring. As always, the GM’s challenge is being able to afford the players’ salary demands while also trying to minimize long-term commitments.


Major league clubs will be jockeying for this year’s top free agents, headlined by shortstops Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, Marcus Semien, Javier Baez, and Trevor Story. There’s sure to be a significant amount of attention around their signings, since any one of these players could be a difference-maker for many teams. It will be interesting to see which of these players will be the first to sign, thus setting the market price for the rest of the elite infielders. We can expect drama around the signing of one or more of these high-profile players.


Former New Orleans prep star and major-leaguer Will Clark had a flair for the dramatic on the field. But it was during the winter between the 1993 and 1994 seasons that he made a big splash in the free agent market, as he left San Francisco to sign with the Texas Rangers. The circumstances of his move created a fair amount of commotion and controversy within the baseball ranks.


Clark had a storybook career, starting with his playground days in New Orleans and extending throughout his 15-year major-league career. Along the way, he was a standout at Jesuit High School, an All-American at Mississippi State, the star of Team USA in the 1984 Olympics, and a six-time major-league all-star.


Clark made his major-league debut with the San Francisco Giants in 1986 after having been the No. 2 overall pick of the 1985 MLB draft. By 1990, his stock had risen significantly, making him one of the exciting young stars of the National League. He was rewarded accordingly with a new four-year, $15 million contract, the largest ever given at that time.


Following the 1993 season in which the Giants had acquired slugger Barry Bonds, Clark was a free agent again. While Bonds had put up an MVP season with San Francisco, Clark was coming off a subpar season for him, as his production declined when he missed 30 games due to nagging injuries. Clark preferred to stay with the Giants but decided to test the free-agent market after becoming disappointed with the Giants’ offer of a three-year deal at less than $15 million.


Clark drew interest from the Orioles, Mets and White Sox. Additionally, the Rangers and Rockies were expected to enter the chase for Clark if they could not re-sign their incumbent first basemen, Rafael Palmeiro and Andres Galarraga. The Orioles wound up entering contract negotiations with Clark but was unable to reach a final agreement.


Palmeiro didn’t immediately accept the Rangers’ initial offer of $26 million for five years and he decided to enter the free-agent market. The Rangers responded by initiating contract discussions with Clark.


Palmeiro was peeved at the Rangers for engaging his former Mississippi State teammate. He told The Sporting News, “I think Will Clark is a good player, but I don’t think he’s the player that I am. I feel I’m the better player.” Indeed, Palmeiro had just completed the best season of his career (.295 BA, 37 HR, and 105 RBIs), outpacing Clark (.283 BA, 14 HR, and 73 RBIs).


Unable to reach a long-term deal with the Giants, Clark signed a five-year contract with the Rangers worth $30 million. Clark’s agent, Jeff Moorad, commented in USA Today upon the signing, “He’s leaving the Giants with very mixed feelings. It was his sincere desire to re-sign with the Giants.”


Palmeiro was upset with the Rangers for the deal they struck with Clark, which was similar to the one he was seeking. He also lashed out at Clark in the press. In the Fort Worth-Star Telegram, Palmeiro lambasted Clark, believing he had undercut him, “That’s Will. That’s the way he is. He’s got no class. Friendship didn’t matter to him. He was looking out for himself. I don’t think much of Will. He’s a lowlife.”


Palmeiro was later apologetic for his comments about Clark. The Times-Picayune reported, “I think Will Clark is a great person and a great ballplayer. I was speaking out of frustration, and I want to apologize to Will.” However, Palmeiro harbored ill feelings for Clark that lasted a long time. It wasn’t until 2015 when ESPN Films was producing the documentary “SEC Storied – Thunder and Lighting” (about Clark and Palmeiro playing together at Mississippi State) that the two former teammates would make up and start speaking to each other again.


Clark played out his five seasons with Texas, while Palmeiro put in five years with the Orioles. Ironically, the two players swapped teams in 1999, with Clark going to Baltimore and Palmeiro returning to Texas.


Clark finished his career in 2000 with the St. Louis Cardinals, who acquired him from Baltimore at the trade deadline to backfill injured first baseman Mark McGwire. Clark went on a hitting spree during the last two months of the regular season, helping the Cardinals secure the Central Division title.

Post-season musings

Before we go headlong into the off-season, I thought I’d close out the 2021 season with some thoughts about the World Series.


Braves manager Brian Snitker gets a World Series ring after 45 years in the organization. His story is one of perseverance. He had been demoted a couple of times in the minor-league ranks and had been passed over once before for the Braves managerial spot. I guess the old adage “good things come to those who wait” applies to him.


You have to wonder how one of the best offensive teams in baseball can go so flat in the World Series? The Houston Astros got only 10 extra-base hits (including only two home runs) in the six-game Series. Alverez and Bregman, with only two hits apiece, took an early vacation. What does it say when pitcher Zack Greinke has the highest Astros batting average (.667) during the Series? (Admittedly, he had only three plate appearances.)


With the absence of true “stoppers” (starting pitchers who can shut the opposition down with seven or eight solid innings following a loss by their team), all of the post-season teams had to resort to bullpenning in several games. It makes for an interesting chess match between the managers.


The Braves managed to win the World Series without their best position player, outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr., and their best pitcher, Charlie Morton. It’s a tribute to other teammates who stepped up when needed, especially outfielders Eddie Rosario, Jorge Soler, Adam Duvall, and Joc Pederson, all of whom were acquired by the Braves after July.


The Astros really didn’t miss former outfielder George Springer, who had been a key part of the team’s makeover going back to 2015. Springer signed with Toronto for the 2021 season, but his loss was offset by 24-year-old Kyle Tucker who had a breakout season and enabled Astros fans forget about Springer.


With the city of Atlanta hosting the World Series and MLB Commissioner Manfred having to present the Braves with the World Series trophy in Atlanta, Major League Baseball looks pretty silly now for moving the All-Star Game from Atlanta to Colorado back in July. MLB over-reacted to the political situation in Georgia, resulting in the change of the All-Star Game venue.


Looking ahead to 2022


What’s in store for Astros manager Dusty Baker for 2022? Will Houston bring the 72-year-old back for a third season? Does he want to come back?


Does Series MVP Jorge Soler get re-signed by the Braves for 2022? His post-season performance came at a good time, as he shops himself around in free agency over the winter. The Braves may not be willing to match some of the offers he’s likely to get from other teams.


The Astros appear to be pretty set in their starting rotation for the foreseeable future. Playing on the big stage for the first time, their corps of young starters that includes Framber Valdez, Luis Garcia, and Jose Urquidy, all of whom performed admirably at times during the post-season. Adding 27-year-old “veteran” Lance McCullers Jr. to the mix, the Astros have to feel good about that part of their roster. Two-time Cy Young Award pitcher Justin Verlander missed the entire Astros season due to recovery from Tommy John surgery. They don’t need to bring the 38-year-old back. It’s also bye-bye for 37-year-old Zack Greinke.


While the Astros pitching staff is manned by relative youngsters, the team will have to guard against getting too old with its position players down the road. Gurriel, Altuve, Brantley, and Maldonado are into their 30s.


The Braves would be foolish not to re-sign first baseman Freddie Freeman, who becomes a free agent after this season. He’s the clear leader of the team and a perennial MVP candidate. He’s the face of the franchise. Pay him.


By the same token, the Astros need to re-sign Carlos Correa. Yeah, he’s missed a lot of games during his short career, but he’s one of the main reasons the Astros have been to the World Series in three of the past five seasons. However, expect the Yankees to make a run at Correa.

Flashback: Former Fortier star Howie Pollet led St. Louis Cardinals into 1946 World Series

The New Orleans area has produced numerous players who made it to baseball’s biggest stage, the World Series. Some of the city’s best-known major-league players, including Mel Ott, Rusty Staub, Will Clark, George Strickland, and Connie Ryan, can count World Series appearances among their career highlights.


Seventy-five years ago, Howie Pollet, former prep pitcher at Fortier High School, was the World Series Game 1 starting pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals when they faced the powerful Boston Red Sox.


After missing half of the 1943 season and all of 1944 and 1945 due to military service in World War II, 25-year-old Pollet returned in fine form with the Cardinals for the 1946 season. He led the National League with 21 wins and a 2.31 ERA. In 32 starts for the Redbirds, he pitched 22 complete games, including four shutouts. He also appeared in eight games as a reliever, collecting five saves. With a windmill-type of delivery, the left-handed Pollet relied on his fastball as his No. 1 pitch and combined it with a change-up and slow curve. He finished sixth in the league in strikeouts with 107.


The Cardinals were making their fourth World Series appearance in five years, having won all the marbles in 1942 and 1944. (Pollet had pitched to one batter in a relief appearance in the ’42 Series.) Stan Musial headlined the 1946 Cardinals’ hitting attack that also included Enos Slaughter, Red Schoendienst, Whitey Kurowski, and Terry Moore.


The Red Sox were considered the favorite going into the Series, having won 104 games during the regular season. Their offense was led by Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr, Dom DiMaggio, and Rudy York. Their pitching staff featured 25-game winner Boo Ferriss and 20-game winner Tex Hughson.


The Cardinals went with Pollet as their Game 1 starter, even though he had been dealing with an unpredictable back problem. Hughson drew the assignment for the Red Sox. The game was played before a packed house of 36,218 fans at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis.


The Red Sox got on the board first with a run in the second inning, when Pinky Higgins hit a single off Pollet that scored York. The Cardinals evened the score in the sixth when Musial doubled to score Schoendienst.


Joe Garagiola’s run-scoring double gave the Cardinals took the lead, 2-1, in the sixth inning. Pollet yielded the seventh Red Sox hit in the ninth inning, as Tom McBride’s single scored Don Gutteridge to tie the score.


In the top of the 10th inning, York walloped a solo home run off Pollet that turned out to be the game-winning run for the Red Sox. The final score was 3-2. Pollet took the loss, giving up nine hits and four walks, while striking out three.


Pollet got another start in Game 5 at Fenway Park. However, he didn’t get out of the first inning due to back pain that was aggravated in Game 1. The Cardinals went on to win the World Series in seven games.


Pollet, whose major-league career consisted of 14 seasons, pitched until 1956. His career record was 131-116 with a 3.58 ERA. His 131 wins are still the most of any major-league pitcher from the New Orleans area. He was named to the National League All-Star team three times.


Below is a complete list of New Orleans metro area players who played in one or more World Series.


Player

High School

Year(s) in World Series

World Series Team

Larry Gilbert Sr.

Unknown

1914*

Braves

John Martina

Unknown

1924*

Senators

Mel Ott

McDonough-Jefferson

1933*, 1936, 1937

Giants

Howie Pollet

Fortier

1942*, 1946*

Cardinals

Lou Klein

S. J. Peters

1943

Cardinals

Al Jurisich

Warren Easton

1944*

Cardinals

Jack Kramer

S. J. Peters

1944

Browns

Connie Ryan

Jesuit

1948

Braves

Putsy Caballero

Jesuit

1950

Phillies

George Strickland

S. J. Peters

1954

Indians

Rusty Staub

Jesuit

1973

Mets

Will Clark

Jesuit

1989

Giants

Gerald Williams

East St. John

1999

Braves

Chad Gaudin

Crescent City

2009*

Yankees

Mike Fontenot

Salmen

2010*

Giants

Will Harris

Slidell

2017*, 2019

Astros

Tanner Rainey

St. Paul’s

2019*

Nationals

Aaron Loup

Hahnville

2020

Rays

Asterisks indicate team won the World Series that season.

It's uncanny how improbable stars rise to the occasion in the MLB post-season

You would expect perennial stars like Reggie Jackson (AKA Mr. October) and Derek Jeter (AKA Mr. November) to have spectacular performances in post-season play. They seemed to have a knack for hitting a home run or making a dramatic catch at the right time to lift their respective New York Yankees teams to critical playoff victories.


But if I had mentioned at the end of the regular season names like Kike Hernandez, Tyler Matzek, Yordan Alvarez, or Eddie Rosario as potential playoff heroes, it would have raised a few eyebrows. By and large, these players don’t have familiar names associated with superstardom. Not even during the regular season, much less the playoffs.


But have you noticed how every season seems to have at least one player, well short of superstar caliber, who puts his team on his back and carries them toward the prized World Series ring?


This year it just happens to be those not-so-familiar names like Hernandez, Matzek, Alvarez, and Rosario who are rising the occasion.


Boston’s Kike Hernandez had prior experience in World Series play with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2017, 2018, and 2020. He had gained a reputation as an effective utility player, but the Dodgers felt he was expendable and granted him free agency after the 2020 season. He finally secured a full-time job as the Red Sox’s center fielder this season. He became a Red Sox hero in the ALDS against Tampa Bay when he went 5-for-6 with a home run and two doubles in Game 2 and went on to lead the team with nine hits in the series. In Game 1 of the ALCS against Houston, he made a spectacular catch in center field while also hitting another home run. He wound up leading the Red Sox with 10 hits in the ALCS.


Yordan Alvarez made a splash in his MLB debut in 2019 with Houston, but then missed all but two games last season from having surgery on both knees. In the shadows of established Astros stars Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and Yuli Gurriel, he quietly led the Astros with 33 home runs and 104 RBIs and posted a 136 ERA+ this year. When some of these other players struggled at the plate in the post-season, Alvarez put on a hitting clinic against Red Sox pitchers. He had five extra-base hits among his 12 safeties for the ALCS and led the Astros offensively with a slash line of .522/.538/.970.  He was named the MVP for the ALCS.


Eddie Rosario was acquired by the Atlanta Braves at the trade deadline this year to bolster their outfield after having lost Ronald Acuna Jr. to injury. With a team that already featured offensive threats Freddie Freeman, Austin Riley, Adam Duvall, Ozzie Albers, and Dansby Swanson, not much was expected from Rosario. But all he did was get the walk-off winning hit in Game 2 of the NLCS, go 4-for-5 with a homer and triple in Game 4, and hit a 3-run homer in the decisive Game 6. Altogether, he banged out 14 hits in the NLCS (a franchise record) and captured the MVP award for the series.


Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Tyler Matzek, who was practically out of baseball a few years ago due to a case of the yips, has had incredible post-season.  In nine appearances, he has yielded only two runs in 10 1/3 innings. The outing that best illustrated his impact with the Braves came in NLCS Game 6 against the Dodgers where he struck out the side in the seventh inning with the Dodgers having runners on second and third. He’s had 11 strikeouts with runners in scoring position during the post-season.

  

Here are a few other improbable stars of past post-seasons.


Last year there was Randy Arozarena of the Tampa Bay Rays. He had played a total of 42 major-league games spread over two partial seasons with St. Louis (2019) and Tampa Bay (2020). He got on a hot streak during the post-season and wound up banging out 10 home runs in 20 post-season games while batting .377. His performance earned him the MVP award for the ALCS against Houston.


Steve Pearce had been a platoon player for practically all of his major-league career that started in 2007. The Red Sox became his seventh major-league team in 2018 when they acquired him from Toronto at the end of June. He appeared in 50 games for the Red Sox, filling in as a reserve first baseman and outfielder, in addition to DHing and pinch-hitting. In Games 4 and 5 of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Pearce hit three home runs with seven RBIs, helping Boston win the Series in just five games. He was voted the MVP of the Series, while playing on a team that featured Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and Mitch Moreland.


Ben Zobrist was the epitome of a “super utility” player with the Chicago Cubs in 2016 when he played three infield and two outfield positions during the regular season. In the Cubs’ historic World Series championship that year, it was Zobrist who led the Cubs. Playing left field in the Series against Cleveland, the switch-hitter went 10-for-28 at the plate and was named the Series MVP.


In 2015 the Mets appeared in their first post-season since 2006. The team was only a little better than average offensively in the National League. However, the Mets got past the Dodgers and Cubs to reach the World Series. 30-year-old second baseman Daniel Murphy was the key player that propelled them into the Fall Classic. Seven of his 16 hits in the NLDS and NLCS went for home runs after he hit only 14 during the entire regular season. The Mets wound up losing to Kansas City in the World Series, but Mets fans will forever remember Murphy’s unexpected power surge that got them there.


David Freese was in his third major-league season in 2011 with the St. Louis Cardinals, having missed almost two months due to injuries. The Cardinals had been led offensively by Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman, and Allen Craig during the regular season. But it was Freese who stepped up his game in the post-season to help the Cardinals franchise win its 11th World Series. He was the MVP of the NLCS against Milwaukee when he hit three home runs and batted .545. The Rangers were one out away from capturing its first-ever world championship in Game 6 of the World Series, but Freese hit a triple in the ninth inning to tie the score. He later smacked a walk-off home run in the 11th to keep the Cardinals alive in the Series. The Cardinals went on to win Game 7, with Freese named the MVP. 

New Orleans native Ron Washington brings World Series experience to the Atlanta Braves

The Atlanta Braves got past the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Division Series last week and now have the Los Angeles Dodgers in their path to reaching their first World Series since 1999. One of the Braves’ weapons in their pursuit of the NL pennant is not a pitcher or a position player, but rather third base coach Ron Washington, a native of New Orleans who still resides in the city.


Should the Braves advance to the World Series, they will benefit from Washington’s experience in two World Series as manager of the Texas Rangers. None of the other members of the Braves coaching staff, including manager Brian Snitker, has any background with World Series competition. Bench coach Walt Weiss is the only one of Snitker’s staff who has experienced a World Series as a player. The 68-year-old Washington is in his fifth season as a base coach for the Braves, while also working extensively with the infielders.


Washington fell short of claiming a World Series ring, as his 2010 Rangers team was over-matched against the San Francisco Giants in the 2010 Series, losing in five games. However, in 2011 they were one pitch away in Game 6 from winning the franchise’s first World Series championship against the St. Louis Cardinals. But they wound up losing to the Cardinals in seven games. Washington spent eight seasons as the Rangers manager, including 2007 to 2014. He is the all-time winningest manager in Rangers history with 664 victories.


He graduated from John McDonogh High School in New Orleans in 1970. He was in the first class of amateur players signed by the Kansas City Royals to participate in their newly established baseball academy. The infielder spent five seasons in the Royals’ minor-league system, followed by stints in the Dodgers and Mets organizations.


Washington made his major-league debut with the Minnesota Twins in 1981 and primarily played as a utility infielder with them for six seasons. He spent one season each with Baltimore, Cleveland, and Houston before retiring as a player after the 1990 season. He began his coaching career at the minor-league level in 1991 and has spent 26 years on major-league coaching staffs.


“Wash” is a favorite among the Braves players. He is well-known for his demanding fielding drills with infielders before games. Braves all-star second baseman Ozzie Albies told The Sporting News in August, “He’s [Washington] the GOAT, that’s what I’d say. He’s the guy. He makes us feel comfortable, makes us feel great on and off the field. He makes us feel at home, feel safe. He’s all about doing the right things. Just do it right, good things are going to happen. He’s a special guy and we love to have him here.”


Washington has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the San Diego Padres managerial job vacated by Jayce Tingler, who was let go after two seasons. Padres general manager A.J. Preller is familiar with Washington because they were with the Rangers at the same time.


Washington’s boss, Braves manager Brian Snitker, also has ties to New Orleans since he played baseball at the University of New Orleans.

Hey brother, let's play ball

Playing wiffle ball in the backyard with a brother was an experience familiar to a lot of us. Playing on the same team with a brother in Little League, Babe Ruth, or high school baseball is something we might have also experienced. But what about brothers playing with or against each other in the major leagues? Not too many can say they know what that’s like.


But it happens every once in a while. Some of the occurrences go relatively unnoticed. Others like the Alou brothers (Felipe, Matty, and Jesus) attracted significant attention in September 1963 when the trio of Dominican players started in the outfield together in a game for the San Francisco Giants. Their improbable feat is often the subject of baseball trivia questions.


This year’s major-league season saw several instances of brothers playing on opposite sides of the diamond and one in which the brothers teamed up as batterymates.


Brothers Jordan and Justus Sheffield pitched in the same game during Spring Training in March. Justus started for the Seattle Mariners, while Jordan entered the game in the fourth inning in relief for the Colorado Rockies. It was the second time they had crossed paths in a professional game as opponents, the first in a minor-league series in 2019. The brothers roomed together during spring training camp.


Brothers Corey (Dodgers) and Kyle Seager (Mariners) have opposed each other as major leaguers several times. On April 19 this season, Corey homered in a 4-3 loss to the Mariners. On May 11, Kyle homered in a 6-4 loss to the Dodgers. Even though Kyle is the older of the two, his nickname is “Corey’s Brother.”


Yuli and Lourdes Gurriel are Cuban-born major-leaguers whose father Lourdes Sr. was a baseball star for the Cuban National team in the 1980s and 1990s. The brothers played against each other in a series between Houston and Toronto on May 7-9. Houston’s Yuli outshined his brother with a 4-for-4 performance in one of the games. Yuli wound up leading the National League in batting this season with a .319 average.


Veteran major-league brothers Andrew and Austin Romine became the first brother batterymates since brother Norm (catcher) and Larry Sherry (pitcher) played together on June 28, 1962. Andrew, normally an infielder, was brought in to pitch for the Chicago Cubs in a blowout game against the Milwaukee Brewers on August 12. His catcher was his brother Austin. With the Brewers already holding a 16-3 lead   Andrew pitched the final inning of the game, yielding a home run and a single and striking out one batter.


On August 21, Aaron Nola and his brother Austin played against each for the first time since both were playing in a spring practice game as teammates at LSU. Aaron, who pitches for the Philadelphia Phillies, faced Austin with the San Diego Padres in three at-bats. Austin struck out, flied out, and walked against his brother, who had a perfect game through the first 6 1/3 innings. The Padres wound up inning, 4-3, in 10 innings.


On September 27, Cleveland’s Bradley Zimmer got bragging rights when he a 408-foot home run off his brother Kyle who was pitching in relief for the Kansas City Royals. The Indians won, 8-3. The brothers, who were both first-round draft picks, had faced each other three times previously this season. It was the first time a brother homered against his brother since 1976. (See Niekro brothers below.)


Below is a sampling of other games in baseball’s long history where MLB brothers played with or against each other.


Alex Gaston of the Boston Red Sox broke up his brother Milt’s no-hitter in 1926, hitting the first pitch of the ninth inning for a single.


The St. Louis Browns’ Rick Ferrell almost broke up kid brother Wes’s no-hitter on April 29, 1931; but the official scorer ruled Rick’s 8th inning at-bat an error and Wes claimed his no-hitter. On July 19, 1933, the brothers homered in the same inning for opposing teams. Rick hit his off Wes, only one of 28 total home runs in an 18-year career.


Mort and Walker Cooper were the pitcher-catcher combo for six seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals and one with the New York Giants. During 1942 through 1944 with the Cardinals, each of the brothers made the all-star team and helped their team win three National League pennants and two World Series championships.


Clete and Ken Boyer played against each for the first time in Game 1 of the 1964 World Series between the Yankees and Cardinals. In Game 7, Clete (Yankees) and Ken (Yankees) each hit home runs in the Cardinals’ win.


Brothers George and Ken Brett played against each other for the first time in an exhibition game on March 27, 1976. George, playing for the Kansas City Royals, hit a home run off Ken of the New York Yankees. In 20 regular-season plate appearances against his brother, George never homered once.


Joe Niekro (Astros) hit the only major-league home run of his 22-year career against his brother Phil on May 29, 1976. Joe’s seventh-inning home run against his older brother tied the game, with the Astros ultimately defeating the Braves, 4-3. Joe got the winning decision, giving up only four hits and one earned run in eight innings. Phil recorded the loss.