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.
Hammond native Benny Latino embraces change as long-time MLB scout

Benny Latino knows baseball talent. In fact, he knows so much that major-league teams have used his ability as a scout to identify and evaluate amateur baseball players for over 25 years. And it’s his ability to adapt to change that has kept him a valuable asset in the baseball industry.


A native of Hammond, Louisiana, Latino said he was attending a local high school game in 1995 when he off-handedly offered some comments to baseball scouts, who were in attendance, about a couple of players he thought were better than the player the scouts had come to see. The scouts took Latino’s recommendation to watch these other players and determined he was correct in his assessment.


The Rangers ended up offering him a part-time job to scout players in Southeast Louisiana. He worked with scouts Bill Schmidt and Doug Gassaway, whom Latino credits with teaching him the ropes of baseball scouting. When Gassaway moved to the Tampa Bay Rays, he took Latino with him.


Latino is currently a scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers, with responsibilities to evaluate amateur players in Louisiana, Mississippi, and southern Alabama. Prior to taking the Dodgers job in 2021, he had scouted for the New York Mets, and Florida Marlins, in addition to the Rangers and Rays. He has also held assignments as a professional scout, evaluating players already in the pros, and as an international scout finding prospects in the Dominican Republic.


The game of baseball has seen many changes in recent years, and scouting has had to change along with it. Latino said, “The tools of the major-league scout used to be a stopwatch, a radar gun, and a notepad.” He added, “Nowadays, the tools involve the use of sophisticated video viewing capability, web conferencing, social media, and a laptop.” He said the hardest part of his job is the information gathering on the players. He said, “Sometimes it’s overwhelming.” Despite all the latest technology available today, Latino maintained, “You still can’t judge a player’s work ethic without watching and talking to the player.”


For the past two years, Major League Baseball has reduced the number of amateur player draft rounds to 20, where it was formerly 40 or more. Part of the reason is attributed to MLB forcing 25 percent fewer affiliated minor-league teams two years ago, thus requiring fewer players. Latino believes it has resulted in a situation where some amateur players are missing out on getting the opportunity for a professional career. He noted, “Look at how many players in the past were drafted in round 21 or higher and advanced to the majors.” A prime example is Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza, who was a 62nd round draft pick in 1988.


Latino said many of the better amateur players today are not attending high school. This is especially true in Florida, Georgia, Texas, and California. Instead, they are enrolling in baseball academies, where they can focus on improving their baseball skills for a chance to play professionally. They attend classes a few hours a day at the academies, or are home-schooled, and then spend the rest of their day training.


Latino said that “select” or “travel” teams are great for the sport because they provide a high level of competition for aspiring players. But it has reduced the pool of potential college and professional players, especially among African Americans. Colleges are providing a higher percentage of professional players, while high schools are experiencing reductions.


The changes in the sources of prospects have affected some aspects of how Latino does his job. He previously spent more time at the grass-roots level, making connections with coaches and watching the players in person. The technology being used to capture information about prospects has also had an impact.


The availability of technology and the situation with fewer minor-league teams have caused some major-league clubs to downsize their scouting staff. Latino says the Dodgers took a balanced approach instead. They combined the efficiency and objectivity of a data-driven approach with supplemental in-person evaluations by their existing cadre of scouts.


Latino said baseball players as young as 12 and 13 years old are being tracked by major-league scouts.


Latino has signed between 280 and 300 prospects over his career. 29 of them have made it to the majors. They include some names familiar to New Orleans and Southeast Louisiana.


Chad Gaudin, whom Latino called the “ultimate warrior,” prepped at Crescent City Baptist in New Orleans and played in 11 major-league seasons during 2003 and 2013. He was a 36th round pick of the Tampa Bay Rays in 2001.


Joey Gathright, also drafted by the Rays in 2001, prepped at Bonnabel. Latino said Gathright was the one of the fastest players in the city. He played in seven major-league seasons from 2004 and 2011.


Reid Brignac was an outstanding prep player at St. Amant High School. He was a second-round pick of the Rays in 2004. He played in nine major-league seasons from 2008 to 2016. Brignac is currently a manager in the New York Mets organization.


Drew Avans, a Southeastern Louisiana product, was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 33rd round in 2018. He had an excellent season at the Triple-A level in 2022, at one point with 43 consecutive games getting on base.


One of Latino’s oddest finds drew national attention in 2001. Greg Nash was a raw talent from Gonzales, Louisiana, whom Latino discovered in 2000 playing in the local Sugar Cane League with 30- and 40-year- olds. Nicknamed “Toe” because of his size 18 shoe, Nash was six-foot-six and weighed 215 pounds. Latino had never forgotten he had seen a big kid play in the area six years earlier as a little-leaguer. It turned out that kid was Nash.


Nash, at 18 years old, was a switch-hitter that could hit 400-foot bombs from both sides, and as a pitcher he could throw in the 90s. Since he hadn’t gone to school since seventh or eighth grade, he had flown under the radar as a baseball prospect. According to Peter Gammons’s article for ESPN.com in 2001, Latino said, “I couldn’t believe what I saw--he was The Natural.”


Latino signed Nash to a contract with Tampa Bay for $30,000. Since he had never received any formal coaching, Nash was sent to the Rays’ Instructional League in Tampa to help refine his skills. He played in the outfield alongside future MLB All-Stars Josh Hamilton and Carl Crawford, according to Gammons’s article.


Nash played well in the 2001 season in the Appalachian (rookie) League for Tampa Bay affiliate Princeton. But after one season, he was out of baseball due to personal issues.


Latino said recently, “Nash had the most God-given talent of any player I’ve seen. He had the body type of a Dave Winfield, but he was raw.” Latino added, “Remember, Nash did not play organized baseball from age 13 to 18, but there he was, having a credible professional debut season.”


Latino says the best part about his profession are the relationships he’s built with players, coaches, and other scouts over the years. He said, “I’ve gotten to travel all across the country. I’ve probably been to every minor-league ballpark. Along the way, I’ve met some of the best people in the game.

 

Flashback: Former World Series-winning manager Danny Murtaugh got his experience with New Orleans Pelicans

Danny Murtaugh got his first opportunity as a minor-league manager with the New Orleans Pelicans in 1952. He leveraged his three seasons with the Pels into becoming the manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1957, his first of 15 seasons.


Just three seasons later, Murtaugh’s Pirates shocked the baseball world with a dramatic Game 7 victory over the New York Yankees in the 1960 World Series. It was the Pirates’ first World Series championship since 1925. He led the Pirates to another world championship in 1971. Considering the Pirates have won only five World Series in their 135-year National League history, Murtaugh is regarded one of the all-time best managers in team history.


As a player, Murtaugh began his professional career as a 19-year-old in 1937 in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. The infielder made his major-league debut with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1941 and spent two more seasons with them before being called into military service in 1944 and 1945 during World War II. For the most part, he had an undistinguished career as a player.


He was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1948, when he had his best major-league season, finishing ninth in MVP voting. After a poor season in 1951 with the Pirates, he approached Pirates GM Branch Rickey about a managerial job in New Orleans, then a Pirates affiliate.


At 34-years-old, Murtaugh became player-manager for New Orleans in 1952. In that era, it was rare that a person’s first job as manager would occur at the Double-A level. The Pels finished with an 80-75 record for fifth place in the Southern Association. Frank Thomas, a future big-league player with the Pirates, was the best player on the Pels team, with a league-leading 35 home runs, 131 RBIs, and 112 runs scored. Lefty pitcher Lenny Yochim, a New Orleans native who prepped at Holy Cross, fashioned a 12-8 record. Murtaugh appeared in 55 games as a player, with a .212 batting average.


The Pelicans posted a 76-78 record in 1953 for sixth place, followed by an impressive second-place finish in 1954 with a 92-62 record. The 1954 Pelicans included several players who later played for Murtaugh in the majors—Roy Face, Gene Freese, Danny Kravitz, Hardy Peterson, and Nelson King.


Murtaugh was promoted to a coaching position with Pittsburgh in 1956. After Bobby Bragan was fired as manager after 103 games in 1957, Murtaugh was elevated to manager. In his first full season as skipper in 1958, he was named the Associated Press Manager of the Year.


Murtaugh brought respectability back to the Pirates. They won the NL pennant in 1960, their first since 1927, and went on to face the favored New York Yankees in the World Series. The Yankees heavily outscored the Pirates, 38-3, in their three wins, while the Pirates barely skipped by the Bronx Bombers in each of their first three wins. In Game 7, the Pirates came from behind to defeat the Yankees on Bill Mazeroski’s dramatic walk-off home run off Ralph Terry.


Murtaugh walked away from the game as Pirates manager on three occasions, due to health problems. He took front office jobs instead, but each time was convinced by Pirates GM Joe L. Brown to pick up the managerial reins again.


After his second return in 1970, the Pirates won their division, as he was named the NL Manager of the Year for the second time. They won the NL pennant again in 1971 and went on to defeat the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series.


He was absent from the dugout again during the 1972 season and most of 1973.


Following his third return as manager late in the 1973 season, he won two more division titles before finally retiring after the 1976 season. He died from complications of a stroke on December2, 1976, at age 59.


His 15-year MLB career managerial record was 1,115-950. He is second only to Fred Clarke in career wins by a Pirates manager. His number 40 was retired by the organization in 1977.


In addition to Murtaugh, former Pelicans personnel who went on to the big-league Pirates in various capacities included: Joe L. Brown, general manager; Joseph O’Toole, assistant GM; and Lenny Yochim, a scout for over 36 years.

Are the Astros the latest "dynasty" team?

The Houston Astros won only 51 games in 2013, finishing last in the AL West Division. In the two seasons before that, the team won only 55 and 56 games, while in the NL Central Division. They rightfully acquired the label L’Astros. But now, after four World Series appearances in the last six seasons that includes two world championships, the Astros’ impressive run has raised legitimate questions about being regarded as the latest dynasty team in the majors.


Before I delve further into that question, let’s review some Astros history.


The team sunk to low division standings in the early 2010s when ownership decided to overhaul the team, following a long period of mediocrity after their first World Series appearance in 2005. Key players like Lance Berkman, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Roy Oswalt, Carlos Lee, and Hunter Pence had retired or were traded.


The team took a long-term view for rebuilding the roster. Their front office acknowledged they would struggle for several years while building up its minor-league system, in order to be competitive again.


The Astros finally shed its identify as “losers”in 2015, when they finished second in the division and made their first postseason appearance since 2005. Actually, the team had surpassed its own expectations for when they would become a contender again. Youngsters like Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer, Marwin Gonzalez, Dallas Keuchel, and Lance McCullers Jr. began to emerge as leading players.


The Astros’ plan reached fulfillment in 2017 when they improved by 17 wins over the previous season and went on to capture the World Series. Newcomers Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel broke into the starting lineup, while veteran pitchers Charlie Morton, Joe Musgrove, and Mike Fiers, acquired through trades and free agency, shored up the starting rotation.


The Astros loaded up with free-agent gunslingers Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke in the starting rotation, but lost the World Series in 2019 to Washington and 2021 to Atlanta before reclaiming the championship last year.


The Astros’ good fortunes, beginning in 2017 and beyond, can be largely attributed to Jeff Luhnow who joined the Astros as general manager at the beginning of the 2012 season. He focused on domestic amateur scouting and international scouting to re-stock the minor-league system.


Baseball America magazine’s ranking of the Astros’ organizational talent saw a dramatic turnaround from 26th (out of 30 MLB teams) in 2011 and 29th in 2012, to 4th in 2017, 11th in 2018, and 5th in 2019.


The 2022 team was the manifestation of the organization’s successful scouting and player development activities. Seven of the Astros’ starters (position players) came up through their system, the latest being Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Tucker and Jeremy Pena. While McCullers had emerged through the amateur draft, five of their other key pitchers were the result of international player signings.


Now, back to the discussion about an Astros dynasty.


The dynasty label usually refers to teams that win multiple, often consecutive, World Series within a relatively close timeframe. The New York Yankees franchise is most often referred to as the standard for dynasties. Over its legendary history, the Yankees had several dynasty periods (1921-1928, 1936-1942 and 1947-1964, 1976-1981, and 1996-2003). The Philadelphia A’s (1910-1914 and 1929-1931), St, Louis Cardinals (1926-1934 and 1942-1946), Oakland A’s (1972-1974), and Cincinnati Reds (1970-1976) are examples of other noteworthy dynasties.


The Astros have been one of the most dominant teams during the last six seasons, winning their division five times. They won more than 100 games in four of those six seasons, which is an understated feat these days. An argument can be made that the AL West Division has been one of the weakest in all of baseball. Yet the Astros managed to win the AL pennant in four of those seasons.


One of the keys to their success has been a core group of players who have contributed throughout the Astros’ run. Verlander, the 2022 AL Cy Young Award winner, opted to sign with the Yankees in the offseason, but the rest of their key players have stayed intact for 2023. Two off-season transactions will strengthen their offense this year: Chicago White Sox slugger Jose Abreu was acquired in the free market by the Astros, and outfielder Michael Brantley (a .300+ hitter) was re-signed after spending most of 2022 on the Injured List.


Another World Series ring in 2023 would definitely put the Astros in the dynasty conversation. But the odds are against them accomplishing that. The Yankees were the last team to win back-to-back World Series in 1998, 1999, and 2000.


Another factor that could affect future opportunities for the Astros extending their dynastic ways involves the strength of the Astros’ farm system. Luhnow left the Astros after the 2019 season because the 2017 Astros’ sign-stealing scandal occurred under his watch as general manager. Since his departure, the Astros’ strength of organization has declined to 27th in 2020, 26th in 2021, and 26th in 2022.


It's not likely Houston will return to its L’Astros days any time soon, but are they a dynasty team? The Sporting News rates them the odds-on favorite right now to win the 2023 World Series. Perhaps we can re-visit this discussion in November.

Certainty is absent among candidates in this year's Hall of Fame balloting

Baseball Hall of Fame ballots for the Hall’s Class of 2023 were due from the baseball writers last Friday. While there are always numerous carryover candidates from the previous year, it seems like the writers are being afforded a clean slate with their ballots this time.


That’s because the writers don’t have to consider four controversial players for the first time in ten years of balloting. Last year Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, and Curt Schilling reached their tenth year without ever receiving the required minimum of 75% of the votes for election. Consequently, they are removed from the ballot this year, according to the Hall’s voting rules.


Furthermore, there are no sure-fire electees on this year’s ballot.


While it was apparent the voters remained steadfast in rejecting real or perceived PED users (Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, and Alex Rodriguez) from being elected, it was a bit ironic that they elected David Ortiz, who once failed an MLB-administered drug test, on his first time on the ballot.


Schilling was seemingly on a path to enshrinement (receiving 71.1% in the Class of 2021) until he publicly expressed damaging social and political views the following year. It was a clear signal that voters considered him unworthy of election because of character issues, even though they occurred after his playing career.


As will be discussed later, the PED and character issues have not totally gone away with some of remaining candidates on this year’s ballot.


The Tenth Inning readers, who have followed me for several years, know I annually cast my own mythical Hall of Fame ballot. It’s a fun exercise even though it counts for nothing.


With Clemens, Bonds and Schilling off the ballot and the election of Ortiz last year, there are more open spots for new candidates on the ballot or re-consideration of carryover candidates. The problem I had was coming up with enough candidates who are truly Hall of Fame worthy, versus players who more rightly fit into the category of Hall of “Very Good.”


But I’ve always been of the mindset that I should fill all ten ballot slots with the ten best eligible players, even if I think a player is marginally worthy of Hall induction. Of course, that means I may not vote for one or more of them in future years if a better player becomes eligible.


So, here are my ten for this year: carryovers Scott Rolen, Todd Helton, Billy Wagner, Andruw Jones, Gary Sheffield, Alex Rodriguez, Jeff Kent, and Manny Ramirez; and newly eligible Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez. That means I’m leaving out Omar Vizquel, Andy Pettitte, Jimmy Rollins, Bobby Abreu, Mark Buehrle, and Torii Hunter.


I’ll admit I haven’t always been steadfast in prior years in voting for Rolen, Wagner, Jones, Vizquel, and Kent. When I think of them, I don’t view them in the same light as contemporary players who did make the Hall of Fame, such as Chipper Jones, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Larry Walker, and Vlad Guerrero


My arguments for first-timers Beltran and reliever Rodriguez are as follows:


Beltran was a nine-time All-Star, a three-time Gold Glove winner, and a two-time Silver Slugger winner. He appeared in seven postseasons (with five different teams), including the 2017 World Series champion Houston Astros. His post-season batting line is impressive --.307/.412/.609, with 16 home runs and 42 RBIs. He is 47th all-time in home runs (435) and 41st in RBIs (1,587). The main knock against him is that his OPS+ is only 119.


Rodriguez is fourth on the all-time list for saves (437), finishing first in three seasons. He finished in the Top 4 for Cy Young honors in three seasons. (Note: relievers rarely win the Cy Young Award.) He was a six-time all-star. Rodriguez posted a career 2.86 ERA and 1.155 WHIP and helped the Angels win their last World Series in 2002. His career ERA+ was 148.


Here’s why I passed on some of the eligible players.


Having voted for Vizquel in the past, I have now jumped off his bandwagon. While his defensive skills were among the best of shortstops in his era (11 Gold Gloves), he was a below-average hitter for offensive impact (only 82 OPS+). Of his 2,877 career hits, accumulated over 24 seasons, 80% were singles. In my view, a Hall of Fame position player should at least be an average hitter (100 OPS+), even if he was a defensive wizard.

Bobby Abreu is gaining increasing public support for election. He was an On-Base-Percentage (OBP) “machine,” but he doesn’t have black ink on Baseball-Reference.com (indicating a league leader) in any significant offensive category throughout his 18-year career. He never finished higher than 12th in MVP voting.


Even though Andy Pettitte had 256 career wins, his career ERA was 3.85 and his WHIP was 1.351, not the kind of numbers for a pitcher who was among the best of his era. It appears his higher Cy Young Award finishes were largely based on number of wins, which is now generally acknowledged as not the main factor for winning the award. (One year he finished fourth with a terrible 4.25 ERA.) Tommy John and Jim Kaat had 280+ career wins but were not elected by the baseball writers for similar reasons as Pettitte. (Kaat was later elected by a “veterans” committee.


Jimmy Rollins is another player who had a below average OPS+ (95). Speed was one his main assets, as he led the league in triples in four seasons and had 12 seasons in which he was a Top 10 finisher in stolen bases. His most significant achievement was the National League MVP Award in 2007, when he narrowly edged out Matt Holliday by 17 points. It was a career year for Rollins, yet he was the seventh-ranked player (6.1) in the voting that year based on WAR. Albert Pujols led the NL with 8.7 WAR.


As I mentioned earlier, the specter of PEDs and character issues still hovers over this year’s balloting. A-Rod sat out the 2014 season due to his suspension for admitted PED usage. Sheffield was implicated in the 2007 Mitchell Report on steroid use in MLB. Ramirez was suspended twice for violating the MLB’s drug policy. They aren’t likely to gain any more support than Bonds or Clemens. Vizquel still suffers from allegations of domestic abuse and sexual harassment.


There’s not a player in the entire eligible list who is a shoo-in for election this year. My sense is that if any of the candidates are elected this year, it will be Rolen who had 63.2% of the votes in last year’s balloting. Helton had 52.0%, but it would be uncommon for him to see an increase of almost 25 percent in one year.

All-time baseball team featuring Christmas holiday names

Let’s put aside free agency, Hall of Fame candidates, pre-season predictions, and other essential topics of the Hot Stove season for a week.  All of them will still be around for us to debate after the first of the year.


The Christmas season is a time to have some fun, so I’ve come up with an all-time baseball team of major-league players whose names fit with a Christmas holiday theme.  Here’s a bit of background on each player of this eclectic team.


Starting Pitcher – Ervin Santana.  Okay, his last name isn’t exactly “Santa,” but it’s close enough.  Regardless, Santana wasn’t delivering any presents to the Cleveland Indians on July 11, 2007, when he threw a no-hitter.  The two-time all-star has won 151 major-league career games through 2021.


Relief Pitcher – Clay Carroll.  Carroll had a lot to sing about as a member of the Cincinnati Reds “Big Red Machine.”  They won three National League pennants in the 1970s, including a World Series ring in 1975.  The two-time all-star posted an impressive 2.94 ERA during his 15-year career.


Catcher – Steve Christmas.  Of course, Christmas has the ultimate holiday celebration name.  But it’s too bad he wasn’t able to celebrate more on the playing field.  In 24 major-league games scattered over three seasons, Christmas batted a paltry .162.


First Base – J. T Snow.  J. T. Snow covered first base for the San Francisco Giants as effectively as a wintry snow covers the ground at Grandma’s house during the holidays.  He was a Gold Glove Award winner for six consecutive seasons while playing for the California Angels and the Giants.  Snow’s father, Jack, played 11 seasons the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams.


Second Base – Cookie Lavagetto.  Lavagetto is best known as the hitter who broke up Bill Bevens’s no-hitter in Game 4 of the 1947 World Series.  His all-star career was interrupted by four years of military service during World War II.  If his family made cookies for the Christmas holidays, they would surely have been an Italian-style treat.


Third Base – Gene Freese.  Freese had the best season of his 12-year career in 1961.  He helped the Cincinnati Reds put a December-type “freeze” on the Los Angeles Dodgers’ attempt to overtake them for first place during the final two months of the season.  It was the Reds’ first National League pennant since 1940.


Shortstop – Billy Klaus.  Had Santa Claus also been a major-league player, he probably would have hit better than Klaus.  Klaus was a weak-hitting shortstop with only 40 home runs and 250 RBI in 11 major-league seasons.  Billy’s brother, Bobby, also played in the majors, and he didn’t hit much either.


Outfielder – Candy Maldonado.  Maldonado helped to make sure his 1992 Toronto Blue Jays teammates’ Christmas stockings were filled with World Series candy (playoff shares), as he hit three post-season home runs in the Blue Jays’ first World Championship.


Outfielder – Jesus Alou.  Alou was no savior for his major-league teams, as he hit only 32 home runs in 15 big-league seasons.  He is best known for having been part of the first trio of brothers to play in the same major-league game, while with the San Francisco Giants in 1963.


Outfielder – Gift Ngoepe.  Ngoepe’s name isn’t a nickname; it’s actually part of his given name.  He is South Africa’s “gift” to baseball, since he’s the only major-league player in history born in that country.  The Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder made his debut in 2017. His brother Victor played in the Pirates organization for four seasons.


DH – Rob Deer.  Deer is the closest name to “reindeer” I could find.  He made some appearances as a designated hitter, although he was primarily used as an outfielder and first baseman.  He managed to “rain” on opponents’ parades many times during his 11-year career, as he hit 230 career home runs.  But he also led the American League in strikeouts four times during 1984-1996.


Pinch-hitter – Turkey Tyson.  Unlike Ngoepe, Tyson’s real name was Cecil Washington, but he was known by “Turkey” during his professional career.  However, his only major-league appearance was as a pinch-hitter in 1944.  The 29-year-old got his “cup of coffee” in the big leagues when there was a shortage of players during World War II.


Manager – Charlie Dressen.  You can’t have turkey without the dressing for Christmas dinner, so Charlie Dressen is the closest name I could come up.  He played eight seasons in the majors, but it was as a manager that he made his mark.  He was the skipper of five different teams over 16 seasons between 1934 and 1966.  His teams won over 1,000 games, and his Brooklyn Dodgers captured two National League pennants in the 1950s.


Merry Christmas to all.

Baseball's Family Ties Still Flourishing in 2022

I just completed the annual update of my Family Ties database for the 2022 season, and I’m happy to report family relationships remain noteworthy throughout the major and minor leagues.


My process for applying updates involves reading all the major-league media guides for the 2022 season to identify new players and “non-players” (e. g., managers, coaches, scouts, executives, front office personnel, broadcasters, etc.) who have relatives in professional baseball, as well as other sports. The other major source of inputs comes from daily Google alerts based on search criteria such as “family ties,” “father and son baseball relatives,” and “brother baseball relatives.”


This information is then entered into my database that now has over 8, 700 major-league and minor-league players and non-players, representing over 12,700 family relationships within professional baseball. The database contains entries going back to 1870, the beginning of professional baseball leagues.


I am not aware of another comprehensive compilation of this type of information in a digital format. Sure, there are subsets of baseball relatives information on various websites, mostly pertaining to major-league players. However, none have coverage that includes minor-league players, major-league non-players, or family relationships in addition to fathers, sons, and brothers. (My database also includes uncles, nephews, cousins, daughters, in-laws, grandsons, grandfathers and distant relatives.)


My Baseball Relatives website, which hosts the current season’s Family Ties Database, gets thousands of views and downloads each month. I believe my database has become the “go-to” on-line source of family ties information for many baseball researchers and followers.


For the 2022 season, there were 621 active players and 670 non-players with relatives in professional baseball. The numbers are similar to the 2021 season even though there were 25% fewer minor-league teams this year due to MLB’s restricting of the minor-league system. This was mostly offset by an increase in players in independent (unaffiliated) leagues.


Click here to view the Family Ties database for the 2022 season.


Following are some of the familial highlights from this season.


There are several current players with a large number of baseball family participants, such as the Hairstons, Roofs, Pacioreks, and Alous, covering several generations. One of the more recent families involves current Atlanta Braves superstar Ronald Acuna Jr. His grandfather, father, two brothers, and several cousins played in the minors. The Acunas are an example of multiple generations becoming more prevalent in the game.


In broadcasting, legendary announcer Harry Caray has two great-grandsons that made their debuts behind the mike in 2022. Twin brothers Stephan and Chris Caray (son of Chip Caray and grandson of Skip Caray), called games for a minor-league team in the Arizona Diamondback organizations. They’ll eventually make their way to major-league ballparks.


In the Minnesota Twins front office, Drew MacPhail is the fourth generation of his family of baseball executives. His father Andy was an executive with the Cubs, Twins, Orioles, and Phillies. His grandfather Lee MacPhail Jr. and great-grandfather Larry MacPhail are both in the Baseball Hall of Fame for their careers as baseball executives covering four decades.


Jake Boone, an infielder currently playing in the independent leagues, is the fourth generation of players in his family. His great-grandfather Ray Boone, grandfather Bob Boone, father Aaron Boone, and uncle Bret Boone were All-Stars at times in their respective careers. If Jake makes the majors, the Boone family would become the first in baseball history to have four generations of big-leaguers.


Kody Clemens, an infielder with the Detroit Tigers, is the first of three sons of former major-league pitcher Roger Clemens to reach the majors. Roger’s two older sons, Kobe and Kacy, didn’t make it out of the minors. Kody had a special moment this year when he followed in his father’s footsteps by pitching in relief for the Tigers in a blowout game, even recording a strikeout. Roger was a seven-time Cy Young Award winner, striking out 4,672 batters (third all-time) during his career.


Twin brothers Tyler and Taylor Rogers pitched in a game against each other this year. They are only the tenth set of twins to play in the majors.


Brothers William (Braves) and Willson Contreras (Cubs) started for the National League All-Star team this summer, becoming only the fifth set of siblings to start together in the Midsummer Classic.


Brothers Aaron and Austin Nola played against each other in the National League Division Series this Fall. Aaron pitched for the Phillies, while Austin was the Padres catcher. They became the first brothers to face each other as pitcher and batter in MLB post-season history.


Infielder Bobby Witt Jr. made his major-league debut with the Kansas City Royals in April. He was the Royals’ first-round pick (second overall) in 2019. His father Bobby Witt Sr., who pitched in the majors for 16 seasons, was the first-round pick (third overall) of the Texas Rangers in 1985.


Another dimension of my Family Ties Database is the identification of players and non-players that have relatives in another sport (football, basketball, hockey, softball, volleyball, track and field, etc.) or in another level of baseball (amateur, college, Negro Leagues, Foreign Leagues). In 2022, there were 419 such players and non-players. This demonstrates that pro baseball players do not always follow in the same sports footsteps as their fathers, mothers, brothers, or cousins.

The Yankees step up to the plate and ink megadeal with Aaron Judge

I’m glad Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman heeded my blog request at the end of October to “Just do it: sign Aaron Judge.” Cashman, who just extended his own contract with the Yankees for four years, had to practically empty the Steinbrenners’ coffer, but it was the right decision.


Judge signed a nine-year deal worth $360 million, eclipsing the previous free-agent record of $330 million by Bryce Harper. His $40 million average annual value is third most behind only Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander. If he completes the full term of this contract, Judge will become one of the longest-tenured Yankees (16 seasons) in recent history.


Cashman bucked current MLB front office trends that teams shouldn’t sign long-term deals (more than five or six years) for players who are already 30+ years old. It’s true Judge won’t likely provide commensurate value for the full nine years of the deal. The Athletic’s Keith Law makes the case that tall players like Judge, who is 6-feet-7, aren’t generally productive past 34 years of age.


So, the Yankees could wind up with another situation like Alex Rodriguez, where the last few years of his contract were a drag on the team—his performance didn’t warrant his hefty salary. The Yankees currently hold another long-term, big-dollar deal with Giancarlo Stanton (who is 6-feet-6). He’s had trouble staying healthy and some would argue he’s not worth the $29 million per year he is currently making. His contract extends through 2027, when he is 37 years old. Judge has already had his own share of health issues in 2018 and 2019, causing him to miss over 50 games each season.


Despite the cautions and past experiences, the Yankees took the plunge with Judge. For a while, the rumor mill had Judge going to San Francisco, but the Yankees ended that talk with its mega-offer.


Here’s the way I think the team rationalized their decision. They are desperate for a world championship. Their last one, in 2009, seems like ages ago. If Judge can lead the Yankees to the World Series a couple of times within the next four or five years, they will feel like they got their just return for him. Whatever happens after those four or five years becomes less important.


Judge is certainly capable of carrying the Yankees on this broad shoulders. He proved that in 2022, when the team swooned in August and the first half of September. It was Judge that kept them from completely spiraling out of contention. He finished the season with one of the best offensive performances in history by leading the league in home runs, RBIs, runs scored, walks, on-base percentage, and on-base-plus-slugging percentage.


The 2022 season took its toll on him since he played in 157 games (15 more than any other Yankee) while dealing with the pressure of breaking Maris’s home run record. That manifested itself in the playoffs when Judge went 5-for-36, with 16 strikeouts and only two extra-base hits (both home runs) in nine games.


The Yankees front office could take some of the pressure off Judge next season by adding a top-flight starting pitcher and acquiring a shortstop who can give them some power, in addition to defense. Names like pitcher Carlos Rodon and shortstop Carlos Correa have been mentioned in the press as Yankee pursuits. Will the Yankees continue their spending spree?


Judge had turned down a 7-year, $213 million offer at the beginning of the 2022 season. By waiting until after the season to finally negotiate his deal, he raised his value by $147 million. Not too shabby for a well-timed delay. Of course, his case was helped immensely when he turned in the MVP season and broke Maris’s long-time record.


Judge is capable of repeating his extraordinary 2022 season, but don’t expect it. The Yankees will give him more days off, in order to help him prevent nagging injuries from the day-to-day grind of a long schedule. Plus, if a few of his teammates step up their production, Judge won’t be compelled to carry most of the load by himself.


I’m guessing at some point in the negotiations with Judge that Cashman asked himself, “What would George [Steinbrenner] do?” I think he got the answer he was looking for.

Former "spitballer" Gaylord Perry dies at age 84

Hall of Fame pitcher Gaylord Perry died last Thursday at the age of 84. He was a two-time Cy Young Award winner, the first to win the prestigious award in both leagues. Yet he is most famous for throwing the spitball in the modern era of baseball. There were many times he also made batters “think” he was throwing the spitter.


Controversy surrounded him throughout his 22-year career. He was hassled by umpires who tried to catch him greasing his sleeve or the rim of his baseball cap with a substance like Vaseline or K-Y jelly. In his 1974 autobiography Me and the Spitter, Perry confessed to using the illegal pitch, but said he had since been reformed. Or so he claimed. His book caused even more suspicion about his continued use of an occasional spitball in a critical situation.


Perry went on to pitch until he was age 44 in 1983. The first half of his career was relatively stable. He played or the San Francisco Giants for 10 seasons and then with the Cleveland Indians for four seasons. After that, he became a journeyman pitcher, appearing for six more teams during his last eight seasons.


In his autobiography, Perry said he remembered the first time he used the spitter. In a game for the Giants against the New York Mets on May 31, 1964, he was brought in for the 13th inning of the second game of a doubleheader, as one of only two Giants pitchers left in their bullpen.


When the game dragged on with neither team jumping out to a lead, Perry said he was encouraged by his catcher Tom Haller to load up the ball with saliva. He used the illegal pitch frequently to hold the Mets at bay, until the umpire started to suspect foul play. The Giants finally scored two runs in the top of the 23rd inning and ended up winning, 8-6. It was then the longest game in major-league history, seven hours and 23 minutes. Perry got the win after pitching in relief for 10 innings, striking out nine and giving up only seven hits.


Perry said he tried everything for the next eight years to give him an advantage, including the mud ball, the emery ball and the sweat ball, in addition to greasy substances. He said he never bragged about his spitter. When confronted by the media about suspected use, he would tell them his “out” pitch was really a super-sinker.


During that timeframe, Perry averaged 18 wins and 12 losses per season. He was a workhorse, averaging 18 complete games (something unheard of in today’s game) and posted an impressive 2.75 ERA. He won the Cy Young Award in his first season with the Indians in 1972, when he was 24-16 with a 1.92 ERA for the fifth-place Indians.


After Cleveland traded Perry to Texas in June 1975, he continued to have double-digit win seasons even though he was in his late 30s. In 1978 with the San Diego Padres, he posted a 21-6 record and 2.73 ERA to win his second Cy Young Award.


In 1982, while pitching for the Seattle Mariners, he was ejected from a game for using foreign substances. It was the first and only time he was tossed from a game for throwing an illegal pitch. The home plate umpire didn’t even bother to check the ball since he had observed an extreme drop in Perry’s pitch.


Sometimes Perry’s pitched ball was so slick from foreign substances, his catcher would simply walk the ball back to him on the mound for fear he would make an errant throw back to Perry.


Perry’s older brother Jim was also a major-league pitcher from 1959 to 1975, claiming his own Cy Young Award in 1970 with the Minnesota Twins. Together the Perrys trailed only Joe and Phil Niekro for career wins by major-league brothers with 529. The Niekros produced 539 wins.


Gaylord finished his career with 314 wins, 265 losses, a 3.11 ERA, and 3,534 strikeouts (8th all-time). He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on his third ballot in 1991.

Analysis: A retrospective review of Mel Ott's disappointing MVP results

The Yankees’ Aaron Judge and Cardinals’ Paul Goldschmidt were announced as the Most Valuable Player in their respective leagues last week. It was the first selection for both players, who won handily in the voting.


There have been over 80 major leaguers from the New Orleans metro area, but none of them have ever won MLB’s Most Valuable Player Award. Not even Mel Ott, the only Hall of Famer from the area.


Yet a retrospective evaluation of Ott’s career suggests he might have had several MVP trophies to his credit if today’s award voting situation existed during his era.


Ott was one of the premier sluggers of his era, spanning from 1926 to 1947. When the 12-time All-Star retired in 1947, he was the National League’s career leader with 511 home runs. He led the National League in home runs in six seasons. He posted nine seasons with 100+ RBIs, including leading the National League in 1934 with 135. The left-handed hitter led the league in On-Base-Percentage (OBP) four times and topped the league in Adjusted On-Base Plus Slugging Percentage (OPS+) five times.


One would think these kinds of performances should have warranted at least one MVP-season. But it didn’t happen. The closest Ott came to winning the prestigious award was in 1942 when he finished third. He also had fourth-, fifth-, sixth- and seventh-place finishes in the 13 seasons in which he received votes.


Video of Mel Ott:  https://www.mlb.com/video/prime-9-mel-ott


Before we analyze why Ott fell short in receiving this celebrated honor, let’s review the background on the award.


Members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) vote on the award at the end of each regular season. There are no specific criteria for players being considered for the award. The instructions for voters simply say, “the actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense” should be considered.


That essentially leaves it up to individual voters to apply their own criteria. For many years, players who led their respective league in batting average, home runs, or RBIs received the most consideration. But the voters were sometimes guilty of introducing subjective elements such as player likability and whether the player’s team won the pennant.


Furthermore, before the Cy Young Award was instituted in 1956 to recognize the most outstanding pitcher, they were routinely considered for MVP honors. A pitcher’s number of wins was normally the statistic most considered by voters. Pitchers are not excluded in today’s voting, but they typically don’t receive the same regard as position players, because of the Cy Young.


With the wide acceptance of advanced baseball metrics around 12-15 years ago, Wins Above Replacement (WAR), a metric that produces a single number incorporating elements of both offense and defense, has become the most commonly used statistic (despite some of its flaws) to rank relative values of players.


Now, for a deeper analysis of Ott’ MVP rankings in several of his more productive seasons.


Season

MVP Award Winner

Ott’s Ranking

Analysis

1929

Rogers Hornsby

11th

Hornsby was clearly the best player (10.5 WAR). Ott had the third highest WAR (7.2) following Lefty O’Doul (7.4), yet he was only ranked 11th in the voting.

1931

Bill Terry

Zero votes received

Ott’s teammate Bill Terry had the highest WAR (6.6) in the league. Ott had the second-highest WAR (6.1) among non-pitchers yet strangely he didn’t receive any votes.

1932

Chuck Klein

10th

Klein led the league in Runs, Hits, Home Runs and Slugging Percentage. Ott had the highest WAR (8.3) in the league, compared with Klein’s 7.5. He was tied with Klein for Home Runs (38) and led the league in Walks and On-Base Percentage.

1934

Dizzy Dean

5th

Dean led the league with 30 wins. Ott had the highest WAR (7.2) for non-pitchers, yet his teammates Jo-Jo Moore (WAR 3.5) and Travis Jackson (WAR 3.8) finished third and fourth, respectively.

1935

Gabby Hartnett

20th

Hartnett had a 4.9 WAR when his Cubs team won the NL pennant. (Hartnett didn’t lead the league in any batting categories.) Ott had the fourth highest WAR (7.2). His teammates Carl Hubbell, Bill Terry, Hank Leiber and Gus Mancuso (all with WAR values lower than Ott) finished higher than Ott in the voting. Arky Vaughan (9.8 WAR) should have finished first, but Ott should have been in the Top 5.

1936

Carl Hubbell

6th

Giants pitcher Hubbell led the league with a 26-6 record as the Giants won the NL pennant. Ott had the highest WAR (7.8) for non-pitchers.

1937

Joe Medwick

7th

Medwick (8.5 WAR) was clearly the most valuable player as the Triple Crown winner. Ott had the second-highest WAR (6.8).

1938

Ernie Lombardi

4th

Lombardi (4.8 WAR) led the league with .342 batting average; his Reds team won the NL pennant. Ott had the highest WAR (8.9) while leading the league in Home Runs, Runs, and On-Base Percentage. Pitcher Bill Lee (who won 22 games) finished second, and shortstop Arky Vaughan unexplainably finished ahead of Ott because Vaughan didn’t lead the league in any offensive category.

1942

Mort Cooper

3rd

Cardinals pitcher Cooper led the league with 22 wins, while his team won the NL pennant. Ott had the highest WAR (7.1) for non-pitchers while leading the league in Runs, Home Runs, and On-Base Plus Slugging Percentage.

 

Playing the “what-if” game, if the Cy Young Award had existed (such that pitchers were not generally considered in the MVP voting) and if the WAR metric existed in Ott’s era, it’s conceivable he could have won the MVP Award in 1934, 1936, and 1942. He was arguably the best overall player in 1938, too.


Despite never winning an MVP Award, Ott received the ultimate Major League Baseball honor with his enshrinement in the National Baseball Hall of Fame on his first ballot in 1951. At the end of the day, that’s what really counts in a player’s career.

Yankee backstop Jose Trevino exceeded all expectations in 2022

New York Yankees catcher Jose Trevino is not a name on the tip of the tongue of most major league baseball fans. He doesn’t have the pedigree of high draft round selections of recent catchers like the Orioles’ Adley Rutschman or the Pirates’ Henry Davis. He doesn’t have the experience of veteran catchers like the Phillies’ JT Realmuto or the Cardinals’ Yadier Molina. But what he does have that all the other 60+ catchers in the majors this year don’t have is the American League Rawlings Platinum Glove Award.


This coveted award is given to the player considered to be the best defensive player in the entire league, regardless of the position on the field. While MLB’s Most Valuable Player Award is largely based on offensive production, one could say the Platinum Glove Award winner is the “most valuable player” for defensive performance.


Trevino played in his fifth major-league season in 2022. Not counting his debut season in 2018 (when he appeared in only three games), he averaged only 51 major-league games per season with the Texas Rangers prior to 2022. He had been a sixth-round draft pick of the Rangers in 2014.


After the Yankees traded 2021’s starting catcher Gary Sanchez to the Minnesota Twins, they needed a catcher to split duties with Kyle Higashioka, who had been Sanchez’s backup.


Trevino slashed .245/.270/.364 before coming to the Yankees. But neither Trevino nor Higashioka were expected to provide much offensive punch for a team that had been among the AL’s top four in home runs in 2021.


As Trevino began to get more consistent at the plate in May and June, he became the primary starter as catcher, averaging around .270 while hitting six home runs and 22 RBIs. Plus, he was showing how well he was performing behind the plate. His contributions were rewarded with a spot on the American League All-Star team, even though he had started only 49 games.


His offensive contribution fell off during the second half of the season, when the entire Yankees team, except for Aaron Judge, faltered at the plate. He ended up slashing .248/.283/.388, with 11 home runs and 48 RBIs.


However, he proved it’s not always offensive production that wins games. His defense continued at a high level. He ended up leading all AL catchers in throwing out baserunners trying to steal bases (33% caught stealing). He was considered a master at pitch framing, which means he has stolen and held strikes better than anyone in baseball, thus making it more likely umpires will call a strike. He led the AL with 17 catcher framing runs, a stat that converts strikes to runs saved. He led all catchers with 21 defensive runs saved, which tied him for third among all position players.


Trevino was the first Yankee player to win the Platinum Glove Award and the first AL catcher to win the award since its inception in 2011. His achievement certainly helped increase the awareness of him as a premier defensive catcher.


His performance behind the plate allows the Yankees’ front office to focus on improving other positions that will help compete for the AL pennant in 2023.

Former LSU slugger Albert Belle gets second chance for election to Baseball's Hall of Fame; Will Clark omitted from ballot

On Monday the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Contemporary Baseball Era Committee nominated eight players for a ballot to be considered in December by a 16-member panel for induction into the Hall of Fame. Former LSU star outfielder Albert Belle was one of the eight. New Orleans native Will Clark, who had been included on previous Era Committee ballots, was left out this time.


The Contemporary Baseball Era Committee is charged with re-considering major league players who had not been elected through the annual voting process by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Players who made the most impact on the game since 1980 were considered.


A player who fails to receive 75% of the votes by the BBWAA for ten years is dropped from the annual balloting process. A player who doesn’t receive a minimum of 5% of the votes at any point during their ten-year period is immediately dropped from future consideration.


Belle retired from major league baseball after the 2000 season. He first became eligible for the Hall in 2006. He received 7.7% of the votes in his first year. But after obtaining only 3.5% in 2007, Belle was dropped from future ballots.


Belle, a native of Shreveport, played at LSU from 1985 to 1987. The outfielder had nearly identical batting statistics in the 1986 and 1987 seasons. He hit 21 home runs and drove in 66 runs in each season. He batted .354 with a slugging percentage of .708 in 1986, while batting .349 with a slugging percentage of. 750 in 1987.


He received All-SEC second-team honors in 1986, followed by a first-team selection in 1987. He was named to Baseball America’s All-America team in 1986. Belle was a member of Skip Bertman’s first College World Series team in 1986.


Belle was selected by the Cleveland Indians in the second round of the 1987 MLB Draft. He played a total of 12 seasons in the majors, eight with the Indians and two each with the Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles.


He became one of baseball’s most dominant sluggers during the last eight years of his career. He was a five-time All-Star (1993-1997) and a five-time Silver Slugger Award winner. In American League MVP Award voting, he placed second (1995), third (1994 and 1996), seventh (1993), and eighth (1998).


In 1995, Belle led the American League in runs (121), doubles (52), home runs (50), RBI (126), and slugging percentage (.690).


His career stats include a slash line of .295/.369/.564, 381 home runs, and 1,239 RBIs. He had a career 144 OPS+. Belle was a member of the 1995 Cleveland Indians that won its first American League pennant since 1954.


One of the main questions about Belle’s viability as a Hall of Fame selection is whether he played long enough at an elite level. Plus, he was often viewed as a controversial player within the clubhouse, while also not endearing himself to the media. These situations likely contributed to his failure to receive a larger number of votes by the BBWAA during his original 10-year eligibility period. But there is no doubt he was one of the most feared hitters during his era.


Other players nominated for this year’s Era Committee include Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Curt Schilling, who fell off the annual ballot last year after not obtaining 75% during their ten year period. The remaining four on this year’s ballot include Fred McGriff, Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy, and Rafael Palmeiro.


Players elected through the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee process will be included in the Hall of Fame induction Class of 2023.

New Orleans Pelican legend Larry Gilbert played for 1914 World Series champion

Larry Gilbert was most known in New Orleans baseball circles as a long-time successful player and manager for the New Orleans Pelicans baseball team from 1917 to 1938. However, before that part of his legendary career occurred, the New Orleans native was a member of one of the most famous major league teams in baseball history.


The Boston Braves in 1914 became known as the “Miracle Braves” because they were in last place in the National League on July 18 and wound up miraculously winning the pennant by 10 ½ games over the New York Giants. Gilbert was an outfielder on this Braves team in his major-league debut season.


After playing semi-pro baseball in New Orleans, Gilbert signed his first professional contract in 1910 as an 18-year-old pitcher. When he injured his arm from overuse of the curveball, he converted to an outfielder and quickly worked his way to the Milwaukee Brewers in the American Association in 1913.


He was selected in the minor-league draft by the Boston Braves before the start of the 1914 season. Manager George Stallings saw him play in spring training, liked what he saw, and put him in the Opening Day starting lineup.


Gilbert injured ligaments in his ankle early in the season, but the Braves kept him on their roster. He platooned with several other players in the outfield and was used frequently used as a pinch-hitter. In 72 games, he hit .268 with five home runs and 25 RBIs.


The Braves mounted one of the most startling single-season turnarounds in major-league history.


They had a record of 35-43 on July 18, mired in the cellar of the National League where they had been for all but nine games since the start of the season.


Their dramatic turnaround began on July 19. From that date through August 25, the Braves lost only six games, putting themselves in a tie for first place with the Giants.


The Braves continued their winning ways, as they posted an unthinkable 26-5 record during the month of September. Because the Braves’ home ballpark couldn’t handle the large crowds, they moved many of their games in the final month to Boston Red Sox’s Fenway Park. By the end of the regular season, the Braves had built a 10 ½ game lead over the Giants.


 

The Braves swept the Philadelphia A’s in four games of the World Series. Gilbert made one pinch-hit appearance, drawing a walk. He was the first native of New Orleans to play in a World Series.


Gilbert decided that he preferred playing in the minors, specifically in his hometown. He was sold to the Pelicans for the 1917 season for $2,500, considered a large amount for that time.


He proceeded to play nine seasons for the Pelicans, while managing the team for 15 seasons. During 1923 through 1925, he served as both player and manager. He became a popular figure in New Orleans, as he brought Southern Association titles to the city in 1923, 1926, 1927, 1933, and 1934. He turned down offers to go back to the majors.


After the 1938 season, the city was shocked when Gilbert left New Orleans for Nashville, where he became a part-owner of the team in addition to serving as manager. He added four more Southern Association titles to his resume in 1942, 1943, 1944, and 1948. He was reportedly the highest paid manager in the majors or minors in 1941.He retired as manager after the 1948 season but continued as Nashville’s business manager until 1954. With 2,128 career wins, he is one of the best minor-league managers of all time.


Larry Gilbert Stadium in New Orleans is named in his honor.


Gilbert’s three sons Larry Jr., Charlie, and Tookie were prep stars at Jesuit High School in New Orleans before following in their father’s footsteps in professional baseball. Each of them played a minor-league season for their father during their careers.


Other New Orleans area players who have appeared in the World Series include Putsy Caballero, Will Clark, Mike Fontenot, Chad Gaudin, Will Harris, Al Jurisich, Lou Klein, Jack Kramer, Aaron Loup, Joe Martina, Mel Ott, Howie Pollet, Tanner Rainey, Connie Ryan, Rusty Staub, George Strickland, and Gerald Williams.

Message to the Yankees and Brian Cashman: Just do it!

As the Nike slogan says, “Just do it!” That’s my advice to Brian Cashman, Yankees GM. Go ahead and re-sign slugger Aaron Judge to a long-term contract at the current market rate. Don’t fall into the trap other teams have when they attempted to reduce their team payroll by avoiding a long-term commitment for record-setting dollars with their superstar.


When teams trade their “face of the franchise,” like Judge is with the Yankees, they often wind up setting up a scenario of future mediocrity. Plus, they’re telling their fans to go pound sand in the process.


Current Yankees managing partner Hal Steinbrenner should take a cue from his late father George, who was famous for shelling out the big dollars to acquire big-name players. In 2022, there was no bigger name in baseball than Judge, who held fans’ attention throughout the season when he put on an assault of Roger Maris’s home run record. An attempt to be frugal with team salaries at this time seems to be futile.


Where would the Yankees have been in 2022 without Judge? With the terrible swoon that befell the team in August and most of September, the Yankees could very well have been left out of the playoff picture if it weren’t for Judge. When the Yankees’ bullpen disappeared and injuries took its toll on some of their veteran position players during the final months, Judge kept them competitive enough to fend off Toronto, Tampa Bay, and upstart Baltimore.


Judge passed on the Yankees’ offer for a contract extension before this season started, when he declined a seven-year deal for $213.5 million. The two sides finally settled on a one-year deal worth $19 million in June, thereby avoiding a salary arbitration situation. Did that become Judge’s motivation to get locked in during the season, resulting in a 62-home run season? His fantastic season couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. It was one of the best offensive seasons of all time.


Back in April, the New York Post reported Judge was asking for 9-10 years at $36 million per year. Judge is likely to get that much or more now. The question is whether it will be the Yankees who pay up or another team. It’s been reported several other teams might be in on the bidding, including the Los Angeles Dodgers, who might be willing to move all-star right fielder Mookie Betts to second base (his original position in the pros) if they secured Judge. (By the way, Judge grew up in California.) The Mets are flush with dollars and are expected to make a run for his services.


Other MLB teams have been in similar situations with decisions on whether to extend their superstars with lucrative contracts or to allow them to be traded, or worse go into free agency. Recent examples have been the Red Sox with Mookie Betts and the Nationals with Bryce Harper and Juan Soto. And what happened to those teams after letting their ‘face of the franchise” go? A couple of years later, those teams are at the bottom of the pack, while their discarded superstars are leading their respective new teams to the playoffs.


Judge is by far the top free agent in the market over the winter. So, if the Yankees aren’t successful in locking him up, who is else available in the free-agent market? Shortstops Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts or Trea Turner? Sure, any one of them would be a huge improvement in the Yankees infield. But they won’t have nearly the offensive production of Judge. Outfielders J. D. Martinez and Brandon Nimmo or first baseman Josh Bell? Again, they are nowhere near being comparable to Judge.


It’s been 13 years since the Yankees won an American League pennant. It ties a period between 1979 and 1994 when they were similarly dormant. And they’ve won only one World Series since 2000. The team has several needs to get back to the point of dominating the American League again, including pitching and the left side of the infield.


But the Yankees have no more important need than to re-sign Judge. Don’t haggle with him. Just do it!

The Houston Astros are armed and dangerous

No, the Astros aren’t packing guns these days, although they may have been three years ago, to protect themselves from the backlash of the sign stealing scandal. For today’s Astros though, “arms” refers to their talented pitching staff. And their pitchers have been a real danger to their postseason opponents.


By far, the Astros’ starters and relievers are head and shoulders above the rest of the postseason pack. As one of the TV broadcasters said in a recent game, “The Astros are an embarrassment of riches,” referring to the depth of their impressive staff.


A common theme with this postseason has been “it’s not about which team is better, but which team gets hotter at the right time.” Well, the Astros are showing why they are the best team and also happen to be playing really hot right now, led by its excellent pitching.


Astros pitchers were key factors in taking care of the Seattle Mariners in the League Division Series, sweeping them in three games. Yeah, two of the Astros’ wins were by a single run, including the 18-inning marathon. But with the way the Astros pitch, they don’t have to score many runs to win.


Consider these stats for the ALDS against the Mariners:


Only three of the 11 pitchers used by the Astros gave up runs, with ace Justin Verlander surprisingly giving up 6 of their total of 9 for the three-game series. The team ERA was 2.25.


In 36 innings pitched by the Astros, they yielded only 25 hits and 11 walks, for a WHIP of 1.000.


Astros pitchers struck out a total of 39 batters in the series, for an average of 1.08 per inning or 9.95 Strikeouts Per 9 Innings (SO/9), 3.55 Strikeouts per Walk (SO/W).


But these results should come as no surprise. During the regular season, the Astros pitching staff finished first in the American League with a 2.90 ERA, a 1.092 WHIP, 9.5 SO/9, 3.33 SO/W.


Against the Yankees in the League Championship Series, the Astros were even better during the first three games in which they defeated the Bronx “not-so” Bombers. The Yankees have been in a funk since August, and the Astros pitchers didn’t provide them any opportunity to get out of it during their series.


Here are the stats for the first three games of the ALCS:


In 27 innings, Astros staff yielded only 12 hits, 9 walks, and 2 earned runs, while striking out 41. They never gave the Yankees a chance to get ahead in the score or gain any momentum throughout the three games. Yankees batters, including home run record-setter Aaron Judge, had trouble making contact.


In Game 4 on Sunday the Yankees broke the spell of the Astros’ pitchers. The Yankees finally showed some life in the series by getting to starter Lance McCullers Jr. early. He wasn’t sharp in his five innings, as he gave up 4 runs (3 earned) on 8 hits and a walk, while striking out 6. Each time the Yankees went ahead in the game, the Astros responded with their own lead, ultimately winning the game, 6-5, and earning the American League pennant.


The Astros have four solid starters, led by probable Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander, who happens to hold the all-time record for strikeouts in postseason play. He is followed by Framber Valdez, who broke the record for quality starts during the regular season, Cristian Javier, and McCullers Jr., all of whom have prior postseason experience.


From the bullpen, manager Dusty Baker isn’t hesitant to call on any of his Latino Express that includes hard-throwing pitchers Bryan Abreu, Rafael Montero, Hector Neris, and Luis Garcia. Then he also has his closer Ryan Pressly, Hunter Brown, and Ryne Stanek. Baker’s pitching staff struck out 26% of batters faced during the regular season.


The Astros have a clear advantage against the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series. And their big weapon will again be their solid pitching staff.

A shaky start of the 2022 season turned into a dandy one

2022 was a baseball season to remember, but maybe that could be said about all of them. Yet it was indeed different because it started out on shaky grounds with the owners’ lockout on December 1, 2021. It could have easily gone in a drastically different direction and wound up as one of baseball’s biggest blemishes in the sport’s 140+ year history. But cooler heads prevailed by the owners and players, and for the most part we have forgotten that the season’s start was delayed by a week, because full 162-game schedules were completed.


The season’s highlights were many. Aaron Judge captivated the nation in his chase to break Roger Maris’s record. Judge recorded one of the best offensive seasons of all time. Japanese pitcher Shohei Ohtani showed he was no fluke in the comparison with Babe Ruth as a two-way player.


Aging players such as Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, and Yadier Molina were still making an impact with their respective teams. Justin Verlander found the “fountain of youth” as he returned from a two-year absence following Tommy John surgery. Newcomers like Julio Rodriguez, Spencer Strider, Bobby Witt Jr., Adley Rutschman, Jeremy Pena, and Michael Harris Jr. demonstrated the future of the game will be in good hands.


Seasons are often defined by the hitting and pitching milestones reached by the players. 2022 was no exception. Below are some of the highlights:


  • ·        Aaron Judge became the all-time American League single-season home run leader with 62, passing Roger Maris.

 

 

  • ·        41-year-old Nelson Cruz, one of the most feared designated hitters of his era belted his 450th career home run.

 

 

  • ·        Justin Verlander passed John Smoltz and Max Scherzer on the all-time strikeouts list. He is currently 12th with 3,198.

 

 

  • ·        Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina and Cardinals pitcher set an all-time record of games started together as batterymates with 325. They passed Mickey Lolich and Bill Freehan with the Detroit Tigers in the 1960s and 1979s.

 

 

  • ·        Molina set the all-time record for putouts by a catcher.

 

 

  • ·        Miguel Cabrera passed the 3,000-hit milestone. He is 25th on the all-time list with 3,088. He is only the seventh player with 3,000 hits and 500 home runs.

 

 

  • ·        Juan Soto hit his 500th career hit, becoming only the seventh active player with 500 or more hits at age 23 or younger. He also hit his 100th career home run on April 12.

 

 

  • ·        Clayton Kershaw became the all-time Dodgers leader in strikeouts, passing Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax.

 

 

  • ·        Astros manager Dusty Baker reached his 2,000th career win as manager. He is 12th on the all-time list of wins and has the most by any Black manager.

 

 

  • ·        Mike Trout’s 161st home run at Angel Stadium is the most in franchise history. He also passed the 1,000-run scored mark.

 

 

  • ·        Albert Pujols hit his 703rd career home run becoming only the fourth player in history to pass the 700-mark,

 

While the above milestones were more career-based, there were many outstanding single-game performances by players.


  • ·        Mike Trout hit a home run in seven straight games in September. Boston’s Trevor Story did it in May. The record is eight games held jointly by Dale Long, Don Mattingly, and Ken Griffey Jr.

 

 

  • ·        Houston’s Framber Valdez broke a major-league record when he made his 25th consecutive quality start on September 18.

 

 

  • ·        Atlanta’s Kyle Wright won his 21st game on October 1. He was the majors’ only 20-game winner.

 

 

  • ·        On May 10, Angels pitcher Reid Detmers pitched a no-hitter in only his 11th major league start.

 

 

  • ·        Jerar Encarnacion’s first major-league hit was a grand slam on June 19.

 

 

  • ·        Cleveland first baseman Josh Naylor recorded eight RBIs from the eighth inning until the end of the game in the 11th inning.

 

 

  • ·        Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw was removed from the game with a perfect game after seven innings on April 13.

 

 

  • ·        Joc Pederson hit three home runs and 8 RBIs in a comeback win for the Giants on May 24.

 

 

  • ·        Three Astros pitchers no-hit the Yankees on June 25, including Cristian Javier who had 13 strikeouts. On July 1, Javier struck out a career-high 14 against the Angels.

 

Today’s game is centered around a “throw hard, hit hard” strategy. With the technology available nowadays, it is possible to accurately track the speed of balls thrown and hit. Below are some speed and distance highlights from the season, many of them setting records.

 

  • ·        Reds pitcher Hunter Greene hit 100+ miles-per-hour 20 times in a game on April 10. Six days later he threw 100+ mph 39 times

 

 

  • ·        Cardinals pitcher Ryan Helsley threw a pitch 104-mph on September 22. It was the fastest pitch in 2022

 

 

  • ·        On June 20, Pirates shortstop Oneil Cruz thew out a runner at first base on a 96.7 mph throw. On August 24, he recorded the hardest-hit ball in Statcast history with a 122.4 mph single that nearly went out for a home run.

 

 

  • ·        Giancarlo Stanton recorded a 120-mph home run on June 11. On the other hand, Harold Ramirez with the Rays hit the slowest home run ever tracked, at 84.5 mph on June 21.

 

 

  • ·        C.J. Cron hit the longest home run of the season with a 504-foot blast on September 9. Other long home runs included Christian Yelich with 499 feet and Jesus Sanchez with 496 feet.

 

 

  • ·        Jhoan Duran recorded the fastest off-speed pitch in history, a split-finger at 100.8 mph, on August 29.

 

Every season has its share of oddities. Here are a few from 2022.


 

  • ·        The Diamondbacks’ Seth Beer hit a three-run walk-off home run on National Beer Day.

 

 

  • ·        Batting against a late-inning position-player-turned-pitcher in a blowout game, the Angels’ Anthony Rendon hit a homer from the left side. He is strictly a right-handed hitter.

 

 

  • ·        On May 11, Twins pitcher Yennier Caro made his major-league debut without throwing a pitch. He came into the game as a reliever, but the game was postponed before he threw a pitch.

 

 

  • ·        It took 40 at-bats at the beginning of the season before Cleveland’s Steven Kwan swung and missed a pitch.

 

 

  • ·        Pitcher Mark Appel made his major-league debut on June 29 for the Phillies, nine years after being the overall No.1 draft pick.

 

 

  • ·        Reds pitcher Fernando Cruz made his major-league debut on September 2, 15 years after being drafted. He spent parts of 11 seasons in foreign leagues.

 

 

  • ·        Reds pitchers combined to throw a no-hitter on May 15, but lost the game to the Pirates, 1-0.

 

 

Oh, brother! 2022 was a banner season for baseball siblings

2022 was a good year for major-league brothers to share the baseball diamond. All too often they don’t get to play with or against each other when growing up or perhaps later in college, because they are separated by age or schools they attend. But once both brothers have signed major-league contracts, they begin to dream about eventually playing on the same field at the same time, whether as teammates or opponents.


Then when it actually happens, the brothers relish the moment because they realize it’s a rare occurrence. Their feat often comes with the notoriety of being part of a small group of players in baseball history who have done the same.



Below are highlights of brotherly activity during the 2022 season.


Identical twin brothers Taylor and Tyler Rogers played against each other on April 11, when Tyler’s San Francisco Giants opposed Taylor’s San Diego Padres. They are both pitchers and are mirror images of each other—Taylor pitches left-handed, while Tyler is right-handed. Tyler entered the game in the sixth inning with the score tied, 2-2. He gave up two hits and a run in his one-inning outing. Taylor pitched the ninth and recorded his third save of the season. Tyler was credited with the loss. The game was the first time they had shared a field since they were in high school. In 2019 they became only the tenth set of twins to play in the majors.


Brothers Aaron and Austin Nola faced other as batter versus pitcher for the first time in 2021. Phillies pitcher Aaron had the better day then, allowing Padres catcher Austin only a walk in three at-bats. On June 24, 2022, they battled against each again, but this time Austin knocked in game-winning run off his brother with a single in the sixth inning. Aaron managed to strike out his brother once, in collecting 10 for the game, but he took the loss in the 1-0 game. The only other time they had ever faced each other was in a practice game while they were both at LSU.


In a rare occurrence in an MLB All-Star Game, Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras and his brother, William Contreras of the Atlanta Braves, were in the starting lineup for the National League team. William started as the designated hitter and hit behind his brother in the batting order. Only four other sets of brothers have started in the same All-Star game. They include Mort and Walker Cooper, Dixie and Harry Walker, Joe and Dominic DiMaggio, and Roberto and Sandy Alomar Jr. The Contreras brothers are natives of Venezuela, where they used to dream about being big leaguers. Willson said, “Man, I think we’re blessed. I can say a lot of things, but there’s not a specific word to describe how I feel and how my family feels.”


New York Mets closer Edwin Diaz and his brother, Cincinnati Reds rookie reliever Alex Diaz exchanged the lineup cards for their respective teams at home plate before their game on August 9 at Citi Field. However, neither of them appeared in the game. Mets manager Buck Showalter said, “That’s a great moment for their family. Can you imagine how proud they are?” Earlier in May, the Diaz brothers became only the third set of major-league brothers to record a save on the same day.


On September 8, brothers Jason and Scott Alexander exchanged the lineup cards for their teams (Brewers and Giants, respectively) before the first game of a doubleheader at American Family Field in Milwaukee. Scott pitched a scoreless inning for the Giants in the first game, but Jason didn’t get called on in either game. But it was a special moment for them in any case. “This will probably go down as one of my favorite moments in baseball,” said Jason, who is four years younger than Scott. It was the first time they had shared a field together at any level.


Bo Naylor made his major-league debut with the Cleveland Guardians on October 1, as he joined his brother Josh on the team. Josh was the starter at first base, while Bo entered the game in the sixth inning, replacing Luke Maile as catcher. Both brothers were hitless for the day as the Kansas City Royals won, 7-1. The brothers batted back-to-back in the lineup the next day in a Guardians win. Josh is playing his first full season in the majors after having made his own debut in 2019. Bo was a first-round pick of the Guardians in 2018.


On the last day of the season, Houston Astros reliever Phil Maton faced his brother Nick in the eighth inning of the Astros’ 3-2 win. It was the first time they had faced each other in a game at any level, since Phil was four years older than Nick. Nick got the best of his brother when he singled into right field off a 91 mph fastball. An infielder, Nick is in his second big-league season with the Philadelphia Phillies. Phil is the veteran of the brothers, pitching in his sixth major-league season. “It was super exciting,” Nick said about their confrontation. “I just wanted to treat it as another at-bat. Once I got up there, it definitely wasn’t like that. It felt like were in the backyard. Just seeing him out there was pretty fun.”


On July 1, the game between the Toronto Blue Jays and Detroit Tigers featured a matchup of brothers--sort of. Blue Jays pitcher Jose Berrios faced his brother-in-law Javier Baez with the Tigers. Baez claimed bragging rights over Berrios that day by hitting an opposite field home run in the fourth inning. But it was the Tigers’ only run of the day, as Toronto won the game, 4-1. Berrios said, “When he hit the homer, I didn’t want to see his face because I didn’t want to be laughing, and that wouldn’t look good on the mound.” They had faced each other twice before, with Berrios having the edge by holding Baez hitless in five at-bats. The two Puerto Rican players are married to sisters.


This last set of brothers aren’t players yet have a strong connection with the game, nonetheless. When someone mentions the name “Caray” it usually evokes the memory of the three generations of major-league broadcasters—Harry, Skip, and Chip. Now, the fourth generation is in the works for twin brothers Chris and Stefan Caray. They are the sons of current Braves broadcaster Chip Caray. They both broadcasted games in 2022 for the Double-A Amarillo Sod Poodles, an affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. “We want to create our own style,” Stefan said. “That way, we’re not Chip 2.0 or Skip 2.0 or Harry 2.0. We want to be independent of our family’s legacy while also continuing it in a way that is unique.” Perhaps one day they’ll be behind the mike together for a major-league team.

Hometown Heroes: Southeast Louisiana products in MLB, MiLB (End of Season)

Here’s the final report of regular season 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 Wednesday, October 5. Below are some of the highlights for September and October.


Alex Bregman’s (LSU) finished second in the American League with 87 walks. Defensively, he finished first in Assists and second in Double Plays for third basemen.


Toronto Blue Jays starter Kevin Gausman (LSU) led the American League in Strikeouts Per Walk (7.32) and Fielding Independent Pitching (2.38). 2022 was his second straight season with over 200 strikeouts. He is going to his fourth MLB postseason with a different team.


Philadelphia’s Aaron Nola (Catholic HS, LSU) finished in third place in the National League in Strikeouts (235) and fourth in WHIP (0.961). He led the NL in Walks Per 9 Innings (1.160) and Strikeouts per Walk (1.273). This will be Nola’s first post-season.


Austin Nola (Catholic HS, LSU) reverted to his old position in a blowout game against the Dodgers on September 3, when he played two innings at second base. He had converted to catcher in 2017. He is making his first MLB playoff appearance with the Padres.


Alex Lange (LSU) recorded three wins in September-October. He gave up on only two earned runs in 14 appearances for the month. He finished third in the American League for games pitched (71).


Oklahoma City’s Drew Avans (Southeastern) had one of his best games of the season on September 25, when he went 3-for-4, including a triple, a home run, and 4 RBIs.


J.P. France (Archbishop Shaw, Tulane, Miss. State) posted an impressive 2.31 ERA in September with Triple-A Sugar Land.


Andrew Stevenson (LSU) posted a batting line of .313/.377/.594, with five home runs and 14 RBIs in September-October with Triple-A Rochester.


Grant Witherspoon (Tulane) was a member of the Durham Bulls that won the Triple-A National Championship.


Shawn Semple (UNO) was a member of the Eastern League champion Somerset Patriots.

 


MLB


Alex Bregman—Astros (LSU) 154 G, .259 BA, .365 OBP, 23 HR, 93 RBI


Jake FraleyReds (LSU) MLB: 68 G, .259 BA, .344 OBP, 12 HR, 28 RBI, 4 SB; MiLB: 13 G, .262 BA, .392 OBP, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 2 SB


Kevin Gausman—Blue Jays (LSU) 31 G, 12-10, 3.35 ERA, 174.2 IP, 205 SO


Ian Gibaut—Reds (Tulane) MLB: 34 G, 1-2, 4.50 ERA, 36.0 IP, 48 SO, 1 SV; MiLB: 17 G, 2-0, 3.20 ERA, 19.2 IP, 19 SO


Alex Lange—Tigers (LSU) 71 G, 7-4, 3.69 ERA, 63.1 IP, 82 SO


Aaron Loup—Angels (Hahnville HS, Tulane) 65 G, 0-5, 3.84 ERA, 58.2 IP, 52 SO, 1 SV


DJ LeMahieu—Yankees (LSU) 125 G, .261 BA, .357 OBP, 12 HR, 46 RBI, 4 SB


Wade Miley—Cubs (Loranger HS, Southeastern) MLB: 9 G, 2-2, 3.16 ERA, 37.0 IP, 28 SO; MiLB: 6 G, 0-0, 4.50 ERA, 22.0 IP, 15 SO


Aaron Nola—Phillies (Catholic HS, LSU) 32 G, 11-13, 3.25 ERA, 205.0 IP, 235 SO


Austin Nola—Padres (Catholic HS, LSU) 110 G, .251 BA, .321 OBP, 4 HR, 40 RBI


Michael Papierski—Reds (LSU) MLB: 39 G, .143 BA, .228 OBP, 1 HR, 4 RBI; MiLB: 57 G, .232 BA, .329 OBP, 6 HR, 41 RBI


Tanner Rainey—Nationals (St. Paul’s HS, Southeastern) 29 G, 1-3, 12 SV, 3.30 ERA, 30.0 IP, 36 SO (On 60-Day Injured List)


Jake Rogers—Tigers (Tulane) On Injured List entire 2022 season


Josh Smith—Rangers (Catholic HS, LSU) MLB: 73 G, .197 BA, .307 OBP, 2HR, 16 RBI, 4 SB; MiLB: 55 G, .290 BA, .395 OBP, 6 HR, 45 RBI, 9 SB


 

Triple-A


Drew Avans–-Dodgers (Southeastern) 119 G, .282 BA, .379 OBP, 7 HR, 48 RBI, 40 SB


Greg Deichmann—Cubs (Brother Martin HS, LSU) 78 G, .214 BA, .271 OBP, 7 HR, 33 RBI, 8 SB


Hunter Feduccia—Dodgers (LSU) 83 G, .238 BA, .331 OBP, 15 HR, 51 RBI


J.P. France—Astros (Shaw HS, Tulane, Miss. State) 34 G, 3-4, 3 SV, 3.90 ERA, 110.2 IP, 136 SO


Will Harris—Nationals (Slidell HS, LSU) 7 G, 0-1, 8.44 ERA, 5.1 IP, 5 SO (On 60-Day Injured List)


Cole Henry–-Nationals (LSU) 9 G, 1-0, 1.71 ERA, 31.2 IP, 34 SO (On 7-Day Injured List)


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


Eric Orze—Mets (UNO) 34 G, 4-3, 1 SV, 4.83 ERA, 50.1 IP, 69 SO


Kramer Robertson—Mets (LSU) MLB: 2 G, .000 BA, .000 OBP, 0 HR, 1 RBI; MiLB: 116 G, .239 BA, .393 OBP, 11 HR, 47 RBI, 30 SB


Cam Sanders – Cubs (E. D. White HS, LSU) 35 G, 2-9, 4.94 ERA, 98.1 IP, 111 SO


Andrew Stevenson—Nationals (St. Thomas More HS, LSU) 135 G, .279 BA, .344 OBP, 16 HR, 67 RBI, 39 SB


Justin Williams—Phillies (Terrebone HS) 27 G, .211 BA, .324 OBP, 1 HR, 11 RBI, 4 SB (On 7-Day Injured List)


Grant Witherspoon – Rays (Tulane) 115 G, .266 BA, .343 OBP, 17 HR, 61 RBI, 15 SB

 

Double-A


Jared Biddy–-Rockies (Southeastern) 32 G, 4-1, 2.06 ERA, 48.0 IP, 45 SO


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


Brendan Cellucci—Red Sox (Tulane) 45 G, 3-4, 4.34 ERA, 64.1 IP, 85 SO


Hudson Haskin—Orioles (Tulane) 109 G, .264 BA, .367 OBP, 15 HR, 56 RBI, 5 SB


Kody Hoese—Dodgers (Tulane) 80 G, .234 BA, .282 OBP, 6 HR, 36 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) 23 G, 5-9, 1 SV, 4.15 ERA, 108.1 IP, 73 SO


Kaleb Roper—White Sox (Rummel, Tulane) 30 G, 2-6, 7.78 ERA, 83.1 IP, 84 SO


Mac Sceroler—Reds (Denham Springs HS, Southeastern) On Injured List entire 2022 season


Shawn Semple—Yankees (UNO) 14 G, 5-1, 5.73 ERA, 37.2 IP, 27 SO


Chase Solesky—White Sox (Tulane) 26 G, 4-8, 4.10 ERA, 116.1 IP, 88 SO


Zach Watson—Orioles (LSU) 95 G, .199 BA, .251 OBP, 8 HR, 32 RBI, 5 SB


 

High-A


Donovan Benoit–-Reds (Tulane) 33 G, 3-4, 13 SV, 4.00 ERA, 45.0 IP, 61 SO


Collin Burns-–Orioles (De La Salle HS, Tulane) 82 G, .269 BA, .337 OBP, 6 HR, 34 RBI, 13 SB


Daniel Cabrera—Tigers (John Curtis HS, Delgado, LSU) 120 G, .238 BA, .309 OBP, 8 HR, 46 RBI, 7 SB


Saul Garza-–Royals (LSU) 37 G, .177 BA, .272 OBP, 0 HR, 12 RBI


Zack Hess—Tigers (LSU) On Injured List entire season


Aaron McKeithan–-Cardinals (Tulane) 84 G, .275 BA, .375 OBP, 5 HR, 30 RBI, 1 SB


Bryce Tassin—Tigers (Southeastern) 38 G, 2-3, 4.85 ERA, 1 SV, 55.2 IP, 47 SO


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


 

Low-A


Jack Aldrich-–Royals (Tulane) 28 G, 4-2, 4.15 ERA, 56.1 IP, 48 SO, 3 SV


Jacob Berry – Marlins (LSU) 37 G, .248 BA, .343 OBP, 3 HR, 26 RBI, 1 SB


Cade Doughty – Blue Jays (LSU) 26 G, .272 BA, .370 OBP, 6 HR, 24 RBI, 3 SB


Paul Gervase – Mets (LSU) 8 G, 1-1, 5.56 ERA, 11.1 IP, 16 SO


Connor Pellerin–-Yankees (Episcopal HS Baton Rouge, Tulane) On Injured List entire 2022 season


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


Eric Reyzelman – Yankees (LSU) 4 G, 0-0, 6.75 ERA, 4.0 IP, 8 SO


 

Independent League


Antoine Duplantis—Mets (LSU) Ind:  84G, .299 BA, .331 OBP, 8 HR, 36 RBI, 13 SB; MiLB: 26 G, .132 BA, .184 OBP, 1 HR, 7 RBI


Cole Freeman—Nationals (LSU) Ind: 19 G, .324 BA, .346 OBP, 1 HR, 14 RBI, 3 SB; MiLB: 50 G, .243 BA, .299 OBP, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 15 SB 


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) 52 G, 3-3, 2.72 ERA, 49.2 IP, 64 SO

Why Aaron Judge's 61 home run achievement was more impressive than Roger Maris's

Aaron Judge tied Roger Maris’s American League record of 61 home runs on September 28, 61 one years after Maris. Judge hit his 61st at Rogers Centre in Toronto. Maris wore jersey number 9, while Judge wears 99. Maris won the American League MVP Award in 1961. Judge is a good bet to win it this year. But that might be where the parallels end. When you look behind the details of the home run totals, an argument can be made that Judge’s is more impressive.


Judge’s accomplishment comes in an era in baseball that is quite different from that of Maris. As a result, I believe Judge’s quest to hit 61 home runs has been more extraordinary.


Below is my rationale. My analysis is not meant to diminish Maris’s feat, but to highlight Judge’s impressive season.


Maris got his 61st home run on the last day of the season in his 161st game of the season. Judge hit his 61st in 10 less games.


Judge routinely faces pitchers who throw harder than pitchers did in Maris’s time. For the past 8-10 years, pitching strategies have emphasized pitchers who can regularly hit 97-mph or greater with their fastball. In 2021, 335 pitchers fell into that category, with more this year. It’s common to see 100-mph pitches in practically every game. Maris didn’t routinely face pitches of that caliber.


Starting pitchers typically stayed in the game longer when Maris played. Consequently, batters had better chances of hitting homers in later innings, after having seen the pitcher’s repertoire three or four plate appearances. It’s common for Judge to see three different pitchers in a game, so he has to adjust to a different pitching style for each plate appearance.


Batting third in the Yankees lineup, Maris had Mickey Mantle hitting behind him in the batting order. For most of the 1961 season, Mantle was in the race for 61 homers as well, until he got injured in September. So, pitchers couldn’t pitch around Maris because Mantle was just as dangerous at the plate. Judge has been batting leadoff for a good part of the second half of the season. He’s had a variety of teammates hitting behind him, but none as threatening as Mantle.


Related to the above, Maris was never intentionally walked during the 1961 season. Judge has been issued free passes to first base on 19 occasions. If you use his ratio of plate appearances to home runs (one home run for every 11 plate appearances) he could theoretically have one or two additional home runs this season.


At 6-feet-seven, Judge has a larger strike zone than the 6-foot Maris. He is particularly vulnerable to low pitches in the strike zone, although he has proven to be a patient hitter this year by leading the AL in walks.


Left-handed batter Maris was a dead-pull hitter to right field. He took advantage of Yankee Stadium’s short right-field porch, at 318 feet, for many of his home runs. Right-handed hitting Judge has sprayed his homers to all fields, including 40.7% to left field, 27% to center field, and 32.3% to right field.


It is well-documented Maris felt the pressure of chasing Ruth. His hair fell out. He received death threats from people who didn’t want to see Ruth’s record broken. Judge has been calm, cool, and collected at the plate during his run at Maris’s magic number. If he’s suffered from any type of anxiety attack during his chase of Maris, he’s hidden it very adeptly.


Maris’s OPS+ in 1961 was 167, exceptional when compared to an average major-league player’s 100 OPS+. Judge will end the season with an OPS+ around 215. We’re seeing history being made by him, not just for the home runs, but as an all-around offensive juggernaut. He is leading the American League in practically every statistical category, and still has a reasonable chance to capture the Triple Crown.


In route to tying Maris, Judge has had one of the most productive offensive seasons in major-league history. But even if he surpasses Maris, No. 9 will always hold his own place in history as the slugger who passed the great Bambino.

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.