The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
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Hometown Heroes: Southeast Louisiana products in MLB, MiLB (Through June 30, 2024)

Here are the pitching and hitting statistics for many of the 2024 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, June 30.


Below are selected player highlights for the last month, followed by all of the players’ more detailed stats.


Who’s Hot


Paul Skenes (LSU) won two more games in June and dropped his ERA to 2.06. In his nine starts, he has never left the game with the Pirates trailing. Click here to see highlights of Skene’s six strong inning against the Reds on June 17.


Josh Smith (LSU) slashed .313/.406/.518 with four home runs and 11 RBIs in June. He’s flashing the leather, too. Click here to see his incredible diving stop on June 27.


Alex Bregman (LSU) finally picked up his performance at the plate. He slashed .310/.367/.450 with nine extra-base hits and 11 RBIs during June. Click here to see highlights of his big day at the plate on June 23.


Dylan Crews (LSU) hit three home runs and 16 RBIs during June, earning a promotion to Triple-A. Click here to see him crush one of his home runs.


Will Warren (Southeastern) rebounded with two wins in June after losing all four of his decisions in May. Click here to see highlights of his career-high nine-strikeout game.


Hunter Feduccia (LSU) hit three homers and 16 RBIs in 18 games during June. His On-Base Percentage was .395.


Kody Hoese (Tulane) had a hot bat in June, with a .338/.411/.550 slash line, eight doubles, three home runs, and 12 RBIs.


Dylan Carmouche (Tulane) collected five wins in six starts during June, while posting a 2.87 ERA.


Keegan Gillies (Brother Martin HS, Tulane) collected three saves and held batters to a .152 batting average in June. His ERA was an impressive 1.35.


Jacob Berry (LSU) broke out of his slump with a .300/.388/.500 slash line in June. He added two home runs and 14 RBIs.


 

Who’s Not


Kevin Gausman (LSU) suffered four losses in six starts in June. His ERA was 5.65 for the struggling Blue Jays.


Since coming off the Injured List in late May, D.J. LeMahieu (LSU) had only two extra-base hits and is batting a meager .188 in 26 games.


Hudson Haskin’s (Tulane) slash line dipped in June with .162/.289/.279. His strikeout rate was 41% for the month.


Grant Witherspoon (Tulane) struggled at the plate in June. He posted a .095/.188/.143., with only two extra-base hits.


 

Promotions


Dylan Crews—Nationals (LSU) – to Triple-A Rochester


Cade Doughty--(Blue Jays (LSU) – to Double-A New Hampshire


Chase Solesky—White Sox (Tulane) – to Double-A Harrisburg


Jordan Thompson—Dodgers (LSU) – to High-A Great Lakes


 

Demotions


Cole Henry—Nationals (LSU)—to High-A Wilmington


Bryce Tassin—Tigers (Southeastern)—to Double-A Harrisburg


Jacob Waguespack—Rays (Dutchtown HS, Ole Miss)—to Rookie FCL Rays


 

On the Mend


Ty Floyd—Reds (LSU) On full-season Injured List)


J.P. France—Astros (Shaw HS, Tulane) On full-season Injured List)


Ian Gibaut—Reds (Tulane) On 60-Day Injured List


Kenya Huggins—Reds (St. Augustine) On 60-Day Injured List


Alex Lange—Tigers (LSU) On full-season Injured List


Wade Miley—Brewers (Loranger HS, Southeastern) On 60-Day Injured List


Hayden Robinson—Brewers (Berwick) On full-season Injured List


Grant Taylor—White Sox (LSU) On 60-Day Injured List


 

MLB Player Stats


Alex Bregman—Astros (LSU) 79 G, .248 BA, .307 OBP, 9 HR, 37 RBI, 2 SB, 100 OPS+


Jake FraleyReds (LSU) 63 G, .274 BA, .330 OBP, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 11 SB, 90 OPS+


Kevin Gausman—Blue Jays (LSU) 17 G, 6-7, 4.75 ERA, 91.0 IP, 91 SO, 84 ERA+


Alex Lange—Tigers (LSU) MLB: 21 G, 0-3, 4.34 ERA, 18.2 IP, 21 SO, 2 SV, 98 ERA+; MiLB: 9 G, 1-1, 3.12 ERA, 8.2 IP, 12 SO, 0 SV (Placed on season-ending Injured List)


DJ LeMahieu—Yankees (LSU) 26 G, .188 BA, .286 OBP, 0 HR, 9 RBI, 0 SB, 45 OPS+


Wade Miley—Brewers (Loranger HS, Southeastern) 2 G, 0-1, 6.43 ERA, 7.0 IP, 2 SO, 66 ERA+ (On 60-Day Injured List)


Aaron Nola—Phillies (Catholic HS, LSU) 17 G, 9-4, 3.43 ERA, 107.2 IP, 99 SO, 118 ERA+


Tanner Rainey—Nationals (St. Paul’s HS, Southeastern) 22 G, 0-0, 7.43 ERA, 23.0 IP, 17 SO, 0 SV, 53 ERA+


Jake Rogers—Tigers (Tulane) 52 G, .208 BA, .257 OBP, 6 HR, 14 RBI, 0 SB, 70 OPS+


Paul Skenes – Pirates (LSU) MLB: 9 G, 4-0, 2.06 ERA, 52.1 IP, 70 SO, 196 ERA+; MiLB: 7 G, 0-0, 0.99 ERA, 27.1 IP, 45 SO, 0 SV


Josh Smith—Rangers (Catholic HS, LSU) 80 G, .290 BA, .384 OBP, 7 HR, 33 RBI, 4 SB, 139 OPS+


 

Triple-A Player Stats


Drew Avans–-Dodgers (Southeastern) 72 G, .288 BA, .378 OBP, 6 HR, 29 RBI, 25 SB


Hayden Cantrelle—Cubs (Louisiana Lafayette) 42 G, .244 BA, .356 OBP, 4 HR, 16 RBI, 9 SB


Dylan Crews – Nationals (LSU) 62 G, .277 BA, .337 OBP, 7 HR, 45 RBI, 18 SB


Hunter Feduccia—Dodgers (LSU) 52 G, .282 BA, .390 OBP, 5 HR, 39 RBI, 1 SB


J.P. France—Astros (Shaw HS, Tulane, Miss. State) MLB: 5 G, 0-3, 7.46 ERA, 25.1 IP, 22 SO; 52 ERA+; MiLB: 1 G, 0-0, 7.36 ERA, 3.2 IP, 3 SO (On full-season Injured List)


Ian Gibaut—Reds (Tulane) 7 G, 0-1, 7.50 ERA, 6.0 IP, 10 SO, 0 SV (On 60-Day Injured List)


Josh Green—Diamondbacks (Southeastern) 15 G, 1-0, 4.82 ERA, 18.2 IP, 15 SO, 0 SV


Hudson Haskin—Orioles (Tulane) 51 G, .200 BA, .349 OBP, 4 HR, 20 RBI, 10 SB


Kody Hoese—Dodgers (Tulane) 65 G, .303 BA, .366 OBP, 7 HR, 38 RBI, 0 SB


Austin Nola—Royals (Catholic HS, LSU) 25 G, .132 BA, .193 OBP, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 0 SB


Eric Orze—Mets (UNO) 24 G, 3-0, 3.72 ERA, 36.1 IP, 52 SO, 2 SV


Michael Papierski—Mariners (LSU) 43 G, .200 BA, .333 OBP, 4 HR, 23 RBI, 1 SB


Jake Slaughter—Mariners (LSU) 67 G, .277 BA, .361 OBP, 6 HR, 34 RBI, 13 SB


Will Warren—Yankees (Southeastern) 16 G, 5-5, 7.05 ERA, 74.0 IP, 85 SO, 0 SV


 

Double-A Player Stats


Donovan Benoit–-Reds (Tulane) 18 G, 2-1, 4.91 ERA, 33.0 IP, 25 SO, 0 SV


Jacob Berry – Marlins (LSU) 63 G, .199 BA, .263 OBP, 4 HR, 20 RBI, 6 SB


Collin Burns--Orioles (De La Salle HS, Tulane) 62 G, .227 BA, .312 OBP, 5 HR, 29 RBI, 9 SB


Daniel Cabrera—Tigers (John Curtis HS/Parkview Baptist HS, LSU) 7 G, .200 BA, .222 OBP, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 0 SB (On Restricted List)


Brendan Cellucci—Red Sox (Tulane) 17 G, 2-2, 5.40 ERA, 28.1 IP, 41 SO, 2 SV


Cade Doughty – Blue Jays (LSU) 13 G, .268 BA, .354 OBP, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 0 SB


Jaden Hill—Rockies (LSU) 23 G, 3-2, 4.05 ERA, 26.2 IP, 42 SO, 4 SV


Paul Gervase – Mets (LSU) 14 G, 1-0, 3.63 ERA, 17.1 IP, 29 SO, 4 SV


Keagan Gillies—Orioles (Brother Martin HS, Tulane) 22 G, 0-1, 3.31 ERA, 24.1 IP, 31 SO, 3 SV


Aaron McKeithan–-Cardinals (Tulane) 31 G, .272 BA, .356 OBP, 1 HR, 10 RBI, 0 SB


Todd Peterson—Nationals (LSU) 21 G, 1-1, 2.45 ERA, 25.2 IP, 23 SO, 6 SV


Cam Sanders – Cubs (E. D. White HS, LSU) 28 G, 2-1, 3.60 ERA, 35.0 IP, 48 SO, 6 SV


Chase Solesky—White Sox (Tulane) MiLB: 4 G, 0-2, 3.65 ERA, 12.1 IP, 11 SO, 0 SV; Ind: 9 G, 3-4, 5.67 ERA, 33.1 IP, 23 SO, 0 SV


Bryce Tassin—Tigers (Southeastern) 23 G, 1-0, 3.38 ERA, 37.1 IP, 38 SO, 2 SV


Grant Witherspoon – Mariners (Tulane) 41 G, .153 BA, .250 OBP, 3 HR, 16 RBI, 2 SB


 

High-A Player Stats


Zach Arnold—Phillies (LSU) 49 G, .212 BA, .302 OBP, 2 HR, 21 RBI, 1 SB


Gavin Dugas—Nationals (LSU) 49 G, .284 BA, .384 OBP, 4 HR, 24 RBI, 10 SB


Cole Henry--Nationals (LSU) 8 G, 0-1, 3.31 ERA, 16.1 IP, 17 SO, 0 SV


Zack Hess—Tigers (LSU) 19 G, 1-0, 5.96 ERA, 22.2 IP, 27 SO, 0 SV


Tre Morgan—Rays (Brother Martin HS, LSU) 49 G, .340 BA, .429 OBP, 4 HR, 33 RBI, 13 SB


Carson Roccaforte—Royals (Louisiana Lafayette) 68 G, .208 BA, .293 OBP, 6 HR, 34 RBI, 21 SB


Jordan Thompson—Dodgers (LSU) 62 G, .257 BA, .362 OBP, 9 HR, 36 RBI, 12 SB


Tyree Thompson--Braves (Karr HS) 14 G, 2-1, 3.72 ERA, 29.0 IP, 36 SO, 0 SV


 

Low-A Player Stats


Dylan Carmouche—Giants (Southern Univ. Lab, Tulane) 16 G, 6-1, 3.04 ERA, 71.0 IP, 67 SO, 0 SV


Riley Cooper—Orioles (LSU) 14 G, 3-1, 2.70 ERA, 50.0 IP, 53 SO, 1 SV


Tyler Hoffman—Rockies (Tulane) 24 G, 1-0, 6.65 ERA, 23.0 IP, 22 SO, 0 SV


Kenya Huggins—Reds (St. Augustine) On 60-Day Injured List


Brayden Jobert—Cardinals (Northshore HS, Delgado CC, LSU) 52 G, .173 BA, .281 OBP, 4 HR, 18 RBI, 9 SB


Blake Money—Orioles (LSU) 14 G, 2-4, 4.28 ERA, 37.0 IP, 44 SO, 0 SV


Grant Taylor--White Sox (LSU) 5 G, 0-0, 2.33 ERA, 19.1 IP, 32 SO, 0 SV (On 60-day Injured List)


 

Rookie League Player Stats


Garrett Edwards--Rays (LSU) 1 G, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 1.0 IP, 0 SO, 0 SV


Ty Floyd—Reds (LSU) On Full-Season Injured List


Hayden Robinson – Brewers (Berwick HS) 6 G, 0-0, 2.41 ERA, 18.2 IP, 28 SO, 0 SV (On full-season Injured List)


Jacob Waguespack—Rays (Dutchtown HS, Ole Miss) MLB: 4 G, 0-0, 5.40 ERA, 10.0 IP, 11 SO, 0 SV, 75 ERA+; MiLB 4 G, 1-1, 6.46 ERA, 15.1 IP, 26 SO, 0 SV (On rehab assignment)


 

Independent League Player Stats


Saul Garza—(LSU) 50 G, .290 BA, .375 OBP, 7 HR, 24 RBI, 6 SB


Shawn Semple—(UNO) 12 G, 2-6, 5.79 ERA, 65.1 IP, 49 SO, 0 SV


Bryan Warzek—(UNO) 21 G, 1-3, 4.61 ERA, 27.1 IP, 31 SO, 0 SV


 

Japanese League Player Stats


Kyle Keller–-Yomiuri (Jesuit, Southeastern) 28 G, 0-1, 1.78 ERA, 25.1 IP, 28 SO, 0 SV


Andrew Stevenson—Hokkaido (St. Thomas More HS, LSU) 49 G, .284 BA, .340 OBP, 1 HR, 15 RBI, 6 SB


Historic Rickwood Field site of New Orleans Pelicans' longest Opening Day game

The spotlight will be on Rickwood Field in Birmingham on June 20, when Major League Baseball plays a game between the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants. Rickwood is the oldest professional baseball stadium in the country, built in 1910 for the minor-league Birmingham Barons. The stadium is older than two legendary major-league venues still in use, Fenway Park (built in 1912) and Wrigley Field (built in 1914).


In addition to being the home of the Barons, Rickwood was the site of major-league exhibition games, barnstorming games, and Negro League games played by the hometown Birmingham Black Barons. Over the years, many Hall of Fame players and Negro League players appeared in games there.


The Birmingham Barons played in the Southern Association, where the former New Orlean Pelicans minor-league team also competed for nearly 60 years.



One of the more memorable games in Pelicans history occurred at Rickwood on April 10, 1953. The two teams dueled for 16 innings, with the Barons finally winning, 8-7. It was the longest Opening Day game in Pelicans history.


At the end of nine innings, the score was tied 7-7, as Birmingham remained alive with two runs in the bottom of the ninth.


The Barons’ winning run in the 16th inning was created by a combination of Emil Tellinger’s double, a Pelicans’ error on a sacrifice bunt attempt, an intentional walk to George Moskovich, and Hal Smith’s game-winning hit.


Local New Orleans pitcher Lenny Yochim pitched the final 5 1/3 innings for the Pelicans and gave up the winning run. He had hurled five scoreless innings prior to that.


Lou Klein, another New Orleans native, was the hitting star for the Pelicans. He got four hits, including a home run in the fifth inning.


Pelicans catcher Mel Brookey collected three hits and three RBIs and went the distance behind the plate.


A crowd of 8,044 attended the game at Rickwood Field that lasted four hours and 36 minutes.


Yochim went on to become a renowned Pittsburgh Pirates scout for over 35 years. As a major-league rookie, Klein was a member of the 1943 St. Louis Cardinals NL pennant-winning team. He was the manager of the Chicago Cubs in parts of three seasons in the 1960s.


The game between the Cardinals and Giants will be a tribute to the Negro Leagues. Hall of Famer  Willie Mays, who played for the Black Barons in 1948 as a 17-year-old, played in Game 4 of the Negro League World Series that was played against the Homestead Grays in New Orleans.

             

Turn Back the Clock: Former S.J. Peters star pitcher Pete Modica made name for himself in Southern Association

Pitcher Pete Modica never made it to the big leagues, although he came close on two occasions. Instead, he became a permanent fixture in the minor-league Southern Association during the 1940s and 1950s, including parts of five seasons with the hometown New Orleans Pelicans. He was a five-time All-Star and played in three post-season Dixie Series (Southern Association champs versus Texas League champs). The lanky hurler got his start as a star pitcher with S. J. Peters High School in New Orleans in both prep and American Legion competition.


Modica’s name first appeared in the local sports pages in 1938 as a member of the Peters-based American Legion Class B team. As a 15-year-old pitcher in 1939, he played well enough to be recognized with honorable mention on the city’s American Legion All-Star team.


With the 1939 experience under his belt, he was one of the primary starters for the Papoose American Legion team in 1940. He started the season with back-to-back one-hitter and a no-hitter and went on to win 12 games in his first 13 starts. His 13th win came in the state championships, as Papoose defeated Ruston. They advanced to the Legion regional tournament but were ousted by Little Rock. Modica’s performance earned him a selection for the city’s Legion All-Star team.


Peters High School was a favorite to win the city prep title in 1941, behind a group of standout players that featured future major leaguers Ray Yochim, Mel Parnell, and Bo Strickland. In addition to Modica, the roster also included Ed Lavigne, Ray Campo, and Nelson Nocheck, all of whom eventually played in the minors. However, Peters ended up losing out in the championship round to Jesuit.


Modica, who was reported as six feet tall and weighing 130 pounds, played for Papoose again in the summer American Legion loop. The team was unable to repeat their prior season’s success, but the slim side-armer again made the All-Star team.


The 1942 Peters team won the state championship behind Modica and his batterymate Campo. Despite Modica’s defeat of Holy Cross twice during the regular season, Peters lost the city championship to the Tigers, who were led by their sensational pitcher Dick Callahan.


A week after the prep season ended, Modica and Campo were signed by St. Louis Cardinals scout Wid Matthews. Modica was sent to Class C Springfield where his catcher was 16-year-old Joe Garagiola, the future major-leaguer and later a celebrated baseball broadcaster.


New Orleans Pelicans general manager Charlie Hurth signed Modica for the 1943 season, but after only two appearances, the pitcher received his military service induction papers. He missed the rest of the season and all of 1944 and 1945 during World War II. However, Modica was fortunate enough to play on Army baseball teams while stationed in the States. He defeated the Detroit Tigers in an exhibition game.


Modica returned to the Pelicans for a brief period in 1946 before spending most of the season with Class B Anderson in the Tri-State League to get more experience.


1947 was Modica’ breakout season. The 23-year-old finished with a 13-10 record for the Pelicans, then an affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. In one of the more exciting seasons in recent Pelican history, the team finished second in the Southern Association behind Mobile by one-half game.


Boston purchased the rights to Modica over the winter for $10,000. He went to spring training in 1948 with the Red Sox, where former S. J. Peters High School pitchers Jack Kramer and Mel Parnell were his teammates. But the Red Sox ended up shipping him to Triple-A Louisville. (Parnell and Kramer wound up winning 33 games between them for the Red Sox, who lost a one-game playoff to Cleveland for the American League pennant.)


After a 2-7 record with the Colonels, he was sent to Birmingham, a competitor of the Pelicans in the Southern Association. The Barons won the league championship playoffs, with Modica contributing seven wins. Birmingham also went on to win the Dixie Series, versus Texas League champion Forth Worth.


Modica became a journeyman pitcher during the next two seasons. He was with Birmingham and New Orleans in 1949, then Indianapolis, New Orleans, and Nashville in 1950. He pitched for Nashville in their Dixie Series loss to Texas League champion San Antonio.


He earned a full-time job in 1951 with Nashville, where former New Orleans Pelicans player-manager Larry Gilbert was the business manager. Modica appeared in both starter and reliever roles, finishing with a 13-6 record.


With Nashville in 1952, he was used strictly as a reliever and ended up setting a Southern Association record for appearances (66) in a season. He won 13 games again. By this time, he had developed a tantalizing screwball pitch to go along with a good fastball.


Modica earned a promotion to Triple-A Minneapolis in 1953 after winning nine games for Nashville, then a New York Giants affiliate. The big-league Giants conditionally bought Modica from Nashville in the offseason, with the intention of using him in the bullpen to augment their new relief specialist Hoyt Wilhelm. But Modica developed a sore arm and wasn’t able to stick with the Giants in 1954. Coming out of spring training, he returned to Nashville. Unfortunately, he missed out on being with the Giants team that won the 1954 World Series.


The Atlanta Crackers acquired Modica in June 1954. In a reliever role, he helped them finish in first place during the Southern Association’s regular season. Atlanta also won the postseason playoffs against New Orleans and defeated Texas League champion Houston in the Dixie Series.


In an article in the Times-Picayune in 1990, Modica said, “The Southern Association was a fast league after the war in the 1940s. We had guys coming home from the military and some coming down from the majors. It was popular with the fans. In 1947, when I was with the Pelicans, we drew over 400,000, and in ’54, when I played for Atlanta, we set an attendance record of more than 500,000.”


Some of Modica’s best seasons came in Nashville, where they played at Sulphur Dell Park. Modica said, “I liked pitching there because you didn’t have to throw strikes.” With the right field fence only 250 feet from home plate, he explained, “The short porch was appealing to hitters. They usually get anxious at the plate and swung at almost anything pitched.”


Modica finished his career in 1955, splitting his time between Atlanta, Beaumont, and New Orleans. He retired at age 31.


Altogether, Modica played for four different teams in parts of 11 seasons in the Southern Association. He is credited with a 55-41 win-loss record in 284 league games.


Modica died at age 69 on September 3, 1993. His brother Sal also played professionally from 1942 to 1949.

Marrero native, former 1940s minor leaguer Nolan Vicknair dies at age 99

Nolan Vicknair was proud that he had played professional baseball in 1946 and 1947, but later in his life he expressed regret about not playing longer. Yet the Marrero native’s brief pro career never deterred his love of the sport, as he continued to play in local semi-pro baseball leagues, and later in softball leagues, until his 60s.


Ninety-nine-year-old Vicknair died on June 4. He was one of only a few local athletes still living, who is linked to a noteworthy era of New Orleans baseball in the ‘30s, ’40s, and ‘50s.


Vicknair participated in organized sports at an early age. Newspaper accounts reported he was a bicycle race winner and 75-yard sprint champion representing his hometown of Marrero. When he was in the sixth grade, the Marrero High School baseball coach recruited him to play on the team because of his athleticism and speed.


Vicknair’s initial thoughts of playing pro baseball originated when he pitched in an American Legion game in New Orleans that was attended by Branch Rickey, then St. Louis Cardinals general manager. Rickey told Vicknair that he had talent and should consider a career in the pros upon finishing high school.


But World War II interrupted further thoughts Vicknair had about pursuing professional baseball. In April 1943, he enlisted in the Navy as a 17-year-old. He served for nearly three years on the destroyer-class USS Bearrs as part of the Pacific Fleet.


After his discharge from the Navy, he revived the idea of playing baseball professionally. In 1946, Vicknair’s high school coach arranged for him to meet with legendary New York Giants baseball star Mel Ott, a Gretna native. Ott recommended that Vicknair attend the Giants’ spring training camp in Fort Smith, Arkansas for a tryout.


The Giants signed Vicknair to a minor-league contract and assigned him to their Class D affiliate in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. As an outfielder, speed and defense were his strengths. But he struggled at the plate. Injuries hindered improvement in his hitting. A leg infection, stemming from being spiked, hampered his progress. That was followed by a broken jaw incurred on a throw by an opposing infielder while sliding into second base. An unfortunate Vicknair was sent home after 45 games.


He attended the Giants’ spring camp in New Jersey in 1947. Upon learning he was being assigned to Oshkosh again, he asked the organization for his release. Vicknair felt he was being evaluated as a first-year player again, when he figured he should have been promoted to the next minor-league level.


Vicknair returned to New Orleans and ended up signing with Class D New Iberia in the Evangeline League, where fellow New Orleanian Lenny Yochim was a teammate. But after a change in the team’s manager early in the season, he was released by the club after playing only 11 games.


However, he didn’t give up the game, becoming player-manager of the West Bank-based Mohawks, a semi-pro team in the early 1950s. He also played for teams in the semi-pro Audubon League and Mel Ott League into the 1960s. As he got older, he began playing softball for his employer, Avondale Shipyards, a perennially formidable team in the city-wide CAA league. A newspaper account noted he hurled the first no-hitter in the league’s history. Vicknair continued to play softball into his 60s.


In an interview with Vicknair in 2015, he said he regretted not continuing to pursue a professional baseball career after his 1947 release. He blamed himself for not being persistent enough to overcome his setbacks. However, he was grateful for all the years he was able to compete afterwards in local leagues.


Vicknair was one of the original members of the Diamond Club of Greater New Orleans, whose members were former professional and semi-pro players and interested parties [umpires, scouts, sports writers, and sports announcers].


Vicknair was honored at a 2018 New Orleans Baby Cakes game on “Military Awareness Night.” Then 83 years old and looking as though he could still suit up for a game, he threw out the first pitch.

Hometown Heroes: Southeast Louisiana products in MLB, MiLB (Through May 31, 2024)

Here are the pitching and hitting statistics for many of the 2024 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 Friday, May 31. Below are some of the highlights for the last month, followed by all of the players’ more detailed stats.


Who’s Hot


Paul Skenes (LSU) made his much-anticipated MLB debut on May 11. In his second start on May 17, he struck out 11 in six hitless innings. Through his first four starts, he struck out 30 and walked only five batters in 22 innings. He is one of only six rookie pitchers with these stats since 1901.


Kevin Gausman (LSU) was 3-0 in May, after starting out with a 1-3 record in April.


Dylan Crews (LSU) slashed .298/.378/.512, with 11 extra-base hits and 18 RBIs, for Double-A Harrisburg in May. Click here to see Dylan Crews’s 3-hit, 4 RBI game on May 15.


Tre Morgan (Brother Martin, LSU) slashed .403/.489/.610 with 2 HRs and 18 RBIs for the month of May. He struck out only six times in 92 plate appearances. His performance earned him a promotion to High-A Bowling Green. Click here to see Morgan’s four-hit game on May 21.


Drew Avans (Southeastern) has a slash line of .280/.370/.425 for Triple-A Oklahoma City. Click here to see Avans make a leaping catch at the wall on May 14.


 

Who’s Not


Alex Bregman (LSU) continued to languish at the plate. He is slashing only .219/.280/.372 although he added six home runs and 16 RBIs in May. His OBP is 88 points lower than his career average.


Tanner Rainey (St. Paul’s, Southeastern) made only three relief appearances for the Nationals in May. His ERA remains over 9.00.


Batters slashed .344/.500/.438 against Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Alex Lange (LSU) in May. His ERA was 9.00 in nine appearances.


Will Warren (Southeastern) won all three decisions in April, but then lost all four of his decisions in May with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He posted a whopping 15.88 ERA in 17 innings.


Austin Nola (Catholic HS, LSU) came off the Injured List after missing the first month, but he has struggled at the plate with Triple-A Omaha, batting only .095 in 14 games.


Jacob Berry (LSU) slashed only .138/.169/.163, with two extra-base hits, in 22 games in May for Double-A Pensacola.


 

On the Mend


DJ LeMahieu--Yankees (LSU) was on the Injured List for all but four games in May for the Yankees. He returned to the lineup on May 28


Cade Doughty—Blue Jays (LSU) On 7-Day Injured List


Garrett Edwards—Rays (LSU)—On 60-Day Injured List


Ty Floyd—Reds (LSU) On 60-Day Injured List


J.P. France—Astros (Shaw HS, Tulane) On 7-Day Injured List


Kenya Huggins—Reds (St. Augustine) On 60-Day Injured List


Ian Gibaut—Reds (Tulane) On 60-Day Injured List


Josh Green—Diamondbacks (Southeastern) On 7-Day Injured List


Wade Miley—Brewers (Loranger HS, Southeastern) On 60-Day Injured List


Jacob Waguespack—Rays (Dutchtown HS, Ole Miss) On 60-Day Injured List


 

Traded


Jake Slaughter (LSU)-May 14: From Cubs to Mariners


 

MLB


Alex Bregman—Astros (LSU) 26 G, .219 BA, .280 OBP, 7 HR, 26 RBI, 2 SB, 87 OPS+


Jake FraleyReds (LSU) 19 G, .278 BA, .333 OBP, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 9 SB, 97 OPS+


Kevin Gausman—Blue Jays (LSU) 11 G, 4-3, 4.14 ERA, 54.1 IP, 56 SO, 94 ERA+


Alex Lange—Tigers (LSU) 21 G, 0-3, 4.34 ERA, 18.2 IP, 21 SO, 2 SV, 95 ERA+


DJ LeMahieu—Yankees (LSU) 3 G, .222 BA, .417 OBP, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 SB, 90 OPS+


Wade Miley—Brewers (Loranger HS, Southeastern) 2 G, 0-1, 6.43 ERA, 7.0 IP, 2 SO, 66 ERA+ (On 60-Day Injured List)


Aaron Nola—Phillies (Catholic HS, LSU) 12 G, 7-2, 3.03 ERA, 77.1 IP, 71 SO, 133 ERA+


Tanner Rainey—Nationals (St. Paul’s HS, Southeastern) 14 G, 0-0, 9.64 ERA, 14.0 IP, 10 SO, 0 SV, 41 ERA+


Jake Rogers—Tigers (Tulane) 35 G, .226 BA, .293 OBP, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 0 SB, 78 OPS+


Paul Skenes – Pirates (LSU) MLB: 4 G, 2-0, 2.45 ERA, 22.0 IP, 30 SO, 166 ERA+; MiLB: 7 G, 0-0, 0.99 ERA, 27.1 IP, 45 SO, 0 SV


Josh Smith—Rangers (Catholic HS, LSU) 55 G, .279 BA, .374 OBP, 3 HR, 22 RBI, 3 SB, 128 OPS+


 

Triple-A


Drew Avans–-Dodgers (Southeastern) 49 G, .280 BA, .370 OBP, 3 HR, 16 RBI, 18 SB


Hayden Cantrelle—Cubs (Louisiana Lafayette) 31 G, .255, .369 OBP, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 4 SB


Hunter Feduccia—Dodgers (LSU) 34 G, .288 BA, .388 OBP, 2 HR, 23 RBI, 1 SB


J.P. France—Astros (Shaw HS, Tulane, Miss. State) MLB: 5 G, 0-3, 7.46 ERA, 25.1 IP, 22 SO; 52 ERA+; MiLB: 1 G, 0-0, 7.36 ERA, 3.2 IP, 3 SO (On 7-Day Injured List)


Ian Gibaut—Reds (Tulane) 7 G, 0-1, 7.50 ERA, 6.0 IP, 10 SO, 0 SV (On 60-Day Injured List)


Josh Green—Diamondbacks (Southeastern) 9 G, 0-0, 7.59 ERA, 10.2 IP, 5 SO, 0 SV (On 7-Day Disabled List)


Hudson Haskin—Orioles (Tulane) 30 G, .226 BA, .388 OBP, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 4 SB


Kody Hoese—Dodgers (Tulane) 44 G, .286 BA, .343 OBP, 4 HR, 26 RBI, 0 SB


Austin Nola—Royals (Catholic HS, LSU) 14 G, .095 BA, .170 OBP, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 0 SB


Eric Orze—Mets (UNO) 17 G, 2-0, 4.56 ERA, 25.2 IP, 35 SO, 2 SV


Michael Papierski—Mariners (LSU) 31 G, .190 BA, .308 OBP, 3 HR, 17 RBI, 1 SB


Jake Slaughter—Mariners (LSU) 46 G, .289 BA, .374 OBP, 5 HR, 23 RBI, 5 SB


Bryce Tassin—Tigers (Southeastern) 16 G, 1-0, 2.92 ERA, 24.2 IP, 27 SO, 2 SV


Jacob Waguespack—(Rays) (Dutchtown HS, Ole Miss) MLB: 4 G, 0-0, 5.40 ERA, 10.0 IP, 11 SO, 0 SV, 74 ERA+; MiLB 3 G, 1-1, 7.07 ERA, 14.0 IP, 23 SO, 0 SV (On 60-Day Injured List)


Will Warren—Yankees (Southeastern) 10 G, 3-4, 8.53 ERA, 44.1 IP, 48 SO, 0 SV


 

Double-A


Donovan Benoit–-Reds (Tulane) 12 G, 2-0, 3.91 ERA, 23.0 IP, 19 SO, 0 SV


Jacob Berry – Marlins (LSU) 43 G, .155 BA, .205 OBP, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 3 SB


Collin Burns--Orioles (De La Salle HS, Tulane) 41 G, .244 BA, .355 OBP, 2 HR, 22 RBI, 7 SB


Daniel Cabrera—Tigers (John Curtis HS/Parkview Baptist HS, LSU) 7 G, .200 BA, .222 OBP, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 0 SB (On Restricted List)


Brendan Cellucci—Red Sox (Tulane) 10 G, 1-1, 3.24 ERA, 16.2 IP, 25 SO, 0 SV


Dylan Crews – Nationals (LSU) 37 G, .271 BA, .349 OBP, 4 HR, 29 RBI, 9 SB


Jaden Hill—Rockies (LSU) 15 G, 1-2, 4.58 ERA, 17.2 IP, 27 SO, 4 SV


Paul Gervase – Mets (LSU) 8 G, 1-0, 5.40 ERA, 10.0 IP, 16 SO, 3 SV


Keagan Gillies—Orioles (Brother Martin HS, Tulane) 12 G, 0-1, 8.18 ERA, 11.0 IP, 14 SO, 0 SV

Cole Henry--Nationals (LSU) 5 G, 0-1, 3.95 ERA, 13.2 IP, 13 SO, 0 SV


Aaron McKeithan–-Cardinals (Tulane) 21 G, .259 BA, .358 OBP, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 0 SB


Todd Peterson—Nationals (LSU) 14 G, 1-1, 2.76 ERA, 16.1 IP, 13 SO, 6 SV


Cam Sanders – Cubs (E. D. White HS, LSU) 19 G, 2-0, 3.08 ERA, 26.1 IP, 41 SO, 3 SV


Grant Witherspoon – Mariners (Tulane) 27 G, .179 BA, .278 OBP, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 2 SB


 

High-A


Zach Arnold—Phillies (LSU) 35 G, .234 BA, .333 OBP, 2 HR, 16 RBI, 1 SB


Gavin Dugas—Nationals (LSU) 30 G, .319 BA, .421 OBP, 3 HR, 20 RBI, 7 SB


Zack Hess—Tigers (LSU) 13 G, 1-0, 7.63 ERA, 15.1 IP, 19 SO, 0 SV


Tre Morgan—Rays (Brother Martin HS, LSU) 37 G, .359 BA, .445 OBP, 4 HR, 23 RBI, 10 SB


Carson Roccaforte—Royals (Louisiana Lafayette) 46 G, .193 BA, .246 OBP, 4 HR, 19 RBI, 15 SB


Tyree Thompson--Braves (Karr HS) 8 G, 1-1, 4.08 ERA, 17.2 IP, 19 SO, 0 SV


 

Low-A


Dylan Carmouche—Giants (Southern Univ. Lab, Tulane) 10 G, 1-1, 3.18 ERA, 39.2 IP, 39 SO, 0 SV


Riley Cooper—Orioles (LSU) 9 G, 2-1, 3.09 ERA, 32.0 IP, 41 SO, 1 SV


Cade Doughty – Blue Jays (LSU) 4 G, .300 BA, .462 OBP, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0 SB (On 7-Day Injured List)


Tyler Hoffman—Rockies (Tulane) 17 G, 0-0, 7.63 ERA, 15.1 IP, 13 SO, 0 SV


Kenya Huggins—Reds (St. Augustine) On 60-Day Injured List


Brayden Jobert—Cardinals (Northshore HS, Delgado CC, LSU) 33 G, .184 BA, .308 OBP, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 7 SB


Blake Money—Orioles (LSU) 10 G, 0-3, 4.38 ERA, 37.0 IP, 44 SO, 0 SV


Grant Taylor--White Sox (LSU) 4 G, 0-0, 2.93 ERA, 15.1 IP, 26.0 SO, 0 SV


Jordan Thompson—Dodgers (LSU) 39 G, .248 BA, .385 OBP, 6 HR, 24 RBI, 9 SB


 

Rookie League


Garrett Edwards--Rays (LSU)—On 60-Day Injured List


Ty Floyd—Reds (LSU) On 60-Day Injured List


Hayden Robinson – Brewers (Berwick HS) 5 G, 0-0, 2.93 ERA, 15.1 IP, 21 SO, 0 SV


 

Independent League


Saul Garza—(LSU) 37 G, .333 BA, .414 OBP, 6 HR, 21 RBI, 6 SB


Shawn Semple—(UNO) 7 G, 1-3, 4.89 ERA, 38.2 IP, 33 SO, 0 SV


Chase Solesky—White Sox (Tulane) 8 G, 2-4, 6.59 ERA, 27.1 IP, 23 SO, 0 SV


Bryan Warzek—(UNO) 12 G, 1-2, 6.06 ERA, 16.1 IP, 15 SO, 0 SV


 

Japanese League


Kyle Keller–-Yomiuri (Jesuit, Southeastern) 17 G, 0-0, 1.69 ERA, 16.0 IP, 15 SO, 0 SV


Andrew Stevenson—Hokkaido (St. Thomas More HS, LSU) 36 G, .257 BA, .301 OBP, 0 HR, 6 RBI, 5 SB

 

Long-time local basketball referee Donald Bourgeois dies at age 88

If you played in high school basketball and baseball games or industrial league softball games in New Orleans in the 1960s and 1970s, it’s likely Donald Bourgeois Sr. was a referee or umpire in your contest. And if you attended college basketball games in New Orleans and other parts of Louisiana from the late 1970s to early 2000s, there was a good chance Bourgeois was one of the referees. Bourgeois, who was well-known in sports circles throughout Louisiana for his extensive officiating career, died on May 2 at the age of 88.


Bourgeois was graduated from St. Aloysius High School in 1953. Ironically, he didn’t play varsity sports in high school due to the interruption of a 15-month period in the seminary. However, Bourgeois grew up in a family of local amateur umpires, and he often accompanied his father and three uncles to CYO and recreation league games.


Bourgeois began his own officiating career in New Orleans area CYO leagues in 1957, and with the lure of higher level of competition, as well as higher pay, he joined the Louisiana High School Athletic Association in 1961. He officiated local high school baseball and basketball, as well as industrial league softball games, for twenty years.


He became recognized by his peers and coaches for his ability to call basketball games and eventually progressed to the college level of basketball, initially officiating games at junior colleges and Loyola University of New Orleans. By 1978, he had advanced to being a regular basketball official in the Southland Conference that included Texas and Louisiana schools like Lamar, Northeast Louisiana State, and McNeese State. He eventually became a member of six NCAA Division 1 conferences.


In an interview with Bourgeois in 2015, he commented on his time as a college basketball official, “You had to really be in shape to do college games. There were usually two months of physical training, in addition to attending officiating camps, to prepare for the upcoming season.”


Bourgeois was known for his fairness, knowledge of the rules, and not letting players and coaches get out of control in highly-contested games.


His abilities were further recognized when he was enlisted to officiate numerous high school and college basketball championship games, including the Louisiana High School Championships for ten years, the Southland Conference, the Sun Belt Conference, the American South Conference, an NIT regional in Gainesville, Florida, and the NAIA National Tournament in Kansas City for four years.


Before calling it quits on the hardwoods, Bourgeois spent 1998-2004 as supervisor of officials for the NAIA Gulf Coast Athletic Conference, in which New Orleans-based colleges fielded several teams.


Among his most memorable officiating moments was a game in which a college coach in Mississippi wanted to fight Bourgeois at mid-court over some controversial calls, resulting in the security guards having to be summoned. Prominent LSU coach Dale Brown once came to the referees’ locker room after a game to launch a verbal attack on Bourgeois following a lop-sided loss to Arkansas State University. Bourgeois recalled telling Brown, “My officiating wasn’t the reason you lost the game—your team was terrible tonight.”


He recalled officiating college games involving Karl Malone from Louisiana Tech and Joe Dumars from McNeese State, both of whom are now in the NBA Hall of Fame. He also recollected the floppy-haired Pete Maravich playing in a freshman game he officiated at Tulane.


Sports halls of fame are usually reserved for players and coaches, the men and women who were highly accomplished in their sport. It’s not often that referees and umpires who officiate sports get recognition as hall of fame members. Bourgeois was an exception because of his outstanding career as a high school and college basketball referee. He was inducted into the St. Bernard Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.


Bourgeois and his wife Marian have been residents of Arabi for over 60 years.

Turn Back the Clock: Nighttime Baseball Comes to New Orleans in 1936.

During the Great Depression in the 1930s minor-league baseball likely would not have survived if night-time baseball games had not been adopted by many teams in Organized Baseball. One historical account has the first official game played under the lights occurring in Independence, Kansas on April 28, 1930. It ushered in a new era of baseball. The local New Orleans Pelicans baseball team didn’t follow suit until May 15, 1936, but nighttime games ultimately became a staple of the franchise.


Like many minor-league franchises who were struggling financially, the Pelicans (a Cleveland Indians affiliate) had been losing money for several years. The team installed permanent lighting of 310,000 watts on steel structures, providing a well-lighted diamond at Heinemann Park. It was said to be on a par with the best lighted ballparks in the country. Pelicans club official Fred Baehr commented about the overflow crowd of 11,149 fans for the first game, “It was a great turnout. It looks like night baseball is going to be our salvation.” He added, “It will keep the club out of the red.”


On May 15, the Pelicans opposed a hot Atlanta Crackers team, who had won nine consecutive games and 24 of their last 29 games. Long-time Pelicans manager Larry Gilbert, who had been seriously ill for a month, showed up for the historic game, but ended up leaving after only a few innings.


The Crackers demonstrated why they were at the top of the Southern Association standings. They pounded Pelicans pitchers for 15 hits, banging out six extra-base hits on their way to an 11-5 victory. After seven innings, the Pelicans were still in the game, behind by a score of 5-4. But Atlanta broke open the floodgates in the ninth inning with six additional runs.


First baseman Alex Hooks was the hitting star for the Crackers, with two doubles and a home run. Future major-league player and manager Paul Richards chipped in a home run and a double.


The Pelicans’ offense was paced by future New York Yankees star Tommy Henrich, who went 3-for-5, including two doubles. Crackers pitcher Bob Durham pitched a complete game, although he allowed 10 hits and two walks.


After the game, comments about the lights were favorable. Crackers president Earl Mann said, “Your [Pelicans] system is plenty good. It is one of the very best I’ve seen. I am sure that New Orleans is going to like night baseball. Jesuit High School athletic director Gernon Brown, offered, “This crowd speaks for itself. Night baseball is going to be a great success in New Orleans.”


Local lawyer and former Tulane football star Harry Talbot was impressed with the lighting conditions. “It was better than I expected. It is really surprising how well you can see the ball.” He added, “Night baseball will catch back all the ground the game has lost around here.”


The predictions regarding how baseball under the lights would improve the Pelicans’ financial outlook proved to be true. The team realized a significant uptick in attendance in 1936, with 135,890 fans coming through the turnstiles. It represented a 47% increase over the previous year.


Minor-league baseball had adopted night games well before the majors, as the Cincinnati Reds became the first big-league team to host a game, on May 24, 1935, at Crosley Field. Over the next 13 seasons, the rest of the original 16 major-league clubs, except the Chicago Cubs, installed lights. The Cubs finally put lighting at Wrigley Field in 1988.

Hometown Heroes: Southeast Louisiana products in MLB, MiLB (Through April 30, 2024)

Here are the pitching and hitting statistics for many of the 2024 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 Monday, April 30. Below are some of the highlights for the last month, followed by all of the players’ more detailed stats.


Who’s Hot


Aaron Nola (Catholic HS, LSU) is 4-1, with a 3.20 ERA and 1.068 WHIP for the Phillies.


Josh Smith (Catholic HS, LSU), a member of last year’s world champion Texas Rangers, is making the most of his time as their starting third baseman, while Josh Jung is on the Injured List. Smith is slashing .317/.417/.500 with 14 runs and 14 RBIs.


Jake Fraley (LSU) has a slash line of .293/.359/.414 for the Reds.


Collin Burns (De La Salle, Tulane) had the best day of his career on April 6, when he went 3-for-4, with a triple, home run, and 7 RBIs for Double-A Bowie.


Kody Hoese (Tulane) is slashing .347/.390/.507 for Triple-A Oklahoma City.


Drew Avans (Southeastern) has a slash line of .311/.388/.476 for Triple-A Oklahoma City.


Paul Skenes (LSU) has a .039 ERA, 0.870 WHIP, and 16 Strikeouts Per 9 Innings in six starts for Triple-A Indianapolis. Look for him to get a callup to the Pirates in June.


Will Warren (Southeastern) is 3-0 in six starts for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He’s averaging 10.9 Strikeouts Per 9 Innings.


Who’s Not


Kevin Gausman (LSU) is 1-3 with a 4.50 ERA in six starts for the Blue Jays.


Alex Bregman (LSU) is slashing only .216/.283/.294 with one home run for the last-place Astros. He is eligible for free agency after this season.


Tanner Rainey (St. Paul’s, Southeastern) has a whopping 9.82 ERA and 2.818 WHIP in 11 relief appearances for the Nationals.


Jake Rogers (Tulane) is slashing a paltry .167/.242/.283 with only three extra-base hits in 20 games.


J.P. France (Shaw, Tulane) is 0-3 with a 7.46 ERA for the Astros and has been demoted to Triple-A Sugar Land.


On the Mend


DJ LeMahieu (LSU) has missed the entire month for the Yankees due to a foot injury. He had only one at-bat in a rehab assignment in the minors but had to be sidelined again.


Garrett Edwards—Rays (LSU)—On 60-Day Injured List


Ty Floyd—Reds (LSU) On 60-Day Injured List


Cade Doughty—Blue Jays (LSU) On 7-Day Injured List


Austin Nola—Royals (Catholic HS, LSU) On 7-Day Injured List


2023 Players Who Didn’t Return


The following 2023 players have not returned this season: Jack Aldrich (Tulane); Jared Biddy (LSU); Giovanni DiGiacomo (LSU); Brandon Kaminer (LSU); Aaron Loup (Hahnville, Tulane); Greg Deichmann (Brother Martin, LSU), Landon Marceaux (Destrehan, LSU); Braden Olthoff (Tulane); Kramer Robertson (LSU); Mac Sceroler (Southeastern); Zach Watson (LSU)


 

MLB


Alex Bregman—Astros (LSU) 26 G, .216 BA, .283 OBP, 1 HR, 19 RBI, 1 SB, 68 OPS+


Jake FraleyReds (LSU) 19 G, .293 BA, .359 OBP, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 5 SB, 118 OPS+


Kevin Gausman—Blue Jays (LSU) 6 G, 1-3, 4.50 ERA, 28.0 IP, 23 SO, 85 ERA+


Alex Lange—Tigers (LSU) 12 G, 0-1, 0.84 ERA, 10.2 IP, 14 SO, 1 SV, 493 ERA+


Wade Miley—Brewers (Loranger HS, Southeastern) 2G, 0-1, 6.43 ERA, 7.0 IP, 2 SO, 67 ERA+


Aaron Nola—Phillies (Catholic HS, LSU) 6 G, 4-1, 3.20 ERA, 39.1 IP, 36 SO, 129 ERA+


Tanner Rainey—Nationals (St. Paul’s HS, Southeastern) 11 G, 0-0, 9.82 ERA, 11.0 IP, 8 SO, 0 SV, 42 ERA+


Jake Rogers—Tigers (Tulane) 20 G, .167 BA, .242 OBP, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 0 SB, 50 OPS+


Josh Smith—Rangers (Catholic HS, LSU) 29 G, .317 BA, .417 OBP, 2 HR, 14 RBI, 0 SB, 161 OPS+


Jacob Waguespack—(Rays) (Dutchtown HS, Ole Miss) 4 G, 0-0, 5.11 ERA, 10.0 IP, 11 SO, 0 SV, 72 ERA+


 

Triple-A


Drew Avans–-Dodgers (Southeastern) 24 G, .311 BA, .388 OBP, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 7 SB


Brendan Cellucci—Red Sox (Tulane) 4 G, 1-0, 2.84 ERA, 6.1 IP, 10 SO, 0 SV


Hunter Feduccia—Dodgers (LSU) 17 G, .267 BA, .397 OBP, 1 HR, 10 RBI, 0 SB


J.P. France—Astros (Shaw HS, Tulane, Miss. State) MLB: 5 G, 0-3, 7.46 ERA, 25.1 IP, 22 SO; 52 ERA+; MiLB: 1 G, 0-0, 7.36 ERA, 3.2 IP, 3 SO


Ian Gibaut—Reds (Tulane) 7 G, 0-1, 7.50 ERA, 6.0 IP, 10 SO, 0 SV


Josh Green—Diamondbacks (Southeastern) 4 G, 0-0, 3.60 ERA, 5.0 IP, 4 SO, 0 SV


Hudson Haskin—Orioles (Tulane) 16 G, .193 BA, .378 OBP, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 0 SB


Kody Hoese—Dodgers (Tulane) 20 G, .347 BA, .390 OBP, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 0 SB


Austin Nola—Royals (Catholic HS, LSU) 1 G, .000 BA, .000 OBP, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 SB (On 7-Day Injured List)


Eric Orze—Mets (UNO) 8 G, 0-0, 4.76 ERA, 11.1 IP, 13 SO, 1 SV


Michael Papierski—Mariners (LSU) 16 G, .222 BA, .318 OBP, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 0 SB


Cam Sanders – Cubs (E. D. White HS, LSU) 9 G, 1-0, 4.63 ERA, 11.2 IP, 17 SO, 0 SV


Paul Skenes – Pirates (LSU) 6 G, 0-0, 0.39 ERA, 23.0 IP, 41 SO, 0 SV


Jake Slaughter—Cubs (LSU) 20 G, .309 BA, .405 OBP, 4 HR, 11 RBI, 5 SB


Bryce Tassin—Tigers (Southeastern) 9 G, 1-0, 2.25 ERA, 12.0 IP, 13 SO, 2 SV


Will Warren—Yankees (Southeastern) 6 G, 3-0, 3.95 ERA, 27.1 IP, 33 SO, 0 SV


 

Double-A


Donovan Benoit–-Reds (Tulane) 5 G, 1-0, 8.22 ERA, 7.2 IP, 7 SO, 0 SV


Jacob Berry – Marlins (LSU) 21 G, .173 BA, .239 OBP, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 1 SB


Collin Burns--Orioles (De La Salle HS, Tulane) 20 G, .215 BA, .329 OBP, 1 HR, 12 RBI, 3 SB


Daniel Cabrera—Tigers (John Curtis HS/Parkview Baptist HS, LSU) 7 G, .200 BA, .222 OBP, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 0 SB


Hayden Cantrelle—Cubs (Louisiana Lafayette) 11 G, .333, .394 OBP, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 1 SB


Dylan Crews – Nationals (LSU) 12 G, .225 BA, .296 OBP, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 2 SB


Jaden Hill—Rockies (LSU) 6 G, 0-2, 3.86 ERA, 7.0 IP, 8 SO, 3 SV


Paul Gervase – Mets (LSU) 5 G, 1-0, 2.45 ERA, 7.1 IP, 10 SO, 1 SV


Keagan Gillies—Orioles (Brother Martin HS, Tulane) 7 G, 0-0, 6.75 ERA, 6.2 IP, 9 SO, 0 SV


Cole Henry--Nationals (LSU) 4 G, 0-1, 2.53 ERA, 10.2 IP, 11 SO, 0 SV


DJ LeMahieu—Yankees (LSU) 1 G, .000 BA, .000 OBP, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 SB (On 10-Day Injured List)


Aaron McKeithan–-Cardinals (Tulane) 9 G, .414 BA, .514 OBP, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 0 SB


Grant Witherspoon – Mariners (Tulane) 12 G, .186 BA, .340 OBP, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 1 SB


 

High-A


Zach Arnold—Phillies (LSU) 14 G, .229 BA, .315 OPB, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 0 SB


Zack Hess—Tigers (LSU) 6 G, 0-0, 4.50 ERA, 6.0 IP, 12 SO, 0 SV


Todd Peterson—Nationals (LSU) 8 G, 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 8.1 IP, 7 SO, 6 SV


Carson Roccaforte—Royals (Louisiana Lafayette) 21 G, .207 BA, .255 OBP, 2 HR, 12 RBI, 8 SB


Tyree Thompson--Braves (Karr HS) 2 G, 0-0, 8.10 ERA, 3.1 IP, 4 SO, 0 SV


 

Low-A


Dylan Carmouche—Giants (Southern Univ. Lab, Tulane) 5 G, 0-1, 2.12 ERA, 17.0 IP, 20 SO, 0 SV


Riley Cooper—Orioles (LSU) 4 G, 0-0, 1.23 ERA, 14.2 IP, 20 SO, 1 SV


Cade Doughty – Blue Jays (LSU) 4 G, .300 BA, .462 OBP, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0 SB (On 7-Day Injured List)


Gavin Dugas—Nationals (LSU) 16 G, .365 BA, .467 OBP, 1 HR, 11 RBI, 5 SB


Tyler Hoffman—Rockies (Tulane) 9 G, 0-0, 7.04 ERA, 7.2 IP, 6 SO, 0 SV


Brayden Jobert—Cardinals (Northshore HS, Delgado CC, LSU) 15 G, .220 BA, .365 OBP, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 3 SB


Blake Money—Orioles (LSU) 4 G, 0-1, 5.06 ERA, 16.0 IP, 21 SO, 0 SV


Tre Morgan—Rays (Brother Martin HS, LSU) 18 G, .303 BA, .387 OBP, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 6 SB


Jordan Thompson—Dodgers (LSU) 16 G, .268 BA, .431 OBP, 2 HR, 13 RBI, 5 SB


 

Rookie League


Garrett Edwards--Rays (LSU)—On 60-Day Injured List


Ty Floyd—Reds (LSU) On 60-Day Injured List


Grant Taylor--White Sox (LSU) Has not yet played


 

Independent League


Saul Garza—(LSU) 14 G, .429 BA, .478 OBP, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 2 SB


Shawn Semple—(UNO) 1 G, 0-0, 3.00 ERA, 6.0 IP, 2 SO, 0 SV


Chase Solesky—White Sox (Tulane) 1 G, 0-1, 6.75 ERA, 4.0 IP, 3 SO, 0 SV


Bryan Warzek—(UNO) 3 G, 1-1, 10.13 ERA, 2.2 IP, 2 SO, 0 SV


 

Japanese League


Kyle Keller–-Yomiuri (Jesuit, Southeastern) 8 G, 0-0, 3.86 ERA, 7.0 IP, 7 SO, 0 SV


Andrew Stevenson—Hokkaido (St. Thomas More HS, LSU) 19 G, .276 BA, .328 OBP, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 4 SB

Baseball cards chronicled careers of New Orleans area major-leaguers

The history of baseball has been captured in multiple forms of media over the years. One of the most popular has been baseball cards. There was a time when baseball fans, especially youngsters, relied heavily on the biographical and statistical information on the back of baseball cards to learn about major-league players. Retrosheet, Baseball-Reference.com, and other baseball-related internet sites weren’t available to keep up with player information until the mid-1990s or so.


Trading cards showing baseball players were produced as far back as the earliest days of the game. While they are considerably more expensive nowadays, they still remain a favorite of sports memorabilia collectors.


New Orleans has produced its share of major leaguers over the years. According to Baseball-Reference.com, John Peters was the first New Orleans area major-leaguer in 1874, as a member of the Chicago White Stockings in the National Association. But it wasn’t until Gretna native Mel Ott signed with the New York Giants in 1926 as a 17-year-old that a player from the metropolitan area became one of the sport’s main stars.


Ott appeared on his first significant baseball card in 1929 along with three other Giants players in what became known as the 4-on-1 Exhibits card set. The future Hall of Famer later appeared on more recognizable sets named Goudey, Diamond Stars, and Bowman Play Ball in the 1930s and early 1940s. Due to the age and small print runs of these early sets, these cards have become valuable. Beginning in the 1960s, card manufacturers began producing sets that included former major-league stars. Ott, who retired in 1947, was one of the more popular players, since he had been the career home run leader in the National League, until Willie Mays broke his record of 511 in 1966. Starting in the early 2000s, Ott has been frequently included in subsets of Topps’ major issues. His iconic batting stance with the leg kick is often the pose Topps has used.


Connie Ryan was an All-Prep player for Jesuit High School and the first player to earn a full baseball scholarship at LSU in 1939. He made his major-league debut with the New York Giants in 1942. He was named to the National League All-Star team in 1944. His first baseball card came in 1951 when Bowman produced a color set, with an artist’s rendering of the players, which competed with newcomer card manufacturer Topps Gum Company. Other major sets Ryan appeared in included 1952 Topps and Bowman sets and the 1953 and 1954 Topps sets. Ryan retired after the 1954 season and served as a coach for the Atlanta Braves and Texas Rangers and as a scout for several organizations.


A major-league contemporary of Ryan was former Fortier High School pitching star Howie Pollet. The left-hander appeared in three seasons (1941-1943) with the St. Louis Cardinals before missing two seasons due to World War II. He returned from military service and led the Cardinals to a World Serie championship in 1946 with a 21-10 record with a 2.10 ERA. He had another 20-win season with the Cardinals in 1949. Pollet was a three-time All-Star. From 1949 to 1955 he appeared in Topps and Bowman issues as a member of the Cardinals, Cubs, and Pirates. His last season was in 1956.


Mel Parnell, who pitched for the Boston Red Sox from 1947 to 1956, was known as the “Yankee Killer” for his five victories in five starts against the Yankees in 1953. A product of S. J. Peters High School, Parnell was a three-time All-Star whose best season came in 1947, when he posted a 25-7 record, 2.77 ERA, and 27 complete games in 33 starts. His first baseball card was in the 1950 Bowman set.


Larry Gilbert (1914) and his sons Charlie (1940-1943, 1946-1947) and Tookie Gilbert (1950, 1953) had brief major-league careers, but only Tookie made it on a major baseball card issue, in the popular 1952 Topps set. The brothers were included in a locally-produced collectors’ set of former Jesuit High School products that went on the big-leagues.


Before former Holy Cross High School standout Lenny Yochim became a renowned long-time scout for the Pittsburgh Pirates, he toiled as a player in the minors for 10 seasons while making only 12 appearances in the big leagues in 1951 and 1954. In the infancy of modern baseball cards in the early 1950s, Yochim signed an agreement with Bowman Gum Inc. in March 1952 to allow his image to be used in their baseball card sets. He was initially compensated $10 for granting Bowman exclusive rights to produce his card and was to earn $100 each year he was on a major-league roster for at least 31 days. However, because Yochim never became a major-league regular, he never appeared on a Bowman card, although he did collect $100 for the 1954 season. In 2008, Panini card manufacturer produced a set of baseball card stickers with former players in the Venezuelan Winter League. Yochim was included since he had pitched the league’s first no-hitter in 1955.


Rusty Staub signed out of Jesuit High School in 1961 with the Houston Colt ‘45s (predecessor of the Astros). He went on to play 23 seasons in the majors, with Houston, New York Mets, Montreal, Detroit, and Texas. The six-time All-Star collected over 500 hits for each of his teams, except the Rangers and totaled 2,716 for his career. Staub first appeared on a 1963 Topps Rookie Stars card with three other major-league prospects. He appeared in Topps sets for each of his five major-league teams, including the first Donruss and Fleer sets in the 1980s. He finished his career with the Mets in 1985.


Mike Miley was a standout shortstop and quarterback at East Jefferson High School and went on to play both sports at LSU. He was selected twice in the first round of the June amateur drafts, by Cincinnati in 1971 out of East Jefferson and by the California Angels in 1974 after finishing his junior season with LSU. He signed with the Angels in 1974 and reached the majors in 1975. He also played briefly for the Angels in 1976. His life was cut short in January 1977 when he died in an automobile accident. His only baseball cards were in the 1976 and 1977 Topps sets.


Like Miley, Frank Wills was a baseball and football player for De La Salle High School who later played both sports for Tulane. He was the first-round selection (16th overall) of the Kansas City Royals in 1980. The right-hander ended up pitching nine seasons in the majors, primarily as a reliever. In addition to the Royals, Wills played for the Cleveland Indians, Seattle Mariners, and Toronto Blue Jays spanning 1983 and 1991. His 1987 Topps card is a noteworthy “error” card because it contains Will Clark’s stats of the back. He also had cards in Fleer, Donruss, and Score sets.


Will Clark, a Jesuit High School product, played in Babe Ruth World Series, American Legion World Series, College World Series, and the Olympics before signing with the San Francisco Giants in 1985. The Golden Spikes Award winner was the second overall pick in the 1985 amateur draft. He went on to a 15-year career, playing for the Giants, Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles, and St. Louis Cardinals. He was a six-time All-Star with a career slash line of .303/.384/.497. His first major-league baseball card was produced in 1986 as part of the Topps Update set. He appeared on cards for each of his four teams. Due to the proliferation of baseball card sets starting in the mid-1980s and the advent of parallel sets of major card issues in the 1990s, Clark has easily appeared on over 1,500 different cards. He retired in 2000, yet he remains a popular player in archive and anniversary sets produced by Topps.


One of the more recent major-leaguers from the New Orleans area is Aaron Loup. He prepped at Hahnville High School and went on to pitch for Tulane. A relief pitcher during his entire career, his first major-league team was the Toronto Blue Jays in 2012. Loup’s rookie card came in the 2012 Topps Update Series. He was a member of the 2020 American League champion Tampa Bay Rays. His best season came with the New York Mets in 2021, when he went 6-0 with a 0.90 ERA. He appeared in multiple issues throughout the remainder of his career which ended in 2023.


The baseball card hobby has evolved to the point where most kids can no longer afford to buy cards. Premium vintage baseball cards are now considered art, commanding fine art-like prices. Some of the currently produced cards, which are only available as digital non-fungible tokens (NFTs), are treated by collectors as investments, but can only view their baseball card assets on-line.


Despite the above trends, there will always be something special about flipping through pages in a binder of baseball cards showing Ott, Parnell, Staub, Clark, and the rest of our hometown heroes.

Former Rummel and UNO shortstop/pitcher Jim Bullinger had rare major-league game in 1992

Jim Bullinger had played in big games as a shortstop and pitcher with Rummel High School, followed by his career with the University of New Orleans. Yet none of those games likely involved an experience as exceptional as a game he played for the Chicago Cubs in 1992.


In his first at-bat for the Cubs on June 8, in a game in which he entered as a relief pitcher, he smacked a home run in his first major-league at-bat. Furthermore, he hit it on the first pitch he saw from St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Rheal Cormier. At the time, Bullinger was only the 14th player in major-league history to hit a homer on the first pitch of his first at-bat.


It should have come as no surprise that Bullinger was capable of clouting a home run. He had made hundreds of plate appearances as a position player throughout high school and college. While he wasn’t known as a power hitter, he could occasionally put the ball over the fence. He hit 23 home runs during his three seasons with UNO.


Bullinger had been a two-way player since his Babe Ruth days in Jefferson Parish. He continued to pitch and play shortstop for Coach Larry Schneider’s Rummel Raiders and Schaff Brothers American Legion teams. He was an All-District player with Rummel in 1982 and 1983 and was a member of 1982 and 1983 Schaff squads that captured Second District American Legion titles. During his senior season with Rummel in 1983, the Times-Picayune listed him among the top college prospects from the New Orleans area. He was one of eight Metro area players selected to participate in the LHSAA baseball All-Star Game in Lafayette.


He went on to play for the UNO Privateers whose head coach was Ron Maestri. Bullinger was the starting shortstop as a freshman on the talented 1984 team that went to the College World Series. They were the first in-state college in Louisiana to progress that far into the NCAA postseason. His batting record included a .258 batting average, 5 home runs, 39 RBIs, and five game-winning hits. He was the starting shortstop that summer for the New Orleans-based NORD All-American team that won the AAABA national tournament in Johnstown, PA.


The Privateers gained a berth in the NCAA Regionals again in 1985. Bullinger had 10 home runs and 45 RBIs for the season. His senior season in 1986 season included 14 games in which he pitched in relief. He posted a respectable 3.55 ERA and led the team with six saves, while batting .252, 8 home runs, and 31 RBIs.


Bullinger was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the ninth round of the 1986 amateur draft with the intention of being used as a shortstop. However, after struggling as a hitter during his first four seasons in Single-A and Double-A, the Cubs organization converted him to a pitcher for the 1990 season. He was used as a starter with moderate success and by 1991 had advanced to Triple-A Iowa.


He began the 1992 season with Iowa and was having his best season from an ERA standpoint (2.45). He got a call-up to the big-league Cubs and made his major-league debut on May 27 with a two-inning outing against the San Francisco Giants. One of the batters he faced was New Orleanian Will Clark, whom he retired on a flyball.


His fourth appearance with the Cubs came in the first game of a doubleheader on June 8 against the Cardinals. He entered the game in relief of Shawn Boskie, who was forced to leave the game because of back spasms. The score was tied, 0-0, in the fifth inning when Bullinger came in. As the leadoff batter in the top of the sixth, Bullinger got his first major-league plate appearance. On the first pitch from Cormier, he hammered a line drive down the left field line that went into the seats. The 6-foot-2 right-hander ended up pitching three innings of an 13-inning game in which the Cubs won, 5-2. After the game, Bullinger told reporters, “It’s probably as far as I’ve hit a ball. I was numb. I was just shaking my head, saying I can’t believe this. I was a converted shortstop because I couldn’t hit.” He was only the fourth Cubs player to homer in his first at-bat.


In the second game of the doubleheader, Bullinger was called on again by manager Jim Lefebvre, with two outs in the eighth and the Cubs leading, 5-4. He got the third out and then held the Cardinals at bay in the ninth, earning his first major-league save. It was a memorable day of “firsts.”


Bullinger followed the June 8 game with a streak of five consecutive saves. His results earned him National League Player of the Week for the week ending June 14. He finished the rest of the season in both starter and reliever roles, compiling a 2-8 record, 4.66 ERA and 7 saves.


He went on to play a total of seven seasons in the majors, including a year each with Montreal and Seattle after five seasons with the Cubs. He finished with a career record of 34-41 and 5.31 ERA in 184 games. His batting line was .188/.249/.315, with four home runs and 19 RBIs.


Bullinger’s last major-league season came in 1998, but he continued to play in the minors and independent leagues until 2005.

Is Gunnar Henderson Better Than the Orioles Thought He Would Be?

Shortstop Gunnar Henderson is the currently the best player for the Baltimore Orioles. Some would say he’s one of the best in the American League. He’s one of the main reasons the O’s are among the best teams in the league. The Orioles obviously thought a lot of him, since they selected him in the second round of the 2019 MLB draft. But did they think he was going to be as good as he has turned out?


Henderson was the ninth shortstop selected in that year’s draft, with the other eight being selected before him in the first round. Bobby Witt Jr., the No. 1 overall selection, was the prize of the draft, being selected out of high school by the Kansas City Royals. Four other current major leaguers were among those selected ahead of him, including CJ Abrams (Nationals), Bryson Stott (Phillies), Braden Shewmake (White Sox), and Anthony Volpe (Yankees).


Coming out of high school in Alabama, it might be expected it would take Henderson three or four years to reach the majors. The Orioles were really in no hurry to get him to the majors, as they already had speedy shortstop Jorge Mateo, only 26 years old, as the starter. Henderson missed the entire 2020 season due to the pandemic but progressed well enough to get a stint with the big-league Orioles in a September call-up in 2022.


Meanwhile, the Orioles continued to draft shortstops in high rounds (Jordan Westburg in 1st round and Anthony Servideo in the 3rd round in 2020, No. 6 Collin Burns in the 6th round in 2021, and the overall No. 1 pick Jackson Holliday in 2022). Was it because the verdict was still out on Henderson’s future as a potential starter?


Everyone just assumed the phenom Holliday would quickly ascend to the big leagues and become the starter at shortstop, and Henderson would be moved to second or third base, if he continued to progress. Holliday began to prove them right, as he progressed from Single-A to Triple-A during the 2023 season and was named the Minor League Player of the Year.


But Henderson had other ideas. Splitting time between shortstop and third base, he was the AL Rookie of the Year in 2023, earning a Silver Slugger Award and finishing eighth in the MVP voting. He and catcher Adley Rutschmann led the Orioles to a surprising AL East championship. Meanwhile the versatile Mateo and Westburg also found plenty of playing time in the infield.


Henderson has even been better in 2024. He leads the Orioles in HRs, RBIs, OBP, SLG, and OPS. He is third in the AL in OPS+ (174) and is cementing himself as one of the finest young shortstops in either league.


He is giving the Orioles front office second thoughts about Holliday becoming the heir apparent to the shortstop position. The 20-year-old Holliday got called up from the minors for 10 games in April and struggled at the plate. Now there is speculation that Holliday might man second base or even the outfield for the Orioles when he makes it back permanently in the big leagues.


There’s another school of thought that the Orioles should trade Holliday now for some top pitching talent, when his trade value is at its highest. That’s how confident the Orioles are with Henderson in the shortstop spot for years to come.

Hometown Heroes: Southeast Louisiana products in MLB, MiLB (Through April 30, 2024)

Here are the pitching and hitting statistics for many of the 2024 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 Monday, April 30. Below are some of the highlights for the last month, followed by a link to all of the players’ more detailed stats.


Who’s Hot

Aaron Nola (Catholic HS, LSU) is 4-1, with a 3.20 ERA and 1.068 WHIP for the Phillies.


Josh Smith (Catholic HS, LSU), a member of last year’s world champion Texas Rangers, is making the most of his time as their starting third baseman, while Josh Jung is on the Injured List. Smith is slashing .317/.417/.500 with 14 runs and 14 RBIs.


Jake Fraley (LSU) has a slash line of .293/.359/.414 for the Reds.


Collin Burns (De La Salle, Tulane) had the best day of his career on April 6, when he went 3-for-4, with a triple, home run, and 7 RBIs for Double-A Bowie.


Kody Hoese (Tulane) is slashing .347/.390/.507 for Triple-A Oklahoma City.


Drew Avans (Southeastern) has a slash line of .311/.388/.476 for Triple-A Oklahoma City.


Paul Skenes (LSU) has a .039 ERA, 0.870 WHIP, and 16 Strikeouts Per 9 Innings in six starts for Triple-A Indianapolis. Look for him to get a callup to the Pirates in June.


Will Warren (Southeastern) is 3-0 in six starts for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He’s averaging 10.9 Strikeouts Per 9 Innings.


Who’s Not

Kevin Gausman (LSU) is 1-3 with a 4.50 ERA in six starts for the Blue Jays.


Alex Bregman (LSU) is slashing only .216/.283/.294 with one home run for the last-place Astros. He is eligible for free agency after this season.


Tanner Rainey (St. Paul’s, Southeastern) has a whopping 9.82 ERA and 2.818 WHIP in 11 relief appearances for the Nationals.


Jake Rogers (Tulane) is slashing a paltry .167/.242/.283 with only three extra-base hits in 20 games.


J.P. France (Shaw, Tulane) is 0-3 with a 7.46 ERA for the Astros and has been demoted to Triple-A Sugar Land.


On the Mend

DJ LeMahieu (LSU) has missed the entire month for the Yankees due to a foot injury. He had only one at-bat in a rehab assignment in the minors but had to be sidelined again.


Garrett Edwards—Rays (LSU)—On 60-Day Injured List


Ty Floyd—Reds (LSU) On 60-Day Injured List


Cade Doughty—Blue Jays (LSU) On 7-Day Injured List


Austin Nola—Royals (Catholic HS, LSU) On 7-Day Injured List


2023 Players Who Didn’t Return

The following 2023 players have not returned this season: Jack Aldrich (Tulane); Jared Biddy (LSU); Giovanni DiGiacomo (LSU); Brandon Kaminer (LSU); Aaron Loup (Hahnville, Tulane); Greg Deichmann (Brother Martin, LSU), Landon Marceaux (Destrehan, LSU); Braden Olthoff (Tulane); Kramer Robertson (LSU); Mac Sceroler (Southeastern); Zach Watson (LSU)


Click here to view the detailed batting and hitting stats of all the players on CrescentCitySports.com.

Johnny Vander Meer's tireless 15 innings end in futility

Click below to read my story about a 1946 game in which Johnny Vander Meer pitched 15 scoreless innings in a game that ended in a scoreless tie.

Analysis: 2024 Local Baseball Products Currently Playing at College Level

I maintain a database of New Orleans area high school players who go on to play at the college and professional levels. The database has over 2,200 players, going back to the early 1900's.


My latest piece for CrescentCitySports.com is an analysis of the 2024 college players--where did they come from and where did they go?

Click here to view my analysis.

Former Rummel and UNO two-way player Jim Bullinger had rare major-league game in 1992

Jim Bullinger had played in big games as a shortstop and pitcher with Rummel High School, followed by his career with the University of New Orleans. Yet none of those games likely involved an experience as exceptional as a game he played for the Chicago Cubs in 1992.


In his first at-bat for the Cubs on June 8, in a game in which he entered as a relief pitcher, he smacked a home run in his first major-league at-bat. Furthermore, he hit it on the first pitch he saw from St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Rheal Cormier. At the time, Bullinger was only the 14th player in major-league history to hit a homer on the first pitch of his first at-bat.


It should have come as no surprise that Bullinger was capable of clouting a home run. He had made hundreds of plate appearances as a position player throughout high school and college. While he wasn’t known as a power hitter, he could occasionally put the ball over the fence. He hit 23 home runs during his three seasons with UNO.


Bullinger had been a two-way player since his Babe Ruth days in Jefferson Parish. He continued to pitch and play shortstop for Coach Larry Schneider’s Rummel Raiders and Schaff Brothers American Legion teams. He was an All-District player with Rummel in 1982 and 1983 and was a member of 1982 and 1983 Schaff squads that captured Second District American Legion titles. During his senior season with Rummel in 1983, the Times-Picayune listed him among the top college prospects from the New Orleans area. He was one of eight Metro area players selected to participate in the LHSAA baseball All-Star Game in Lafayette.


He went on to play for the UNO Privateers whose head coach was Ron Maestri. Bullinger was the starting shortstop as a freshman on the talented 1984 team that went to the College World Series. They were the first in-state college in Louisiana to progress that far into the NCAA postseason. His batting record included a .258 batting average, 5 home runs, 39 RBIs, and five game-winning hits. He was the starting shortstop that summer for the New Orleans-based NORD All-American team that won the AAABA national tournament in Johnstown, PA.


The Privateers gained a berth in the NCAA Regionals again in 1985. Bullinger had 10 home runs and 45 RBIs for the season. His senior season in 1986 season included 14 games in which he pitched in relief. He posted a respectable 3.55 ERA and led the team with six saves, while batting .252, 8 home runs, and 31 RBIs.


Bullinger was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the ninth round of the 1986 amateur draft with the intention of being used as a shortstop. However, after struggling as a hitter during his first four seasons in Single-A and Double-A, the Cubs organization converted him to a pitcher for the 1990 season. He was used as a starter with moderate success and by 1991 had advanced to Triple-A Iowa.


He began the 1992 season with Iowa and was having his best season from an ERA standpoint (2.45). He got a call-up to the big-league Cubs and made his major-league debut on May 27 with a two-inning outing against the San Francisco Giants. One of the batters he faced was New Orleanian Will Clark, whom he retired on a flyball.


His fourth appearance with the Cubs came in the first game of a doubleheader on June 8 against the Cardinals. He entered the game in relief of Shawn Boskie, who was forced to leave the game because of back spasms. The score was tied, 0-0, in the fifth inning when Bullinger came in. As the leadoff batter in the top of the sixth, Bullinger got his first major-league plate appearance. On the first pitch from Cormier, he hammered a line drive down the left field line that went into the seats. The 6-foot-2 right-hander ended up pitching three innings of an 13-inning game in which the Cubs won, 5-2. After the game, Bullinger told reporters, “It’s probably as far as I’ve hit a ball. I was numb. I was just shaking my head, saying I can’t believe this. I was a converted shortstop because I couldn’t hit.” He was only the fourth Cubs player to homer in his first at-bat.


In the second game of the doubleheader, Bullinger was called on again by manager Jim Lefebvre, with two outs in the eighth and the Cubs leading, 5-4. He got the third out and then held the Cardinals at bay in the ninth, earning his first major-league save. It was a memorable day of “firsts.”


Bullinger followed the June 8 game with a streak of five consecutive saves. His results earned him National League Player of the Week for the week ending June 14. He finished the rest of the season in both starter and reliever roles, compiling a 2-8 record, 4.66 ERA and 7 saves.


He went on to play a total of seven seasons in the majors, including a year each with Montreal and Seattle after five seasons with the Cubs. He finished with a career record of 34-41 and 5.31 ERA in 184 games. His batting line was .188/.249/.315, with four home runs and 19 RBIs.


Bullinger’s last major-league season came in 1998, but he continued to play in the minors and independent leagues until 2005.

Remembering Moon Landrieu: From Ballplayer to Mayor

Most New Orleanians remember Moon Landrieu as the progressive mayor of the city from 1970 to 1978. What they may not know is that he was quite a baseball pitcher from his early teenage years through college.


Born Maurice Edwin Landrieu, he acquired the moniker “Moon” from his family at an early age. The first appearances of Landrieu in the local sports pages were already referring to him by his nickname.


In the summer of 1944, prior to his entering high school, he was a star pitcher for the city champion Hooligans, an American Legion Class B team in the New Orleans Junior Sports Association. After his freshman year at Jesuit High School, he pitched for Jesuit’s Junior American Legion team which again won the city title in 1945.

On an experienced 1946 Jesuit High School team led by outfielder Tookie Gilbert and pitcher Hugh Oser, Landrieu didn’t see much action as a sophomore on the prep state championship team. When several of the players opted not to play for the Jesuit-based American Legion team that summer, it allowed less-experienced players to step into starting roles. Landrieu got appearances as a pitcher, mostly in relief roles. Under coach Eddie Toribio, the team surprisingly won the American Legion World Series in Gastonia, North Carolina, only the second national Legion title by a New Orleans entry since 1932.


The 1947 Jesuit High team repeated at state champion. Yet Landrieu’s breakout season came with the summer Legion team. Winner in seven of eight games in district play and an All-Legion selection, he got the winning decision over Holy Cross in the city championship game. Landrieu struck out 19 in the first game of the state regionals. He pitched a five-hitter to defeat Shreveport for the state championship.


As a senior on the 1948 Jesuit High team, Landrieu had a poor outing to start the season, but recovered to win six consecutive games. He was the winning pitcher in the city championship game against Warren Easton. He was rewarded with All-State honors.


Landrieu went on to play baseball on a scholarship for Loyola University in New Orleans from 1949 to 1952. As a sophomore in 1950, Landrieu posted a 2-0 record for the Wolfpack that finished as runner-up for the Gulf State Conference title. In 1951, Landrieu went 4-2 and pitched in relief in the conference championship game to help Loyola secure its first GSC title. He was named to the All-Conference team. His senior season with Loyola was hampered by arm injuries.


Landrieu graduated from Loyola in 1952 with a degree in business administration. He earned his Juris Doctorate in 1954 and went on to a career encompassing all three branches of government. He served in the Louisiana House of Representative and the New Orleans City Council before being elected Mayor of New Orleans for two terms during 1970 to 1978.


As mayor he was instrumental in helping usher the city into desegregation in the 1970s.His sports background came in handy as a member of the commission that built the Louisiana Superdome. He served as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Carter and finished his career as judge of the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals from 1992 to 2000.


Landrieu died in 2022 at age 92.

Can Juan Soto finally get the Yankees back to the Fall Classic?

The New York Yankees haven’t been to the World Series since they beat the Philadelphia Phillies in 2009. The current 14-year absence has been the longest drought in Yankees history, tied with the miserable Yankee teams from 1982 to 1995.


Could the Yankees’ acquisition of superstar Juan Soto over the winter make a difference this year in getting the Yankees back to the Fall Classic? Yankee history in the past 14 years isn’t so convincing that he can be the difference-maker.


After the Core Four (Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada) retired, the Yankees continued to be perennial postseason teams, but could never put it all together to win another American League pennant.


The Yankees front office allowed the roster to get old. In addition to the aging Core Fore, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixiera, and CC Sabathia were entering their golden years, too.


With respect to top prospects, the Yankee farm system had become bare. Instead, some of the bigger names in the game were brought in to shore up the team. The Yankees acquired players like Curtis Granderson, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Matt Holliday, Troy Tulowitzki, and Ichiro Suzuki. But they weren’t able to deliver a pennant, and they just became “pass-through” players.


The Yankees’ best player, Robinson Cano, was the last carryover position player from the 2009 team. He left the team for more dollars in Seattle, after becoming a free agent in 2013.


The Yankees farm system finally started to produce players in 2016 and 2017 who manned several of the starting lineup positions. Called the “Baby Bombers,” they included Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres, Greg Bird, and Tyler Wade.


After winning the AL MVP Award with Miami in 2017, Giancarlo Stanton was signed to a mega-contract with the Yankees in 2018, with expectations he would be “the guy” to bring them back to the World Series, along with Aaron Judge and the rest of the Baby Bomber. Yet after an initial productive season, Stanton had difficulty staying on the field after that, due to a number of injuries. Only Judge and Torres remain from the original Baby Bombers.


The team missed the postseason last year for the first time since 2016. With the exception of the lowly A’s, Tigers, and White Sox, they posted the worst slash line in the American League last year with .227/.304/.397. The Yankees’ pitching staff, led by Cy Young Award winner Gerrit Cole and an effective bullpen, was the only reason the team finished two games above .500.


The Yankees traded for Juan Soto, willing to pick up his expensive salary even though he has only one year left on his contract. But the team went “all in,” as the saying goes, thinking he could be one of the critical pieces needed, along with another front-line starting pitcher, to deliver an American League pennant. (The Yankees signed veteran pitcher Marcus Stroman, after failing to attract 2023 NL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell with a contract offer).


There were similar expectations by Soto with the San Diego Padres in 2023, where he was part of a star-laden team. He did his part as their best offensive player, but the Padres finished behind division-winner Los Angeles and Arizona, the eventual NL pennant-winner.


The Yankees had their share of injuries last year, which contributed to their poor showing. But there is optimism this season those problems are behind them. Giancarlo Stanton is reportedly in better physical shape that would allow him to play a full season. DJ LeMahieu and Anthony Rizzo are expected to overcome nagging injuries from last year. Judge, who missed over 40 games due to a torn ligament in his toe, appears to be well enough to play center field now that Soto will be in right field.


All the stars seem to be aligning this season. A healthy batting order that consists of LeMahieu, Soto, Judge, Rizzo, Stanton, Torres, newcomer Alex Verdugo, Jose Trevino (or rookie Austin Wells), and Anthony Volpe would pose a threat for most opposing pitching staffs.


Soto has World Series experience, the breakout star of the Washington Nationals in 2019. Now entering his seventh major-league season, he’s still only 25 years old. He brings youth and a much-needed left-handed bat to the Yankees’ lineup. Will he be the catalyst to propel them back into contention for the pennant? Or will he be just another superstar passing through? Stay tuned.


Footnote: As I write this, pitcher Gerrit Cole’s has a nerve problem in his right elbow, and he is expected to miss at least the first two months of the season. He is a critical part of the Yankees’ potential resurgence. Yankees fans would like to see the team renew its interest in acquiring Snell to offset Cole’s absence, but that isn’t likely to happen at this point. Furthermore, Aaron Judge has experienced abdominal soreness, causing him to miss several spring training games. His status will also be crucial to Yankee success.

Should Mike Trout Ask to be Traded?

Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout is a great player on a lousy team. Except for one season, it‘s been that way since he made his major-league debut in 2011. In some respects you have to feel sorry for the guy. But then he’s currently making $37 million per year, so feeling bad for him only goes so far. Trout’s contract with the Angels goes through the 2030 season, when he’ll be 38 years old.


A sure-fire Hall of Famer, Trout has been called the best player in the majors. Early on, he was labeled as the “next Mickey Mantle.” From 2012 through 2019, he was indeed the best player, winning three MVP Awards, finishing in the Top 2 in two seasons, and Top 5 in two seasons.


Despite Trout’s individual performances during his tenure, the Angels have won only one division title, in 2014, when they won 98 games. Since then, they’ve finished above .500 only one other time, in 2015. It doesn’t look like their losing ways will change any time soon.


His talent seems to be wasted by continuing to play for the Angels, who haven’t surrounded him with enough talent, primarily pitching, to be a postseason contender. He’s played with two Angels teammates who have also been referred to as the best players in the majors--Albert Pujols and Shohei Ohtani. Yet teaming up with them didn’t alter the Angels’ fortunes.


It must be frustrating for Trout to continue to play on a team that has no playoff hopes. The Angels’ front office doesn’t have a plan to rebuild the club in order to eventually capitalize on Trout’s talents. Given that situation, should Trout ask the Angels to trade him to a team that has a reasonable chance at getting to the playoffs?


Even if Angels owner Arturo Moreno was willing to trade Trout, is there another team that could absorb his salary for seven more years? The teams with the fat wallets are already shelling out big bucks themselves, including teams like the Dodgers, Yankees, Mets, and Astros. Plus, Trout’s health could be cause for concern by an acquiring club. He’s played 36, 119, and 82 games in the last three seasons due to injuries. At age 32, is this a true indicator of his future health?


The second question is, what do the Angels want for Trout? He would command a high price in a trade, in terms of multiple prospects and possibly several young players with high upsides who are already in the majors. Could the Angels maneuver such a trade with a potential suitor that could be part of a longer-term re-build for them?


The other side of Trout’s dilemma is that he just needs to honor his contract with the Angels, regardless of how bad they are. As the old adage goes, “He’s made his bed, now he’s got to lie in it.” He’s being well-paid for his services for the next seven seasons. He needs to earn his lucrative salary, even if he’s playing for a losing team. There are a several hundred other big-league players who would trade places with him in a heartbeat.


Thinking back to the past about players in similar situations as Trout, Ernie Banks comes to mind. He was a two-time MVP, 11-time All-Star playing for the inept Chicago Cubs of the 1950s and 1960s. The Hall of Famer played 19 years without ever appearing in a postseason. I don’t remember if he ever made a big deal about continuing to play for a perennially bad team. But he is the player who is famously remembered for saying, “Let’s play two.”


Trout could quit baseball right now and still be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, because he was so dominant between 2012 and 2019. He could also play out his current contract and still be a Hall of Famer.

Black History Month: Willie Mays brought barnstorming baseball team to New Orleans in 1956

Twenty-five-year-old Willie Mays had just finished his fifth major-league season when he organized a barnstorming baseball tour that included New Orleans. As a former National League Rookie of the Year (1951) and Most Valuable Player (1954), he had established himself as one of the premier players in baseball.


Mays assembled some of the best Black major-league stars into a team called the Major League All-Stars. They were slated to play two games against the Negro American League All-Stars at Pelican Stadium on November 4 and November 6. In addition to New Orleans, the barnstorming troupe appeared in cities such as Nashville, Knoxville, Birmingham, Charlotte and Austin.


Barnstorming during the offseason offered a way for players to supplement their income from the regular-season, at a time when major-league salaries were in the $15K - $30K range and Negro League salaries were much less.


Mays’s hand-picked team featured 20-year-old Frank Robinson who had been voted the National League Rookie of the Year; 22-year-old Hank Aaron who won the National League batting title; and 27-year-old Elston Howard, who helped the Yankees win the World Series. Monte Irvin served as coach and utility player.


Many of Mays’s player selections had started their professional careers in the Negro Leagues. As a member of the Birmingham Black Barons, Mays had previously played in New Orleans in 1948, when Game 4 of the Negro League World Series was played in the Crescent City.


The opposing Negro American League All-Stars were led by former Negro Leaguer Bob Boyd and included Black players who aspired to play in the majors.


The first game on Sunday afternoon drew a nice crowd of 5,330 fans.


The Mays team scored a run in the first inning, followed by a two-run homer by Hank Aaron in the third inning. The Negro American League squad tied the score with three runs in the fourth inning, only to lose the game in the bottom of the ninth inning. An outfield error and a timely single by Al Smith provided the winning run for Mays’s team. Pitcher Brooks Lawrence went the distance for the Major League All-Stars, while Marshall Bridges took the loss after holding the major-leaguers scoreless from the fourth through the eighth innings.


For the scheduled Tuesday night game, Sam Jones, a noted curveball pitcher in the majors, was slated to oppose Negro American League All-Stars pitcher Charley Pride, then an aspiring professional player who later became a legendary country singer.


However, the game was rained out. While the local newspapers reported the second game would be pushed to the following Friday, there wasn’t an account of the game having actually been played.


Aaron returned to New Orleans with the Atlanta Braves in 1974 for an exhibition game against the Baltimore Orioles in Kirsch-Rooney Park. He thrilled the local crowd with a home run. Three days later in a regular-season game, Aaron tied Babe Ruth’s home run record of 714 home runs.


In 1984, Mays and Aaron were featured players in an exhibition game in the Louisiana Superdome between former major-leaguers, as part of the “All-Time All-Stars” series. Once again, Aaron delighted the crowd in the first inning with a home run off Bob Feller.

Should major-league teams take a flier on Trevor Bauer?

Former Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer once made $32 million per year for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Now he’s offering his services to any major-league team for the league minimum salary of $740,000.


So, how did that come about?


While playing for the Dodgers in 2021, Bauer was accused of domestic violence and suspended by Major League Baseball in June of that season for 194 games. Even though he was never charged with a crime, the Dodgers ended up releasing him in January 2023. Bauer spent last season pitching in Japan.


The 32-year-old Bauer showed he still had “stuff” while pitching for Yokohama in Japan, compiling a 11-4 record and 2.59 ERA. He averaged over 10 strikeouts per nine innings. His stats demonstrated he could be a viable option for pitching-starved major-leaguer teams in the United States.


With Bauer’s interest in returning to the big leagues for the 2024 season, the question now becomes: should a major-league team give him a second chance in baseball, given the baggage he brings?


First, there’s the risk that Bauer really isn’t up to his previous form as when he left the Dodgers in 2021. The overall talent level in the Japanese Professional League doesn’t match that of MLB. Yet it would seem that a one-year contract for $750K doesn’t represent an unusual risk for a team desperately needing pitching. Big-league teams take risks on Double-A and Triple-A prospects all the time.


Second, and probably the most significant factor, is the potential negative fallout a major-league team would incur from fans and media who will view his return as an acceptance by the team, or MLB itself, of his questionable moral character.


To a lesser degree, there’s the concern for how the tainted player would be accepted by his teammates. However, history shows that teammates, as displeased as they may be about the moral character of a player, only really care about the bottom line—winning.


There are at least three other recent cases of players involved in some type of domestic violence or sexual abuse that have been on MLB’s radar. As with Bauer’s case, MLB’s responses have been to uphold its domestic violence policy through suspensions, even though criminal charges weren’t levied against the players.


Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias, who finished third in the Cy Young Award voting in 2022, was put on administrative leave by MLB last September for an alleged domestic violence incident. He had previously been suspended for 20 days by MLB after an arrest for suspicion of misdemeanor domestic battery, but he was not ultimately charged. The disposition of Urias’s most recent situation by MLB remains to be seen.


Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Roberto Osuna was suspended for 75 games in the middle of the 2018 season for violating MLB’s domestic violence policy. It involved his assault of the mother of his three-year-old son. The charges against Osuna were dropped, and the Houston Astros subsequently traded for Urias for the balance of the 2018 season. The situation created a bad look for the Astros.


The Tampa Bay Rays’ best player Wander Franco hasn’t played since August 12, 2023, when he was alleged to have a sexual relationship with a 14-year old in 2022. He remains under investigation by Dominican Republic authorities and could face charges. MLB hasn’t taken a position on Franco yet, but it seems reasonable he will suffer some type of suspension from MLB even if charges are ultimately dropped.


Getting back to Bauer, I believe one of the MLB teams will pick him up, willing to absorb any flack they might receive. Will he perform to the same level before his suspension? We’ll find out in a couple of months.

Black History Month: The story of major-league baseball's integration omitted New Orleans native Johnny Wright

Everyone knows Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in major-league baseball in 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers. What everyone doesn’t know is that New Orleans native Johnny Wright, a Negro League star pitcher in the late 1930s and 1940s, was slated by the Dodgers to join Robinson in the historic integration of baseball.


 

Wright was signed by the Dodgers shortly after Robinson, and both spent spring training in Daytona in 1946 as the first two African-American players in Organized Baseball. They started the regular season with the Dodgers’ highest-level minor-league affiliate in Montreal. But Wright was used sparingly and eventually sent to the Dodgers’ Class C team in Canada. When Robinson joined the big-league Dodgers in 1947, Wright returned to the Negro Leagues.


Carlis Wright Robinson, daughter of Johnny Wright, has been energetically telling the account of her father’s involvement in the integration of baseball. With the help of baseball historians, Ms. Robinson has articulated her father’s story with the Dodgers and chronicled his entire life and baseball career which took him all over the United States, as well as Latin American countries, in her book The Wright Side of the Story: The Life and Career of Johnny Wright, Co-Pioneer in Breaking Baseball’s Color Barrier, as Told by His Daughter.”


Ms. Robinson recently remarked about her efforts, “My journey has been a labor of love, driven by the lack of information and lack of recognition for my late father’s accomplishments in the world of baseball. First, I hope that I have reconciled some of the incomplete and incorrect writings that I have found over the years during my research of his career. And secondly, I believe that I have written the most complete compilation of his life and career currently available.”


She added, “It would be great to see him inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. And why isn’t there a historical marker in his hometown? To be continued.”


Johnny Wright was inducted into the 2022 Class of the New Orleans Sports Foundation’s Hall of Fame, sponsored by the All-State Sugar Bowl.

Remembering the baseball career of former De La Salle and Loyola star pitcher Gerry Schoen

Perhaps the autographed baseball by the New Orleans Pelicans that Gerry Schoen possessed as a youngster provided the inspiration to pursue a professional baseball career. But more likely it was his success as a pitcher at multiple levels of amateur baseball in the New Orleans area that propelled him into the professional ranks. Even though Schoen ended up with only a proverbial “cup of coffee” in the major leagues, he is nonetheless remembered for his seasons as a dominant local pitcher in the 1960s.


Schoen was a fan of the game at an early age. He acquired an autographed baseball signed by members of the hometown New Orleans Pelicans minor-league team, while he was bed-ridden with spinal meningitis at eight years old.


He was a product of Wisner Playground in Uptown New Orleans. Coached by legendary NORD playground supervisor Ronnie Aucoin, Schoen was a member of two Wisner teams, 10-and-under and 12-and-under, that won city championships.


His childhood friend Johnny Arthurs also played on those teams and remembers Schoen striking out all fifteen batters in a five-inning game. Arthurs, a future two-sport athlete at Tulane University, later played with Schoen at De La Salle High School and on American Legion teams, He recalled, “Everyone had a nickname in those days, and Gerry’s was the ‘White Whale,’ because he was big, husky kid with light-colored hair.”


While Schoen had not played on varsity teams in his freshman and sophomore years, he became a standout in his junior season in 1963. The “White Whale” had developed into a six-foot-two, 200-pound fireballer. Jerry Burrage, long-time local high school and American Legion coach in the New Orleans area, recalled Schoen’s sensational season, “Gerry was a hard-throwing right-hander with great control. He was dominant in his breakout season in 1963.”


Burrage was referring to Schoen’s five prep starts in which he allowed just 11 hits and one run. He was named to the Times-Picayune and States-Item All-Prep teams, as well as the All-State team selected by the Louisiana Sports Writers’ Association. He followed with an 8-0 record in American Legion play that summer for the De La Salle-based team, earning him MVP honors for his district.


Schoen’s undefeated season at the combined prep and Legion levels marked one of the best in recent times in New Orleans. His performance was reminiscent of Jimmy Harwell’s (also a De La Salle alumnus) in 1956.


In 1964, De La Salle captured the Louisiana state high school championship, with Schoen pitching a three-hitter in the finals. The victory gave renowned head coach John Altobello his fourth state title with the school. Schoen was a repeat All-State performer.


Behind the pitching of Schoen, the De La Salle American Legion team won the state title and fought its way to the Little World Series, only to be eliminated after three games.


Following the Legion season, Schoen signed a baseball grant-in-aid baseball scholarship with Loyola University in New Orleans. There were two reasons he chose Loyola over other local colleges. He would be allowed to play on the varsity team as a freshman, and he wanted to play again under the tutelage of his former Babe Ruth coach, Rags Scheuermann, who was the Wolfpack’s head coach. Scheuermann told the States-Item, “We are real glad to get Gerry. He is definitely the No. 1 pitching prospect in the state.”


Schoen had a promising debut game as a freshman with Loyola in 1965. He recorded a strikeout for the first seven outs in a 3-0 win against Southwestern Louisiana (USL). He finished the season with a 6-0 record.


After posting a 2-3 record with Loyola in 1966, Schoen was selected by the Washington Senators in the 25th round of the MLB amateur draft. He decided to forego the rest of his college career and signed with the Senators for a bonus reported as being between ten and fifteen thousand dollars.


Only 19 years old, Schoen’s first minor-league assignment was at Class Geneva in the New York-Penn League in 1966. His best outing occurred on August 23, when he struck out 18 in nine innings.


His 1967 season with Class A Burlington of the Carolina League was interrupted when he enlisted in the Army National Guard in July. He was 7-2 with a 2.69 ERA at the time.


With Double-A Savannah of the Southern League in 1968, his 3-9 record was misleading since he posted a 3.20 ERA and struck out 95 in 118 innings. After four games with Triple-A Buffalo, Schoen was called up by the Senators for the final month of the season. On September 14, he made his major-league debut in a start against the New York Yankees at D.C. Stadium. But he lost control of the game early, as he gave up three runs on six hits in only 3 2/3 innings. The Yankees won, 4-1. The game would be the only major-league appearance in his career. (Players who make a limited number of major-league appearances, like Schoen, are said to be in the big leagues for only the time to drink a “cup of coffee.”)


The American League held an expansion draft in October 1968 for the new Seattle Pilots and Kansas City Royals franchises. Not protected by the Senators, Schoen was the 20th overall selection of the draft by the Pilots. It seemed like a good opportunity for him to land a spot on their major-league roster in 1969.


However, he was traded by Seattle to the Baltimore Orioles in a five-player deal in April, having never pitched for the Pilots. Interestingly, one of the other players involved in the trade was Lloyd Fourroux, who had also prepped at De La Salle and was a career minor-leaguer in the Orioles organization.


Over the next three seasons, Schoen bounced around to minor league teams in the Orioles, Yankees and Minnesota Twins organizations, filling both starter and reliever roles. His highlight during these years was helping Syracuse, a Yankees Triple-A affiliate, win its first International League pennant in 73 years.


Unable to see a clear path back to the big leagues, Schoen decided to quit baseball at age 24.


Schoen is one of three De La Salle alumni to reach the majors. Allan Montreuil and Frank Wills are the others.

There's a good chance for four new members of the Baseball Hall of Fame

The official results of the Baseball Hall of Fame voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America will be announced on January 23.


You might recall on December 31 that I posted my (unofficial) votes for the 2024 class of the Baseball Hall of Fame, as a member of the Internet Baseball Writers’ Association of America. IBWAA members were asked to submit up to 12 names on their ballot.


Here are the top 12 players who received the highest percentage of votes by the IBWAA. (Per the Hall of Fame rules, players must receive a minimum of 75% of the votes to be elected.) I submitted only nine names on my ballot, which are marked by an asterisk below.


**Adrian Beltre (94%)


**Todd Helton (75%)


Joe Mauer (73%)


**Billy Wagner (73%)


**Andruw Jones (68%)


**Gary Sheffield (65%)


**Alex Rodriguez (60%)


**Manny Ramirez (58%)


**Carlos Beltran (52%)


Chase Utley (37%)


Bobby Abreu (32%)


Andy Pettitte (28%)


I also voted for Omar Vizquel (11-year Gold Glove shortstop) who received only 11% of the IBWAA votes. I believe his alleged off-the-field indiscretions have negatively affected the voters’ opinions of him.


The other major difference in my votes, versus the entire membership’s, is Joe Mauer, whom I left off my ballot. My rationale was, out of his 15 major league seasons, only six years were All-Star-caliber seasons. Is that enough for Hall-worthiness? It’s true, he won 3 batting titles, but what about all those analysts who now say batting average isn’t a relevant statistic? Mauer’s career stats were indeed impressive, including .306/.388/.439 slash line, 55.2 WAR, 127 OPS+, and four years with Top 8 MVP votes (including one MVP first-place finish).


But here are equally impressive stats for another 15-year major leaguer who has NOT been elected: .303/.384/.497 slash line, 56.5 WAR, 137 OPS+, six years as an All-Star, and four years with Top 5 MVP votes (with one second-place finish). Who is the player? Will Clark!


I suppose one could make a case for or against the merits of any two players. I’m just bummed out that Clark, my favorite player, didn’t get in.


Baseball Hall of Fame tracker Ryan Thibodaux compiles the official votes from BBWAA writers that make their ballot publicly available. With roughly 50 % of the ballots available, Thibodaux calculates that Beltre (98.8%), Mauer (84.2%), Helton (83.2%), and Wagner (79.9%) are the most likely inductees. He has Sheffield (74.5%) and Jones (71.2%) on the cusp of the minimum 75% required.


Look for the official results on Tuesday.

What are the Orioles waiting on?

The Baltimore Orioles weren’t expected to have the kind year they had in 2023. Their team rebuilding process since 2018 didn’t have them contending for a playoff berth until 2024. But their young core of players they had developed through their farm system surprised the baseball world, as they turned in a 101-win season and captured the AL East Division title.


The Orioles were swept by the Texas Rangers in the ALDS, perhaps because their youth caught up with them. It could be argued the Orioles are only a few players away from being a serious pennant contender for the next several years. While they were losing all those games between 2018 and 2021, they accumulated a lot of top talent in the minors through the draft process. So why aren’t they active in the trade market to acquire the missing pieces, by giving up some of their excess higher prospects?


The Orioles are largely in need of pitching depth, including several who can eat a lot of innings.


Kyle Gibson was the only true veteran pitcher (11 years in the majors) among the starters, but he turned in a team-worst 87 ERA+. In only his second major-league season, Kyle Bradish rose to the top of the rotation and was their best starter. 23-year-old rookie Grayson Rodriguez has the potential to be a top-flight pitcher, but he’s still trying to climb the big-league learning curve. Dean Kremer and Tyler Wells rounded out the rotation, but neither was particularly threatening to opposing offenses.


Bradish, Kremer, and Rodriguez were overmatched by the Rangers in the ALDS, as they collectively lasted only 6.6 innings in their starts. Their youth didn’t play well.


In the bullpen, closer Felix Bautista was one of the league’s best, turning in a 1.48 ERA with 33 saves. Yennier Cano led the team in relief appearances (72), and he was effective as a one-two punch with Bautista. Cano posted a 2.11 ERA. But like the starting rotation, the bullpen could use more depth to be a pennant contender.


Now is the time for the Orioles to move on beefing up their pitching. And they have the means to do it through trades.


Shortstop Gunnar Henderson was the AL Rookie of the Year. He is a franchise shortstop according to Baseball America. He wouldn’t be put up as trade bait, but other top infield prospects who saw part-time duty with the Orioles could be. They include Jordan Westburg, Terrin Vavra, and Joey Ortiz. Furthermore, in the minors, they have additional Triple-A infield prospects Coby Mayo, Caydn Grenier, and Cesar Prieto.


In the outfield, the Orioles system features prospects Colton Cowser, Heston Kjerstad, and Kyle Stowers, all of whom got a taste of big league action last year.


But the best of all the Orioles’ minor leaguers is the 2023 Minor League Player of the Year, shortstop Jackson Holliday. With the way Holliday progressed through all four levels of the minors in 2023, he’s probably not more than year away from being ready to compete in the majors.

 

With all the prospects the Orioles have, they won’t have a roster spot for many of them when they become big league ready on a full-time basis. They may not command the same interest and value as they have now, if the Orioles wait to trade them in a year or two.


Coming into the Hot Stove season, Dylan Cease (White Sox), Blake Snell (Padres), Lucas Giolito (Indians), Jordan Montgomery (Rangers), Jesus Luzardo (Marlins), Chris Sale (Red Sox) and Marcus Stroman (Cubs) were among those starting pitchers reported to be available on the trading block by their respective teams. These are the types of pitchers the O’s need to pursue. Sale, Stroman and Giolito have already been scooped up by the Braves, Yankees and Red Sox, respectively. If the Orioles don’t act quickly, the rest will have new homes elsewhere, too.


Perhaps one of the things that has been holding the Orioles back on making a deal is that they will have to shell out some serious long-term money for salaries of these type of players. The Orioles haven’t been considered a big spender on player payroll, but they have to realize in order to get a Blake Snell or Dylan Cease they’re going to have to open their pocketbook wider.


The time is now to do that, not a couple of years from now. Orioles fans got really pumped about their surprising team last season. The Orioles should give them something more to cheer about in 2024.

Thinking about "what could have been" with Tony C.

When California Angels outfielder Taylor Ward was hit in the face while batting in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays last July, it revived memories of Boston Red Sox outfielder Tony Conigilaro’s incident in 1967.


Ward is expected to return to the Angels’ lineup in 2024. He didn’t suffer eye damage, instead requiring reconstruction of his left orbital bone. Not downplaying the seriousness of Ward’s injury, it wasn’t as critical as Conigliaro’s would be. He was hit in the eye and cheekbone, after his helmet flew off before impact. After attempts to return, the Red Sox phenom ultimately had to quit playing at age 26.


As a 19-year-old in 1964, “Tony C”, as he would affectionally be referred to by Red Sox sportswriters and fans, made an impact from Day 1 in the Red Sox lineup. Amazingly he had only played in 83 games in the minors at the Single-A level in 1963 before earning a regular spot in the Red Sox outfield the next spring.


The Red Sox were a second-division team in 1963, finishing seventh out of 10 teams in the American League, 28 games behind the AL champion New York Yankees. The Red Sox were led offensively by big first baseman Dick Stuart. Future Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, only 23 years old at the time, had yet to mature as a hitter.


Conigliaro represented new hope that he could help turn around the team’s results in 1964. In his rookie season, he hit 24 home runs, the most by any teenager in history at the time. He also collected 62 RBIs in 111 games, while slashing an impressive.290/.354/.530. But largely due to weak pitching, the Red Sox slipped to eighth place.


Over the next two seasons he amassed 60 more home runs and 175 RBIs, including leading the American League with 32 in only his second major-league season. He started to receive votes for AL MVP. But the Red Sox, who continued to suffer from weak pitching, were still mired in the second division.


In 1967, Conigliaro started the season with a bang. He made his first All-Star team. Paired with Carl Yastrzemski, who was having an MVP season, the Red Sox were in contention for first place. By mid-August, Conigliaro had collected 20 home runs and 67 RBIs. Only Met Ott and Eddie Matthews had hit more home runs than Conigliaro by age 22.


On August 18, Conigliaro was hit in the face on a fastball from Angels hurler Jack Hamilton. He suffered from blurred vision in his left eye and headaches, and he wasn’t able to return for the rest of the season. There was concern that he might lose his vision. The Red Sox ended up winning its first pennant since 1946.


Still suffering from the effects of the injury, he attempted a comeback in the spring of 1968. But doctors warned him it wasn’t safe for him to play, and he missed the entire 1968 season.


Determined to get back in the game, Conigliaro spent the missed season, learning to use more of his peripheral vision while batting. He even tried pitching in the instructional league.


Still only 24 years old and his vision not fully recovered, he returned to the Red Sox in 1969 and remarkably earned Comeback Player of the Year honors based on his 20 home runs and 82 RBIs. He followed with the best season of his career in 1970, with 36 home runs and 116 RBIs. Outwardly, It appeared he had overcome the effects of the injury, but he would say later he never fully regained his vision in the left eye.


Desoite his productive 1970 season, the Red Sox traded him over the winter to the California Angels, in an unpopular move for the Red Sox fans. Perhaps the Red Sox had anticipated his vision would deteriorate over time.


In fact, his vision problem did get worse in 1971. Frustrated by not performing up to his standard with the Red Sox, he retired from the Angels in early July, at age 26.


Conigliaro attempted a comeback with the Red Sox four years later, but ultimately quit after 21 games, when he managed only seven hits in 69 plate appearances as a DH and pinch-hitter.


We can only wonder about the total career numbers Tony C would have achieved had he not suffered the heartbreaking injury. He was on a similar career trajectory as his teammate Carl Yastrzemski, who ended up in the Hall of Fame. However, he will always retain a place in the hearts of the Red Sox Nation. He was inducted into the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame in 1995.


(Postscript: The tragedy in Conigliaro’s life didn’t end with baseball. He suffered a heart attack in 1982 that left him with irreversible brain damage. He lived another eight years before dying at age 45.)

My 2024 Hall of Fame ballot finally counts -- sorta!

I’ve been writing this blog since 2013, and every year since then I have cast a “mythical” ballot for the annual Baseball Hall of Fame election. It was mythical because my ballot didn’t go anywhere, except to my readers. Only official members of the official Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) are eligible to vote for the Hall. Anyway, it was a fun exercise for me to go through the process of pretending to vote for the Hall-worthy players.


I joined the Internet Baseball Writers’ Association of America (IBWAA) this year. It’s a collegial organization of baseball writers and content creators who strive to increase the visibility of their work and networking opportunities for its members. Although it looks similar, it has no relationship with BBWAA. It does have a partnership with SABR (Society for American Baseball Research).


One of the activities of the IBWAA is to conduct its own election process for voting for players to the Hall of Fame. Members were asked to submit up to 12 names. (I’m not sure why 12, when the official BBWA balloting allows for up to 10 players.) 700+ members’ votes will be compiled and published at the same time the official BBWAA results are announced on January 23.


So here are the players I submitted in the IBWAA voting process.


Let’s deal with the big elephant in the room first--players who used or were suspected of using PEDs. I didn’t take a hard line on omitting these players from my selections in the past. My rationale was that I was in no position to be judge and jury over which players did or didn’t use, or when or how often they might have used PEDs. Thus, I voted for Bonds and Clemens because I thought they were among the best players in baseball history. Obviously, I was in the minority regarding their HOF worthiness, since both players never got voted in during their 10 years on the ballot.


There was also another element of my position on PEDs. Consider the following cases. Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax received cortisone shots in his elbow before many of his games in the 1960s. He would not have been as superior as he was, without those shots. All-Stars Dave Parker and Keith Hernandez and many other players reportedly took amphetamines in the 1980s. The drugs allowed them to suit up for practically every game, despite the wear and tear of the long season on their bodies. While it was may be frowned upon from a moral character standpoint, no one ever declared them ineligible for the Hall of Fame. If steroids and HGH keep players from Hall of Fame consideration, then why aren’t players who used cortisone shots and amphetamines put in the same category?


So, my first three votes are cast for Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, and Gary Sheffield, all dominant players in their eras. This is Sheffield’s last year on the ballot, and except for the perception that he was a PED user (he never tested positive), he would have been selected a lot sooner. He’s a player with 500+ home runs, 60.5 WAR and 140 OPS+. You can’t ever persuade me that Hall of Famer Harold Baines was better than Sheffield.


Todd Helton and Billy Wagner are next on my list. I also voted for them last year. Helton slashed .316/.414/.539 and recorded a 61.8 WAR and 133 OPS+. He has Silver Slugger and Gold Glove Awards as part of his credentials. Billy Wagner is currently sixth (422) on the all-time list for saves. His career stats include an impressive 2.31 ERA and .998 WHIP. His ERA+ was 187. Wagner didn’t get as much ink during his career as contemporary relievers Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman, but he’s in the same class as them. Aside from Scott Rolen, who was elected in 2023, Helton (72.2%) and Wagner (68.1%) were the next closest to getting the required minimum of 75% of the votes.


Two outfielders I voted for last year and am including in this year’s selection are Carlos Beltran and Andruw Jones. Beltran was AL Rookie of the Year in 1999 and went to collect nine All-Star appearances with the Mets, Cardinals, and Yankees. His WAR is 70.1, and he received MVP votes in seven seasons. He was a valuable post-season contributor, with a slash line of .307/.412/.609, 16 HRs and 42 RBI. My selection of Andrew Jones is primarily influenced by his defensive excellence. He was a Gold Glove centerfielder for 10 straight seasons with the Braves. But he wasn’t a liability for his teams on the offensive side, as he hit 434 career HRs and 1,289 RBIs.


Omar Vizquel is another position player I included for his defensive prowess. Like Jones, he was a perennial Gold Glove winner at shortstop for 11 seasons during 1993 and 2006. He was a career .272 hitter over his 24-year career, collecting 2,877 hits. But he displayed little power. (Pittsburgh second baseman Bill Mazeroski was voted into the Hall with the same defensive and offensive profile in 2001.) Vizquel appeared to be on track for Hall election, when he achieved 52.6% of the votes in 2020 (his third year on the ballot), but a domestic abuse accusation that surfaced in late 2020 has negatively affected his chances. He received only 19.5% in 2023.


Adrian Beltre is the only new player on the ballot this year that I voted for. He collected 3,166 hits, 477 HRs and 1,707 RBIs and was a five-time Gold Glove winner at third base. He received MVP votes in eight seasons, including seven after the age of 30. (If Beltre had done this back in the PED era, would he have been suspected of using.)


Even though the IBWAA allowed for 12 votes, I only submitted nine. There were a total of 26 players on the ballot this year, including 12 new players. Additional new players that I considered, but ultimately decided against, were Matt Holliday, Joe Mauer, and Chase Utley. I liked Holliday when he played. He was a gamer, but I just never thought of him as being of Hall of Famer-caliber. Maurer and Utley had periods of greatness, but I didn’t feel like theirs was long enough to warrant Hall of Fame election.


I'll give you a report on the IBWAA tally in late January. 

Mel Ott League part of the fabric of New Orleans baseball in '60s, '70s, and '80s

When the New Orleans Pelicans minor-league baseball team ceased to exist following the 1959 season, their absence created a void for baseball fans in the metropolitan New Orleans area. While local baseball diehards could still follow American Legion and All-American League teams during the summer, the level of competition in the city for players over 19 years old was limited. A group of businessmen banded together in 1961 to create the Mel Ott League, which was best described as a semi-pro league. Remarkably, its existence lasted nearly 25 seasons.


The new league was named for Gretna’s Mel Ott Park, where all of its games were played. Ott had been a Gretna native who played in the major leagues from 1926 to 1947 and went on to be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.


The new league became extremely popular with fans because they could follow teams featuring former professional and college players, as well as current college players who were no longer age-eligible for other amateur leagues. Most of these players had been the fans’ hometown heroes at one point.


The players favored the league because it provided an opportunity for former pro and college athletes to continue playing competitive baseball. Current college players were able to stay in “baseball shape” during the summer.


Unlike other notable semi-pro leagues across the country, such as the Cape Cod League, Kansas Baseball League, and Alaska Baseball League, the Mel Ott League did not recruit players from outside of the metropolitan New Orleans area.


Walter “Tiger” Ruiz was one of the first organizers of the league. He was also the coach of the Gretna Stars, one of the early dominant teams. The teams were generally sponsored by local businesses such as Deviney Clothiers, Buster Hughes, Lafitte Sash, M & W Marine Service, Roy Supply, and Staples Sporting Goods. Team sponsors recruited local players to fill their rosters. Players were allowed to switch teams from year to year.


The league usually had four to five teams per season. Initially, all of the games were played in Sunday doubleheaders, but it later expanded to play on Saturdays as well. In the early days, the season ran from April to September. The season was divided into two halves, with the winners of each half playing for the league championship at the end of the season. League organizers typically planned multiple games on July 4, in conjunction with other Gretna city celebration activities.


Local newspapers routinely reported on the upcoming schedule of games and then the weekend’s results and standings.


Some of the league’s players, particularly the former professionals, played well into their thirties. In a 1964 Times-Picayune article, it was noted that several Southern Association alumni, who were familiar to local baseball fans of the New Orleans Pelicans minor league team, had continued their passion for playing the game in the Mel Ott League. They included such players as Billy Reynolds, Charlie Williams, and Emil Panko. Nolan Vicknair, who had played a couple of seasons in the New York Giants organization in the late 1940s, competed in the first couple of seasons of the league.


Local professional players who came back to New Orleans following their careers and played in the Mel Ott League included Jim Harwell, John Olagues, Jim Moser, Fabien Mang, Wally Pontiff, Mike Trapani, and Keith Graffagnini. Local fans had followed these players during their high school and American Legion careers, when the players were first making their mark in the game.


Former University of New Orleans head baseball coach Tom Schwaner had played in the minors from 1959 to 1962 with the St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City A’s organizations. He said the Mel Ott League gave him the opportunity to continue to play after his years in the pros. He remembers it as a very competitive league, but he also had fun. He said there would be as many as 300 to 400 people in the stands each Sunday rooting for their favorite team.


Yet the league wasn’t entirely dominated by ex-professional players. High school coaches Tony Reginelli and Joe Brockhoff played during the summer months. Former prep players Bill “Brother” Burke, Rick Tranchina, and Kenny Golden were long-time players in the league. Others like them were talented players who stayed in shape to compete each summer.


The league gradually turned to more college players to fill out team rosters. A 1974 States-Item article reported that the rosters “looked like a ‘Who’s Who’ of college baseball.” Tulane players Steve Mura and Jim Gaudet used the Mel Ott League as a steppingstone to major-league baseball careers. Maurice Ogier and Wayne Francingues played in the league before pursuing pro careers.


College players who didn’t want to leave the city during the summers opted to play competitively in the Mel Ott League to sharpen their skills. Players such as A. J. Musso, Jeff Fay, the other three Golden brothers (Pat, Wayne, and Steve), Jimmy and Larry Cabeceiras, and Wayne Silva were among them.


Terry Alario, a pitcher who prepped at West Jefferson High School and played collegiately at Northwestern State, played in the Mel Ott League during and after his college days. He said, “I played until I couldn’t get batters out anymore.” He says that players weren’t paid to play, but on occasion were the beneficiaries of fans passing the hat for donations when a home run was hit. Alario says there was also money passing hands in the stands among the older fans who liked betting on their favorite team.


A number of Mel Ott players eventually became prominent high school baseball coaches, including Jesse Daigle, Billy Fitzgerald, Frank Misuraca, Larry Schneider, Sam Dozier, Frank Cazeaux, and Barry Herbert.


Teams from the Mel Ott League often provided competition for the All-American League All-Star teams as they were preparing for national tournament competition in Johnstown, PA. In the early years, winners of the Mel Ott League and the Audubon League, another semi-pro league in the city, competed in an inter-city championship playoff.


The Times-Picayune reported in 1978 that the Mel Ott League was named the best semi-pro league in Louisiana for the fourth consecutive year.


Wayne Silva assembled a team of Mel Ott League all-stars in 1981 through 1983 to participate in the annual National Baseball Congress tournament in Wichita. Semi-pro teams from across the country vied for the prestigious championship in a 32-team double-elimination format. The New Orleans entries were entirely made up of local players, unlike most of the other teams who drew college players from around the country. Silva’s teams held their own with finishes of 14th in 1981 and fourth in 1982.


Former major-leaguer Ron Swoboda, then 39 years old working in New Orleans as a TV sportscaster, joined Silva’s team in 1983. Competing against players half his age, one of Swoboda’s contributions was a grand slam home run in the tournament. However, the hitting star of the team was Tulane first baseman Tommy Matthews, who hit five homers in the tournament. Silva’s team was eliminated by Fairbanks, Alaska, which featured future major leaguers Barry Bonds, Oddibe McDowell, Shane Mack, Joe Magrane, and Dave Stapleton. New Orleans finished in 5th place.


Marty Wetzel, who had been an All-Metro high school player in both football and baseball (as a pitcher), experienced a unique route to the Mel Ott League. His participation came after he had played football for Tulane and one season in the NFL as a New York Jets linebacker before an injury derailed his pro career. Wetzel says he had always favored baseball over football. Consequently, after he returned to New Orleans, he joined a few of his former high school teammates who were still competing in the Mel Ott League. He played a couple of seasons toward the end of the league’s existence, filling multiple infield and outfield positions, as well as pitcher.


The Mel Ott League established itself over the years as an important part of the baseball fabric of New Orleans. It became home to hundreds of men who wanted to continue competing at a level to which they were accustomed as professional, college, and high school players. Players such as Kenny Golden, Mike Culotta, “Brother” Burke, and Fred Krennerich were mainstays in the league year after year.


Perhaps no one was more committed than Krennerich, who participated as a player, coach, and president of the league, beginning in 1968 though the end of the league in 1983. In a Times-Picayune article in April 1984, Krennerich attributed the lack of a volunteer to replace him as the league president for the 1984 season as the main factor in the league’s demise.


Similar to the end of the old Pelicans minor-league team, the end of the Mel Ott League closed out a popular era of baseball in the city.


(Author’s note: There were other outstanding players, coaches, and teams in the Mel Ott League that are not mentioned in this article. I apologize up front for not being able to acknowledge all of them.

All-time baseball team featuring Christmas holiday names

Was Shohei Ohtani’s mega-contract with the Dodgers good for baseball? Which team will win the services of highly-prized Japanese pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto? Can Juan Soto get the Yankees back to prominence? Will anyone from this year’s candidates get elected to the Hall of Fame?


Let’s put aside all these questions and others that are consuming all the air in the baseball world right now. 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, Steve 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.

Great-grandson of former New Orleanian Joe Vitter aims to chronicle his pro baseball career

Ian O’Dougherty knew his great-grandfather Joe Vitter had been a professional baseball player, originally from New Orleans. But he didn’t know much about the details of his career that spanned the 1930s and 1940s. The discovery of a family scrapbook by his mother, containing artifacts of his great-grandfather’s baseball career, triggered his quest to learn more about him.


O’Dougherty is currently a video producer working with the Vegas Golden Knights. He previously worked with the major-league Colorado Rockies for ten years, where one of his projects was to produce a documentary of baseball in Colorado. His hope is to find enough information and photographs about Vitter’s career so that he can eventually produce a film, likely a series of short episodes, that feature his great-grandfather.


Vitter was born in 1911 in New Orleans. One of the uncertainties about Vitter’s career is the high school he attended and whether he played baseball as a high schooler. O’Dougherty says Vitter’s brother attended St. Aloysius, so if his great-grandfather attended high school, it would likely have been there. The first mentions of Vitter in the local New Orleans sports pages were about his playing for numerous semi-pro teams in the area. It appears some of his teams played in what were likely the early days of the Sugar Cane League in Southeast Louisiana, while his teams’ travels also took them into Mississippi.


O’Dougherty discovered Vitter’s-father, uncles, and brothers were baseball players with brief appearances in the minors, while legendary New Orleans player “Oyster Joe” Martina was his uncle by marriage. This fact contributed to his desire to learn even more about the family’s baseball history. He found newspaper evidence that the Vitter family members, including his great-grandfather at one point, played for a local team called the Greenleafs.


At a time when numerous local players started out playing in the Evangeline League in South Louisiana or with the hometown New Orleans Pelicans, O’Dougherty says it’s not clear how Vitter ended up signing his first professional contract. Baseball-Reference.com, one of the definitive sources of pro baseball player information, shows Vitter playing his first professional season at age 23 for Pine Bluff in the Class C Dixie League in 1934.


In February 1936, The Sporting News noted Vitter as one of the hopefuls seeking a major-league job. He must have made an impression with his play for Pine Bluff, because the Chicago Cubs acquired rights to him. They sent him to Catalina Island for the Cubs’ spring training camp in 1936 when he joined the major-leaguers, including Charlie Grimm, Billy Herman, and others. However, on a Cubs barnstorming trip to the east coast, he was cut and sent to Portsmouth, Virginia, in the Class B Piedmont League.


He spent the 1937 season with several teams in the Pacific Coast League, then considered one of the highest leagues of Organized Baseball. With the San Francisco Seals, he was a teammate of 20-year-old Dominic DiMaggio, who later became one of three DiMaggio brothers, including Joe and Vince, in the majors. O’Dougherty found a box score of a game in which Vitter played against Ted Williams, then playing for San Diego.


In 1938 Vitter was shipped to Shreveport in the Texas League, where he spent five seasons. He was a teammate of New Orleans native Joe Valenti that year. In Nico Van Thyn’s book “That’s the old ballgame, Shreveport,” Vitter was noted as one of Shreveport’s most popular players during his stay. The book stated Vitter made the league’s All-Star team in 1938, 1940, and 1941.


The Brooklyn Dodgers farm system acquired him in 1943, and he played for their St. Paul affiliate for five seasons. One of his teammates in St. Paul was another New Orleans native, John “Fats” Dantonio. World War II was in full swing, but Vitter was rejected for military service in 1944 by his draft board. At a time when the major leagues had a shortage of players due to military service, it seems Vitter might have gotten a shot in the big leagues. Perhaps his age, then in the early to mid-30’s, likely worked against him.


He finished his career in the lower levels of the minors. He also served as manager for his teams in 1948 and 1949, after which he retired from baseball at age 38.


Vitter was elected to the New Orleans Diamond Club Hall of Fame in 1973. In the program for the induction ceremony for the honorees, prominent New Orleans baseball historian Arthur Schott wrote about Vitter, “He played all four infield positions and all three outfield positions and was probably the finest utility man ever to leave New Orleans.”


O’Dougherty’s initial research has surfaced that his great-grandfather’s career crossed paths with several prominent baseball names from the New Orleans area in the 1930s and 1940s--Dantonio, Valenti, Martina, and the Gilbert family. He’s hoping to connect with their relatives and others who can potentially help him fill in some of the missing details of his great-grandfather’s career. He’s especially interested in any original photos involving Vitter.


O’Dougherty was 17 years old when Vitter died in 1995. Of course, he now wishes he had spent more time talking to his great-grandfather about his sixteen years in pro baseball. For example, O’Dougherty would love to know how his great-grandfather came to be photographed in Denver in 1953 with major-leaguers Eddie Lopat, Lou Kretlow, Jackie Jensen, Billy Martin, Dave Philley, and Mel Parnell.


Crescent City Sports readers who have knowledge of Joe Vitter’s years in New Orleans or his baseball career can contact Ian O’Dougherty via email at ianomusic@gmail.com.

Former LSU superstar pitcher Paul Skenes faces an uphill battle with his new team

All-American Paul Skenes turned in one of the most dominating seasons in college baseball history, as the ace of the LSU pitching staff in 2023. He helped them claim their seventh College World Series title. His performance landed him a No. 1 overall selection by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2023 Major League Baseball draft. Skenes will likely make his major-league debut early in 2024, so what can he expect from playing with a team that struggles with achieving a .500 record every year?


The Pirates have finished fourth or fifth in the NL Central Division since 2017. The last time they earned a postseason berth was in 2015, when Andrew McCutchen was one of the top players in the league. The last time the Pirates made it to the National League Championship Series was in 1992, when Barry Bonds was playing for them. The last time the Pirates won a World Series was in 1979, when Hall of Famer Willie Stargell was still playing for the famous “We Are Family” team.


The Pirates’ roster doesn’t have a Stargell or a Bonds now. McCutchen, now 36 years old with diminishing skills, was back with the team last year for the first time since 2017.


In other words, the Pirates won’t have the equivalent of a Dylan Cruz, Skenes’s former LSU teammate. Cruz was LSU’s primary offensive weapon, capturing the Golden Spikes Award in 2023, as collegiate baseball’s best overall player. (By the way, Skenes finished second to Cruz in the voting for the prestigious award.)


The Pirates’ offense was anemic in 2023. They were third from the bottom of the National League in Runs Scored per Game, Batting Average, and OPS. Their lineup was constantly in a state of flux. Only three players (K’Bryan Hayes, Bryan Reynolds, and Jack Suwinski) had more than 500 plate appearances. The Pirates deployed a good number of kids to see if they could stick at the major-league level.


The Pirates struggled equally with their pitching. They allowed 132 more runs than the Pirates offense scored. They were below league average in Runs Allowed, ERA, and WHIP. Their brightest star was relief pitcher David Bednar, one of the best closers in the league (66 games, 2.00 ERA, 39 saves, 222 ERA+).


The Pirates gave their fans a false sense of optimism last year when they were leading the NL Central Division as late as June 11. But then they suffered a ten-game losing streak, sending them on a downward spiral for the rest of the season. They finished in fourth place, 16 game behind the division winner Milwaukee Brewers.


The Pirates obviously have a shortage of talent with their roster. But then one has to ask, why can’t the Pirates get better players? According to a USA Today article in April 2023, the Pirates were fourth from the bottom of all 30 major-league clubs in payroll, at $74 million. By comparison, even the clubs in the middle of the pack were spending twice as much as the Pirates (the No. 15 Cardinals with $175 million and the No. 16 Rockies with $171 million). The old adage “you get what you pay for” definitely applies to the Pirates. Furthermore, the Pirates haven’t been particularly adept at developing young prospects through their farm system over the years.


So, what’s in store for Skenes in 2024?


The Pirates’ front office was guarded in its use of Skenes last year, since he had put in a heavy workload during LSU’s championship run. He only had five outings in the minors, totaling 6 2/3 innings.


It’s likely Skenes will start out the 2024 season at the Double-A or Triple-A level to allow him more time to adjust to professional lineups. The Pirates will be overly cautious with their investment in Skenes, who signed for a whopping $9.2 million bonus. Perhaps by June 1, he could be called up to the big-league club. The Pirates will be careful early on, with strict pitch counts in his appearances. And because they won’t likely be in contention for the playoffs, Skenes will have a limit set on his total number of innings for the season.


Skenes showed that he was a flamethrower in his 19 appearances with LSU. He averaged 98-99 mph with his pitches during many of his games. If there is a concern about his future, it would be that his career would flame out because of the amount of stress he would put on his arm using that level of velocity in every outing of 6-7 innings in the majors. It’s happened before. Remember Mark Appel, the overall No. 1 draft pick of the Houston Astros in 2013, and Steven Strasburg, the overall No. 1 draft selection of the Washington Nationals? Skenes’s power-makeup has been compared to these highly-regarded college prospects.


I sincerely hope this doesn’t happen to Skenes. Good major-league hitters have proven they can successively barrel-up on 100-mph fastballs, if that’s all a pitcher has in his arsenal. If he can master his secondary pitches as alternatives to his blazing fastball, he should be able to prosper in the majors.


Let’s hope for the Pirates’ sake that Skenes will turn out like another one of their former overall No. 1 draft selections, pitcher Garret Cole, who has been in the Top 5 for Cy Young Award voting in six seasons of his 11 seasons. The only problem was Cole had to leave Pittsburgh to play for a winning organization.

MLB brothers make headlines during 2023 season

My piece below was originally published by IBWAA’s “Here’s the Pitch” on September 19, 2023.


 

As kids, brothers sometimes miss the opportunity to grow up as baseball teammates, usually because their age difference is more than three or four years. That situation usually carries over as teenagers when they get to high school or college. Yet if they have dreams of eventually playing professionally, one of their fantasies is often that they can play alongside each other on baseball’s biggest stage.


Brothers talented enough to be selected in MLB drafts or signed as international players, crave the opportunity for their fantasy to materialize. But the odds are against them. There have been only about 400 sets of brothers that reached the majors. That’s out of over 23,000 players to ever appear in the big leagues. So, when brothers reach the majors, it usually makes the headlines.


According to MLB.com, there were nearly 100 sets of brothers to play as teammates before the start of the 2023 season. It’s been another active year for brothers in the major leagues in 2023. The trend for family relationships, including father-son combos, seems to be growing. Even though all of this season’s brother pairs haven’t ended up as teammates--at least for now—it’s still a rare event even when they suit up on opposing sides.


Below is background information for big league brothers this season.


Taylor and Tyler Rogers, only the tenth set of twins to play in the majors, now pitch for the San Francisco Giants following the acquisition of Taylor as a free agent over the winter. They took very different paths to the majors. They played at different colleges and were drafted four years apart. Taylor made his debut with the Twins in 2016, while Tyler debuted with the Giants in 2013. They have been key members of one of the most effective bullpens in the National League this season.


Josh and Bo Naylor had been first-round picks in 2015 and 2018, respectively. They are currently teammates with the Cleveland Guardians and celebrated together when Bo recorded his first major-league hit on June 21. Josh had a 4-for-4 day, including a home run. Bo scored the winning run in a 7-6 win against Oakland. They have a younger brother Myles who was drafted in the first round in 2023 by the A’s.


Nathaniel and Josh Lowe had visions of playing together in the majors when they both started out in the Tampa Bay Rays organization. They became teammates in the minors, for parts of 2017 and 2018, but Nathaniel was traded to the Texas Rangers after the 2020 season before Josh made the Rays big league club in 2021. They became opponents for the first time on June 10, exchanging their club’s lineup cards at home plate before the game. Josh had the better day at the plate, going 2-for-4, while Nathaniel went hitless and struck out three times in the Rangers’ 8-4 win.


Curacao natives Richie and Joshua Palacios had previously played as teammates in winter ball in Puerto Rico and naturally jumped at the chance to play together for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic in March. On August 21 they had the opportunity to face off as opponents for the first time in the majors--Richie with St. Louis and Joshua with Pittsburgh. Joshua paced the Pirates’ 11-1 win with a home run and a double as he drove in five runs. Richie got a pinch-hit single. Richie provided the power the next day with a solo home run in another Pirates loss while Joshua went hitless.


David and Dominic Fletcher had also appeared as teammates in the WBC in March, playing for the Italian entry. David is a six-year veteran with the Los Angeles Angels, while Dominic made his major-league debut on April 30 with Arizona. They played against each other for the first time in the majors on July 1, in Anaheim Stadium where they had watched plenty of games as youngsters. Dominic hit an RBI-single while David went hitless in the D’backs’ win. The milestone was especially meaningful for the brothers, as their father had died suddenly earlier in the month.


Ramon and Luis Urias grew up in a Mexican town known for its baseball heritage. Even though Ramon was three years older than Luis, he took special care to pass on his knowledge of the game. His efforts paid off. Luis made his major-league debut with San Diego in 2018, while Ramon broke in with Baltimore two years later. They faced each other in the majors for the first time on June 6 when the Orioles opposed the Milwaukee Brewers. However, it wasn’t a good day for either brother. Ramon struck out four times for the Brewers, while Luis fanned twice in the Brewers’ 4-3 victory.


Gus Varland made his major-league debut with the Milwaukee Brewers on the first day of the 2023 season, joining his brother Louie who is in his second season with the Minnesota Twins. The right-handed pitchers had played together for Concordia University. Gus is now with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but they haven’t had the chance to play against each other.


Parker Meadows made his major league debut for the Detroit Tigers on August 21. His brother Austin started the season with the Tigers but has been on the Injured List since the first week of April. The brothers will have to wait until next season to play together.


June 21 wasn’t a good day for brothers Tylor and Trevor Megill, as both were demoted to the minors on the same day. Tylor is in his third season as a starter with the New York Mets, while Trevor is in his third season as a reliever with the Milwaukee Brewers. The good news is that both returned to the majors about a month later. They have yet to oppose each other in a game.


Willson and William Contreras made national headlines last year as starters on the National League All-Star team. Wilson represented the Chicago Cubs, while Wilson played for the Atlanta Braves. They are both with new teams this season—William with the Milwaukee Brewers and Willson suiting up for the St. Louis Cardinals. They played against each other six times in 2023. William held the edge in hits, 5 to 3.


Phil and Nick Maton played in the same game on April 3, when Phil’s Houston Astros opposed Nick’s Detroit Tigers. However, Phil, an Astros middle reliever, did not have an opportunity to face his brother in the game won by the Tigers, 7-6. The first time they faced each other occurred in 2022 when Nick got a single.


Other brother combos who have appeared in the majors in 2023 include Aaron and Austin Nola, Yuli and Lourdes Gurriel, Jimmy and Peter Lambert, and Nick and Zack Burdi. New York Mets relief pitcher Edwin Diaz suffered a season-ending injury in WBC competition before the major-league season started, while his brother Alexis currently plays for the Cincinnati Reds.

MLB managerial roller coaster is busy again this offseason

For the second year in a row, there will be a significant turnover in major league managers. For the 2023 season, seven managers were in their first full season. This fall has seen another dip on the roller coaster ride involving managerial jobs, since eight teams will realize a change in managers for the 2024 season. Think about it, half of the 30 MLB teams will have made a change in only two seasons.


With these turnovers, it’s been interesting to watch the direction each is taking in naming its replacement. Let’s go back and review some history of manager selections in the last dozen or so years and how it is affecting decisions today.


When AJ Hinch first became manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2009, it raised a lot of eyebrows about how wise his selection was made, since he had never coached or managed in the minors or majors. He opened the door for future managers, who also didn’t have prior experience. Mike Matheny followed in 2012 with the St. Louis Cardinals. With no prior experience, he turned out to be very successful during his first four seasons with the Cardinals, winning three division championships and one NL pennant in 2013.


At about the same time, baseball analytics were becoming mainstream within major-league organizations. Many front office positions in baseball operations were being filled with MBAs, data scientists, and software engineers, rather than the traditional baseball lifers who went into front office jobs after substantial playing or managerial careers. The “Moneyball” craze had taken hold.


As a consequence, general managers and their staff began to consider prospective manager candidates they thought would embrace baseball analytics concepts and steer the implementation. The result was a trend in younger, inexperienced managers who generally accepted the influence of their front office in setting daily lineups and using data-driven strategies in game situations.


In addition to Hinch and Matheny, some of the other “newer style” managers in 2023 included Aaron Boone, Rocco Baldelli, David Ross, Gabe Kapler, and Scott Servais. They had all been major-league players, some had worked in front office jobs, but none had managed a team at a minor-league or major-league level before their first assignment.


But there remained a number of “old school” managers in the game, those who weren’t ready or willing to embrace these new approaches to the game. They came up through the more traditional path of managerial careers. They didn’t speak the analytics “language.” They operate more on past experience, gut instincts, and decision-making norms that had been around for decades. Some of these in 2023 included Buck Showalter, Dusty Baker, Terry Francona, Bud Black, Brian Snitker and Bruce Bochy.


That’s not to say “old school” managers can’t operate effectively in today’s game. 73-year-old Baker won the World Series with the Astros in 2022, and 68-year-old Bochy came out of retirement to lead the Rangers to their first-ever World Series championship in 2023. They successfully managed to bridge the gap with front offices by having analytics applied through their coaching staff who could implement the new approaches. Snitker, who was 60 years old in his first managerial job in 2016 with the Braves, captured the World Series in 2021. On the other hand, the Los Angeles Angels’ veteran manager Joe Maddon reportedly clashed with his front office over how to manage the team, and he was dismissed 56 games into his third season.


So, let’s look at each new manager selection for 2024.


New Astros manager Joe Espada came up through the traditional path to his first major-league manager’s job. He served as a major-league coach with the Marlins and Yankees before becoming the bench coach with the Astros. Espada, 48, had previous experience as a manager in the Puerto Rican Winter League and the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He had previously been interviewed by several major-league clubs for a manager’s job.


The Chicago Cubs returned to an experienced manager to replace David Ross, who had never held a managerial position prior to his Cubs assignment. Craig Counsell leaves the Milwaukee Brewers after nine seasons to replace Ross, who had a .480 winning percentage in his four seasons. Counsell went from a front office job with the Brewers to his first managerial job at any level in 2015.


Pat Murphy replaces Counsell as the Brewers’ manager. It is his first permanent major-league manager’s position. (He was interim manager with the San Diego Padres in 2015). He had a distinguished career as a college head coach, including stints at Notre Dame and Arizona State. Murphy, 64, spent the last nine seasons as bench coach for the Brewers.


The Cleveland Guardians are taking the youth route in replacing long-time manager Terry Francona, who retired after 11 seasons with the club. New 38-year-old manager Stephen Vogt retired as a player after the 2022 season and spent 2023 as bullpen and quality control coach for the Seattle Mariners. He seems like a huge gamble for a team that has made the playoffs in six out of the last eight seasons.


First-time major-league manager Carlos Mendoza takes over for Buck Showalter with the New York Mets. At age 43, this is Mendoza’s first managerial assignment. He spent 15 years in the New York Yankees organization, including the last four seasons as bench coach. A native of Venezuela, Mendoza is bilingual, which will come in handy with the Latino players.


71-year-old Ron Washington will return to the managerial ranks after ten seasons, replacing the Angels’ Phil Nevin. Washington managed the Texas Rangers during 2007-2014, when he became the winningest skipper in Rangers history. He won back-to-back AL pennants in 2010 and 2011. Since 2014 he has been third base coach for the Oakland A’s and Atlanta Braves. He is well-known for developing infielders.


The San Francisco Giants are replacing four-year manager Gabe Kapler with Bob Melvin, who was manager of the San Diego Padres last season. Kapler had epitomized the “new style” managers, gaining attention after leading the Giants to 107 victories in 2021, but falling to .500 during the next two seasons. This will be Melvin’s fifth major-league manager’s job.


The San Diego Padres have yet to name Melvin’s replacement. The team decided to defer their selection until after Thanksgiving, following the death of Padres chairman Peter Seidler last week. There are several experienced managers available, including Don Mattingly, Joe Maddon, Mike Matheny, and Joe Girardi.


At the end of the day, most major-league owners care more about wins than what type of manager they hire. But then you have a few teams like the Oakland A’s or the Kansas City Royals, where it doesn’t matter who the manager is—they don’t spend enough money on their rosters to produce playoff-caliber teams.


It’s a pretty good bet current managers Oliver Marmol (Cardinals), Pedro Grifol (White Sox), Bud Black (Rockies), Dave Martinez (Nationals), and Aaron Boone (Yankees) will be among those on the hot seat if they produce similar results next year.


And the roller coaster keeps on rolling.

Remembering Tim Parenton's career as four-sport player for Jesuit High School

The Jesuit High School family was saddened by the passing of Tim Parenton on October 30. He played high school sports at a time when athletes routinely participated in multiple sports. In Parenton’s case, he excelled at Jesuit High School in football and baseball, while also lettering in basketball and track. Altogether, he earned 11 letters during his Jesuit career. In 1982, he was named the school’s Football Player of the Decade for the 1970s by the Times-Picayune.


Parenton refined his baseball skills as an infielder in Babe Ruth and Metro Prep Baseball leagues. He joined other players on those teams who would eventually become a core group of teammates at Jesuit.


As a junior in 1979, he anchored the Blue Jay infield at shortstop. Led by All-State pitcher Dickie Wentz, Coach Frank Misuraca’s Jesuit squad defeated New Iberia for the state prep championship. Playing for the Jesuit-based Odeco American Legion team, Parenton helped them win the 1979 state championship over Abe’s Grocery from Lake Charles.


Parenton missed the non-district baseball games in 1980 so that he could finish the Blue Jay basketball season. He eventually joined 10 senior members of the team, including six other starters from the previous season that included Wentz, John Faciane, Casey Snyder, Rodney Lenfant, Brian Shearman, and Gregg Barrios.


Jesuit won the first-round of district play, defeating Rummel twice. Rummel prevailed in the second round, defeating Jesuit twice to win the district title. Both teams advanced to the state playoffs, where Jesuit captured its second straight prep championship by defeating Rummel in the finals.


The Jesuit team proceeded to win its second straight state American Legion title and advance to the Legion World Series, but without Parenton. Instead, he opted to begin preparations for his freshman season in football at Mississippi State.


Parenton had been a four-year football letterman for the Blue Jays. He assumed the starting quarterback position in his sophomore year. Running the wishbone offense, Jesuit finished with a 4-6 record.


In the following season, the 5-foot-10 Parenton led the resurgent Blue Jays to a 10-1 regular-season record. Advancing to the state playoffs, they ended up as the runner-up to St. Augustine in an exciting 13-7 championship game before a Superdome crowd of 42,000. Parenton was recognized for his outstanding season at the National Sports Foundation’s Banquet of Champions.


In his senior season, continuing to run the high risk wishbone, Parenton suffered a separated shoulder in a game against St. Augustine which required surgery to repair. He missed Jesuit’s final two games of the season.


He was included in the Times-Picayune’s Blue Chip list representing the top football seniors in the New Orleans areas. He accepted a football/baseball scholarship to attend Mississippi State.


Parenton earned letters in football and baseball at Mississippi State. He continued his career in baseball as a coach and manager at the college and professional levels. In between some of those positions, he returned to Jesuit as head baseball coach in 2008-2010. His 2008 squad was runner-up to Barbe in the state finals. In 2009, he named District 10-5A Coach of the Year, as Jesuit won the district title.


Parenton’s former Jesuit baseball coach, Frank Misuraca, remembers him as a very competitive player, always giving 100%, no matter what sport he was playing. He said, “Tim fit in well on a team of talented players in 1979 and 1980. His consistency was key to being an excellent player.”


Jesuit pitcher Dickie Wentz had high praise for former teammate. He shared recently, “I think of Tim beyond just playing ball. He was Jesuit and encapsulated everything you would want a ‘Jesuit man’ or any person to be. He was kind, generous, intelligent and humble. As an athlete he had an incredible, innate intelligence. He could slow the game down in his head, see the field or the court, and make crucial decisions in an instant. And of course, he had the tremendous physical ability to match.” Wentz added, “As a teammate in both baseball and football, Tim was the kind of leader you can only hope for--rock steady, confident and always there for his teammates.”


Parenton would be an anomaly today. It’s hard to find an amateur athlete who plays more than one sport, let alone four sports. His legacy is secure at Jesuit High School and the New Orleans area.

Texas Rangers finally get the World Series ring that eluded Ron Washington

The Texas Rangers won the first World Series in their 52 year history in dominating fashion over the Arizona Diamondbacks. And if you count their legacy team Washington Senators, who preceded them as a franchise, you could add 11 more years to their previous futility. The only other times the Rangers appeared in the World Series was in 2010 and 2011.


Manager Bruce Bochy deserves much of the credit for Texas’ results. Coming out of retirement, it was reasonable to expect the three-time World Series winner with San Francisco could get the Rangers to break .500 for the first time since 2016.


But the Rangers ended up winning 90 games, 22 more than 2022. Surely no one expected the Rangers to lead the AL West for most of the season. Despite their awful streak between August 16 and September 8, when they won only four games, they still had a chance at a division title on the last day of the season. I attribute Bochy’s experience as responsible for not allowing the Rangers to completely disintegrate toward the end of the season.


So, Bochy did what Ron Washington was unable to do in 2010 and 2011. A New Orleans native, Washington got the Rangers to their first-ever World Series in franchise history in 2010 against the Giants, followed by a second appearance the next year against the Cardinals.


A baseball lifer, Washington got his first managerial job with the Rangers in 2007. Prior to that he had been a major-league coach for the Oakland A’s for 11 seasons. He began coaching and managing at the minor-league level following his retirement as a 20-year player in 1990.


In the 2010 World Series, Washington’s Rangers ran into the San Francisco Giants’ formidable pitching staff that included Tim Linceum, Madison Bumgardner, and Matt Cain. The Rangers were handily beaten in five games.


Determined to avenge their beating the year before, the Rangers’ 2011 high-powered offense (with Adrian Beltre, Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler) teamed with one of the best pitching staffs in the league to face the Cardinals, led by Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman.


The Rangers led with three wins after the first five games. They had the Series-clenching win in hand in Game 6, leading 7-5 going into the ninth inning. The Rangers were only one pitch away from capturing the Series, but David Freese saved the Cardinals with a game-tying two-run triple in the bottom of the ninth.


The Rangers regained the lead in the top of the 10th on a two-run blast by Josh Hamilton. The resilient Cardinals retaliated with two runs to even the score, 9-9, but not before there was a second situation in which the Rangers were only one pitch away from winning. With a two-out, 2-2 count, Lance Berkman delivered a game-tying single.


In the bottom of the 11th, leadoff batter David Freese delivered a walk-off home run to clinch Game 6. The Cardinals went on to win in Game 7, thus denying Washington and the Rangers their chance for World Series glory.


Those Texas teams still hold a place in his heart, although it is broken heart. Washington said, “When things don’t work out the way the way you want them to work out, you got to pick up the pieces and you got to move on.”


“Wash,” as he is affectionately called by his players, did move on. Now 71 years old, he has been a coach for the Atlanta Braves since 2017. He finally got his World Series ring in 2021 as the third-case coach for the Braves.

How does a below average team wind up in the World Series?

The Arizona Diamondbacks claimed the last wild-card spot in the National League with an 84-78 record, barely beating out the Chicago Cubs who had 83 wins. By most measures, the Diamondbacks were a below average team during the regular season, yet they found themselves as the National League champion with a berth in the World Series facing the Texas Rangers.


In two stats that measure overall batting and pitching performance, the Diamondbacks had a 98 OPS+ and 98 ERA+, both slightly below league average. The team’s season run differential (runs scored minus runs allowed) was minus 15. Their record against teams with winning records was 40-50. Arizona’s second-place finish in the West Division was a whopping 16 games behind the Dodgers.


A first blush, it seemed the Diamondbacks didn’t belong in the playoffs. That’s what I had postulated to my baseball buddies. The team didn’t have players whose names rolled off the tip of our tongue, you know--MVPs, Cy Young Award winners, and other long-time All-Stars.


So how do you figure that they would sweep their way into the National League Championship Series? It was impressive the way they sent Milwaukee and Los Angeles packing without a victory in the Wild Card Series and Division Series, respectively. You could somewhat rationalize their wins over the Brewers who weren’t exactly a powerhouse team during the regular season. But their three-game sweep of the Dodgers seemed out of character for the Dodgers who had defeated the Diamondbacks in eight of their 13 regular-season games, on their way to winning 100 games (second most in the NL).


The Dodgers must have forgotten how to hit, collecting only 17 hits in three NLDS games. Plus, none of the Dodgers’ starting pitchers went more than three innings. Some observers claim the extended layoff the Dodgers enjoyed by clinching the division early and drawing the bye in the first round of the playoffs was to blame for their poor performance.


It appeared as though Philadelphia would put the upstart Diamondback in their place by convincingly winning the first two games of the NLCS, behind the pitching of starters Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola. Phillies hitters banged out six home runs in the two games, including three by Kyle Schwaber.


But the Diamondbacks weren’t ready to check out, as they evened the series at home. Ketel Marte demonstrated why he’s the unsung star of the team by going 5-for-9 in Arizona’s two wins. Wheeler stopped the Diamondbacks from sweeping at home, as he picked up his third win of the postseason in Game 5.


With Nola (3-0 in the postseason) slated to start in Game 6, it looked promising that the Phillies would be returning to the World Series. Yet the surprising Diamondbacks had other ideas. They took a tactic out of the Phillies’ playbook and got ahead early in Game 6. Nola was flat, and the D’backs won handily to force a Game 7.


It was Philadelphia’s turn to forget how to hit in Game 7, as six Diamondback pitchers held the Phillies to five hits, none after the fifth inning. Rookie Corbin Carroll provided the spark at bat and on the bases. The D’backs were grinders, bringing “small ball” back into the game.


The Diamondbacks returned to the World Series for the first time since 2001, when they prevented the Yankees from winning their fourth straight world championship ring. As of Saturday, they were even with the Rangers after two games. Diamondbacks starter Merrill Kelly pitched the game of his life, shutting down the Rangers’ big bats in Game 2. The Series could very well go seven games.


The Diamondbacks have shown us in the postseason that every team starts out with a 0-0 record, regardless of whether they won 104 games (like the Atlanta Braves) or 84 (like Arizona) in the regular season. And they have proved “small ball” still has a place in the game.


If you’re wondering whether any other team in history has pulled off what the Diamondbacks are attempting, the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series after winning only 83 regular-season games.


Many of us learned about the athleticism and grit of several relatively unfamiliar players on the Diamondbacks’ roster. Whether they end up winning the World Series or not, I have a feeling they won’t be taking opposing teams, or the fans, by surprise in the coming seasons, like they’ve done this year.

Ahead of their time: baseball "innovations" suggested in early 1960s

We’ve seen a lot of change in baseball in the past decade. It was perhaps never more evident than the rules changes implemented in the 2023 season designed to enhance the fans’ interest. For the most part, the results were what MLB intended.

 

We tend to think that most of the ideas for change have been the brainchild of current baseball analysts and strategists, as well as Major League Baseball. That’s generally true, but a look back at 50-60 years ago shows there was no shortage of innovation ideas in the game, some of which were still relevant today.

 

In my research activities related to writing about baseball history, I noticed several articles from The Sporting News in the 1960s that addressed innovations being considered then, some of which are finally being implemented today. The changes at that time were identified by some of baseball’s legendary figures of the game, including owner Charlie Finley and executive Branch Rickey.

 

Here are several TSN references mentioning changes thought to be innovative at the time. The comments are my observations of what has transpired since the 1960s.

 

“Greed Prevents a Third Major, Mahatma Insists”

The Sporting News, 12/21/1963, page 12, Melvin Durslag

 

Synopsis: Branch Rickey asserted that the expansion in baseball at the time was a mistake. Instead, he was a proponent of a third major league, whose champions would settle the World Series with round-robin play.

 

Rickey had been the leader of the proposed Continental League slated to begin play in 1961. However, his plan dissolved in 1960 when the American League and National League, then consisting of eight teams each, decided to expand.

 

Comment:  Arguments over diluting existing team revenues likely killed Rickey’s idea back then. Expansion of the leagues has brought the current total number of teams to 30, while including some minor restructuring of the leagues. MLB is reportedly considering more significant restructuring of the two leagues, possibly including additional teams outside of the US continent.

 

 

“Bust Up Farm Chains—Richards”

The Sporting News, 1/19/1963, page 1, Clifford Kachline

 

Synopsis: Paul Richards, then GM of the Colt .45s (former name of the Astros), predicted the minor leagues would be dead within five years and that only a return to independent operation in the minors would avert this outcome. He contended that games in the minors were no longer played to determine the pennant winner, but strictly for developmental purposes. He suggested that in their place, major league clubs should operate concentrated camps and glorified winter leagues playing in the summer to develop their talent.

 

Comment: The minors still exist, but beginning in 2019, MLB took control of the minor league clubs affiliated with major-league teams and reduced the number of minor-league teams by 25%. Independent baseball teams are not affiliated with MLB teams. With the seemingly constant movement of players between the major league clubs and their farm teams today, there is indeed less importance on league titles, as Richards observed 60 years ago. Improvements in college baseball player development have also lessened the dependency on the minor leagues.

 

 

“Finley’s Night World Series Plan Put on Major’s Agenda”

The Sporting News, 11/30/63

 

Synopsis: Charles Finley asserted that by playing World Series games at night, baseball would have better exposure because of larger television audiences in the evenings. He also suggested playing the All-Star Game at night for the same reason.

 

Comment:  The first night game in the World Series was Game 4 in 1971 in Pittsburgh.  All Series games have been played at night since Game 6 in 1987. For the reasons touted by Finley in 1963, it is unlikely the World Series or All-Star Games will ever see another day-time game.

 

 

“Fan Poll Backs Inter-League Play, 2-1”

The Sporting News, 2/2/1963, page 1, Bob Burnes

 

Synopsis: According to a questionnaire circulated by The Sporting News, fans voted by a 2 to 1 margin, they would like to see American League teams meet National League foes for at least one series a season. Its opposition saw inter-league play as creating the potential to lessen the importance of and interest in the World Series. Other opposing views included thinking that the weaker teams would lose even more attendance, and fans, as well as the players, would look upon the games as exhibitions.

 

Comment: Interleague play was introduced in 1997. Fan interest in the interleague series was high, particularly with teams in the same cities/regions. It never detracted from post-season competition. As of the 2023 season, every team in the majors plays at least one three-game series against the other 29 teams.

 

 

“20-Second Clock Okayed in Texas Loop’s Speed-Up”
The Sporting News, 2/2/1963, page 32, Bob Ingram

 

Synopsis: In an attempt to speed up the game, the Texas League adopted a timer clock for the 1963 season to allow hurlers a maximum of only 20 seconds between pitches. When the time expired a siren would sound. The umpires would call balls on slow hurlers. The electronically-controlled clocks would be operated from the press box.

Comment:  The length of games and pace of play remained key issues for Major League Baseball for the next sixty years. After several years of testing in the minors, the implementation of the pitch timer in 2023 contributed significantly to a reduction of elapsed game times by an average of 24 minutes.

 

 

“Charley’s Brilliant Idea; Electronic Men in Blue”

The Sporting News, 2/1/1964, page 4

 

Synopsis: In the 1960s major-league player Charley James developed a concept for an electronic umpire as part of an engineering class project while at Washington University.  He estimated the cost of such a device would be $50,000. His concept would not have eliminated the human umpire, but the device would help umpires improve their judgment in calling pitches.

Comment: The ABS (Automated Ball/Strike System) has been tested in the minors for the past couple of years. While a specific timeframe for utilization has not been established for the majors, it is only a matter of time before the technology underlying the calling of balls and strikes will be used. The new system will not totally eliminate the need for a home plate umpire.

 

 

“Let Sub Swing in Hurler’s Turn at Dish—Mauch”

The Sporting News, 2/2/1963, page 21, Allen Lewis

 

Phillies manager Gene Mauch requested permission to pinch-hit for his pitchers without having to remove them from spring training exhibition games. At the time, he was not advocating such a rule change during the regular season. In his proposal, before the game he would designate one man to hit for the pitcher without having to take the pitcher out of the game.

 

Comment:  An official position for the designated hitter was instituted in the American League in 1973. However, it was not implemented in the National League until 2022. Many baseball “traditionalists” still prefer pitchers hitting for themselves, but it has certainly resulted in changes in game strategy and roster makeup.

 

 

“Orange Baseball’s Introduced Six Years Ago by Semi-Pros”

The Sporting News, 12/28/1963, page 2

 

Synopsis: A’s owner Charlie Finley suggested the use of orange baseballs because they would be easier to see by the players. In fact, semi-pro teams in the National Baseball Congress had been using orange baseballs, known as the Glo-Bal, for six years prior to Finley’s suggestion.

 

Comment:  In 1970, the A’s introduced the use of orange baseballs in spring training games, but this is one idea that was never adopted by Major League Baseball.

 

Are we seeing a new MLB dynasty team?

If you saw the following season records for an MLB team, without an identification of what years were involved or who the team was, who would you say it was?


Season 1 – First place in division, Won WS


Season 2 – First place in division, Lost ALCS


Season 3 – First place in division, Lost WS


Season 4 – Second place in division, Lost ALCS


Season 5 – First place in division, Lost WS


Season 6 – First place in division, Won WS


If you’re thinking the Yankees (1996-2003), Atlanta Braves (1991-1999), Los Angeles Dodgers (2016-2021), or San Francisco Giants (2010-2014), you’d be wrong.


It’s the Houston Astros, the latest franchise to stake its claim as a “dynasty” team. With their victory over the Minnesota Twins in the American League Division Series, they are making their seventh straight appearance in the League Championship Series.


The Astros were one of the first teams to do a complete makeover of the roster from 2011 to 2014. I think they even surprised themselves when they made the playoffs in 2015—it was a year ahead of their makeover schedule.


In the rebuilt roster, Houston’s front office came up with their own version of the “Core Four” (like the Yankees of the mid-1990s through the 2000s.) with Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, George Springer and Carlos Correa, all of whom carried the team offensively from 2017 through 2020.


Springer and Correa bolted for free agency in 2021 and 2022, respectively; yet the Astros replaced them with equal or better talent in Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Tucker, and Jose Pena. So the Astros have benefitted from lineup consistency over those years. And the impressive part of this situation is that these were all home-grown players from the Astros farm system.


From a pitching standpoint, their farm system has also produced a corps of young starters that has served them well, including Framber Valdez, Jose Urquidy, Cristian Javier, Luis Garcia and Lance McCullers Jr. They were supplemented with free-agent veterans like Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, and Gerrit Cole.


And the good news about most of their players, both pitchers and position players, is that they are under team control for the next 2-3 years. So we could see a continuation of their success during the next few years.


The other factor going for the Astros has been Dusty Baker. He’s another big reason for the team’s consistency. He was just what the Astros needed –a steady hand--following their sign-stealing scandal. However, he’s 74 years old, so it’s not certain how much more time he will spend in the dugout. If the Astros were to win the World Series again this year, I could see Baker riding off into the sunset after the season, with a pretty certain case for a plaque in the Hall of Fame.


I realize the term “dynasty team” is often used carelessly. There really isn’t a commonly accepted definition. While the aforementioned Braves and Dodgers won a string of division titles, they didn’t win a commensurate number of World Series rings. The Bronx Bombers and Big Red Machine are more readily acknowledged as dynasty teams. Maybe the Astros aren’t in the same club just yet, but would they be with a couple more World Series championships?

Why Yankee Shortstop Prospects Didn't Like Derek Jeter


Click here to read my story about Derek Jeter on "Start Spreading the News" website.


Random Miscellany

Stolen Bases: A Rejuvenated Offensive Weapon

MLB has instituted several rule changes that favor the use of stolen bases. They have re-emerged as an offensive weapon. Ronald Acuna Jr. has attained the 40-40 Club (40 home runs and 40 stolen bases) this year, joining Jose Canseco, Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, and Alfonso Soriano as the only players to reach these combination of milestones. Acuna is also the first in the 40-60 Club and with two more steals, the 40-70 Club. Seattle’s Julio Rodriguez made it to the 30-30 Club, and there are 13 players who reached the 20-20 Club. Just eight years ago, there were only four players that reached 20-20.



Ohtani: A Money Machine

Sports Illustrated recently reported that the Angels’ superstar Shohei Ohtani will earn a non-baseball income that exceeds his baseball salary this year. Forbes estimates an income of $35 million from endorsement partners this year, while his salary is $30 million with the Angels. By comparison, Aaron Judge’s non-baseball income this year is $4.5 million. Some analysts believe Ohtani will command the first $500 million contract in sports history, including the NFL, NBA, and NHL. He will be a free agent after this season.



Spencer Strider: Keeping Company with Braves HOF Pitchers

Atlanta pitcher Spencer Strider is doing his best imitation of Braves Hall of Fame pitchers Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, and Tom Glavine. As of Saturday, he leads the National League in wins (18), Strikeouts (270), Fielding Independent Pitching (2.81), WHIP (1.063), and SO/9 (13.8). He’ll be a strong candidate for the Cy Young Award. The three Hall of Famers collected seven awards between them. Amazingly, all three played as teammates.



Kyle Schwarber: Unconventional Leadoff Hitter

Normally you wouldn’t think of a team’s leadoff batter hitting 45 home runs. Baseball-Reference displayed some distinctive stats for Philly’s Kyle Schwarber as their leadoff hitter. As of last Thursday, he was batting .196. 63 of his 109 total hits were extra-base hits, including 45 home runs. But his On-Base Percentage (OBP) is .344 (league average is .3xx), because he has walked 123 times. He has 99 RBIs. The only knock on him is that he has struck out 207 times. His total for the “three true outcomes” (comprised of walks, home runs, and strikeouts—those plate appearances in which only the opposition’s pitcher and catcher are involved) is a whopping 54.4%. The National League average is 34.3%.



AL West Division: Going Down to the Wire

Houston, Texas, and Seattle have been battling back and forth for the last couple of weeks for the division title and possibly one or two additional playoff teams. And it appears the battle will continue through the last few games of the regular season. None of the teams seem to want to separate themselves from the others. For example, the Astros lost three series to two of the worst teams in the league—the Royals (twice) and the A’s. Texas lost three games to the Guardians, a team it’s supposed to beat. Seattle can’t seem to break the Rangers.



St. Louis Cardinals: Most Disappointing Season

I don’t think anyone foresaw the pitiful showing by the Cardinals this year. For a team that won the NL Central title in 2022 to finish dead last in the division this year was unthinkable. It’s true the Reds and Pirates improved over last year, but they weren’t blowing teams away. The Cardinals stand to finish 20-25 games worse than last year. Offensively they were slightly better than league average, but their pitching was second from the bottom of the league. The Mets weren’t too far behind the Cardinals in having the most disappointing season.

Former Ehret two-sport star Webster Garrison made a career of professional baseball

At the end of his spectacular high school athletic career in 1983, Webster Garrison was faced with the difficult decision of whether to play baseball in college or to sign with a professional baseball team. His decision was complicated by the fact he was a second-round draft selection in the MLB draft, which ultimately earned him a significant bonus.


Garrison’s senior season (1982-83) at John Ehret High School in Marrero was one of the best in the metro New Orleans area. His athleticism manifested itself as the Patriots’ quarterback who guided the team to an unbeaten season and got them as far as the semifinal round in the state football playoffs. His performance was recognized when he was named 1982 All-State quarterback and Offensive Player of the Year. In baseball he pitched and played shortstop, becoming an All-District performer for the second year and earning district MVP honors. He was also an All-Metro baseball team selection.


Although he had been heavily scouted by several major-league teams, Garrison decided to accept a grant-in-aid scholarship to play baseball at UNO before the major-league draft occurred in June. But then the Toronto Blue Jays selected him in the second round of the 1983 MLB draft.


He was the 37th overall pick in the entire draft. Baseball scouts saw him as a young, raw talent with a lot of potential. To put his selection into perspective, Roger Clemens, who became one of the best pitchers in the history of baseball, was the 19th overall pick of Boston. Wally Joyner, Charlie Hayes, and Ronnie Gant were eventual major-league all-stars selected in the third and fourth rounds behind Webster.


Initial discussions with the Blue Jays didn’t change his mind about signing. He enrolled at UNO and was ready to start classes, when the Blue Jays approached him at the last minute and offered him a $100, 000 signing bonus. Garrison rejected the offer because he wanted to play at UNO and get an education first. But Toronto was intent on getting him under contract before attending classes, or otherwise they would have lost their rights to him. The Blue Jays countered with a $150,000 offer, which Garrison felt he couldn’t turn down. His bonus turned out to be higher than any of the draft’s first round picks.


The Blue Jays were patient with him in his early professional years, as he struggled with hitting. But after getting a few seasons under his belt, Garrison was starting to realize the potential that major-league scouts saw in him coming out of high school. He made the Southern League All-Star team in 1987, while playing for Double-A Knoxville. He had another good season in 1988, when he stole 42 bases with Knoxville, and he repeated as an All-Star selection.


By 1989 at age 23, Webster appeared to be on track to get to the big leagues, as he was promoted to Syracuse at the Triple-A Level for the first time and played in 50 games with them.


However, the Blue Jays’ parent club already had good-hitting, slick fielding shortstop Tony Fernandez who made his first of five major-league all-star teams in 1986. Fernandez, who was only three years older than Garrison, became entrenched as their future shortstop. After Garrison had an injury-plagued season in 1990, the Blue Jays granted him free agency.


Garrison inked a contract with the Oakland A’s organization for the 1991 season. He had his best year to that point in his career in 1993, batting .303 with seven home runs and 73 RBIs for Triple-A Tacoma. But he was again granted free agency by the A’s after the season.


Garrison then signed with the Colorado Rockies organization, where he improved his play during the next two seasons, with .302-13-68 and .293-12-77 offensive statistics for Triple-A Colorado Springs in 1994 and 1995. He was a member of the Pacific Coast League championship team in 1995. However, by that time Garrison was 29 years old and considered past his prime as a major league prospect. He was granted free agency and ended up returning to the A’s.


Webster turned in respectable seasons with the A’s organization and finally made his major league debut on August 2, 1996. He appeared in five games with the Oakland A’s, going hitless in 10 plate appearances. It had taken him 13 years and 1,500 games to make the major leagues at age 30.


He finished his professional playing career in 1999, not able to get another shot in the big leagues. In all, he played 16 minor-league seasons. He appeared in 1,796 games, garnering 1,721 hits in 6,426 at-bats, for a .268 batting average. During his career, he hit 101 home runs and 786 RBI and scored 963 runs.


After serving as a player-coach for Double-A Huntsville in 1999, Garrison turned to full-time coaching for the 2000 season. He was promoted to minor-league manager in 2001. In the Oakland A’s organization, he managed for 13 seasons for teams at the Rookie, Single-A, and Double-A levels. The popular manager compiled a 718-723 record as a manager. He also spent several seasons as a minor-league coach.


Webster contracted COVID-19 in March 2020, shortly after arriving at spring training with the A’s in Arizona. He ended up spending over seven months in the hospital battling life-threatening complications from the coronavirus. He has not been able yet to resume his baseball career.


While Webster’s playing career did not turn out as he and others hoped, he was a model of perseverance by finally reaching the majors at age 30. He became a stabilizing force in the A’s organization, developing young talent in their farm system. Altogether, he spent over 35 years as a player, coach, and manager.

My conscience is clear to pull for the Astros in the postseason

I’ve been a life-long New York Yankees fan. It’s been easy to be a Yankees fan. They were winning world championships with regularity. I even survived a couple of droughts when they fell into the back of the pack of pennant contenders.


I got hooked on the team in the early ‘60s when their lineup featured Mantle, Maris, Berra, Ford, Skowron, Howard, Richardson, Kubek, and Boyer. I thought they were invincible, but then their ages caught up with them.


My loyalty to the Yankees was tested from 1965 to 1975 and again from 1982 to 1995 when they were just average teams, even though George Steinbrenner tried to buy championships with expensive players during the second drought.


Then along came the “Core Four’ (Jeter, Posada, Rivera, and Pettit), supplemented with Clemens, Williams, O’Neill, Martinez, Giambi, Brosius, Hernandez, Cone, and Mussina, and the championships started to roll in again during 1996 to 2012. While many other baseball fans despised the Evil Empire, as the Yankees had become known, I was a happy camper.


In the mid-80s I started to develop a liking for the Houston Astros. A group of my friends and I made annual pilgrimages to the Astrodome for a weekend series. The Astros were in the National League at that time, so I didn’t feel any particular conflict with my Yankees.


The hometown New Orleans Pelicans minor-league team became an affiliate of the Astros in the late ‘90s, and it was fun to track players like Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt eventually reaching the big league Astros.


I became an enthusiastic fan of the Astros’ “Killer B’s (Bagwell, Biggio, and Berkman). I went to a 2005 World Series game in Houston to pull for the Astros against the White Sox, yet I had never been to even one game at Yankee Stadium in my life.


But then the Astros were switched to the American League in 2013 by Major League Baseball. I rationalized that I could pull for both teams since they were in different divisions. But I realized I would have a dilemma if they wound up competing for the AL pennant.


My next test of Yankee loyalty came in 2015 when the Astros squared off with the Yankees in a wild card game. The Astros won that year, as they would do in three American League Championship Series against the Yankees in 2017, 2019, and 2022. My sentimental side forced me to pull for the Yankees. Upon defeating the Yankees for the AL pennant in those three seasons, I sheepishly pulled for the Astros in their World Series quests.


But now the Yankees are on a path to elimination from postseason play. They are in last place in the AL East, nine games behind Toronto, who would be the sixth AL team in the playoffs. It would take a miracle for the Yankees to recover at this point. In fact, I believe they have already packed it in for the season by bringing up several prospects to get a good look at them for next year. It will be the first time since 2016 and only the fifth time since 1995 that they didn’t make the playoffs.


With the Yankees out of the playoff picture, at least I will be able to root for the Astros with a clear conscience this Fall.

Hometown Heroes: Southeast Louisiana products in MLB, MiLB (Through August 31, 2023)

Here’s an update of regular-season pitching and hitting stats for many of the 2023 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 August 31. Below are some of August’s highlights.


Keving Gausman (LSU) maintained his AL lead in strikeouts with 202 and 11. 7 strikeouts per 9 innings.


Michael Papierski (LSU) picked up 16 RBIs in eight games for Triple-A Toledo. He had an impressive slash line of .321/.444/.571 for the month of August.


Jake Slaughter (LSU) leads Triple-A Iowa Cubs with 22 HR, 77 RBI, and 16 Stolen Bases.


Andrew Stevenson (LSU) leads Triple-A St. Paul Saints with a .317 BA, 91 Runs, and 44 Stolen Bases.


Cade Doughty (LSU) leads High-A Vancouver Canadians with 58 Runs, 17 HR, and 67 RBI.


Jacob Berry (LSU) hit four HR and 19 RBI during the month of August for Pensacola Blue Wahoos.


Todd Peterson (LSU) picked up four saves in five opportunities for the month of August


After being promoted to High-A Rome Braves, Tyree Thompson (Karr HS) recorded three wins and two saves in seven relief appearances.


Promotions to Double-A during August included Collin Burns (Tulane), Paul Gervase (LSU), and Bryce Tassin (Southeastern)


Making their professional debuts from the LSU national champions were Paul Skenes, Dylan Crews, Gavin Dugas, Zach Arnold, Giovanni DiGiacomo, Brayden Jobert, Blake Money, and Jordan Thompson. Carson Roccaforte (Louisiana Lafayette) and Tyler Hoffman (Tulane) also made their debuts.


When Skenes made his debut with Double-A Altoona, 10,164 fans attended, the largest in the ballpark’s history.


On August 13, Cruz had a 5-hit game for Double-A Harrisburg, including two home runs.


MLB


Alex Bregman—Astros (LSU) 134 G, .263 BA, .346 OBP, 22 HR, 90 RBI, 3 SB


Jake FraleyReds (LSU) 92 G, .268 BA, .349 OBP, 15HR, 63 RBI, 20 SB


J.P. France—Astros (Shaw HS, Tulane, Miss. State) MLB: 20 G, 10-5, 3.49 ERA, 116.0 IP, 86 SO; MiLB: 5 G, 2-1 ERA, 19.1 IP, 26 SO


Kevin Gausman—Blue Jays (LSU) 26 G, 10-8, 3.30 ERA, 155.1 IP, 202 SO


Ian Gibaut—Reds (Tulane) 61 G, 8-3, 3.36 ERA, 61.2 IP, 56 SO, 1 SV


Alex Lange—Tigers (LSU) 54 G, 6-3, 3.93 ERA, 52.2 IP, 65 SO, 19 SV


Aaron Loup—Angels (Hahnville HS, Tulane) 48 G, 2-2, 5.88 ERA, 41.1 IP, 38 SO, 1 SV


DJ LeMahieu—Yankees (LSU) 112 G, .243 BA, .324 OBP, 13 HR, 35 RBI


Wade Miley—Brewers (Loranger HS, Southeastern) 18 G, 7-3, 3.17 ERA, 93.2 IP, 60 SO


Aaron Nola—Phillies (Catholic HS, LSU) 27 G, 12-8, 4.30 ERA, 167.1 IP, 174 SO


Tanner Rainey—Nationals (St. Paul’s HS, Southeastern) On 60-Day Injured List


Jake Rogers—Tigers (Tulane) 89 G, .205 BA, .279 OBP, 16 HR, 38 RBI, 1 SB


Josh Smith—Rangers (Catholic HS, LSU) 72 G, .203 BA, .322 OBP, 4 HR, 8 RBI


 

Triple-A


Drew Avans–-Dodgers (Southeastern) 115 G, .251 BA, .350 OBP, 11 HR, 56 RBI, 20 SB


Greg Deichmann—A’s (Brother Martin HS, LSU) 89 G, .246 BA, .333 OBP, 15 HR, 51 RBI, 14 SB


Hunter Feduccia—Dodgers (LSU) 78 G, .286 BA, .399 OBP, 8 HR, 48 RBI


Hudson Haskin—Orioles (Tulane) 33 G, .287 BA, .394 OBP, 3 HR, 20 RBI, 8 SB (On 7-Day Injured List)


Austin Nola—Padres (Catholic HS, LSU) MiLB: 8 G, .185 BA, .267 OBP, 0 HR, 2 RBI; MLB: 52 G, .146 BA, .260 OBP, 1HR, 8 RBI


Eric Orze—Mets (UNO) 32 G, 2-4, 6.27 ERA, 51.2 IP, 62 SO, 0 SV


Michael Papierski—Tigers (LSU) 60 G, .269 BA, .367 OBP, 8 HR, 45 RBI


Kramer Robertson—Cardinals (LSU) 103 G, .203 BA, .358 OBP, 2 HR, 28 RBI, 21 SB


Cam Sanders – Cubs (E. D. White HS, LSU) 42 G, 6-2, 5.76 ERA, 54.2 IP, 83 SO, 4 SV


Jake Slaughter—Cubs (LSU) 102 G, .243 BA, .342 OBP, 22 HR, 77 RBI, 16 SB


Chase Solesky—White Sox (Tulane) 22 G, 3-10, 5.42 ERA, 98.0 IP, 78 SO, 0 SV


Andrew Stevenson—Twins (St. Thomas More HS, LSU) 106 G, .317 BA, .395 OBP, 16 HR, 57 RBI, 44 SB


Grant Witherspoon – Tigers (Tulane) 73 G, .238 BA, .350 OBP, 10 HR, 29 RBI, 9 SB (Released on August 9)


 

Double-A


Donovan Benoit–-Reds (Tulane) 20 G, 0-4, 3.72 ERA, 29.0 IP, 37 SO, 3 SV (On 7-Day Injured List)


Jacob Berry – Marlins (LSU) 107 G, .233 BA, .284 OBP, 9 HR, 59 RBI, 10 SB


Jared Biddy–-Rockies (Southeastern) 5 G, 0-0, 19.64 ERA, 7.1 IP, 4 SO, 0 SV (Released on May 23)


Collin Burns--Orioles (De La Salle HS, Tulane) 44 G, .213 BA, .305 OBP, 1 HR, 14 RBI, 14 SB (On 7-Day Injured List)


Daniel Cabrera—Tigers (John Curtis HS/Parkview Baptist HS, LSU) 60 G, .234 BA, .364 OBP, 0 HR, 20 RBI, 5 SB


Hayden Cantrelle—Giants (Louisiana Lafayette) 91 G, .218, .399 OBP, 4 HR, 21 RBI, 14 SB


Brendan Cellucci—Red Sox (Tulane) 33 G, 1-2, 5.89 ERA, 44.1 IP, 52 SO, 0 SV


Dylan Crews – Nationals (LSU) 23 G, .311 BA, .396 OBP, 5 HR, 25 RBI, 3 SB


Paul Gervase – Mets (LSU) 35 G, 3-2, 2.24 ERA, 52.1 IP, 86 SO, 6 SV


Keagan Gillies—Orioles (Brother Martin HS, Tulane) 29 G, 5-1, 2.80 ERA, 35.1 IP, 51 SO, 3 SV


Cole Henry--Nationals (LSU) 10 G, 0-3, 4.82 ERA, 28.0 IP, 30 SO, 0 SV


Kody Hoese—Dodgers (Tulane) 85 G, .240 BA, .299 OBP, 10 HR, 31 RBI, 1 SB


Paul Skenes – Pirates (LSU) 4 G, 0-0, 7.71 ERA, 4.2 IP, 7 SO, 0 SV


Bryce Tassin—Tigers (Southeastern) 32 G, 3-5, 3.93 ERA, 50.1 IP, 40 SO, 0 SV


 

High-A


Cade Doughty – Blue Jays (LSU) 97 G, .261 BA, .337 OBP, 17 HR, 67 RBI, 4 SB


Jaden Hill—Rockies (LSU) 16 G, 0-9, 9.48 ERA, 43.2 IP, 57 SO, 0 SV (On 7-Day Injured List)


Aaron McKeithan–-Cardinals (Tulane) 63 G, .266 BA, .375 OBP, 5 HR, 35 RBI, 2 SB (On 7-Day Injured List)


Tre Morgan—Rays (Brother Martin HS, LSU) 14 G, .396 BA, .482 OBP, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 4 SB

Braden Olthoff—Angels (Tulane) Voluntarily Retired on August 21


Todd Peterson—Nationals (LSU) 39 G, 2-5, 4.73 ERA, 53.1 IP, 41 SO, 7 SV


Mac Sceroler—Reds (Denham Springs HS, Southeastern) 11 G, 3-0, 5.89 ERA, 18.1 IP, 22 SO, 1 SV (On 7-Day Injured List)


Tyree Thompson--Braves (Karr HS) 26 G, 3-2, 3.32 ERA, 62.1 IP, 71 SO, 2 SV


 

Low-A


Jack Aldrich—Cubs (Tulane) 6 G, 2-0, 5.68 ERA, 6.1 IP, 9 SO, 1 SV (Released on August 22)


Zach Arnold—Phillies (LSU) 19 G, .297 BA, .403 OPB, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 6 SB


Gavin Dugas—Nationals (LSU) 16 G, .200 BA, .403 OBP, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 1 SB


Tyler Hoffman—Rockies (Tulane) 32 G, 3-2, 8.40 ERA, 30.0 IP, 31 SO, 0 SV


Brayden Jobert—Cardinals (Northshore HS, Delgado CC, LSU) 25 G, .197 BA, .341 OBP, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 4 SB


Landon Marceaux—Mets (Destrehan HS, LSU) 18 G, 3-9, 5.50 ERA, 75.1 IP, 59 SO, 0 SV (On 60-Day Injured List)


Blake Money—Orioles (LSU) 4 G, 0-0, 1.59 ERA, 5.2 IP, 6 SO, 0 SV


Carson Roccaforte—Royals (Louisiana Lafayette) 22 G, .361 BA, .455 OBP, 0 HR, 14 RBI 15 SB


Jordan Thompson—Dodgers (LSU) 16 G, .268 BA, .323 OPB, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 1 SB

 


Rookie League


Zack Hess—Tigers (LSU) 10 G, 1-0, 7.20 ERA, 10.0 IP, 13 SO, 0 SV


 

Independent League


Giovanni DiGiacomo—(LSU) 27 G, .299 BA, .460 OBP, 0 HR, 10 RBI, 4 SB


Brandon Kaminer—(LSU) 15 G, 5-4, 9.18 ERA, 50.0 IP, 35 SO, 0 SV


Zach Watson—(LSU) IND: 21 G, .322 BA, .365 OBP, 3 HR, 11 RBI, 3 SB; MiLB: 52 G, .209 BA, .265 OBP, 8 HR, 31 RBI, 11 SB


 

Japanese League


Kyle Keller–-Hanshin (Jesuit, Southeastern) 27G, 1-0, 1.71 ERA, 26.1 IP, 28 SO, 1 SV


Jacob Waguespack—Orix (Dutchtown HS, Ole Miss) 31 G, 4-7, 4.71 ERA, 49.2 IP, 67 SO, 2 SV

Turn Back the Clock: The legend surrounding Mel Ott's intentional walk with the bases loaded

When Barry Bonds was putting up one of his historic batting seasons in 2004 for the San Francisco Giants, he was intentionally walked 120 times during the season, including four in one game. Opposing teams feared his bat so much they were willing to give him an automatic free pass rather than see him hit another home run or extra-base hit.


There have been several instances in baseball history in which a batter was intentionally walked in a bases loaded situation, the most recent by Texas Rangers shortstop Corey Seager on April 15, 2022. With Texas leading 3-2 with one out in the fourth inning, Seager was given a free pass by Los Angeles Angels pitcher Austin Warren. Angels manager Joe Maddon made a gut call to walk Seager and give up the run in the relatively close game. He rationalized that the human element (with the dangerous Seager at the plate) dictated the situation, versus the numbers. Maddon was vindicated when his team ultimately won the game, 9-6.


When baseball records involving intentional walks come up, Gretna native and Hall of Famer Mel Ott is often recalled for his game on October 5, 1929, when he was walked with the bases loaded. A belief developed over the years that it actually happened, and it is often included in the all-time list of batters who were intentionally walked with the bases loaded. But a deeper look at the specifics of the game leaves the situation in question.


By Ott’s fourth major-league season, he had developed into a feared hitter, always a threat to knock one out of the park. Going into a doubleheader with the Phillies on October 5, Ott and Phillies slugger Chuck Klein were tied for the National League lead in home runs with 42.


Klein moved ahead of Ott with a home run in fifth inning of the first game of the doubleheader on a blow that hit the right field foul pole and bounced back onto the field. Ironically, Ott was the player who retrieved the ball. Meanwhile, Ott managed to get only a single in four plate appearances, as the Phillies won the game, 5-4.


The second game of the doubleheader got out of hand early for the Phillies, as the Giants scored six runs by the third inning, while holding the Phillies scoreless. Ott posed little threat of tying Klein since he walked four times and singled in his first five plate appearances.


With the Giants leading 11-3 in the ninth inning, Ott came up to bat for a sixth time. Phillies manager Burt Shotton, determined that his slugger would retain the home run lead, ordered his pitcher Phil Collins to intentionally walk Ott with the bases loaded. Following his manager’s directive, Collins hurled three balls wide of the plate.


Realizing the Phillies’ intentions, Ott became angered by Klein’s tactic. Collins followed with the next two pitches that were also wide of the plate, yet Ott swung at and missed both.


Phillies second baseman Fresco Thompson took exception to Ott’s futile attempt to hit one of the last two pitches and rushed in from his position to argue with umpire Bill Klem. Thompson was trying to make the case that Ott’s at-bat should be considered a walk whether he swung at the pitches or not. The dispute went on for several minutes, until Klem finally ejected Thompson from the game. With the game restored, Ott ended up accepting ball four.


While it was clear that Shotton’s intention was to keep Ott from getting a good pitch to hit in his last at-bat, in order to protect Klein’s home run lead, his decision to walk Ott intentionally was not an in-game tactic to protect his team’s lead or keep the score close if behind, which is the typical usage of an intentional walk.


Thus, the Phillies’ basis for using the intentional walk against Ott in his last-at bat makes the act questionable in the eyes of many baseball historians.


 

Ott, a left-handed hitter with a unique batting style, went on to have an illustrious career. He was considered the “Babe Ruth of the National League,” becoming the league’s all-time home run leader (511, second only to Ruth’s 714) when he retired as a player in 1947. Ott’s National League homer record was not broken until Willie Mays hit his 512th in 1966. Ott was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1951.


Mel Ott Park and Recreation Center in Gretna is named in his honor.

Former Shaw HS and Tulane pitcher JP France making strong case for AL Rookie of the Year

When JP France was called up by the Houston Astros in early May, he was brought in to backfill injuries to key Astros pitchers Luis Garcia and Jose Urquidy. At the time, it wasn’t definite how long France would stay with the big-league club. After all, he wasn’t rated as one of the Astros’ top pitching prospects. But now, 3 ½ months later, France has arguably been the steadiest pitcher in the Astros’ starting rotation, and he’s doing his best to contend for the American League Rookie of the Year award.


France, who prepped at Archbishop Shaw High School and played three seasons for Tulane University before transferring to Mississippi State, is in his fifth professional season. He was the 14th- round selection of the Astros in the 2018 MLB Draft.


He wasn’t particularly effective in his first full minor-league season in 2019 with High-A Fayetteville, posting a 4-9 record and 4.31 ERA.


He missed the entire 2020 season when the minor leagues were shut down by COVID. The year’s layoff apparently worked in France’s favor, because he made great strides in 2021 when he finished with a 9-3 record and 3.79 ERA, split between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Sugarland.


France was back with Sugarland for the 2022 season, where his 34 appearances were split between starter and reliver roles. If he was to make it to the big leagues with the Astros, it wasn’t certain which role he would fill.


Garcia and Urquidy were expected to pick up where they left off in 2022, when they combined with Framber Valdez and Justin Verlander to propel the Astros through the playoffs, ultimately defeating the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series. Their performances were a big reason the Astros let Verlander go into free agency after the season. Plus, the Astros expected Lance McCullers Jr. to return to the rotation in 2023 after missing most of 2022 due to injury. The prospect of France breaking into the Astros’ starting rotation looked grim. At 28 years old, time was running out for him to get a fair shot with Houston.


Yet, the Astros turned to France when Urquidy and Garcia went down during the first month of this season. Further complicating Houston’s situation was McCullers’ start of the season on the Injured List. France was picked over the Astros’ No. 1 prospect Hunter Brown to backfill the injured pitchers.


It turns out France’s major-league debut on May 7 was a good omen of what he would contribute to the ailing rotation. He threw five shutout inning against the Seattle Mariners, giving up only three hits and a walk.


He’s has been a key factor in Houston’s ability to remain close to AL West Division leader Texas Rangers. He now sports a 9-3 record, with an impressive 2.74 ERA. He is tied with Cleveland’s Tanner Bibee for most wins by a rookie this season. France has won his last seven decisions. Lately, he’s been more effective than Valdez, the team’s No. 1 starter.


Urquidy is back with the Astros and Verlander was re-acquired at the major-league trade deadline. France was temporarily assigned to bullpen duty, but he returned to the rotation on August 12, when he handily defeated the Los Angeles Angels. Now flush with starters, the Astros are considering a 6-man rotation that includes France.


He will have stiff competition for Rookie of the Year honors. Baltimore infielder Gunnar Henderson, Rangers third baseman Josh Jung, Cleveland’s Bibee, and France’s teammate Brown, who was elevated to the Astros shortly after France, have also earned worthy consideration.

Joe Oeschger: They Don't Make Them Like Him Anymore

My brother-in-law and sister-in-law were traveling in northern California and came across a marker at a baseball field in Ferndale that called attention to Joe Oeschger. They sent me some photos and asked if I was familiar with him and his historic game in 1920, one in which he pitched all 26 innings of the longest game in major-league history.


I was aware of Oeschger, but only long-time baseball historians would readily know his name. His contemporaries on the hill were more familiar pitchers such as Hall of Famers Burleigh Grimes, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Jesse Haines, and Eppa Rixey. But since they all pitched in the majors over 100 years ago, many people wouldn’t know them either. Okay, well how about Babe Ruth?


Aside from his historic game on May 1, 1920, Oeschger didn’t have much to brag about during his 12-year career from 1914 to 1925. His individual records weren’t the type he would write home about. He led the National League in losses with 18 in 1918; earned runs allowed and home runs given up in 1920; and walks allowed and batters hit by pitch in 1921. By all accounts, he was a below average pitcher during his career (measured today by an 88 ERA+, when 100 is average).


However, on this day pitching for the Boston Braves, Oeschger was as good as they come—then and now. He faced 90 batters in the 26-inning contest that ended in a 1-1 tie, because of darkness. He yielded only nine hits and four walks to Brooklyn (then known as the Robins), while pitching 21 straight scoreless innings. His pitch count was not recorded, but if he averaged 10 pitches per inning (which is pretty efficient in today’s terms), that’s a whopping total of 260 pitches. It’s likely that he actually exceeded that. His feat would be unheard of today, as most big-league managers would be frowned upon if they allowed a pitcher to throw over 120 innings in a game.


Think about this. Oeschger’s 26 innings in one ballgame would constitute four or five starts for most pitchers in today’s game. But that’s just how the game has evolved. The term “workhorse” is hardly ever used anymore to describe pitchers, since they rarely grind out even a couple of nine-inning games a season.


Boston manager George Stallings did acknowledge Oeschger’ tireless performance. The skipper gave him 11 days rest before his next outing, when three or four days rest was the norm.


But the story of this historic game doesn’t end with Oeschger’s untiring performance. Brooklyn’s pitcher that day was Leon Cadore. Guess what he did? He matched Oeschger’s 26 innings pitched. Makes you wonder if the opposing managers had a bet on whose pitcher could last the longest.


Thanks, Brad and Suzanne, for jogging my memory of Oeschger and his noteworthy game.

Can Aaron Judge salvage the Yankees?

The New York Yankees are currently trailing all of their AL East Division opponents in the standings. There have been numerous reasons why the team is floundering, some of which are the same old problems from previous years—injuries, lack of starting pitching starting depth, and the underperformance of several key players. With Aaron Judge having to return from the injured list for the last month of the season, it begs the question of whether the slugger can give the Yankees a much-needed boost to assure their berth in the playoffs.


On the surface, being a cellar-dweller doesn’t sound too promising with regard to their postseason opportunities. But the Yankees’ last-place position, unlike most last-place teams in the other divisions, still has them at a .529 winning percentage, eight games behind the Orioles as of Saturday. (By comparison, the last-place Kansas City Royals are 23 games behind their division leader, while the dismal Oakland A’ are 30 1/2 games behind the Texas Rangers.)


Judge has carried the Yankees on his back before. During the second half of 2022 while the Yankees offense began to wane in mid-August, Judge’ performance during his race to 61 home runs single-handedly kept the team in first.


At the time Judge went on the injured in early June in 2023, his performance was similar to his 2022 second half. He was slashing .291/.404/1.078 with 19 home runs and 40 RBI. The Yankees were in third place, only six games behind the division-leading Rays, yet posted the fifth-best overall record in the AL. The Yankees eventually dropped to fifth place by the All-Star Game, never winning more than two games in a row. Yet they never fell below .500.


The division has been the best in all of baseball (every team currently playing above .500). Tampa Bay jumped out to one of the best starts of any major-league season, yet they never held a lead over the second-place team by more than 6 ½ games. It wasn’t until July 20 that they relinquished first place to the Orioles.


The Yankees’ pitching staff has probably kept them competitive more than any other aspect of their game. Their team ERA+ is 111, tied for third in the league with the division rivals Boston and Toronto. They trail Houston and Minnesota by only a couple of points. Of course, Gerrit Cole is the headliner of the starting rotation. He’s putting up his usual Cy Young-worthy numbers. Carlos Rodon, who was acquired by the Yankees during the offseason to be the No. 2 guy in the rotation, didn’t pitch his first game of the season until July 7, because of an injury.


The Yankees have had a revolving door to their outfield positions this season. The production from outfielders like Oswaldo Cabrera, Harrison Bader, Jake Bauers, Billy McKinny, and Isiah Kiner-Falefa has been woeful. If Judge’s first two games upon returning to the lineup are any indication, there’s reason to be optimistic about his contribution during the balance of the season. The Yankee captain was 3-for-6, with three walks, a home run and two RBIs.


According to Baseball-Reference.com, the Yankees are currently sitting outside the projected playoff scenario, while the Orioles, Rays, and Blue Jays are taking spots. The Yankees will need to overtake the Red Sox (who is one game ahead of them), and one of their other division foes (currently 3 ½ games behind the Blue Jays).


There’s still a lot of baseball to be played. I’m looking for Judge to provide the lift the Yankees need to solidify their chances. Of course, it would help if veterans Giancarlo Stanton, Anthony Rizzo, DJ LeMahieu, and Josh Donaldson could kick in some additional offense.

Baltimore's obsession with drafting shortstops could come in handy this week

Anyone who has followed major league baseball in the last 45 years knows the best-ever shortstop for the Baltimore Orioles was Cal Ripken Jr. He was a second-round pick of the Orioles in the 1978 MLB draft and went on to a Hall of Fame career. 32 years later the Orioles made shortstop Manny Machado their first-round selection (third overall pick of the draft) in 2010. He was a four-time all-star with the Orioles, while he now plays for the San Diego Padres. Many would argue he’s bound for the Hall as well.


Since 2015, the Orioles have selected 12 shortstops in the draft and signed two other international shortstops. It seems the O’s GMs have been obsessed in selecting this many infielders at the same position. Perhaps they’ve been looking for the next Ripken or Machado.


That hope may finally be realized since Jackson Holliday was selected out of high school as the first overall pick of the 2022 draft. The highly-touted shortstop, with a major-league pedigree (his father is former MLB all-star Matt Holliday), has already progressed to Double-A. He was Jonathan Mayo’s (MLB.com) No. 12 ranked prospect prior to the 2023 season.


However, Holliday could have a huge challenge ahead of him if he advances to the majors within the next couple of years. He’s got several other high-round draftees already ahead of him on the major-league roster.


Jorge Mateo, acquired from the San Diego Padres during the 2021 season has been the starting shortstop for the O’s since his arrival. Gunnar Henderson, the second-round pick of the Orioles in 2019, was promoted to the big-league club earlier this season. With Mateo entrenched at shortstop, Henderson has been primarily playing third base. He’s already projecting to be a regular at one of the infield positions.


Then there’s Jordan Westburg, a first-round pick of Baltimore in 2020, who was also recently promoted. He’s primarily been seeing action at second base. Joey Ortiz, a fourth-round pick in 2019 who is on the Orioles’ 40-man roster, made his major-league debut this season. He’s been seeing action at shortstop, third base, and second base.


Even as the Orioles are contending for the AL East Division lead, they haven’t been shy about giving these youngsters a shot in the big leagues. They’re all contributing since they are capable of playing multiple positions.


But the odd thing is there are four more infielders at the Orioles’ Triple-A level who were high draft picks or international prospects as shortstop. Cesar Prieto, a Cuban native who signed in 2022, has somewhat flown under the radar because he wasn’t as well known as the top amateur draft picks. Others include Connor Norby, a second-round pick in 2020; Coby Mayo a fourth-round pick in 2020; and Caydn Grenier, a first-round pick in 2018. These prospects are being given an opportunity to play other infield positions, including first base, as well as the outfield. That strategy worked out well with another first-round shortstop in 2015--Ryan Mountcastle, who is the Orioles’ regular first baseman and sometimes DH.


As if that weren’t enough, the Orioles’ organization has two more high draft-pick prospects below the Triple-A level-- Anthony Servideo, a third round pick in 2020, and Collin Burns, a sixth-round selection in 2021, both of whom came out of the college ranks.


While there is a logistical logjam in the Orioles infield, in both the majors and minors, the situation actually puts the Orioles in a good position to acquire much-needed players at other positions by offering up several of these quality prospects. For example, pitching depth is always a necessity at this time of the season.


It seems far-fetched, but perhaps the Orioles can deal a couple of those high-profile shortstop prospects at the upcoming trade deadline for Shohei Ohtani, as a three-month rental. (Ohtani is a free agent after this season.) It would go a long way to ensure their berth in the playoffs and position them as a real threat throughout the postseason.


Oh, did I mention the Orioles picked two shortstops in the final two rounds, 19th and 20th, in this year’s draft? I guess their front office just couldn’t resist.

Turn Back the Clock: Lance Berkman powered Zephyrs to Triple-A World Series title

At the beginning of the 1998 season, the New Orleans Zephyrs hadn’t won a league title in their five years in the Crescent City. They had managed to play in one postseason playoff series (in 1997) but were swept in three games. But that would change during the 1998 campaign. A late-season youth movement by the team, led by Lance Berkman, propelled the team to a Pacific Coast League championship, followed by a coveted Triple-A World Series title.


The Zephyrs became a minor-league affiliate of the Houston Astros in 1997, after having started out with the Milwaukee Brewers as their parent in the American Association in 1993. Another organizational change occurred in 1998, when the American Association merged with the Pacific Coast League. Memphis, Oklahoma, and Nashville became the Zephyrs’ new rivals in the East Division of the PCL.


John Tamargo took the reins as Zephyrs manager in 1998 and led them to a division championship with a 76-66 record, three games ahead of Memphis and Oklahoma. During the last month of the season, the Zephyrs roster was supplemented by promotions for Berkman, third baseman Chris Truby, shortstop Julio Lugo, catcher Scott Makarewicz, outfielder Chad Alexander, and pitchers Derek Root, Mike Blais, and Kent Wallace. They served as backfills for other Zephyrs who were called up to the majors, and the new prospects ended up seeing a lot of playing time.


The Zephyrs got a boost from several of the younger players down the stretch of the regular season. Berkman put up 6 HRs and 13 RBIs in 17 and posted a remarkable .411 on-base percentage. Chris Truby had a slash line of .412/.444/.765 in five games. Blais and Wallace made nine relief appearances between them.


The Zephyrs played the Iowa Cubs, the Central Division champion, in the first round of the playoffs. Their scheduled five-game series was shortened to three games, after Tropical Storm Frances affected the ability to get in all the games. Behind the complete-game pitching of Bob Scanlon, the Zephyrs defeated the Cubs in the third game to advance to the PCL championship round against Calgary.


After trailing Calgary 2-1 in their series, the Zephyrs rallied to even the series. Truby, Berkman, and Lugo led the hitting attack in the Game 4 win, as Scanlon hurled another complete game.


The Z’s came from behind in the deciding Game 5 to defeat Calgary and take home the PCL championship trophy. Bob Milacki gave up only five hits in recording the 4-3 win. 23-year-old Daryl Ward hit his fourth home run of the postseason.


New Orleans faced the Buffalo Bisons, the International League champion, in the Triple-A World Series.


With two home runs, Ward was the hitting star again for the Z’s in Game 1. After Buffalo rebounded with a win in Game 2, New Orleans won the next two games to capture the World Series title. In the fourth game, the Zephyrs won handily,12-6, as Berkman put on a hitting show with four hits, including three home runs (from both sides of the plate) and six RBI. He was named the Most Valuable Player of the series.


Tamargo attributed the successful postseason to his newcomers. He said, “It was the new blood. Those kids really fired everybody up.” When the big-league Astros took four of the New Orleans’ starters and traded a fifth, the Zephyrs managed to jell with the replacement players. Veteran first baseman Paul Russo observed, “The other guys left, new guys came in, and they played outstanding. The older guys tried to take the pressure off them by just telling them to relax and play ball.”


Berkman also spent parts of the 1999 and 2000 seasons with the Zephyrs. He went on to have a spectacular major-league career with the Astros, becoming one of the most productive players in their history. In 14 Astros seasons, he collected 326 home runs and 1,090 RBIs. His slash line was .296/.410/.549. With the Astros, he was a five-time All-Star and finished in the top seven in the MVP voting in five seasons.


The Zephyrs were declared the co-champions of the PCL in 2001 with Tacoma since the championship series was cancelled due to the 9/11 attack.


The Zephyrs remained an Astros minor-league club through the 2004 season, after which they became affiliated with the Washington Nationals (2005-2006), New York Mets (2007-2008), and Florida/Miami Marlins (2009-2019).

A once-in-a-lifetime baseball game

Saturday’s baseball game at Comerica Park in Detroit started out kind of shaky. It had threatened to rain all morning and the weather forecast for the 1:10 afternoon game showed the game was in jeopardy. The game wound up getting postponed by an hour and twenty-two minutes. And true to the forecast, it did rain during the game. Yet it was how the game ended that made it one of the most memorable I have ever attended.


My son Lee, my son-in-law Kenny, my grandson Jackson and I had been in Cleveland two days before to take in games between the Guardians and the Kansas City Royals. The Guardians won both games handily, but it was no surprise since the Royals are a pretty pathetic team. Practically every Royals batter in the lineup was hitting around .220. It’s one of the reasons they are neck-and-neck with Oakland for being the worst team in the American League.


We anticipated a lot of offense from the Toronto Blue Jays in the contest against Detroit. Just the day before, the Blue Jays blew away the Tigers, 12-2, by collecting 14 hits backed by two home runs and three doubles. We were sure we’d see a repeat performance by Toronto.


The rain started almost immediately after the game got underway. Fortunately, we had bought ponchos on our walk to the stadium, just in case. They came in handy; otherwise, we would have been drenched. Remarkably, the game was never interrupted by the weather. We even remarked among ourselves that the game officials must have expected the inclement weather to clear out soon, to have not taken the teams off the field.


We expected former LSU pitcher Kevin Gausman, who is leading the American League in strikeouts, to have a double-digit strikeout game for the Blue Jays.


His opponent on the mound was Tigers pitcher Matt Manning, who was making his fifth start of the season. He had been recently called up from Triple-A Toledo.


Manning had a hard time gripping the wet ball during that first inning when it rained. He started out hitting Blue Jays leadoff batter Dante Bichette and walking Brandon Belt, he but managed to get out of the inning without yielding a hit or run.


On the other hand, Gausman also struggled during the first inning, allowing two runs on a single by Riley Greene (it was his bobblehead day), a double by Spencer Torkelson, and a triple by Kerry Carpenter.


The rain ended in the second inning and sunny skies dried out the drenched fans during the rest of the game.


Both pitchers settled into a routine. Gausman struck out seven batters in six innings, after which he was relieved by Nate Pearson.


Backed by sparkling defensive plays by Carpenter and Javier Baez, Manning held the Blue Jays at bay through six innings without a hit. But in the seventh, after Manning walked Cavan Biggio with two outs, the crowd was stunned when Tigers manager A. J. Hinch pulled Manning from the game. Hinch drew the ire of Tiger fans, who boisterously booed the move; after all, they were anxious to see a no-hitter. Spencer Turnbull was the last Tigers pitcher to hurl a no-hitter in 2021, against the Seattle Mariners.


Hard-throwing Jason Foley came in relief of Manning to get the final out of the seventh and then also blanked the Blue Jays in the eighth.


The crowd came to its feet, as another former LSU pitcher, Alex Lange, came in to close out the game and preserve the no-hitter in the ninth for the Tigers. He was tasked with facing the formidable top of the Blue Jays order consisting of Bichette, Belt, and the always dangerous Vlad Guerrero Jr.


Lange quickly retired Bichette on a strikeout and Belt on a fly ball and then induced Guerrero on a weak ground out to cinch the no-hitter. Detroit won the game, 2-0. History was made.


It was the first combined no-hitter in Tigers history. There have been only 318 no-hitters in the majors since 1876. Of these, there have been only 20 combined no-hitters. Considering there have been over MLB 237,000 games since 1876, the Tigers’ no-no was extremely rare.


 

It was my first time witnessing a major-league no-hitter in person. (I’ve seen a no-hitter and a perfect game in the minors when the New Orleans Zephyrs fielded a team.) This will now rank as the most memorable MLB game I’ve attended, replacing the one I saw in Atlanta in August 1978, when Pete Rose broke his 44-game hitting streak.

Who is Luis Arraez?

If you don’t already know the name Luis Arraez, you should. The Miami Marlins second baseman has quietly come onto the major-league landscape. It’s probably because he hasn’t played for a big-market team. But here’s a player who apparently knows how to hit. He won the American League batting title last year when he was playing for the Minnesota Twins. And now he’s pushing the .400-mark at mid-season.


The 26-year-old Venezuelan made his major-league debut with the Minnesota Twins in 2019, when he hit .334 in half of a season. Again, he flew under the radar in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season as he batted .321.


Arraez had trouble finding a full-time position with the Twins in 2021. With Jorge Polanco entrenched at second base (with 33 homers and 98 RBIs), Arraez was by the Twins used a “super-utility” player, with appearances in both infield and outfield positions. Still, he turned in a .294 batting average.


Last season, Arraez led the American League with a .316 batting average, earning an All-Star appearance and a Silver Slugger Award. When Aaron Judge was threatening to win the Triple Crown, it was Arraez who was standing in his way to accomplishing the rare feat. (Judge finished second with a .311 batting average.) Arraez was the first Twins player to win a batting title since Joe Mauer in 2009.


Oddly, Arraez was traded to the Marlins after the 2022 season for veteran pitcher Pablo Lopez and two teenage prospects. When the Twins decided to bolster their pitching rotation for 2023, Arraez was the one who became expendable, even though he was under team control until 2025. He is the first player since Hall of Famer Rod Carew (1978) to be traded after winning a batting title.


Arraez is currently batting a phenomenal .388 at mid-season. He already has 116 hits, on a pace to exceed 200, which is generally acknowledged as a significant milestone for a single season. His closest NL competitor is Ronald Acuna Jr. with a .333 average. Arraez has a .439 OBP, first in the NL. Intentional walks are usually employed against power-hitting threats, yet he’s been intentionally walked eight times, first in the league. If there is a knock against his performance, it’s that he doesn’t hit for power. His highest home run total for a season is eight in 2022. He has only three so far this season.


Arraez had his third 5-hit game in the month of June on the 16th. He is one of only four players to accomplish this in a single month, along with Dave Winfield, Ty Cobb, and George Sisler.


For advanced batting stats using FanGraphs, Arraez is second in the majors with a BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) of .402. He is fifth in wRC+ (Adjusted Runs Created) at 153. He has the lowest Strikeout Rate at 5.2%.


He is one of the main reasons the Marlins are 12 games above .500. They are in second place, 8 games behind the Atlanta Braves. The Marlins have the third-best record in the National League.


Past history says Arraez won’t end up with a .400 batting average. The last player to do this was Ted Williams in 1941, when he hit .406. Tony Gwynn came the closest since Williams, with a .394 mark in the strike-shortened (114 games) 1994 season. George Brett hit .390 in 1980. Arraez would be in rare company with those Hall of Fame hitters, if he can maintain his current pace.