The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
Periodically, I will post new entries about current baseball topics.  The posts will typically be a mixture of commentary, history, facts, and stats.  Hopefully, they will provoke some  of your thoughts or emotions. Clicking on the word "Comments" associated with each post below will open a new dialog box to enter or retrieve any feedback.
Early musings about the 2022 MLB season

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Danna died in 2005 at age 87.

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


 

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


 

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

 

 

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

 

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

 

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


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


April 3, 1981: Tulane vs. UNO


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

 

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

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


April 10, 2002: LSU vs. Tulane


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Predicting the 2022 MLB Division Winners

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


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


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


American League East


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


American League Central


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


American League West


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


AL Playoff Teams


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


National League East


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


National League Central


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


National League West


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


NL Playoff Teams


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


World Series Winner


Dodgers over Blue Jays

Toronto Blue Jays poised to be threat in tough AL East

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

New Orleans area players found careers in baseball after playing days

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Flashback: 2021 MLB season included family ties highlights

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

 

Ranking former New Orleans MLB players using the WAR statistic

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


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


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


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


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


Position Players

 

Player

 

Timeframe

No. of Seasons Played

 

Career WAR

 

WAR in Best Year

Mel Ott, OF

1926-1947

22

110.9

1938 (8.9)

Will Clark, 1B

1986-2000

15

56.5

1989 (8.6)

Rusty Staub, OF-1B

1963-1985

23

45.8

1970 (6.3)

Zeke Bonura, 1B

1934-1940

7

21.5

1937 (4.3)

Connie Ryan, 2B-3B

1942-1954

12

17.7

1952 (3.6)

Lou Klein, IF

1943-1951

5

8.1

1943 (6.5)

George Strickland, SS

1950-1960

10

6.8

1953 (2.7)

 

Pitchers

 

Player

 

Timeframe

No. of Seasons Played

 

Career WAR

 

WAR in Best Year

Howie Pollet

1941-1956

14

34.3

1946 (6.8)

Mel Parnell

1947-1956

10

27.7

1949 (8.0)

Jack Kramer

1939-1951

12

11.3

1944 (5.2)

Chad Gaudin

2003-2013

11

2.4

2013 (1.5)

Steve Mura

1978-1985

7

1.0

1980 (1.3)

 

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Simpson died in 2015 at age 94.

 

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

 

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Controversial picks abound on my mythical 2022 Hall of Fame ballot

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Klein a member of failed “College of Coaches”


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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


Hodges supporters have argued his major-league managerial career should also add to his Hall worthiness. His main contribution in that role was winning the 1969 World Series with the “Miracle” Mets. It was indeed a great accomplishment, but his won-loss percentage is .467 during his entire nine seasons with the Mets and Washington Senators.


I’ve told you all the reasons why I don’t consider Hodges more Hall-worthy. Here’s the other side.


Hodges was an eight-time National League all-star. He was exceeded only by Duke Snider for most home runs by Dodgers during 1949-1959. He hit 370 homers during his career. Sports Illustrated writer Tom Verducci maintains Hodges was “best of his era” for first basemen, because he recorded more hits, runs, homers, and RBIs than any active first basemen during 1948-1959. He was a Gold Glove winner three times.


Verducci also points out that Hodges received enough votes by the veterans committee in 1993, only to be disallowed because one of the voters was his former teammate Roy Campanella, who did not attend the meeting when the votes were taken.


Hodges has had a halo surrounding him since his playing days. From all accounts, he was a genuinely good guy. He was under-appreciated because he just went about his business every day, never one to create a lot of fanfare for himself. Plus, he didn’t have a catchy name like “Pee Wee” or “Duke.”


His election last week finally brings closure for his family and his many ardent supporters. That’s a good thing. I suppose we can finally put behind us all those hearty endorsements for his election. That’s a good thing, too.

It's too early to panic with the MLB owners' lockout

Major League Baseball’s owners initialed a lockout of major-league players when the owners and the Major League Baseball Players Association did not finalize a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) by December 1, the expiration of the old CBA. It sounds like a drastic move for the sport, but the reality is the lockout is just the next negotiation tactic in what will likely be a protracted process. The MLBPA put an aggressive proposal on the table in May and hasn’t budged off of it in the negotiations thus far.


MLB didn’t have to issue the lockout order right now. The two sides could have continued to operate under the old CBA, so that normal business operations could continue. However, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred rationalized that the lockout is part of the negotiation process and is designed to put pressure on the players to continue new CBA negotiations in earnest. In any case, it came as no surprise to the players association that the owners pulled the trigger on the lockout. The last owner lockout occurred 26 years ago. Essentially there has been labor peace in baseball since then.


The issues swirling around the negotiations are fairly complex; but when you boil them down, each side’s objective is rather simple. The players want a larger share of the revenue. The owners want to keep the status quo for the CBA—maintain the current revenue sharing percentages and ensure competitive balance among the teams. How both sides’ objectives are ultimately achieved is where the difficulty lies. The devil is in the details.


The union’s argument for a larger share of revenue is that baseball franchise values have sky-rocketed in the past few years, and they want consideration for contributing to that situation. The franchises are setting records for increased revenue, and the players want to increase their share of a larger pie. The MLBPA believes it got fleeced in the 2016 CBA, with respect to the allocation of revenue. Currently the owners have 57%, while the players get 43%.


The union has several constituents it is representing: the players with 0-3 years in the majors; the players eligible for free agency, the older players (usually 30 years or more), and the high-end superstars. However, their focus this time seems to be on the pre-salary arbitration players.


Following are some of the union’s demands, in addition to receiving a larger percentage of revenue.


The union wants to reduce the time required for two-year players to become eligible for salary arbitration. It maintains that the younger, high-performing players are being underpaid. Furthermore, they want players to be able to enter free agency sooner. However, the owners see this change as bad for fans because the better players on small market teams will leave sooner.


The union believes the 30-plus-year-old players are often not paid appropriately, since major league clubs are opting for younger, lower-paid players instead of signing older free-agent players seeking longer-term contracts and dollars that reflect their years of service. The older players are then forced to accept one or two-year deals at considerably less than market value.


Furthermore, the union wants the league to discourage teams that do “tanking” to lower their overall salary expense. The union sees this as a practice by the lower-end owners to improve their profits, because their rosters mainly consist of players under team control.


The union wants the league to institute a lower competitive balance tax, so that potentially more teams will exceed the maximum and be required to contribute taxes on overruns, which benefits the smaller market teams. The union believes that teams who receive a proportionate share of dollars from the competitive balance tax are not spending the money on player salaries, but instead are pocketing the money as profit. The union wants the league to require teams to spend the luxury money on the players.


As a backdrop to these MLBPA demands, the owners’ collective spending on player salaries has declined each year since 2017.


The owners are concerned about changes that would affect competitive balance. Small-market teams are especially hurt by earlier salary arbitration and a faster path to free agency. They tend to fill their rosters with younger players under team control at lowers salaries. Accelerating arbitration or free agency would cost them more and create more turnover of their players.


But what do the players have to offer in return for some of these concessions? Perhaps the only proposal is to agree to expanded playoffs that would involve fourteen teams. This would have a dramatic increase in revenue that benefits both sides.


Other items that could become part of the negotiation include an NBA-style draft lottery, a pitch clock, and universal DH.


In issuing the lockout now, the owners don’t want to make the same mistake as in 1994. During the negotiations then, the owners didn’t lock out the players, and the players went on strike in August that wound up cancelling the playoffs and World Series.


In reality, the lockout doesn’t become critical until teams start reporting for spring training. So, there are at least two months for the two sides to come to an agreement. One of the impacts, if it does take that long, is that it leaves a lot of free agents in limbo until right before they are to report. That’s because teams and players can’t communicate on trade or free-agent transactions during a lockout.


So, if you were planning to attend spring training in Florida or Arizona in March, it’s too early to think about canceling your trip.

 

 

Flashback: Third time's a charm for 2006 Rummel-based American Legion team

Rummel High School-based American Legion teams have a rich history of competitive baseball in the New Orleans area. Of course, the ultimate goal of all Legion teams is to win all the marbles in the annual American Legion World Series. Rummel had two unsuccessful cracks at the overall championship in the 1970s, before the 2006 team, sponsored by Nationwide Restoration, captured the national title.


New Orleans area baseball teams have competed in the American Legion World Series numerous times since the event began in 1926. Yet there have been only five years in which area teams have captured the overall championship. In addition to the 2006 Rummel squad, the other teams include the 1936 S.J. Peters-based Zatarain Papooses, 1946 Jesuit-based Post 125, 1960 Jesuit-based Tulane Shirts, and 2012 Jesuit-based Retif Oil.


Rummel’s American Legion past included two teams, coached by Larry Schneider, which reached the American Legion World Series in 1974 and 1976. Sponsored by Schaff Brothers, the team finished fourth in both years. (Note: In 2009 Ken Trahan convened a panel of historians, sportswriters, coaches, and former players who spanned several decades to determine the best American Legion teams in metro New Orleans history. The 1974 Schaff team tied for the No. 1 ranking with 1980 Jesuit-based Odeco, while the 1976 Schaff team ranked No. 6.)


Thirty years later Rummel was still turning out good teams, both in prep and Legion competition. Coach David Baudry’s Nationwide team had won the state Legion title in 2005, earning a trip to the Mid-South Regional. However, they were eliminated by Enid, Oklahoma, the eventual World Series champion.


The Rummel High School team, also coached by Baudry, won the District 8-5A championship in 2006. His talented team included All-Metro performers Robby Broach, Ryan Scott, Brent Brignac, and Mike Liberto. Brett Palermo, Kirk Cunningham and Dane Maxwell were All-District selections. Baudry was named the Coach of the Year in Rummel’s district. In the prep state tournament, Rummel reached the semi-finals but was eliminated by eventual champion Barbe.


All of those players transitioned to the Nationwide American Legion team that summer, while Baudry added eligible college freshmen who brought additional experience, including Kevin Weidenbacher and Matt Brown.


Nationwide swept its competition in the Louisiana Southeast Region tournament in Ponchatoula, defeating Holy Cross-based Ponstein’s in the finals. Baudry had confidence in the team’s talent. However, he told the Times-Picayune at the time, “My main concern is, do they want to go through the long grind again to reach the World Series.”


Nationwide handily won its first three games in the State Legion tourney in Shreveport against St. Amant, Shreveport, and Bossier, behind the pitching of Brown, Carl Labit, and Broach. Although they lost, 10-7, to a strong East Ascension Gauthier-Amadee team in the fourth game, Rummel still advanced to the finals. Nationwide rebounded in the finals against Gauthier-Amadee, winning decisively on a three-hitter by Maxwell, 13-1. Baudry credited his team’s success to its top two hitters, Liberto and Broach, being able to get on base for the middle of the lineup featuring Scott and Cunningham.


Nationwide advanced to the Mid-South Regional for the second year in a row. One of their foes at the tournament site of Crowley, Louisiana, was the Enid, Oklahoma team that eliminated them in 2005. Baudry expected to cross paths again with Enid. He said in a Times-Picayune interview, “I feel like our experience level will help us. I think if we are dedicated to playing hard, we have a chance to be around on the final day.”


Nationwide combined a 16-hit attack with a three-hit performance by Matt Brown to defeat Campbellsville, Kentucky, in the first game, 17-4. In their second game against Texarkana, Nationwide had to rally twice to overcome the Texas entry, 16-11. Ben Usner was credited with the win after pitching the final three innings, while Liberto and Maxwell led the hitting attack.


The team recorded shutouts in their next two games against Enid and Tupelo, Mississippi, as Broach and Maxwell turned in masterful performances on the mound. Facing Enid again in the finals, Nationwide gained a measure of revenge from 2005, with a 5-1 victory, their 40th of the season. Brignac was the winning pitcher with 10 strikeouts. Palermo was the hitting star for Nationwide, going 3-for-4 and driving in three of the team’s five runs. Maxwell was named the tournament MVP.


Nationwide advanced to the final eight teams in the national championship round in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It had been 46 years since a New Orleans area team won the American Legion World Series, and it had been 30 years since the Rummel Schaff Brothers team claimed a World Series berth. Hoping to end the drought, Baudry believed one of the keys to his team’s success was the experience that was retained with the seniors and college freshmen. Baudry told the Times-Picayune, “They know what to expect. Baseball is a high priority to them, and they have already played at a high level.”


Nationwide was feeling good about it chances. They had been battle-tested on their journey to the Word Series, including the victory over last year’s champion. Chris Accardo, father of Nationwide’s catcher Brett Accardo, had played for the Schaff Brothers team that went to the World Series in 1976. Familiar with the usual level of competition in the World Series, he remembers cautioning the squad about its confidence going into the tournament. He recalls telling them, “Guys, this is not like playing at Mike Miley playground. Your opponents will be a level above what you are accustomed to playing.”


Sure enough, Nationwide was set back on its heels in their first game against a very experienced team from Terre Haute, Indiana. Terre Haute took an early lead, 6-1, and Nationwide wasn’t able to catch up, putting up only two more runs. The team bounced back with a 7-6 win a seesaw battle with Lincoln, Nebraska. Baudry said about the win, “They are not satisfied with coming up here for a little vacation. They want to stay awhile.”


After playing inconsistently in the first two games, Nationwide mounted a strong attack against Milton, Massachusetts. Maxwell turned in a fine pitching performance, while Accardo led the offense with a grand slam home run. The elder Accardo vividly remembers his son’s dramatic hit . “I was just hoping Brett could deliver one run with the bases loaded, but then he hit it out. It was the biggest moment of my life.” Nationwide won convincingly, 10-4. Baudry said after the game, “Maybe we’re over the hump now. I just think we’ve been playing tight, and I think now maybe we might be able to relax.”


Nationwide’s fourth game entailed a re-match against Terre Haute. This time the outcome was vastly different, as Nationwide built up an early 14-0 lead that included sending 13 player to the plate in the second inning. Terre Haute tried to fight back but fell short in the 14-9 loss. Broach then struck out 11 against Middleton, Virginia, in Nationwide’s fifth game in which they won, 6-2. The victory advanced them into the finals in a winner-take-all game against Terre Haute.


In the final game, Nationwide’s starting pitcher Matt Brown faced off with Terre Haute’s ace Josh Phegley, a future major leaguer. Terre Haute was a different team from one that took a shellacking in the fourth game. They led until the bottom of the eighth inning, but then Nationwide put together three runs for a final winning score of 6-4. Brown hurled a complete game with 11 strikeouts and got the necessary offense from several teammates.


The Rummel-based Legion program had finally captured the World Series title on its third attempt. Liberto was named the tournament MVP and joined on the all-tournament team by Weidenbacher, Broach, and Cunningham. Baudry was complimentary of his team after the game. He told the Times-Picayune, “We’re very resilient. These guys, the last two nights, made big, big pitches and that’s the big key. We left everything we had out on that field.”


Fifteen years later, Baudry, currently head baseball coach at Hahnville High School, reflects on the 2006 team and its accomplishment, “At the beginning of the summer, I thought we had something special. We had a lot of returning players from the year before. I knew if we could stay healthy, we’d be around at the end of the summer. He added, “We had good competition at the district level that prepared us for the post-season tournaments. Our pitching always gave us a good chance to win. They pounded the strike zone. They knew if the ball were hit, our defense would make the plays.” Baudry was complimentary of the support by the parents of the players, recalling they rented a bus to travel with the team.


Brady Benoit, who was Baudry’s assistant coach in 2006 and is now the head baseball coach at Northshore High School in Slidell, offered his assessment. “The talent on our team was off the chart. It seemed like we had a different guy step up every night to lead the team. The players knew someone would pick up the slack, and they didn’t care who got the spotlight.” Benoit added, “People couldn’t believe that all our players came from one school, whereas the other tournament teams were comprised of all-stars from several teams.”


Still today, Larry Scott, father of Ryan Scott, has fond memories of the momentous season. He said, “The three months that we spent together that summer was the most fun for the parents, including the Field of Dreams visit in Iowa and the long bus ride to Cedar Rapids. We were like a family and everyone has many great memories.”  Ryan was honored with the American Legion Louisiana Player of the Year award and received a scholarship.


The Nationwide team was treated to a game at the 2006 MLB World Series at Detroit’s Comerica Park, where they were recognized in a pre-game ceremony.


The complete roster for the 2006 Nationwide Restoration (Post 175) squad included: Brett Accardo, Brent Brignac, Robby Broach, Matt Brown, Kirk Cunningham, Gregory Dick, Cory Hoffman, Tyler Koelling, Carl Labit, Mike Liberto, Dane Maxwell, Matt O’Connor, Brett Palermo, Ryan Scott, Ben Usner, Kevin Weidenbacher, and Kyle Zara. Team manager was Anthony Longo. A testament to the team’s talent was that eleven of the players went on to play baseball at the collegiate level.

Family Ties Still Flourishing in 2021

One of my special interests in baseball, going back about 30 years, has been the prevalence of relatives in professional baseball, including the majors and minors. My interests manifested itself in a book I authored in 2012, where I published my initial research efforts about baseball’s relatives. Appropriately, I titled the book “Family Ties: A Comprehensive Collection of Facts and Trivia about Baseball’s Relatives.” Since then, I have continued extensive research and documentation of the occurrences of family relationships in the sport, except it is now maintained in a database, with annual updates posted on my website “Baseball’s Relatives.”


There is no single source you can go to find all the family ties in baseball. There are several websites that provide lists of major-league players who are fathers, sons and brothers, but that’s about it. Several factors distinguished the information in my book from the other lists on these websites: 1) I not only included players, but also managers, coaches, scouts, executives, owners, front office personnel, broadcasters, and umpires who had relatives in baseball; 2) I also included minor-league players; 3) I included additional family relationships (uncle, nephew, cousin, grandson, etc.); 4) I included relatives who participated in non-baseball sports. The additional information I gathered resulted from reading baseball-related websites, books, magazines, and newspapers.


I thought I had a pretty comprehensive set of information in the Family Ties book. There were over 3,500 baseball personnel identified, covering all of the baseball roles. But I acknowledged in the book that my information was not exhaustive, if only for the reason that each new baseball season would bring in new players who had family relationship in the sport.


I just finished the 2021 season updates of my database.  I now have accumulated over 8,300 major-league and minor-league players, managers, coaches, scouts, executives, owners, front office personnel, broadcasters and umpires. All of these represent over 12,000 family relationships (father, son, brother, uncle, nephew, cousin, etc.) in baseball. There are another 1,400 family relationships with athletes in other major sports at various levels (amateur, college, professional, and Olympics).


For the past several years, most of my updates have been found in major-league team media guides. Most of the teams are pretty good at identifying in the bios of their players any relatives they have in baseball or another sport.


The 2021 season information can be viewed at https://baseballrelatives.wordpress.com/family-ties-2021-season/


Here are a few stats and interesting facts from the 2021 season:


 

  • 592 active major and minor league players have one or more relatives in pro baseball. That’s equates to about one in every seven players in the majors and minors combined.

 


 

  •  Those 592 players had 835 family relationships.

 


o   Nationals minor-leaguer Jake Boone and major-leaguer Vlad Guerrero each have six relatives. If Boone makes the majors, his family would become the first four-generation MLB family.


o   Minor-leaguer Trei Cruz has five family members in pro baseball. If he reaches the majors, the Cruz family would become only the sixth three-generation MLB family.


 

  •  648 active non-players have one or more relatives in pro baseball.

 


 

  •  Those 648 non-players had 1,180 relationships.

 


o   Jerry Hairston Jr. (Dodgers broadcaster) and Shawn Roof (Tigers minor-league manager) each have nine relatives in pro baseball.


o   Phillies executive Andy MacPhail has seven relatives, which includes four generations of front office personnel, going back to Larry MacPhail who began his career in the 1930s.


o   With more and more major-league and minor-league coaching and front office personnel being hired without playing experience, this category of relatives will likely decline over time.


 

  •  32 players with relatives made their MLB debut.

 


o   Reds pitcher Riley O’Brien is the grandson of former major-leaguer Johnny O’Brien, whose twin brother Eddie was also a major-leaguer.


o   Rays phenom Wander Franco has two brothers (both also named Wander) who played in the minors. They are nephews of retired MLB brothers Willy and Erick Aybar.


o   Brothers Trevor and Tylor Megill made their debuts with the Cubs and Mets, respectively.


 

  •  62 players with relatives made their minor-league debut

 


o   The last names of several of these rookie minor-leaguers are very familiar (Glavine, Kessinger, Niekro, Pettitte, and Boone).


 

  • 18 players with relatives were selected in the MLB Draft which consisted of 20 rounds. (In 2020 there were five rounds.) When here were 45 draft rounds in 2019, 77 players with relatives were drafted. There will be more of a shift toward undrafted free agent signings with limited rounds.

 


 

  • 362 players and non-players had relatives in other sports and levels. Below are some examples.

 


o   Royals manager Mike Matheny has four sons who played college baseball, one of which made it to the minors. His daughter played hockey in college.


o   Orioles second baseman Jahmai Jones’s father and three brothers played in the NFL.


o   Cubs outfielder Trayce Thompson’s father and two brothers played in the NBA.


 

  • By far, the San Francisco Giants had the most active players with relatives (31) and the most active non-players with relatives (41). It makes you wonder if this was by design (preference for hiring players and non-players with baseball in their bloodlines) or just a coincidence.

I envision a future trend in which we’ll see a reduction of family ties in baseball. The pipeline for new entrants is being reduced in several areas. There are now fewer draft rounds and fewer minor-league teams, which affects both the number of players and coaches. Many jobs in major- league front offices are being filled nowadays with personnel who did not play professional baseball. Scouting staffs are being reduced by many teams because of the availability of technology to evaluate players without seeing them in person.

Flashback: Will Clark involved in 1993 MLB free agency controversy

With Major League Baseball already into the off-season, navigating the free agency situation is occupying significant time by major-league front offices. General managers are looking to augment their rosters with players who can help turn their teams into a pennant contender next spring. As always, the GM’s challenge is being able to afford the players’ salary demands while also trying to minimize long-term commitments.


Major league clubs will be jockeying for this year’s top free agents, headlined by shortstops Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, Marcus Semien, Javier Baez, and Trevor Story. There’s sure to be a significant amount of attention around their signings, since any one of these players could be a difference-maker for many teams. It will be interesting to see which of these players will be the first to sign, thus setting the market price for the rest of the elite infielders. We can expect drama around the signing of one or more of these high-profile players.


Former New Orleans prep star and major-leaguer Will Clark had a flair for the dramatic on the field. But it was during the winter between the 1993 and 1994 seasons that he made a big splash in the free agent market, as he left San Francisco to sign with the Texas Rangers. The circumstances of his move created a fair amount of commotion and controversy within the baseball ranks.


Clark had a storybook career, starting with his playground days in New Orleans and extending throughout his 15-year major-league career. Along the way, he was a standout at Jesuit High School, an All-American at Mississippi State, the star of Team USA in the 1984 Olympics, and a six-time major-league all-star.


Clark made his major-league debut with the San Francisco Giants in 1986 after having been the No. 2 overall pick of the 1985 MLB draft. By 1990, his stock had risen significantly, making him one of the exciting young stars of the National League. He was rewarded accordingly with a new four-year, $15 million contract, the largest ever given at that time.


Following the 1993 season in which the Giants had acquired slugger Barry Bonds, Clark was a free agent again. While Bonds had put up an MVP season with San Francisco, Clark was coming off a subpar season for him, as his production declined when he missed 30 games due to nagging injuries. Clark preferred to stay with the Giants but decided to test the free-agent market after becoming disappointed with the Giants’ offer of a three-year deal at less than $15 million.


Clark drew interest from the Orioles, Mets and White Sox. Additionally, the Rangers and Rockies were expected to enter the chase for Clark if they could not re-sign their incumbent first basemen, Rafael Palmeiro and Andres Galarraga. The Orioles wound up entering contract negotiations with Clark but was unable to reach a final agreement.


Palmeiro didn’t immediately accept the Rangers’ initial offer of $26 million for five years and he decided to enter the free-agent market. The Rangers responded by initiating contract discussions with Clark.


Palmeiro was peeved at the Rangers for engaging his former Mississippi State teammate. He told The Sporting News, “I think Will Clark is a good player, but I don’t think he’s the player that I am. I feel I’m the better player.” Indeed, Palmeiro had just completed the best season of his career (.295 BA, 37 HR, and 105 RBIs), outpacing Clark (.283 BA, 14 HR, and 73 RBIs).


Unable to reach a long-term deal with the Giants, Clark signed a five-year contract with the Rangers worth $30 million. Clark’s agent, Jeff Moorad, commented in USA Today upon the signing, “He’s leaving the Giants with very mixed feelings. It was his sincere desire to re-sign with the Giants.”


Palmeiro was upset with the Rangers for the deal they struck with Clark, which was similar to the one he was seeking. He also lashed out at Clark in the press. In the Fort Worth-Star Telegram, Palmeiro lambasted Clark, believing he had undercut him, “That’s Will. That’s the way he is. He’s got no class. Friendship didn’t matter to him. He was looking out for himself. I don’t think much of Will. He’s a lowlife.”


Palmeiro was later apologetic for his comments about Clark. The Times-Picayune reported, “I think Will Clark is a great person and a great ballplayer. I was speaking out of frustration, and I want to apologize to Will.” However, Palmeiro harbored ill feelings for Clark that lasted a long time. It wasn’t until 2015 when ESPN Films was producing the documentary “SEC Storied – Thunder and Lighting” (about Clark and Palmeiro playing together at Mississippi State) that the two former teammates would make up and start speaking to each other again.


Clark played out his five seasons with Texas, while Palmeiro put in five years with the Orioles. Ironically, the two players swapped teams in 1999, with Clark going to Baltimore and Palmeiro returning to Texas.


Clark finished his career in 2000 with the St. Louis Cardinals, who acquired him from Baltimore at the trade deadline to backfill injured first baseman Mark McGwire. Clark went on a hitting spree during the last two months of the regular season, helping the Cardinals secure the Central Division title.

Post-season musings

Before we go headlong into the off-season, I thought I’d close out the 2021 season with some thoughts about the World Series.


Braves manager Brian Snitker gets a World Series ring after 45 years in the organization. His story is one of perseverance. He had been demoted a couple of times in the minor-league ranks and had been passed over once before for the Braves managerial spot. I guess the old adage “good things come to those who wait” applies to him.


You have to wonder how one of the best offensive teams in baseball can go so flat in the World Series? The Houston Astros got only 10 extra-base hits (including only two home runs) in the six-game Series. Alverez and Bregman, with only two hits apiece, took an early vacation. What does it say when pitcher Zack Greinke has the highest Astros batting average (.667) during the Series? (Admittedly, he had only three plate appearances.)


With the absence of true “stoppers” (starting pitchers who can shut the opposition down with seven or eight solid innings following a loss by their team), all of the post-season teams had to resort to bullpenning in several games. It makes for an interesting chess match between the managers.


The Braves managed to win the World Series without their best position player, outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr., and their best pitcher, Charlie Morton. It’s a tribute to other teammates who stepped up when needed, especially outfielders Eddie Rosario, Jorge Soler, Adam Duvall, and Joc Pederson, all of whom were acquired by the Braves after July.


The Astros really didn’t miss former outfielder George Springer, who had been a key part of the team’s makeover going back to 2015. Springer signed with Toronto for the 2021 season, but his loss was offset by 24-year-old Kyle Tucker who had a breakout season and enabled Astros fans forget about Springer.


With the city of Atlanta hosting the World Series and MLB Commissioner Manfred having to present the Braves with the World Series trophy in Atlanta, Major League Baseball looks pretty silly now for moving the All-Star Game from Atlanta to Colorado back in July. MLB over-reacted to the political situation in Georgia, resulting in the change of the All-Star Game venue.


Looking ahead to 2022


What’s in store for Astros manager Dusty Baker for 2022? Will Houston bring the 72-year-old back for a third season? Does he want to come back?


Does Series MVP Jorge Soler get re-signed by the Braves for 2022? His post-season performance came at a good time, as he shops himself around in free agency over the winter. The Braves may not be willing to match some of the offers he’s likely to get from other teams.


The Astros appear to be pretty set in their starting rotation for the foreseeable future. Playing on the big stage for the first time, their corps of young starters that includes Framber Valdez, Luis Garcia, and Jose Urquidy, all of whom performed admirably at times during the post-season. Adding 27-year-old “veteran” Lance McCullers Jr. to the mix, the Astros have to feel good about that part of their roster. Two-time Cy Young Award pitcher Justin Verlander missed the entire Astros season due to recovery from Tommy John surgery. They don’t need to bring the 38-year-old back. It’s also bye-bye for 37-year-old Zack Greinke.


While the Astros pitching staff is manned by relative youngsters, the team will have to guard against getting too old with its position players down the road. Gurriel, Altuve, Brantley, and Maldonado are into their 30s.


The Braves would be foolish not to re-sign first baseman Freddie Freeman, who becomes a free agent after this season. He’s the clear leader of the team and a perennial MVP candidate. He’s the face of the franchise. Pay him.


By the same token, the Astros need to re-sign Carlos Correa. Yeah, he’s missed a lot of games during his short career, but he’s one of the main reasons the Astros have been to the World Series in three of the past five seasons. However, expect the Yankees to make a run at Correa.

Flashback: Former Fortier star Howie Pollet led St. Louis Cardinals into 1946 World Series

The New Orleans area has produced numerous players who made it to baseball’s biggest stage, the World Series. Some of the city’s best-known major-league players, including Mel Ott, Rusty Staub, Will Clark, George Strickland, and Connie Ryan, can count World Series appearances among their career highlights.


Seventy-five years ago, Howie Pollet, former prep pitcher at Fortier High School, was the World Series Game 1 starting pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals when they faced the powerful Boston Red Sox.


After missing half of the 1943 season and all of 1944 and 1945 due to military service in World War II, 25-year-old Pollet returned in fine form with the Cardinals for the 1946 season. He led the National League with 21 wins and a 2.31 ERA. In 32 starts for the Redbirds, he pitched 22 complete games, including four shutouts. He also appeared in eight games as a reliever, collecting five saves. With a windmill-type of delivery, the left-handed Pollet relied on his fastball as his No. 1 pitch and combined it with a change-up and slow curve. He finished sixth in the league in strikeouts with 107.


The Cardinals were making their fourth World Series appearance in five years, having won all the marbles in 1942 and 1944. (Pollet had pitched to one batter in a relief appearance in the ’42 Series.) Stan Musial headlined the 1946 Cardinals’ hitting attack that also included Enos Slaughter, Red Schoendienst, Whitey Kurowski, and Terry Moore.


The Red Sox were considered the favorite going into the Series, having won 104 games during the regular season. Their offense was led by Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr, Dom DiMaggio, and Rudy York. Their pitching staff featured 25-game winner Boo Ferriss and 20-game winner Tex Hughson.


The Cardinals went with Pollet as their Game 1 starter, even though he had been dealing with an unpredictable back problem. Hughson drew the assignment for the Red Sox. The game was played before a packed house of 36,218 fans at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis.


The Red Sox got on the board first with a run in the second inning, when Pinky Higgins hit a single off Pollet that scored York. The Cardinals evened the score in the sixth when Musial doubled to score Schoendienst.


Joe Garagiola’s run-scoring double gave the Cardinals took the lead, 2-1, in the sixth inning. Pollet yielded the seventh Red Sox hit in the ninth inning, as Tom McBride’s single scored Don Gutteridge to tie the score.


In the top of the 10th inning, York walloped a solo home run off Pollet that turned out to be the game-winning run for the Red Sox. The final score was 3-2. Pollet took the loss, giving up nine hits and four walks, while striking out three.


Pollet got another start in Game 5 at Fenway Park. However, he didn’t get out of the first inning due to back pain that was aggravated in Game 1. The Cardinals went on to win the World Series in seven games.


Pollet, whose major-league career consisted of 14 seasons, pitched until 1956. His career record was 131-116 with a 3.58 ERA. His 131 wins are still the most of any major-league pitcher from the New Orleans area. He was named to the National League All-Star team three times.


Below is a complete list of New Orleans metro area players who played in one or more World Series.


Player

High School

Year(s) in World Series

World Series Team

Larry Gilbert Sr.

Unknown

1914*

Braves

John Martina

Unknown

1924*

Senators

Mel Ott

McDonough-Jefferson

1933*, 1936, 1937

Giants

Howie Pollet

Fortier

1942*, 1946*

Cardinals

Lou Klein

S. J. Peters

1943

Cardinals

Al Jurisich

Warren Easton

1944*

Cardinals

Jack Kramer

S. J. Peters

1944

Browns

Connie Ryan

Jesuit

1948

Braves

Putsy Caballero

Jesuit

1950

Phillies

George Strickland

S. J. Peters

1954

Indians

Rusty Staub

Jesuit

1973

Mets

Will Clark

Jesuit

1989

Giants

Gerald Williams

East St. John

1999

Braves

Chad Gaudin

Crescent City

2009*

Yankees

Mike Fontenot

Salmen

2010*

Giants

Will Harris

Slidell

2017*, 2019

Astros

Tanner Rainey

St. Paul’s

2019*

Nationals

Aaron Loup

Hahnville

2020

Rays

Asterisks indicate team won the World Series that season.

It's uncanny how improbable stars rise to the occasion in the MLB post-season

You would expect perennial stars like Reggie Jackson (AKA Mr. October) and Derek Jeter (AKA Mr. November) to have spectacular performances in post-season play. They seemed to have a knack for hitting a home run or making a dramatic catch at the right time to lift their respective New York Yankees teams to critical playoff victories.


But if I had mentioned at the end of the regular season names like Kike Hernandez, Tyler Matzek, Yordan Alvarez, or Eddie Rosario as potential playoff heroes, it would have raised a few eyebrows. By and large, these players don’t have familiar names associated with superstardom. Not even during the regular season, much less the playoffs.


But have you noticed how every season seems to have at least one player, well short of superstar caliber, who puts his team on his back and carries them toward the prized World Series ring?


This year it just happens to be those not-so-familiar names like Hernandez, Matzek, Alvarez, and Rosario who are rising the occasion.


Boston’s Kike Hernandez had prior experience in World Series play with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2017, 2018, and 2020. He had gained a reputation as an effective utility player, but the Dodgers felt he was expendable and granted him free agency after the 2020 season. He finally secured a full-time job as the Red Sox’s center fielder this season. He became a Red Sox hero in the ALDS against Tampa Bay when he went 5-for-6 with a home run and two doubles in Game 2 and went on to lead the team with nine hits in the series. In Game 1 of the ALCS against Houston, he made a spectacular catch in center field while also hitting another home run. He wound up leading the Red Sox with 10 hits in the ALCS.


Yordan Alvarez made a splash in his MLB debut in 2019 with Houston, but then missed all but two games last season from having surgery on both knees. In the shadows of established Astros stars Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and Yuli Gurriel, he quietly led the Astros with 33 home runs and 104 RBIs and posted a 136 ERA+ this year. When some of these other players struggled at the plate in the post-season, Alvarez put on a hitting clinic against Red Sox pitchers. He had five extra-base hits among his 12 safeties for the ALCS and led the Astros offensively with a slash line of .522/.538/.970.  He was named the MVP for the ALCS.


Eddie Rosario was acquired by the Atlanta Braves at the trade deadline this year to bolster their outfield after having lost Ronald Acuna Jr. to injury. With a team that already featured offensive threats Freddie Freeman, Austin Riley, Adam Duvall, Ozzie Albers, and Dansby Swanson, not much was expected from Rosario. But all he did was get the walk-off winning hit in Game 2 of the NLCS, go 4-for-5 with a homer and triple in Game 4, and hit a 3-run homer in the decisive Game 6. Altogether, he banged out 14 hits in the NLCS (a franchise record) and captured the MVP award for the series.


Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Tyler Matzek, who was practically out of baseball a few years ago due to a case of the yips, has had incredible post-season.  In nine appearances, he has yielded only two runs in 10 1/3 innings. The outing that best illustrated his impact with the Braves came in NLCS Game 6 against the Dodgers where he struck out the side in the seventh inning with the Dodgers having runners on second and third. He’s had 11 strikeouts with runners in scoring position during the post-season.

  

Here are a few other improbable stars of past post-seasons.


Last year there was Randy Arozarena of the Tampa Bay Rays. He had played a total of 42 major-league games spread over two partial seasons with St. Louis (2019) and Tampa Bay (2020). He got on a hot streak during the post-season and wound up banging out 10 home runs in 20 post-season games while batting .377. His performance earned him the MVP award for the ALCS against Houston.


Steve Pearce had been a platoon player for practically all of his major-league career that started in 2007. The Red Sox became his seventh major-league team in 2018 when they acquired him from Toronto at the end of June. He appeared in 50 games for the Red Sox, filling in as a reserve first baseman and outfielder, in addition to DHing and pinch-hitting. In Games 4 and 5 of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Pearce hit three home runs with seven RBIs, helping Boston win the Series in just five games. He was voted the MVP of the Series, while playing on a team that featured Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and Mitch Moreland.


Ben Zobrist was the epitome of a “super utility” player with the Chicago Cubs in 2016 when he played three infield and two outfield positions during the regular season. In the Cubs’ historic World Series championship that year, it was Zobrist who led the Cubs. Playing left field in the Series against Cleveland, the switch-hitter went 10-for-28 at the plate and was named the Series MVP.


In 2015 the Mets appeared in their first post-season since 2006. The team was only a little better than average offensively in the National League. However, the Mets got past the Dodgers and Cubs to reach the World Series. 30-year-old second baseman Daniel Murphy was the key player that propelled them into the Fall Classic. Seven of his 16 hits in the NLDS and NLCS went for home runs after he hit only 14 during the entire regular season. The Mets wound up losing to Kansas City in the World Series, but Mets fans will forever remember Murphy’s unexpected power surge that got them there.


David Freese was in his third major-league season in 2011 with the St. Louis Cardinals, having missed almost two months due to injuries. The Cardinals had been led offensively by Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman, and Allen Craig during the regular season. But it was Freese who stepped up his game in the post-season to help the Cardinals franchise win its 11th World Series. He was the MVP of the NLCS against Milwaukee when he hit three home runs and batted .545. The Rangers were one out away from capturing its first-ever world championship in Game 6 of the World Series, but Freese hit a triple in the ninth inning to tie the score. He later smacked a walk-off home run in the 11th to keep the Cardinals alive in the Series. The Cardinals went on to win Game 7, with Freese named the MVP. 

New Orleans native Ron Washington brings World Series experience to the Atlanta Braves

The Atlanta Braves got past the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Division Series last week and now have the Los Angeles Dodgers in their path to reaching their first World Series since 1999. One of the Braves’ weapons in their pursuit of the NL pennant is not a pitcher or a position player, but rather third base coach Ron Washington, a native of New Orleans who still resides in the city.


Should the Braves advance to the World Series, they will benefit from Washington’s experience in two World Series as manager of the Texas Rangers. None of the other members of the Braves coaching staff, including manager Brian Snitker, has any background with World Series competition. Bench coach Walt Weiss is the only one of Snitker’s staff who has experienced a World Series as a player. The 68-year-old Washington is in his fifth season as a base coach for the Braves, while also working extensively with the infielders.


Washington fell short of claiming a World Series ring, as his 2010 Rangers team was over-matched against the San Francisco Giants in the 2010 Series, losing in five games. However, in 2011 they were one pitch away in Game 6 from winning the franchise’s first World Series championship against the St. Louis Cardinals. But they wound up losing to the Cardinals in seven games. Washington spent eight seasons as the Rangers manager, including 2007 to 2014. He is the all-time winningest manager in Rangers history with 664 victories.


He graduated from John McDonogh High School in New Orleans in 1970. He was in the first class of amateur players signed by the Kansas City Royals to participate in their newly established baseball academy. The infielder spent five seasons in the Royals’ minor-league system, followed by stints in the Dodgers and Mets organizations.


Washington made his major-league debut with the Minnesota Twins in 1981 and primarily played as a utility infielder with them for six seasons. He spent one season each with Baltimore, Cleveland, and Houston before retiring as a player after the 1990 season. He began his coaching career at the minor-league level in 1991 and has spent 26 years on major-league coaching staffs.


“Wash” is a favorite among the Braves players. He is well-known for his demanding fielding drills with infielders before games. Braves all-star second baseman Ozzie Albies told The Sporting News in August, “He’s [Washington] the GOAT, that’s what I’d say. He’s the guy. He makes us feel comfortable, makes us feel great on and off the field. He makes us feel at home, feel safe. He’s all about doing the right things. Just do it right, good things are going to happen. He’s a special guy and we love to have him here.”


Washington has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the San Diego Padres managerial job vacated by Jayce Tingler, who was let go after two seasons. Padres general manager A.J. Preller is familiar with Washington because they were with the Rangers at the same time.


Washington’s boss, Braves manager Brian Snitker, also has ties to New Orleans since he played baseball at the University of New Orleans.

Hey brother, let's play ball

Playing wiffle ball in the backyard with a brother was an experience familiar to a lot of us. Playing on the same team with a brother in Little League, Babe Ruth, or high school baseball is something we might have also experienced. But what about brothers playing with or against each other in the major leagues? Not too many can say they know what that’s like.


But it happens every once in a while. Some of the occurrences go relatively unnoticed. Others like the Alou brothers (Felipe, Matty, and Jesus) attracted significant attention in September 1963 when the trio of Dominican players started in the outfield together in a game for the San Francisco Giants. Their improbable feat is often the subject of baseball trivia questions.


This year’s major-league season saw several instances of brothers playing on opposite sides of the diamond and one in which the brothers teamed up as batterymates.


Brothers Jordan and Justus Sheffield pitched in the same game during Spring Training in March. Justus started for the Seattle Mariners, while Jordan entered the game in the fourth inning in relief for the Colorado Rockies. It was the second time they had crossed paths in a professional game as opponents, the first in a minor-league series in 2019. The brothers roomed together during spring training camp.


Brothers Corey (Dodgers) and Kyle Seager (Mariners) have opposed each other as major leaguers several times. On April 19 this season, Corey homered in a 4-3 loss to the Mariners. On May 11, Kyle homered in a 6-4 loss to the Dodgers. Even though Kyle is the older of the two, his nickname is “Corey’s Brother.”


Yuli and Lourdes Gurriel are Cuban-born major-leaguers whose father Lourdes Sr. was a baseball star for the Cuban National team in the 1980s and 1990s. The brothers played against each other in a series between Houston and Toronto on May 7-9. Houston’s Yuli outshined his brother with a 4-for-4 performance in one of the games. Yuli wound up leading the National League in batting this season with a .319 average.


Veteran major-league brothers Andrew and Austin Romine became the first brother batterymates since brother Norm (catcher) and Larry Sherry (pitcher) played together on June 28, 1962. Andrew, normally an infielder, was brought in to pitch for the Chicago Cubs in a blowout game against the Milwaukee Brewers on August 12. His catcher was his brother Austin. With the Brewers already holding a 16-3 lead   Andrew pitched the final inning of the game, yielding a home run and a single and striking out one batter.


On August 21, Aaron Nola and his brother Austin played against each for the first time since both were playing in a spring practice game as teammates at LSU. Aaron, who pitches for the Philadelphia Phillies, faced Austin with the San Diego Padres in three at-bats. Austin struck out, flied out, and walked against his brother, who had a perfect game through the first 6 1/3 innings. The Padres wound up inning, 4-3, in 10 innings.


On September 27, Cleveland’s Bradley Zimmer got bragging rights when he a 408-foot home run off his brother Kyle who was pitching in relief for the Kansas City Royals. The Indians won, 8-3. The brothers, who were both first-round draft picks, had faced each other three times previously this season. It was the first time a brother homered against his brother since 1976. (See Niekro brothers below.)


Below is a sampling of other games in baseball’s long history where MLB brothers played with or against each other.


Alex Gaston of the Boston Red Sox broke up his brother Milt’s no-hitter in 1926, hitting the first pitch of the ninth inning for a single.


The St. Louis Browns’ Rick Ferrell almost broke up kid brother Wes’s no-hitter on April 29, 1931; but the official scorer ruled Rick’s 8th inning at-bat an error and Wes claimed his no-hitter. On July 19, 1933, the brothers homered in the same inning for opposing teams. Rick hit his off Wes, only one of 28 total home runs in an 18-year career.


Mort and Walker Cooper were the pitcher-catcher combo for six seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals and one with the New York Giants. During 1942 through 1944 with the Cardinals, each of the brothers made the all-star team and helped their team win three National League pennants and two World Series championships.


Clete and Ken Boyer played against each for the first time in Game 1 of the 1964 World Series between the Yankees and Cardinals. In Game 7, Clete (Yankees) and Ken (Yankees) each hit home runs in the Cardinals’ win.


Brothers George and Ken Brett played against each other for the first time in an exhibition game on March 27, 1976. George, playing for the Kansas City Royals, hit a home run off Ken of the New York Yankees. In 20 regular-season plate appearances against his brother, George never homered once.


Joe Niekro (Astros) hit the only major-league home run of his 22-year career against his brother Phil on May 29, 1976. Joe’s seventh-inning home run against his older brother tied the game, with the Astros ultimately defeating the Braves, 4-3. Joe got the winning decision, giving up only four hits and one earned run in eight innings. Phil recorded the loss.

Who are the real contenders for AL and NL pennants?

It’s taken until the last week of the season to determine a few of the MLB playoff teams. It was a wild finish, especially in the AL East. That’s the way we like it. However, despite their regular season records and finished, all the playoff teams start in the same place, 0-0. But in reality, there’s only a couple of teams in each league that practically have a chance to advance to the World Series this year.


In the National League, I believe the Giants and Dodgers are head and shoulders over the rest of the playoff entrants, while the Rays and Astros are the teams to beat in the American League. I’m not saying the opposition will be push-overs, but they each have weaknesses that make their case for winning a pennant a tough pick. Below is how I see the playoff teams stacking up.


National League


The Dodgers are the most complete team offensively and pitching-wise. Even with Clayton Kershaw going on the Injured List as late as Saturday, their cadre of starters, led by Max Scherzer, is the best in baseball. And they are deep in the bullpen as well. Manager Dave Roberts can juggle his lineup, depending on the opposition, because of his players’ versatility and a deep bench. Outfielder Cody Bellinger has been abysmal at the plate this year, but it doesn’t matter much with the rest of the Dodgers’ roster. Trea Turner should be a NL MVP candidate just based on his two months with the team.


The Giants don’t have the overall team strength as the Dodgers but winning the most games in San Francisco Giants history was no fluke. Their veteran player presence, combined with their relatively young skipper Gabe Kapler, didn’t fold against tough division opponents Dodgers and Padres, who were favored to win the division. One of the impressive stats about the Giants is that they were 65-25 in games involving one-run differences and blowout games (won by 5+ runs). They can win either way.


The Brewers probably are the most motivated team in the playoffs since their franchise has never won a World Series. Their pitching can compete with anyone, but they lack offensive punch in the lineup. They are near the bottom of the league in slugging. Christian Yelich hasn’t played anywhere near his capability demonstrated in 2018 and 2019, when he finished first and second in the MVP voting. The Brewers will make their opposition struggle at plate but won’t be able to advance past the first round.


No one was hotter down the stretch than the Cardinals. They can cause some trouble in the playoffs if they can manage to keep up their momentum. 39-year-old pitcher Adam Wainwright has found the fountain of youth with 17 wins, but the rest of the staff is not that impressive. The Cards will need all they can get from all-stars Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt, but it still won’t be enough offense.


The Braves won their fourth consecutive AL East division title with only 87 wins. Their best player, Ronald Acuna Jr., missed the last 2 ½ months of the season, although MVP candidate Austin Riley and all-star Ozzie Albies picked up a lot of the slack from Acuna’s absence. Playoff veteran Charlie Morton and Max Fried headline a solid pitching staff. They went down to the wire with the Dodgers last year losing the NCLS in seven games. If there’s a sleeper in the NL playoffs, it’s the Braves.


American League


The Rays were impressive in winning a tough AL East division since their starting rotation was largely overhauled from last year. Manager Kevin Cash is the master in managing the in-game use of his pitching staff. The addition of veteran slugger Nelson Cruz and the promotion of Wander Franco late in the season bolstered their offense. Second baseman Brandon Lowe had a breakout season with 39 home runs. He‘s probably anxious to overcome his miserable performance in the playoffs last year.


The Astros have significant playoff experience, led by their grizzled veteran manager Dusty Baker. Their core players are healthy. Two relative newcomers, Jordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker, have put up big numbers for the team that leads the league in OPS. Their pitching staff is good enough to make them competitive in all of the playoff series. They have a winning regular-season record against all the playoff teams except the Yankees.


I wasn’t a big fan of Tony LaRussa being hired as the White Sox manager this year. But you have to give him credit for winning the division (their first since 2008) despite losing several key players during the season. Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez being healthy is key in the playoffs. Last year’s AL MVP Jose Abreu turned in his usual 30+ HR and 100+ RBI season. The White Sox have two first-rate starters in Lance Lynn and Carlos Rodon, but the talent level falls off after them. I don’t think their pitching is strong enough to contend. The White Sox had a losing record against other playoff teams.


The Yankees were a streaky team most of the year. Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge hit their stride together during the last two months of the season and carried the team. The additions of Anthony Rizzo and Joey Gallo didn’t produce as much as the Yankees had hoped. The usually reliable DJ LeMahieu didn’t help either. Those three will need to be a lot more productive in the playoffs. Yankees pitching stats rank up there with other AL playoff teams, but you never know what you’ll get from their starters, who often can’t get past the fifth inning. The worrisome part about the Yankees is they had losing records against each of their division foes.


The Red Sox squeaked into the wild card spot, just like the Yankees. They were good during the first half of the season, but barely finished above .500 during the second half. It was as though they had run out of gas at mid-season and couldn’t find the nearest gas station. If they had three or four Rafael Devers on the team and more consistency from their pitchers, I could be more optimistic about their chances in the playoffs. They could very well beat the Yankees in the wild card game, but don’t hold your breath for wins after that.

Flashback: 1940s S.J. Peters star Ray Yochim had to settle for a 'cup of coffee'

Ray Yochim was one of many players from New Orleans in the 1930s and 1940s who pursued dreams of playing in the major leagues. An April 1939 article in the Times-Picayune reported as many as 100 players represented New Orleans in professional baseball ranks. Of course, only a small number of them ever reached the majors. Yochim beat the odds and eventually got his shot in the big leagues, although it turned out he was there only long enough for the proverbial “cup of coffee.”


Yochim attended S.J. Peters High School, where he was a teammate of Mel Parnell, who eventually pitched for 10 years with the Boston Red Sox, and Pete Modica, who later pitched for the hometown New Orleans Pelicans. Yochim was captain of his team as a junior in 1940, when he earned second team honors on the city’s All-Prep squad.


Yochim and Parnell led Peters into the 1941 city playoffs in which they struck out 19 and 17 batters, in successive games. However, Peters lost to a tough Jesuit High School team for the city championship. Yochim was again named to the All-Prep second team, as he led the league in strikeouts.


Ray signed with the St. Louis Cardinals organization out of high school. He finished with a 9-8 record split between two Class C teams at Fresno and Springfield, where he joined a familiar face in catcher Fats Dantonio who had prepped at Jesuit.


Yochim and Dantonio both received promotions to the Class A1 New Orleans Pelicans for the 1942 season. Although he started out by winning his first two decisions, he experienced control problems and was sent to Class B Columbus. He fell on hard times, winning only three of 18 decisions. The Sporting News referred to him as a “one-bad inning right-hander.”


With World War II in full swing, 20-year-old Yochim enlisted in the Marine Corps, reporting in April 1943. He was sent to San Diego, where never completed boot camp since the local Marine Corps baseball team needed a pitcher. He was 22-5 in Marine Corps games in 1944, leading his team to the 11th Naval District championship. He frequently played with and against major leaguers stationed on the West Coast. One of his personal highlights was a game in which he prevented Joe DiMaggio from hitting a ball out of the infield by throwing him curveballs in each plate appearance.


Yochim spent time in Guam before receiving orders in April 1945 to go to Hawaii. The Sporting News erroneously reported in their April 19 edition that he had been killed in action at Iwo Jima. A ship that he was supposed to be on was sunk in that area, but fortunately he had taken a flight instead.


He continued to play service ball in 1945. For the Navy All-Star Series, he was selected to represent the National League in a seven-game series against the American League. Yochim’s teammates included major leaguers-turned-servicemen Charlie Gilbert (from New Orleans), Hugh Casey, Herman Franks, Cookie Lavagetto, Stan Musial, and Clyde Shoun.


Yochim returned to baseball in the United States in 1946, when major leaguers came back from military service. Over the next four seasons, he spent most of his time with Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliates in Rochester and Columbus. After winning 14 games for Rochester in 1947, he started the 1948 season with the Cardinals but managed to get only one appearance on May 2. His debut consisted of one inning in relief in which he walked three of the six Chicago Cubs batters he faced. He was sent back to Rochester and finished out the season in Columbus.


In 1949 Yochim got into three games with the Cardinals in May, pitching a total of 2 1/3 innings. But he had issues with his control and was sent back to Columbus. After the Boston Red Sox purchased him, he proceeded to win 15 games with Birmingham in 1950. He required surgery during the off-season for complications resulting from being hit on his right elbow.


He struggled thereafter, bouncing around with several teams through the 1954 season. He was pressed into service as manager of Panama City during the second half of the 1954 season, following two other dismissed managers. He sat out the 1955 season but returned for a short stint with Shreveport in 1956.


He was serving as a part-time pitching coach for the New Orleans Pelicans in 1958, when manager Charlie Silvera left the team in August due to illness. Yochim finished out the season as manager and also pitched in seven games, winning two. It was his last season of professional baseball.


However, Yochim continued to play in semi-pro baseball leagues in New Orleans. Local baseball fans enjoyed games when he pitched for the Yochim All-Stars against the Shell Oilers, whose pitcher was his brother Lenny, who had a brief major-league career with the Pittsburgh Pirates in the early 1950s.


With numerous local ex-ballplayers in attendance at Mel Ott’s funeral in New Orleans in November 1958, Yochim conceived the idea for an organization called the “Diamond Club of Greater New Orleans,” whose members would be former professional and semi-pro players and interested parties [umpires, scouts, sports writers, and sports announcers]. The organization became a popular social club with regular meetings and annual inductions of former baseball figures from the New Orleans area into its hall of fame.


Yochim died in 2002 at age 79. He and his brother weren’t the only pair of major-league brothers from New Orleans during their era. Charlie and Tookie Gilbert also played professionally in the 1940s and 1950s, including stints in the majors. Other major leaguers from Peters High included Jack Kramer, Lou Klein, Hal Bevan, and George Strickland.

Brewers ace Corbin Burnes flies under the radar in bid for Cy Young

When you hear the names Kershaw, Verlander, Scherzer, Cole, and deGrom, you automatically recognize them as the pitching aces of their respective major league teams. But when you hear the name Corbin Burnes, you might get him confused with Nationals pitcher Patrick Corbin or Arizona’s pitcher Corbin Martin. He’s one of those Corbins.


Burnes doesn’t play for a big-market team like the Yankees or Dodgers. He’s not on a pace to win 20 games. Instead, he pitches for the Milwaukee Brewers, and he’s won only 10 games so far this season. So, what’s the big deal with him?


The Brewers are in first place in the NL Central, and one of the main reasons is that they’ve been riding on the back of Burnes. Even though he’s credited with only 10 wins, the Brewers are 18-8 when he starts.


And he’s putting up numbers that put him in the class of bona fide ace like other Cy Young Award candidates Scherzer and Cole.


The 26-year-old right-hander is second in the National League in ERA (2.34), second in WHIP (0.937), first in bases on ball per 9 innings (1.823), first in strikeouts per 9 innings (12.589), first in home runs per 9 innings (0.342), second in adjusted ERA+ (181), and first in fielding independent pitching (1.58). Those are definitely Cy Young Award types of numbers.


One of the reasons Burnes is not yet a household name among many baseball fans is that he’s only in his second season as a regular starter. Actually, it’s his first, if you don’t count the shortened 2020 season due to the pandemic.


He had an impressive major-league debut with the Brewers in 2018 as a middle reliever, when he finished 7-0 with a 2.61 ERA in 30 games.


The Brewers needed help in the starting rotation in 2019 and moved Burnes to a starter role coming out of spring training. But he was a disaster. In his first four outings, he was prone to giving up extra-base hits, including an average of three home runs per game. He didn’t pitch more than five innings in any of his starts, and his ERA ballooned to 10.70 before he was returned to the bullpen.


Of course, the 2020 season was a crazy time for all the major league teams who were looking for stability and consistency in the uncertain times of the COVID pandemic. However, one of the constants for the Brewers was Burnes, who secured a spot in the starting rotation again. He went 4-1 in nine starts, posting an impressive 2.11 ERA and 1.022 WHIP. He solved his home runs allowed problem by giving up only two in almost 60 innings.


Burnes picked up in 2021 where he left off last season. He was selected for his first all-star game. He gained national attention on September 11 against Cleveland when he combined with reliever Josh Hader to throw the ninth no-hitter of the season. He issued only one walk in his eight innings pitched, while striking out 14 Indians in the no-hitter.


Burnes is in the running for NL Cy Young Award, with stiff competition coming from three Dodgers pitchers who are also having standout seasons: Walker Buehler, Max Scherzer and Julio Urias.


Burnes may be flying under the radar with respect to many baseball fans, but certainly opposing batters know all too well about the proficient right-hander, who is one of the spin-rate kings in the game.

Why Yankee shortstop prospects didn't like Derek Jeter

Derek Jeter’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony occurred last Wednesday, when the 2020 class finally took their place among the all-time greats of baseball. Jeter played 20 seasons for the Yankees, one of the longest tenured players in Bronx Bomber history. During his time from 1995 to 2014, he was a member of five World Series championship teams. He was one vote short of being a unanimous Hall selection.


When you think about Jeter’s long career, you have to wonder how many shortstop hopefuls for the Yankees didn’t get a chance for a steady job in the big leagues because Jeter was a permanent fixture in the position, year-in and year-out.


Shortstop prospects must have cringed when their name was called by the Yankees on MLB Draft Day. They had to figure their chances of displacing Jeter were close to zero percent. Do you think they ever wished that Jeter would have a premature career-ending injury in order to open up the position? Did they try to change to another infield position to avoid being backlogged by Jeter?


When Jeter made his major-league debut in 1995, 33-year-old veteran Tony Fernandez was the regular shortstop for the Yankees. Fernandez was a one-year rental by the Yankees, so it was inevitable the Yankees would look elsewhere for their next shortstop. Andy Fox and Robert Eenhoorn were contemporaries of Jeter in the minors in 1995 and would have also been candidates for Fernandez’s replacement. Fox had been a second-round draft choice by the Yankees, but he wound up switching to second base, teaming with Jeter to form the double-play combo for one season. He played only 11 games at shortstop in his two seasons with the Yankees. Eenhoorn was also a second round pick, and he played a total of 20 games over three years for the Yankees.


Over the next years with Jeter firmly entrenched at shortstop, the Yankees front office continued to use relatively high draft picks for shortstops. Seth Taylor was a fifth-round pick in 1999. Bronson Sardinha was a first-round supplemental pick in 2001. Andy Cannizaro was a fifth-round pick in 2001. C.J. Henry was a first-round pick in 2005. Corban Joseph was a fourth-round pick in 2008. Angelo Gumbs was a second-round pick in 2010. Cannizaro was the only one who played shortstop for the Yankees, and that amounted to only 10 games. All of them were ultimately traded or released by the Yankees. The Yankees didn’t bother to select a shortstop in several draft-years.


Not counting his first season in 1996 and an injury-plagued season in 2013, Jeter was an “Iron Man” of sorts, averaging 150 games per season. When his name wasn’t on the lineup card, the Yankees primarily used veteran utility infielders to backfill him. Reserve players like Luis Sojo, Miguel Cairo, Ramiro Pena, Eduardo Nunez filled the bill. When Jeter played only 17 games in 2013, Nunez and journeyman infielder Jayson Nix played in his place, not some new shortstop-in-waiting from the Yankees farm system.


When Texas Rangers shortstop Alex Rodriguez, a two-time Gold Glove winner, was acquired by the Yankees in 2004, it was A-Rod who changed positions, going to third base, not Jeter.


Jeter was a 14-time all-star and five-time winner of both the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards. He ranks sixth in all-time hits (3465). He was MVP in the World Series and an All-Star game.


When Jeter retired in 2014, fans wondered how the Yankees would ever backfill the legendary shortstop. Their answer was 25-year-old Didi Gregorius whom they acquired from Arizona. Practically anyone the Yankees put in the position would have big shoes to fill. Gregorius was somewhat of a gamble, never having put in a full season with the Diamondbacks or the Reds in his three big-league seasons. But Gregorius rose to the challenge and put in four solid years with the Yankees before sitting out half of 2019 recuperating from torn cartilage in his wrist. He signed as a free agent with the Philadelphia Phillies for the 2020 season.


Jeter was the face of baseball during his prime playing years. He played on baseball’s biggest stage in New York City and led the Yankees to some of the biggest victories in the franchise’s history. He was a beacon of light for Major League Baseball throughout the turbulent PED era. As he said during his induction speech, he always tried to play the game the right way and to have respect for the game.


Jeter won over countless fans throughout his career. But there were also numerous Yankees organization shortstop who wished he wouldn’t have been so good for so long.

Hometown Heroes - Southeast Louisiana products in MLB, MiLB

Here’s an update for many of the 2021 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 year through Wednesday September 2. Below are some of the highlights from August.


Alex Bregman finally returned to the active list on August 25 after being on the injured list since June 17. Jake Fraley, Alex Lange, and Kyle Keller were recalled by their major league clubs.


Promotions during the month included Daniel Cabrera (to Double-A), Eric Orze (to Triple-A), Chase Solesky (to Hi-A), and Ian Gibaut (to major leagues).


Players from some of the local colleges who were drafted in 2021 and started their professional careers have been included.


Outfielder Greg Deichmann made his major league debut with the Cubs on August 7 and got a hit in 5 at-bats.


Aaron Nola faced his brother Austin for first time on April 21. Austin struck out, flied out and walked against his brother.


Players who will be involved in key division races during the final month of the season include Alex Bregman (Astros), Kevin Gausman (Giants), Aaron Loup (Mets), DJ LeMahieu (Yankees), Wade Miley (Reds), Aaron Nola (Phillies), and Austin Nola (Padres).


 

MLB

Alex Bregman—Astros (LSU) MLB (65 G, .284 BA, .380 OBP, 7 HR, 35 RBI); MiLB (11 G, .250 BA, .386 OBP, 1 HR, 5 RBI); Returned to active list on August 25


Kevin Gausman—Giants (LSU) 27 G, 12-5, 2.52 ERA, 157.0 IP, 183 SO


Greg Deichmann—Cubs (Brother Martin HS, LSU) MLB (7 G, .174 BA, .174 OBP, 0 HR, 1 RBI); MiLB (80 G, .284 BA, .399 OBP, 6 HR, 44 RBI, 9 SB)


Ian Gibaut—Twins (Tulane) MLB (2 G, 0-0, 0.003 ERA, 5.0 IP, 3 SO); MiLB (27 G, 1-3, 7.20 ERA, 40.0 IP, 46 SO); Promoted to Twins on August 28


Will Harris—Nationals (Slidell HS, LSU) 8 G, 0-1, 9.00 ERA, 6 IP, 9 SO; On Injured List since May 23


Jake FraleyMariners (LSU) MLB (62 G, .213 BA, .359 OBP, 9 HR, 30 RBI, 9 SB); MiLB (11 G, .333 BA, .488 OBP, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 3 SB); Activated by Mariners on August 2; On Injured List August 28


Kyle Keller—Pirates (Jesuit HS, Southeastern) MLB (23 G, 0-1, 7.13 ERA, 24.0 IP, 25 SO); MiLB (13 G, 2-0, 1.96 ERA, 18.1 IP, 31 SO); Recalled by Pirates July 2


Alex Lange—Tigers (LSU) MLB (23 G, 0-1, 5.32 ERA, 22 IP, 25 SO); MiLB (19 G, 2-1, 4.57 ERA, 21.2 IP, 27 SO); Recalled by Tigers August 22


Aaron Loup—Mets (Hahnville HS, Tulane) 53 G, 4-0, 1.20 ERA, 45.0 IP, 48 SO


DJ LeMahieu—Yankees (LSU) 126 G, .267 BA, .350 OBP, 9 HR, 52 RBI


Wade Miley—Reds (Loranger HS, Southeastern) 25 G, 11-5, 2.97 ERA, 148.2 IP, 114 SO


Aaron Nola—Phillies (Catholic HS, LSU) 26 G, 7-7, 4.30, 148.2 IP, 181 SO


Austin Nola—Padres (Catholic HS, LSU) MLB (44 G, .260 BA, .340 OBP, 1 HR, 26 RBI); MiLB (11 G, .303 BA, .410 OBP, 1 HR, 4 RBI)


Tanner Rainey—Nationals (St. Paul’s HS, Southeastern) MLB (32 G, 1-2, 7.62 ERA, 26 IP, 31 SO); MiLB (4 B, 0-0, 4.91 ERA, 3.2 IP, 6 SO); Returned from Disabled List on August 12


Jake Rogers—Tigers (Tulane) MLB (38 G, .239 BA, .306 OBP, 6 HR, 17 RBI); MiLB (1 G, .000 BA, .250 OBP, 0 HR, 0 RBI); 60-day Injured List


Riley Smith—Diamondbacks (LSU) MLB (24 G, 1-4, 6.01 ERA, 67.1 IP, 36 SO); MiLB (2 G, 0-0, 7.2 IP, 6 SO); On 60-day Injured List


Andrew Stevenson—Nationals (St. Thomas More HS, LSU) MLB (81 G, .220 BA, .276 OBP, 3 HR, 15 RBI); MiLB (15 G, .436 BA, .466 OBP, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 2 SB)


 

Triple-A


Drew Avans – Dodgers (Southeastern) 65 G, .264 BA, .394 OBP, 4 HR, 19 RBI, 14 SB


J.P. France—Astros (Shaw HS, Tulane, Miss. State) – 20 G, 7-2, 3.42 ERA, 92.0 IP, 123 SO


Nick Goody—Yankees (LSU) 32 G, 4-5, 5.35 ERA, 38.2 IP, 48 SO; Released by Nationals, signed by Yankees August 17


Jacoby Jones—Tigers (LSU) MiLB (68 G, .238 BA, .324 OBP, 7 HR, 26 RBI); MLB (36 G, .170 BA, .210 OBP, 2 HR, 9 RBI)


Mikie Mahtook—White Sox (LSU) 82 G, .260 BA, .323 OBP, 21 HR, 52 RBI


Reeves Martin—Mariners (UNO) 5 G, 0-2, 8.10 ERA, 6.2 IP, 4 SO; Retired May 20


Zack Mathis – Padres (LSU) 60 G, .251 BA, .350 OBP, 5 HR, 22 RBI, 1 SB


Andrew Mitchell—Mets (Jesuit, Delgado, Auburn) 22 G, 3-1, 3.89 ERA, 39.1 IP, 43 SO; Activated from Injured List August 31


Eric Orze—Mets (UNO) 29 G, 3-2, 3.53 ERA, 43.1 IP, 57 SO, 5 SV; Promoted to Triple A on August 10


Michael Papierski—Astros (LSU) 86 G, .258 BA, .403 OBP, 6 HR, 41 RBI


Kramer Roberston—Cardinals (LSU) 98 G, .243 BA, .353 OBP, 8 HR, 50 RBI, 8 SB


Tate Scioneaux—Rockies (Riverside HS, Southeastern) 38 G, 3-2, 4.47 ERA, 44.1 IP, 48 SO


Justin Williams—Cardinals (Terrebone HS) MiLB (16 G, .250 BA, .276 OBP, 3 HR, 8 RBI); MLB (51 G, .160 BA, .270 OBP, 4 HR, 11 RBI); Placed on 7-day Injured List August 3


 

Double-A


Jared Biddy – Rockies (Southeastern) 23 G, 4.20 ERA, 40.2 IP, 41 SO


Nick Bush—Rockies (LSU) 17 G, 4-6, 3.71 ERA, 87.1 IP, 90 SO; On Injured List since August 7


Daniel Cabrera—Tigers (John Curtis HS, Delgado, LSU) 101 G, BA .242, .299 OBP, 9 HR, 65 RBI, 7 SB; Promoted to Double-A August 30


Cole Freeman—Nationals (LSU) 87 G, .275 BA, .332 OBP, 5 HR, 36 RBI, 13 SB


Shawn Semple—Yankees (UNO) 20 G, 10-3, 2.85 ERA, 98.0 IP, 117 SO


Mac Sceroler—Reds (Denham Springs HS, Southeastern) MiLB (12 G, 1-4, 9.30 ERA, 40.2 IP, 48 SO); MLB 5G, 0-0, 14.09 ERA, 7.2 IP, 11 SO); Transferred to Development List


Bryan Warzek—Dodgers (UNO) 30 G, 3-2, 5.60 ERA, 45.0 IP, 52 SO


Zach Watson—Orioles (LSU) 88 G, .263 BA, .304 OBP, 18 HR, 61 RBI, 21 SB


 

Hi-A


Brendan Cellucci—Red Sox (Tulane) 31 G, 0-3, 5.93 ERA, 30.1 IP, 54 SO


Antoine Duplantis—Mets (LSU) 92 G, .255 BA, .320 OBP, 5 HR, 30 RBI, 8 SB


Cody Grosse—Mariners (Southeastern) 71 G, .218 BA, .336 OBP, 3 HR, 23 RBI, 12 SB


Hudson Haskin—Orioles (Tulane) 83 G, .276 BA, .381 OBP, 5 HR, 42 RBI, 22 SB


Cole Henry – Nationals (LSU) 8 G, 2-5, 3.09, 32.0 IP, 48 SO,


Zack Hess—Tigers (LSU) 39 G, 2-5, 3.80 ERA, 45.0 IP, 60 SO, 11 SV


Kody Hoese—Dodgers (Tulane) 54 G, .204 BA, .259 OBP, 1 HR, 16 RBI (Activated from rehab assignment August 17


Todd Peterson—Nationals (LSU) 16 G, 2-1, 4.76 ERA, 28.1 IP, 29 SO


Kaleb Roper—White Sox (Rummel, Tulane) 14 G, 1-6, 7.95 ERA, 48.2 IP, 67 SO


Chase Solesky—White Sox (Tulane) 18 G, 1-7, 5.14 ERA, 68.1 IP, 88 SO; Promoted to Hi-A on August 3


Josh Smith—Rangers (Catholic HS, LSU) 63 G, .305 BA, .418 OBP, 11 HR, 34 RBI, 22 SB


Bryce Tassin—Tigers (Southeastern) 36 G, 5-5, 1.86 ERA, 53.1 IP, 53 SO, 8 SV


 

Lo-A


Jay Aldrich – Royals (Tulane) 5 G, 2-1, 1.29 ERA, 7.0 IP, 4 SO


Donovan Benoit – Reds (Tulane) 2 G, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 1.1 IP, 3 SO


Collin Burns – Orioles (De La Salle HS, Tulane) 14 G, .333 BA, .407 OBP, 0 HR, 6 RBI, 2 SB


Saul Garza – Royals (LSU) 38 G, .279 BA, .396 OBP, 3 HR, 21 RBI


A.J. Labas – Twins (LSU) 3 G, 1-2, 15.88 ERA, 5.2 IP, 5 SO


Aaron McKeithan – Cardinals (Tulane) 14 G, .171 BA, .292 OBP, 0 HR, 2 RBI


Braden Olthoff – Angels (Tulane) 2 G, 0-0, 3.00 ERA, 6.0 IP, 10 SO


Connor Pellerin – Yankees (Episcopal HS Baton Rouge, Tulane) 6 G, 0-1, 8.59 ERA, 7.1 IP, 10 SO


Tyree Thompson -- Rangers (Karr HS) 7 G, 1-0, 2.70 ERA, 20.0 IP, 19 SO; On 60-day Injured List June 25 June 18


 

Independent League


Ryan Eades -- (Northshore HS, LSU) MiLB (7 G, 0-1, 7.71 ERA, 7.0 IP, 12 SO); Released by Astros, playing in Independent League

Are the San Francisco Giants for real?

At the end of April, the San Francisco Giants were in first place in the National League West, and everybody was asking, “Are they for real?” Most of the answers from baseball pundits came back, “Probably not,” since pre-season favorites Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres were within 1 ½ games of first place.


By the end of June, the Giants were still in first place, having maintained the top position for most of May and all of June. Yet there was still skepticism about whether the club was a legitimate contender for the division title. After all, the last time the Giants were in first place at the end of June was in 2016.


At the end of July, the Giants were still in first place, and some baseball analysts were still asking, “Are the Giants for real?” The pre-season assessment of the team was that they had not refreshed their roster with younger players, that their core position players (Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, and Evan Longoria) wouldn’t stand up to the grind of long seasons anymore. Yet the Giants had the best record in both leagues.


Now, with the month of August almost over, the Giants are remarkably still in first place. Just when many people thought they would start to wane, they are playing their best baseball with an 19-6 record for the month of August. The last time they were in first place with one month left in the season was in 2012, when they won the World Series. It’s true the Dodgers are still hovering close to the Giants, only 2 ½ games behind, while the Padres appear to have faded out of contention, 16 games behind.


On paper the Giants’ individual players aren’t nearly as talented as the Dodgers, who have one of the more accomplished rosters in recent history, including four former Cy Young Award winners, three former MVPs, and three former Rookies of the Year.


But the Giants’ grizzled veterans are playing with a lot of teamwork and a balanced effort. The team is in the top five of the following batting categories: runs (5th), home runs (1st), batting average (4th), OBP (4th), SLG (1st), and OPS+(3rd).


Their rank second in all of the following pitching categories are: ERA, fewest runs allowed, fewest home runs allowed, ERA+, and WHIP.


However, the Dodgers compare favorably to the Giants in all these categories, which explains why the continue to nip at the Giants’ heels.


When you dig deeper into the Giants’ overall record, you quickly notice that their combined record against weaker division opponents Arizona and Colorado is a whopping 23-6, while they are 13-12 against the more formidable Dodgers and Padres. Looking ahead to September, 13 of their remaining games will be against division rivals Dodgers (3) and Padres (10), plus they will have to face the other division leaders, Milwaukee and Atlanta, in three-game series. They don’t have an easy route to the division title for the rest of the season.


The Dodgers have somewhat of a psychological advantage over the Giants, as they have won the NL West Division for the past eight straight seasons. Consequently, they play with confidence and are more battle-tested for a tight division race.


Of course, the team that finishes second in the NL West will still have a good chance to make the playoffs. The Dodgers would like nothing better than to repeat as World Series champions, something that hasn’t been done since the New York Yankees won three in a row in 1998, 1999, and 2000.


Giants manager Gabe Kapler was a .500 manager in his previous three managerial seasons (2018 and 2019 with the Phillies) and 2020 with the Giants. He’d like nothing better than to get his first division championship under his belt.


So, are the Giants for real? We’ll find out soon enough.

1946 Jesuit Blue Jays impressive in capturing American Legion World Series title

The Jesuit-based American Legion baseball program was no stranger to post-season playoffs in 1946. According to the Times Picayune, they had won Legion regional tournaments in 13 of the last 17 years and going as far as the finals of the Legion World Series in 1934. Perhaps fueled by their past successes, Jesuit overcame several obstacles during the post-season to claim their first World Series title.


Jesuit High School had already repeated as the state champion during the school year, earning the label “Yanks of the Prep League.” They were led by first baseman Tookie Gilbert and pitcher Hugh Oser, who completed his second season without a loss.


Jesuit’s Legion coach Eddie Toribio was faced with two factors that could have worked against him in fielding the team for summer Legion play, but he was ultimately able to overcome them.


Absent from the Legion roster were their two best players from the prep squad: Gilbert and Oser. Gilbert chose to play in the Esquire all-star game in Chicago instead, while Oser was too old for Legion participation. Other prep team starters who didn’t play for the Legion entry were catcher Jack Golden, second baseman Pete Tusa, and third baseman Rene Kronlage. Gilbert, Oser, and Golden had been named to the city’s All-Prep team, with Gilbert being tabbed the most valuable player. One of the consequences of these unavailable players was their replacements tended to be younger players with less experience. Toribio wound up with a roster whose average age was 16 years old.


Through a unique set of circumstances Jesuit was crowned the city’s First District champs without ever playing a game against district competition. That situation came about because seven teams withdrew from the league after it was decided by local American Legion officials that a second round of games would be limited to the top four teams competing in a double-elimination playoff. Their rationale was there wouldn’t be enough time to conduct a full second round. In the past there had been two full rounds of play in which all teams competed before the playoffs. The decision upset the sponsors of the teams, who maintained it didn’t provide their players an opportunity for a full season of competition. With Jesuit being the only team who didn’t withdraw, American Legion officials cancelled the regular season and declared them the First District champions.


As a result, the first time the Jesuit team, with its newly overhauled roster, competed in Legion play was during the playoffs against Second District champion Norco. However, undaunted by their lack of prior regular season games, Jesuit handled Norco easily in two games, 17-0 and 14-2, to earn the right to advance to sectional play against Baton Rouge.


Baton Rouge delivered a blow to Jesuit in the first game by coming from behind in the ninth inning to win, 4-3, but Jesuit rebounded in the second game to win behind Pat Rooney’s four-hitter, 6-2. Pitcher Gus Riordan handcuffed Baton Rouge in the rubber game to lead Jesuit to a 9-0 victory and the South Louisiana championship.


Next up for the Blue Jays was Shreveport, who had defeated Alexandria for the North Louisiana title. One of their wins included a 13-inning, 26 strikeout effort by Shreveport pitcher Gene Stevens. Jesuit took the first game in Shreveport, 7-0, battering Stevens for 11 hits. Rooney recorded his third consecutive shutout in the playoffs. Before 2,918 fans in Pelican Stadium in the second game, Jesuit defeated Shreveport, 7-1, to win the state crown. Third baseman Al Weidemann spearheaded the Jays’ offense with two hits, including a 352-foot home run.


The victories over Shreveport earned the Blue Jays an entry in the national regional tournament which was played in New Orleans. Their opponents were state champions from Mississippi, Texas, and New Mexico. The Times-Picayune observed about Toribio’s charges, who were without their two best players, “The Jays banded themselves to get the maximum amount of good from teamwork. Coach Toribio came up with one of the best-balanced teams ever seen from the preps. From top to bottom the boys play heads-up, spirited ball, and with two fine pitchers and the will to pull together, they are hard for any team of 17-year-olds and under to beat.” It was the second straight year Jesuit had advanced to this regional in the post-season.


Jesuit spanked Houston in their first game, 19-1, before 6,500 fans at Pelican Stadium and then went on to defeat a tough Little Rock squad twice, 4-2 and 10-8 to win the regional title. Shortstop Don Wetzel collected seven hits in 16 at-bats, scored five runs, and handled 21 chances without an error to help lead the Blue Jays. Their three-game sweep earned them a spot in the national sectional tournament in Gastonia, North Carolina.


Jesuit defeated Kanapolis, North Carolina and Thomasville, Georgia twice to win the sectional. Once again, Jesuit’s pitching came through, with Rooney hurling a sterling three-hitter in the deciding game. It was the seventh time since 1929 that the Blue Jays won the sectional.


Next advancing to the American Legion World Series in Charleston, South Carolina, their opponents were Trenton, Los Angeles, and Cincinnati. Jesuit had last appeared in the World Series in 1934, when they lost to Cumberland, Maryland. The 1946 Blue Jays suffered their first loss in 12 games to Los Angeles, who held them to only two hits in a 6-0 loss.


But Jesuit fought back in the loser’s bracket to defeat Cincinnati (7-2), Los Angeles (5-3), and Trenton twice (15-3 and 3-1) to claim the World Series title. Jays captain Wetzel and Rooney were named to the all-tournament team, with Wetzel also receiving the tournament’s sportsmanship award. Wetzel was the second best hitter in the tournament, getting nine hits in 20 trips to the plate for a .450 clip, while Jesuit’s Joe Mock had the fourth-best average with .412.


In addition to Wetzel, Rooney, Riordan, Weidemann, and Mock, the rest of the roster included Stanley McDermott, Monroe Caballero, Don Murphy, Terry Ryan, Jimmy Nissel, Tommy Wedig, Billy Glennon, Joe Shirer, and Moon Landrieu.


As a testament to the talent of the Jesuit prep/Legion team members, a majority eventually went on to higher levels of baseball. Gilbert played briefly in the major leagues; Oser, Wetzel, Tusa, Riordan, Golden, Rooney, and Murphy had brief careers in the minor leagues; and Landrieu, Caballero, Nissel, Glennon, Wedig, and McDermott played collegiately.


Besides Gilbert’s family ties with his father Larry Gilbert and brother Charlie Gilbert (both former major league players), Caballero was the brother of Putsy Caballero, who made his major-league debut in 1944 as a 16-year-old. Ryan was the brother of Connie Ryan, who made his big-league debut in 1942. Landrieu served as the mayor of New Orleans from 1970 to 1978.


In addition to the American Legion World Series title in 1946, the Blue Jays took home national championships in 1960 and 2012.

Current day shortstops fit the mold established by Cal Ripken Jr.

When Cal Ripken Jr. came onto the major-league scene as a rookie in 1981 and 1982, he was somewhat of an oddity for his position. At 6 feet, 4 inches and 200 pounds, he was considered a giant for shortstops. Along with his unusual physique, came a big bat. Not only was he a relative “giant” physically, but he ultimately became one of the “giants” of the sport, earning a spot in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.


Ripken is generally credited with ushering in an era in which the shortstop position was expected to provide more offense, in addition to being a solid fielder. Today we are seeing shortstops like Fernando Tatis Jr., Corey Seager, Trevor Story, Dante Bichette, Xander Bogaerts, Carlos Correa, and Trea Turner as some of the game’s best, because they are an offensive force on their respective teams, like Ripken was.


Before Ripken, the shortstop was primarily regarded as a “good field, no hit” position. The prototypical shortstop before the 1980s was relatively small in stature (often the smallest guy on the team), had a good glove, had good speed, and was mostly a singles hitter. Standout players like Pee Wee Reese, Phil Rizzuto, Lou Boudreau, Al Dark, Maury Wills, Luis Aparicio, and Larry Bowa are some of the best examples of the pre-Ripken model.


Occasionally there were anomalies at the position. Hall of Famer Ernie Banks started out as a shortstop for the Chicago Cubs in 1953, and he averaged 33 home runs during his first nine seasons, before moving to first base. Boston Red Sox shortstop Rico Petrocelli hit 40 home runs in 1969. Vern Stephens led the league in RBIs in three seasons in the late 1940s and early 1950s. At 6-foot-3, the Orioles’ Ron Hansen was one of the taller shortstops in the game during the 1960s.


Ripken came along and consistently demonstrated the most power for a shortstop since Banks. In his prime years from 1982 to 1998, Ripken averaged 23 home runs and 89 RBIs to go along with a batting line of .276/.344/.448. He was an eight-time Silver Slugger Award winner, a 19-time All-Star, and a Gold Glove winner twice.


The “Ripken mold” continued with some of the best shortstops in baseball from the mid-1990s into the 2000s that included Nomar Garciaparra, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, and Miguel Tejada. Like Ripken, they had an ability to bring offensive production to their teams and still provide the requisite defense for shortstops. Troy Tulowitzki followed them as one of the best fielding shortstops of all-time, and he managed to average (on a 162-game basis) 28 HRs and 98 RBIs during his career.


6-foot-3 Tatis Jr. is one of the most athletic players in the game today. He makes the spectacular plays in the field while also giving the Padres a power bat in the second spot of the batting order. Like Ripken in his time, Tatis Jr. has become one the popular faces in all of baseball. His contemporaries.


Bogaerts is a three-time Silver Slugger Award winner, while Story has two silver bats to his credit. Bichette is only in his first full major league season, yet he has already established himself as a nice complement to slugger Vlad Guerrero Jr. with the Blue Jays. The Dodgers can now boast having two of the best shortstops with Seager and Trea Turner, who was acquired at the trade deadline from the Washington Nationals. It’s a nice problem for the Dodgers to have both players. It looks like the versatile Turner is being moved to second base for the time being.


Correa has fulfilled the Houston Astros’ expectations after being the overall first pick of the 2012 draft. Still only 26 years old in his seventh MLB season, he’s one of the main reasons the Astros are contenders each year.


Most of the shortstops of yesteryear probably wouldn’t find a permanent spot on today’s rosters. While they were key players on their teams, they contributed in ways that aren’t valued as much in today’s game. Players like Wills or Aparacio, whose games were built around their speed on the bases, wouldn’t be appreciated for their skill, since base-stealing and bunting have been de-emphasized.


Ripken emerged before the current era of offensive explosion and changed the paradigm that it was indeed possible for shortstops to contribute more than singles and stolen bases. And we’re seeing the result of that today.

Hometown Heroes: Southeast Louisiana products in MLB, MiLB

Here’s an update for many of the 2021 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 year through Sunday August 1.


It wasn’t a particularly good month for several major leaguers. D. J. LeMahieu hit a dry spell in July where he didn’t hit a home run and had only 6 RBIs. His average dropped to .265. Jake Fraley and Alex Lange were sent to Triple-A after coming back from injuries. Kevin Gausman had three losing decisions in July although was still fourth in the National League with a 2.35 ERA.


Alex Bregman is currently doing his rehab assignment at the Triple A level and should return to the Astros soon. He has been on the Injured List since June 17.


Outfielder Greg Deichmann was traded by the Oakland A’s to the Chicago Cubs, where he could likely get an opportunity soon for a major-league promotion, since the Cubs offloaded major-league outfielders Joc Pederson and Kris Bryant.


Josh Smith was one of three minor-league players the Yankees sent to Texas in a trade for slugger Joey Gallo.


Mikie Mahtook leads the Triple-A Charlotte Knights with 15 home runs.


After being promoted to Triple-A Sugar Land, J. P. France won his first three decisions in July. Shawn Semple posted four wins at the Hi-A level, thus earning a return to Double-A.


Other promotions included Andrew Mitchell to Triple-A; Eric Orze, Nick Bush, and Zach Watson to Double-A; and Hudson Haskin to Lo-A.


 

MLB


Alex Bregman—Astros (LSU) 59 G, .275 BA, .359 OBP, 7 HR, 34 RBI (Has been on Injured List since June 17. Currently on rehab assignment in Triple-A)


Kevin Gausman—Giants (LSU) 21 G, 9-5, 2.35 ERA, 126.1 IP, 149 SO


Will Harris—Nationals (Slidell HS, LSU) 8 G, 0-1, 9.00 ERA, 6 IP, 9 SO (Remained on Injured List since May 23)


Aaron Loup—Mets (Hahnville HS, Tulane) 39 G, 3-0, 1.32 ERA, 34 IP, 38 SO


DJ LeMahieu—Yankees (LSU) 98 G, .265 BA, .345 OBP, 7 HR, 39 RBI


Wade Miley—Reds (Loranger HS, Southeastern) 19 G, 8-4, 2.92 ERA, 114 IP, 88 SO


Aaron Nola—Phillies (Catholic HS, LSU) 21 G, 7-6, 4.30, 121.1 IP, 145 SO


Austin Nola—Padres (Catholic HS, LSU) 24 G, .222 BA, .354 OBP, 1 HR, 14 RBI (Returned from Injured List on July 22)


Tanner Rainey—Nationals (St. Paul’s HS, Southeastern) 31 G, 1-2, 7.20 ERA, 25 IP, 31 SO (On Injured List for most of July)


Jake Rogers—Tigers (Tulane) 38 G, .239 BA, .306 OBP, 6 HR, 17 RBI


Riley Smith—Diamondbacks (LSU) 24 G, 1-4, 6.01 ERA, 67.1 IP, 36 SO (Missed all of July. Currently on Injured List)


Andrew Stevenson—Nationals (St. Thomas More HS, LSU) 66 G, .213 BA, .279 OBP, 2 HR, 12 RBI (Returned from Injured List on July 18)


 

Triple-A


Greg Deichmann—Cubs (Brother Martin HS, LSU) 64 G, .291 BA, .420 OBP, 4 HR, 35 RBI, 7 SB


Ryan Eades—Astros (Northshore HS, LSU) 6 G, 0-1, 9.00 ERA, 6.0 IP, 9 SO (On Injured List since June 8)


Jake FraleyMariners (LSU) MiLB - 11 G, .333 BA, .488 OBP, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 3 SB

MLB – 40 G, .237 BA, .409 OBP, 7 HR, 23 RBI, 7 SB


J.P. France—Astros (Shaw HS, Tulane, Miss. State) – 15 G, 6-2, 3.46 ERA, 67.2 IP, 92 SO


Ian Gibaut—Twins (Tulane) 22 G, 0-3, 8.63 ERA, 32.1 IP, 39 SO


Nick Goody—Nationals (LSU) 24 G, 4-3, 3.98 ERA, 31.2 IP, 42 SO


Jacoby Jones—Tigers (LSU) MiLB – 47 G, .246 BA, .341 OBP, 5 HR, 21 RBI

MLB – 36 G, .170 BA, .210 OBP, 2 HR, 9 RBI


Kyle Keller—Pirates (Jesuit HS, Southeastern) MiLB – 13 G, 2-0, 1.96 ERA, 18 SO

MLB - 13 G, 0-0, 5.11 ERA, 12.1 IP, 15 SO


Alex Lange—Tigers (LSU) MiLB - 14 G, 1-1, 5.17 ERA, 15.2 IP, 18 SO (Returned from IL on July 6)

MLB – 19 G, 0-1, 7.94 ERA, 17 IP, 21 SO


Mikie Mahtook—White Sox (LSU) 56 G, .223 BA, .292 OBP, 15 HR, 32 RBI


Reeves Martin—Mariners (UNO) 5 G, 0-2, 8.10 ERA, 6.2 IP, 4 SO (Has not played since May 18)


Andrew Mitchell—Mets (Jesuit, Delgado, Auburn) 21 G, 3-1, 3.76 ERA, 38.1 IP, 42 SO


Michael Papierski—Astros (LSU) 63 G, .242 BA, .392 OBP, 2 HR, 26 RBI


Kramer Roberston—Cardinals (LSU) 75 G, .243 BA, .360 OBP, 7 HR, 39 RBI, 7 SB


Tate Scioneaux—Rockies (Riverside HS, Southeastern) 30 G, 1-2, 4.08 ERA, 35.1 IP, 41 SO


Justin Williams—Cardinals (Terrebone HS) MiLB – 16 G, .250 BA, .276 OBP, 3 HR, 8 RBI

MLB - 51 G, .160 BA, .270 OBP, 4 HR, 11 RBI (Has not played since July 2)

 

Double-A


Nick Bush—Rockies (LSU) 15 G, 4-5, 3.63 ERA, 79.1 IP, 84 SO


Cole Freeman—Nationals (LSU) 62 G, .277 BA, .333 OBP, 4 HR, 24 RBI, 8 SB


Eric Orze—Mets (UNO) 21 G, 3-2, 3.41 ERA, 34.1 IP, 48 SO, 4 SV


Tate Scioneaux—Rockies (Riverside HS, Southeastern) 18 G, 0-1, 3.63 ERA, 22.1 IP, 26 SO


Shawn Semple—Yankees (UNO) 15 G, 7-3, 2.92 ERA, 74 IP, 90 SO


Mac Sceroler—Orioles (Denham Springs HS, Southeastern) MiLB - 8G, 1-2, 7.40 ERA, 23.1 IP, 30 SO

MLB - 5G, 0-0, 14.09 ERA, 7.2 IP, 11 SO


Bryan Warzek—Dodgers (UNO) 24 G, 3-1, 3.11 ERA, 37.2 IP, 47 SO


Zach Watson—Orioles (LSU) 67 G, .251 BA, .299 OBP, 11 HR, 40 RBI, 18 SB


 

Hi-A


Daniel Cabrera—Tigers (John Curtis HS, Delgado, LSU) 75 G, BA .237, .305 OBP, 6 HR, 44 RBI, 6 SB


Brendan Cellucci—Red Sox (Tulane) 24 G, 0-2, 6.12 ERA, 25 IP, 42 SO


Antoine Duplantis—Mets (LSU) 69 G, .275 BA, .341 OBP, 5 HR, 11 RBI, 3 SB


Cody Grosse—Mariners (Southeastern) 50 G, .216 BA, .347 OBP, 3 HR, 19 RBI, 10 SB


Hudson Haskin—Orioles (Tulane) 68 G, .276 BA, .368 OBP, 5 HR, 38 RBI, 20 SB


Zack Hess—Tigers (LSU) 18 G, 0-3, 5.85 ERA, 20.0 IP, 30 SO, 2 SV


Todd Peterson—Nationals (LSU) 10 G, 2-0, 5.59 ERA, 19.1 IP, 20 SO


Kaleb Roper—White Sox (Rummel, Tulane) 10 G, 0-4, 9.90 ERA, 30 IP, 45 SO


Josh Smith—Rangers (Catholic HS, LSU) 42 G, .333 BA, .453 OBP, 9 HR, 27 RBI, 17 SB


Bryce Tassin—Tigers (Southeastern) 27 G, 3-5, 2.52 ERA, 35.2 IP, 34 SO, 4 SV


 

Lo-A


Chase Solesky—White Sox (Tulane) 14 G, 1-5, 5.08 ERA, 51.1 IP, 71 SO


Tyree Thompson—Rangers (Karr HS) 7 G, 1-0, 2.70 ERA, 20.0 IP, 19 SO (Has not played since June 18)


 

Rookie


Kody Hoese—Dodgers (Tulane) 35 G, .182 BA, .241 OBP, 1 HR, 10 RBI (Has not played since July 12)


Reduced MLB draft takes its toll on baseball's family ties

Major League Baseball’s decision to reduce the number of draft rounds the past two years has had a negative effect on the number of players selected who have relatives in professional baseball. Prior to 2020, MLB typically conducted a draft that consisted of 40 rounds. In 2019 77 drafted players had family ties in baseball, including players, managers, coaches, scouts and front office personnel. Since 2013, the average number of drafted players who had family ties is 63.


Only 20 players with family ties were selected in 2020 when MLB conducted only five rounds in the annual amateur draft. It’s understandable why the draft was limited since the minor-league season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


This year ‘s draft consisted of 20 rounds. With the number of minor-league teams cut by 25% this year, there was naturally less need for the number of new ballplayers to enter the pros with affiliated major-league teams. Even with this season’s larger draft than last year, only 16 players with family ties were taken in the 2021 draft. That’s a 75% reduction from the average during 2013 and 2019. Some of the players who might have been selected in a larger draft are now signing as non-drafted free agents (NDFA) with major-league teams this year. Others are joining independent league teams with the hopes of eventually catching on with an affiliated minor-league club. Other non-drafted players are returning to college for their senior season in the hopes they can improve their draft status for 2022.


The most well-known player with family ties drafted this year was Jack Leiter, who was the second overall pick by the Boston Red Sox. He had a stellar season with Vanderbilt and has been high on the draft radar since high school. His father is Al Leiter, a former major league pitcher for 19 seasons. Al was a member of three World Series team including world championships with Toronto (1993) and Florida (1997) and in a losing cause with the New York Mets (2000). Jack’s uncle Mark Leiter and his cousin Mark Leiter Jr. were also major league pitchers.


Other draftees with well-known relatives were Will Wagner, the son of Billy Wagner, and Michael Sirota, the great-nephew of Whitey Ford. Wagner was the 18th-round selection of the Astros, the team with which his father played nine seasons. Sirota was selected in the sixteenth round by the Dodgers, a frequent World Series foe of his great uncle in the 50’s and 60’s.


Will Bednar, the Mississippi State pitcher who was the MVP of the College World Series, was the draft’s overall 14th pick of the Giants. His brother Dave is currently pitching for the Pittsburgh Pirates.


Darren Baker, the son of Astros manager Dusty Baker, was the 10th round pick of the Nationals. The infielder had played collegiately at the University of California.


Each year there are typically players drafted whose family ties are in sports other than baseball. For example, Kumar Rocker (10th overall draft pick of the Mets) is the son of Tracy Rocker, a former NFL player and current NFL coach. Blake Holub (15th round pick of the Detroit Tigers) is a relative of E.J. Holub, a former two-way player in the NFL from 1961 to 1970.


Some of the non-drafted free agents who have already signed contracts include famous last names: JJ Niekro (son of Joe Niekro and nephew of Phil Niekro), Jared Pettitte (son of Andy Pettitte), and Peyton Glavine (son of Tom Glavine and nephew of Mike Glavine). In past years that the draft consisted of 40 rounds, these players would have likely been drafted in the higher rounds. NFDAs are signed by major-league clubs for a standard bonus amount of $20,000.


High-profile prospects who went undrafted this year include Dante Baldelli (brother of Twins manager Rocco Baldelli), Casey Dykstra (nephew of Lenny Dykstra), and Max McGwire (son of Mark McGwire). With a larger number of draft rounds, they may have been selected, even if only as a sentimental pick.


The average number of players with family ties who made their MLB debuts from 2015 to 2020 was 28. It remains to be seen what the long-term effect of the reduced number of drafted players with baseball bloodlines is on those who eventually reach the majors. But early indications are that the number of relatives reaching the majors will be less than recent history.

Frank Wills's baseball journey from Wisner Playground to Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame

Former De La Salle and Tulane multi-sport athlete Frank Wills is being inducted into the Allstate Sugar Bowl’s Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame this weekend. His baseball accomplishments in high school and college eventually earned him a job in the professional ranks, including nine seasons as a pitcher in the major leagues.


Wills got his start in baseball at Wisner Playground in Uptown New Orleans. The competition at the playground and the coaches who taught him the game were instrumental in his formation as a future baseball standout. One of his NORD and Babe Ruth coaches, Larry Scott, says he watched Wills steadily progress as a player, from an eight-year-old playing in the 10-year-old league until he was 15. Scott noted that baseball was a family affair for the Willses. He said,” Frank’s mother kept the scorebook for the team, while his father helped coach the team and drove the players to their games. His mom would call me after the games to review the highlights of all the players.” He remembered the parents never missed a game.


Jimmy Anderson grew up with Wills, and they wound up playing together through high school. When they were 13 years old in 1972, they both made the Uptown Babe Ruth All-Star team coached by Tom Piglia. They defeated New Roads for the state championship. Even at 13 years of age, Anderson said Wills dominated as a pitcher. He recalls the right-hander being nicknamed “Wild Man” Wills, because he had good velocity, yet his control wasn’t always the best. Anderson said, “It wasn’t unusual for him to walk the first three batters of an inning and then strike out the next three.”


Jerry Burrage, Wills’s eventual high school baseball coach at De La Salle, lived two blocks from the Wills family and followed his playground career. He also spoke of the family’s avid support of the young athlete. Burrage said, “Frank was somewhat of a free spirt, but he showed a ton of respect for his parents.” Burrage says he believes Wills started to come into his own as a pitcher as a 15-year-old in Babe Ruth ball in 1974. He recalled a specific game in which Wills pitched in the city Babe Ruth championship contest against a strong Lakeshore team coached by Firmin Simms. He said, “Frank’s team wound up losing in a close game, but his outing made a strong statement about how good he would become.”


Wills became a multi-sport athlete at De La Salle, playing football and basketball in addition to baseball. He was on the Cavalier basketball team that finished second to Landry High School in the 1976 state finals. He was a two-way player in football at quarterback and safety, when De La Salle went 7-3 in his senior season in 1976. He was selected to play in the Louisiana East-West All-Star Football Game in July 1977.


Wills lettered three years in baseball at De La Salle. The Cavaliers won the state title during his senior season in 1977, with Wills and Bruce O’Krepki as their key pitchers. Anderson, the left fielder on the De La Salle squad, recalled that they didn’t have to score many runs to win games with those two standouts on the mound. The Cavaliers played the first-ever high school baseball game in the Louisiana Superdome that year, when they defeated West Jefferson in the state playoffs. Wills was the winning pitcher over Glen Oaks in the state semi-finals. Against Chalmette in the finals, Wills hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning and then delivered the game-winning hit in the seventh. He was named to the Times-Picayune All-Metro Team and selected for the Class 4A All-State Team by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association.


Paul Kelly, current De La Salle principal and head basketball coach, was a student-athlete at De La Salle several years after Wills had graduated. He said, “I remember that our coaches still held up Frank as the standard for athletic excellence.” A common theme among his coaches and teammates interviewed for this article was that Wills was a natural athlete and a good teammate.


Wills accepted a scholarship offer from Tulane University, where he played football and baseball. He was in rare company as a two-sport athlete at the major-college level. His achievement preceded prominent two-sport collegiate athletes such as Bo Jackson, Ben McDonald, and Deion Sanders. As a freshman, Wills started out as the fourth quarterback on the Green Wave depth chart. However, as a testament to his athleticism, he wound up winning the starting job as the punter in his freshman year and often played on special teams. Burrage believes Wills punted only once while playing football at De La Salle.


But it was baseball where Wills made his name at Tulane. He played immediately as a freshman, compiling a 3-5 record in 1978. As a sophomore, he posted a 6-5 record with a 3.30 ERA in 13 games. The Green Wave made their first NCAA regional appearance that season.


Wills compiled a 5-3 record with a 2.81 ERA in 13 games as a junior in 1980. His wins included three complete games, and his strikeouts-per-nine-innings was an impressive 10.55. He made the Metro Conference All-Conference Team and was named to the All-American first teams by Baseball America and the American Baseball Coaches Association. His outstanding performance earned him a first-round selection (16th overall) by the Kansas City Royals in the 1977 MLB Draft.


Wills had mixed results at the major-league level. He made his debut with the Royals in his third pro season (1983). But he had control problems that eventually led him to become a reliever. He was involved in a four-team trade at the beginning of 1985 in which he was sent to the New York Mets. But after spending spring training with the Mets, he was dealt to Seattle. He threw a no-hitter for Triple-A Calgary on May 31, 1985, before getting called up to the Mariners. His stint in the Mariners organization was followed by two years (1986-1987) in the Cleveland organization.


In 1988 he signed as a free agent with the Toronto Blue Jays, where he spent four seasons. His performance in the next-to-last game of the Blue Jays’ pennant race in 1989 was one of the highlights of his career. He pitched four innings in relief in which he allowed only one hit, propelling the Blue Jays into the playoffs. 1990 was his busiest season, as he appeared in 44 games, mostly as a middle reliever. He compiled a 6-4 record with a 4.73 ERA.


Wills retired after the 1991 season at age 32. His nine-year major-league career record included a 22-26 record, 6 saves, and 5.06 ERA in 154 games. He died in 2012 at age 53.


Wills is one of five new inductees into the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame. The others include Les Bonano (boxing), Bernard Griffith (basketball), Joanne Skertich (volleyball), and Reggie Wayne (football).

When MLB scouts relied solely on the "eye test," Lenny Yochim was among the best

Advanced analytics and new technologies have contributed to significant changes in baseball over the past six to eight years. One of the effects has been less dependence on scouts by major-league organizations. New Orleans native Lenny Yochim was a major-league scout for over 40 years beginning in 1957. Thirty-six of his years were spent with the Pittsburgh Pirates. In his day, a scout’s job was to evaluate prospects and opposing major-league players by traveling across the country watching them play, in order to determine if they were a good fit for the organization. Nowadays, a large part of player evaluation is performed by someone sitting in an office behind a computer.


After a playing career that included a state championship with Holy Cross High School, 51 winning decisions with the New Orleans Pelicans, the first no-hitter in the Venezuelan Winter League, and a brief career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Yochim became a full-time scout for the Pirates starting with the 1966 season. He had previously spent time as a part-time scout evaluating amateur players for the Kansas City A’s and New York Yankees.


When the Pirates defeated the Baltimore Orioles in the 1979 World Series, Pirates manager Chuck Tanner publicly credited Yochim for his contribution to the team’s championship. He had pulled together the advance scouting reports on the Orioles and reviewed them with the Pirates’ coaching staff and players prior to the Series. With the benefit of Yochim’s inputs, Pirates pitchers were able to hold Orioles sluggers Ken Singleton and Eddie Murray to only two extra-base hits and four RBIs during the entire Series.


Yochim advanced through the professional scouting ranks with the Pirates, eventually rising to the position of Special Assistant to the General Manager, which is one of the top jobs in major-league front offices. Upon Yochim’s assignment to that role, Pirates General Manager Cam Bonifay said, “I wanted to surround myself with people who had done the job, earned that position. I wanted to get the most out of Lenny Yochim and get the most out of his experience factor to evaluate players.”


Yochim was well-respected by his peers in other major league organizations, too. He was the recipient of the Midwest “Scout of the Year” award in 1994.


In 1996 he was honored with the “Pride of the Pirates” award in recognition for his 30 years of valuable service with Pittsburgh. The award recognizes members of the Pirates family who had demonstrated the qualities of sportsmanship, dedication, and outstanding character during a lifetime of service. It is the only award presented by the Pirates organization. Yochim retired from baseball in 2002.


There is a lot less reliance today on scouts to apply the “eye test” to obtain their information, as Yochim did during his career. He watched how players performed in games as input to his evaluations. He used a radar gun to measure a pitchers’ velocity. He would then translate his observations onto a paper form using a rating scale that quantified each player’s pitching, fielding, hitting, and running capabilities. He also provided an assessment of whether his organization should try to acquire each player.


In today’s environment, current technology provides video of every major-league play accompanied with quantitative data such as the distance, location, and exit velocity of every batted ball; the velocity, type of pitch, spin rate, and location of every pitch; and the location of every fielded ball. This is also the case for minor league and college games. Consequently, most major-league organizations have reduced their scouting staff because of this relatively new capability to capture and analyze highly objective performance data.


With today’s new capabilities, many argue the use of the “eye test” is too subjective for determining a player’s true capability, since inputs can vary depending on the scout doing the observations. Counter arguments insist the “eye test” can also provide valuable inputs on the makeup of a player, including his attitude, energy level, confidence level, and teamwork. Perhaps for that reason alone, scouts will always be around to some degree.


Below are excerpts from some of Yochim’s actual scouting reports on opposing major-league players in 1981. The comments were written by him in conjunction with his recommendation for whether the Pirates should try to acquire the player through trade or free agency. His observations are often quite candid and occasionally humorous. (This information was obtained by this writer from Yochim’s daughter Jamie Jacob, who shared some of his working papers from his Pirates scouting days.


Bob Stanley, Red Sox, RHP


Throwing the spitter or the greaser. Though a real good one, he tries to use too often. Has 9 wins out of the pen and strangely no saves. Would take, has a good arm and is 27.


Bobby Grich, Angels, 2B


Having an outstanding year. Very productive with the bat and has more HRs than he did last year (14) in twice as many games. Caught every ball. He’s got limited range. Could be putting out to get into free agency fortune. Why not!


Carlton Fisk, White Sox, C


Came over as free agent on this club. However, he is not the catcher he was at Boston. Not as aggressive nor as productive with the bat. Through 71 games, only 5 home runs. Could be of help to a front line club in need of catching.


Von Hayes, Indians, OF


Young, tall lanky raw-boned build. A player to be reckoned with. Is aggressive especially with bat and can run. In time should hit with a little power, is pulling now. The kind to build with.


Lance Parrish, Tigers, C


Ability to be one of the better catchers in the game. Can do it all, catch, run, throw and hit with power. Don’t believe he is very bright. I would take over ours.


Kirk Gibson, Tigers, OF


The future offensive rage of the American League if not baseball. Has some kind of running speed, both on bases and in the field. A strong forceful hitter, a lot of broke bat hits because of strength. In time will be a good hitter with great power. Can and will drag for hit. All except throw and that could get better if can loosen up in the shoulders. Can go in the alleys (like catching passes) and catch the ball by the walls. If they let him continue running (stealing) when he learns (break, leads), he will steal a ton of bases. A pull hitter. To say that he hit for me (20-for-50) is an understatement. I would like to have a few of these.


Kevin Saucier, Tigers, RHP


For a spell, the hottest pitcher in the American League. I call him “Sauce Picante” (hot stuff for sauces). He magnifies Tug McGraw’s act coming off the field. All this hypes him up. Is very aggressive and goes right to the hitter. His pitches are average. I would take because of his positive attitude.


Reggie Jackson, Yankees, RF


In his twilight years. Not able to hit out with regularity. Not able to hit mistakes as in past. Has a lot of value to this club. Electricity. 35 and running low on gas, 6 instead of 8 cylinders.


Don Mattingly, Yankees Florida Instructional League, LF


Short-waisted, lower body heavier. An upper-cutter with fairly quick bat. Bat is laid on his shoulder with a slight crouch. A pull hitter. Has an outside chance because of his bat.


Rickey Henderson, A’s, LF


A premium offensive player in this league. Throwing and fielding will keep him from super star status. Took the extra base on his hustle. Can steal all the bases. At the time seen, he had played in 60 of their 61 games. Would definitely take.


Fergie Jenkins, Rangers, RHP


I would say he is at the end of the line. Has resorted to a lot of junk and over-anxious hitters for his best results. Should bow out.


Dave Stieb, Blue Jays, RHP


The cream of their crop. The one on this club that every other club would take. From the continued tone of their talks, would not be available unless over traded for and we can’t do that. Has all the pitches and the make-up. Can pitch a good game without his best stuff. Yes.

De La Salle HS was springboard to baseball opportunities for Morreale father and son

De La Salle High School lost one of its more popular alumni when John Morreale Jr. died on June 13. He had a spectacular baseball career with the Cavaliers as did his son John Morreale III. Both of them played on state championship teams, and their high school careers facilitated other opportunities in amateur, collegiate, and professional baseball.


A recent interview with Morreale III revealed a close-knit relationship between the father and son. He said, “I was fortunate to have a dad that could teach the right way to play baseball, beginning when I played on my first team of organized baseball.” Furthermore, Morreale III spoke of numerous occasions when his dad took other youngsters under his wing to teach them not only about baseball but about life in general.


As a junior in high school in 1958, Morreale Jr. played on a talented De La Salle team that won the state title over Byrd High of Shreveport. He was the winning pitcher in the deciding championship game. He was named to the Times-Picayune All-Prep team as a utility player. The Cavaliers also featured future professional players Allan Montreuil and Wayne Pietri. The De La Salle-based Perfectos went on to defeat Ruston for the state American Legion title that summer. When he wasn’t pitching, Morreale Jr. played catcher. He was named to the Times-Picayune All-Legion team as catcher.


With the addition of Floyd Fourroux (another future professional player), De La Salle repeated as prep and Legion state champions in 1959. Morreale Jr. was again named to the city’s All-Prep team and selected for the Times-Picayune’s All-State team. However, There was quite a stir among local New Orleans media when he was left off the Louisiana baseball writers’ all-state team.


In the summer of 1959, Morreale Jr. played in the All-American Amateur Baseball Association league in New Orleans where he was among the league’s leaders in hitting and pitching. He was selected to Rags Scheuermann’s all-star team that competed in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. New Orleans was eliminated by Baltimore and finished with a 2-2 record.


Morreale Jr. attended Southeastern Louisiana in 1960 but did not play baseball. He signed with the Boston Red organization next year, as one of their scouting supervisors George Digby had New Orleans ties. He was assigned to Class D Alpine in Texas, where New Orleans native Mel Parnell, former star pitcher with the Red Sox, was the manager. Morreale III related a story about how his father recalled catching a seemingly mile-high flyball on his first fielding play in his first minor-league game in left field, a position he had never played before. Morreale Jr. hit only .238 in 38 games and was given his outright release in June. Parnell told the Times-Picayune, “He was an excellent fielder, but he had problems throwing and wasn’t hitting well.” Morreale III said his father had injured his knee while sliding, which may have ultimately contributed to his release.


For a number of years afterward, Morreale Jr. continued to stay active on local New Orleans baseball and softball playgrounds. He played for the Ponchatoula Athletics semi-pro team that finished second in the National Baseball Congress tournament in Wichita, Kansas, in 1963. His family owned Frankie and Johnny’s restaurant in the Uptown area, and he led several of its softball teams to league championships. He helped coach numerous NORD Uptown Babe Ruth teams, including all-star squads that competed in post-season tournament play. He is a member of the De La Salle Hall of Fame.


One of his baseball pupils was his son, whom he started working with at a very young age. Morreale III said his dad wanted him to already be skilled in the game when joined his first team. He told the story of trying out and making his first organized team as a 10-year-old without his dad knowing. Apparently, young Morreale had been prepared well by his father.


Morreale III followed in his father’s footsteps at De La Salle with similar results. As a junior in 1988, the second baseman helped the Cavaliers win the state title over Jesuit, their first since 1977. He recalled that after the team lost its first three games of the season, his father got approval from the Cavaliers baseball coach to work with the players after their regular workouts to get extra hitting practice using a batting cage in the gym. Morreale III believes the extra work helped the team get back on track and ultimately take home state championship trophy. It was indicative of how Morreale Jr. liked working with kids to improve their game.


He earned his third letter in baseball during his senior year. He was an All-District player for the De La Salle-based Legion team that summer. Morreale III also played on the De La Salle basketball team, receiving the Senior Award in 1989.


He attended George Wallace Junior College in Alabama during his freshman year in 1990 where he played with several other New Orleanians. He transferred to Delgado Community College for the 1991 season to play for Coach Joe Scheuermann. He batted .302 with 29 RBIs and was named to the All-Region 23 junior college baseball team and the Miss-Lou all-conference team. Morreale III said he anticipated he would be selected in the MLB Draft, but his name was never called.


He played for Northeast Louisiana (now University of Louisiana Monroe) in the 1992 season. During the summer he played in the local All-American Amateur Baseball Association league, as his father had done in 1959. In previous years of the summer league, he had played under Rags Scheuermann, like his father. He was selected for the Boosters all-star team under Coach Joe Scheuermann (Rags’ son) that represented New Orleans in Johnstown. Morreale III was the MVP in the qualifying tournament in Altoona. The Boosters wound up winning the national title over Lavonia, Michigan, with Morreale III one of the team’s leading hitters.


He returned to Northeast for his final college season in 1993. He received honorable mention on the All-Southland Conference team as a second baseman.


Morreale III was passed over again in the 1993 Major League Baseball draft, but big-league scouts were certainly familiar with him from his performance in the AAABA national tournament in 1992. His father continued to hold workouts with him, which included fielding ground balls, taking batting practice, and running on the levy by Audubon Park. Morreale III said, “My father helped me keep my dream alive.”


They took a trip to Plant City, Florida, in early 1994 for a tryout with the Cincinnati Reds and received an offer. He was later working out at UNO when New Orleans Zephyrs (then the Triple-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers) batting coach Ron Jackson noticed him and recommend him to Brewers farm system officials Freddie Patek and Fred Stanley for a tryout. He made a good showing and got an offer to sign with the Brewers. He said his dad had been studying minor-league rosters and noted the Brewers appeared to need more depth at second base than the Reds. So, they inked a contract with the Brewers, who assigned him to Lo-A Beloit in Wisconsin.


In his first year at Beloit under manager Wayne Krenchicki, Morreale III was mainly used in a utility role playing multiple infield positions. He laughs about his first play in the field at second base, when a high fly ball came his way. Unlike his father’s situation 33 years before him, Morreale III didn’t make the catch. He hit a respectable .271 in 70 games and earned a promotion to Hi-A Stockton (California) in 1995. However, he wound up tearing ligaments in his wrist that required surgery and extensive rehab, thus limiting him to 30 games.


He started spring training in 1996 with the Brewers’ Double-A squad. He felt he was making good progress with his hitting. He said his batting average was around .470 in spring exhibition games when he got called up to substitute for second baseman Fernando Vina on the big-league roster. Playing against the Colorado Rockies, he went 0-for-2. In one of his at-bats facing veteran pitcher Marvin Freeman with the bases loaded, he hit a line drive to right field that went foul by a few inches. Morreale III still wonders how his future might have changed had that hit landed in fair territory. He said, “It’s true that baseball is a game of inches.”


Upon returning to Stockton for the regular season, he was seeing positive results from trying to hit with more power, but then tore a ligament in his knee when his foot got pinned against the bag by a sliding baserunner. Wanting to stick with the club, he did his rehabilitation in California. He tried to resume playing while still hurt but became injured again, breaking his hand that required surgery. After playing only 50 games that season, he ended of his playing career.


Morreale III joined his father in coaching NORD Uptown Babe Ruth teams. He said he is gratified by all the comments he has received from former ballplayers after hearing about his father’s death. Their sentiments were indications of how much of an influence his father had on them.


The Morreale baseball family tree sprouted a third-generation ballplayer. John Morreale IV is currently spending the summer with a travel ball team and will play as a senior in high school next year. Morreale III said he is trying to teach his son all that was originally passed down from his father. The messages are still the same. “Work hard to improve your skills. Give 100% all the time. Be a good teammate. Get through the ups and downs.” Young Morreale would do well to live up to his baseball bloodlines.

Flashback: New Orleanian Connie Ryan shines in 1944 MLB All-Star Game

With the Major League Baseball All-Star Game coming up on July 13, it’s a good time to recall the performance of New Orleans native Connie Ryan in the 1944 All-Star Classic.


Ryan was a member of several Jesuit High School teams that dominated prep baseball in New Orleans in the 1930s. He was a Times-Picayune All-Prep selection as an infielder from 1936 to 1938. He was awarded the first baseball scholarship to LSU in 1939. However, he played in only one season for the Tigers before entering professional baseball in 1940.


In his third season of professional baseball, he was sold by the Atlanta Crackers minor-league club to the New York Giants for $60,000, which was big money in those days. He started out the 1942 season with the Giants, where he was a teammate of Mel Ott, who was originally from the West Bank in New Orleans. However, Ryan wasn’t able to stick with the big-league club and was sent to Jersey City where he finished out the season.


In April 1943, Ryan was traded with Hugh Poland to the Boston Braves for Ernie Lombardi. He spent the full season with the Braves when he batted .212 with one homer and 25 RBIs.


1944 was his breakout season, as he earned an all-star berth at second base with the National League. He started the scoring for the National League in the fifth inning of the All-Star Game with a leadoff single off Tex Hughson. He stole second and scored on Bill Nicholson’s double. The NL scored four runs that inning on their way to a 7-1 victory. Ryan had another single in the sixth inning, while fellow New Orleanian Mel Ott was hitless in a pinch-hit appearance for the NL all-stars.


Two weeks after the All-Star Game, Ryan enlisted in the Navy and was sent to the Western Pacific theater. At the time, his .295 batting average was second on the Braves team. Despite playing in only 88 games, he still received votes for the NL’s Most Valuable Player Award.


He was a member of the Navy’s 5th Fleet ball clubs that played exhibition games to entertain the servicemen stationed on the various Pacific fighting fronts in 1945. The group of players was headed by New York Yankee Bill Dickey and included other major-leaguers such as Johnny Mize, Billy Herman, and Pee Wee Reese.


As did most of the major leaguers in the military, Ryan returned to baseball in time for the 1946 season. He never earned all-star status again, but one of his career highlights was playing for the Boston Braves in the 1948 World Series against the Cleveland Indians.


Ryan spent 12 seasons as a player in the majors, with his last in 1954. He served as a minor-league manager and major-league coach until 1979. He was a scout for the Texas Rangers until he retired in 1985. He was a member of the Milwaukee Braves coaching staff when they won the World Series in 1957. He served as interim major-league manager on two occasions, in 1975 with Atlanta and 1977 with Texas. He is a member of both the New Orleans and Louisiana Sports Halls of Fame.


Other New Orleans area players who have appeared in Major League All-Star games include Jack Kramer (S.J. Peters), Mel Parnell (S.J. Peters), Howie Pollet (Fortier), Rusty Staub (Jesuit), Will Clark (Jesuit), and Will Harris (Slidell).

Hometown Hero Update

Here’s an update for many of the 2021 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 year through Wednesday, June 30.


Aaron Nola (LSU) tied Tom Seaver’s major-league record with 10 consecutive strikeouts on June 25. He had a total of 12 punchouts for the game, but despite his efforts his Phillies lost to the Mets. He managed to get two wins in June.


Kevin Gausman (LSU) had won seven consecutive games before taking his first loss on June 12. He is now 8-2, with a NL leading 1.68 ERA. He’s one of the main reasons the Giants are in first place in the NL West.


Seattle’s Jake Fraley (LSU) had several career firsts during the first two weeks of June. On June 3, he hit his first MLB home run against the Angels. Two days later he belted his first grand slam home run. On June 9 against Detroit, he robbed a Tiger home run with a fantastic catch in left field and then got his first walk-off hit in the 11th inning.


The Houston Astros’ Alex Bregman (LSU) and the Yankees’ DJ LeMahieu (LSU) were among the finalists at their respective positions in the MLB All-Star Game voting.


Andrew Mitchell (Jesuit and Delgado CC) pitched the last three innings of a combined no-hitter with Josh Walker for Class AA Binghampton against Reading.


Josh Smith (LSU) hit a home run in his first at-bat after being promoted to Hi-A Hudson Valley from Lo-A Tampa. He’s been on a tear the entire season with a slash line of .342/.463/.685.


At the end of May, Daniel Cabrera (John Curtis HS, LSU) had three consecutive games with three hits for Class A West Michigan. He has 14 multi-hit games in his total of 46 games this season.


Greg Deichmann (Brother Martin, LSU) had a red-hot June with a slash line of .346/.453/.449 with one HR and 11 RBI while playing for Triple-A Las Vegas.


 

MLB


Alex Bregman—Astros (LSU) 59 G, .275 BA, .359 OBP, 7 HR, 34 RBI (On Injured List since June 17)


Jake Fraley—Mariners (LSU) 30 G, .241 BA, .427 OBP, 5 HR, 18 RBI, 5 SB


Kevin Gausman—Giants (LSU) 16 G, 8-2, 1.68 ERA, 101.2 IP, 116 SO


Will Harris—Nationals (Slidell HS, LSU) 8 G, 0-1, 9.00 ERA, 6 IP, 9 SO (On Injured List since May 23)


Alex Lange—Tigers (LSU) 18 G, 0-1, 7.31 ERA, 16.0 IP, 20 SO (On Injured List since June 15)


Aaron Loup—Mets (Hahnville HS, Tulane) 27 G, 2-0, 1.52 ERA, 23.2 IP, 29 SO


DJ LeMahieu—Yankees (LSU) 76 G, .273 BA, .347 OBP, 7 HR, 33 RBI


Wade Miley—Reds (Loranger HS, Southeastern) 14 G, 6-4, 3.09 ERA, 81.2 IP, 118 SO


Aaron Nola—Phillies (Catholic HS, LSU) 17 G, 5-5, 4.44, 95.1 IP, 76 SO


Austin Nola—Padres (Catholic HS, LSU) 18 G, .217 BA, .373 OBP, 1 HR, 11 RBI (On Injured List since May 25.


Tanner Rainey—Nationals (St. Paul’s HS, Southeastern) 30 G, 1-2, 6.93 ERA, 24.2 IP, 31 SO


Jake Rogers—Tigers (Tulane) 28 G, .224 BA, .283 OBP, 4 HR, 12 RBI


Mac Sceroler—Orioles (Denham Springs HS, Southeastern) 5G, 0-0, 14.09 ERA, 7.2 IP, 11 SO


Riley Smith—Diamondbacks (LSU) 20 G, 1-4, 6.02 ERA, 61.1 IP, 33 SO


Andrew Stevenson—Nationals (St. Thomas More HS, LSU) 54 G, .227 BA, .283 OBP, 2 HR, 10 RBI (On Injured List since June 17)


 

Triple-A


Greg Deichmann—A’s (Brother Martin HS, LSU) 40 G, .324 BA, .457 OBP, 3 HR, 21 RBI, 6 SB


Ryan Eades—Astros (Northshore HS, LSU) 6 G, 0-1, 9.00 ERA, 6.0 IP, 9 SO (On Injured List since June 8)


Ian Gibaut—Twins (Tulane) 14 G, 0-2, 8.57 ERA, 21.0 IP, 25 SO


Nick Goody—Yankees (LSU) 17 G, 4-1, 2.86 ERA, 22.0 IP, 31 SO


Jacoby Jones—Tigers (LSU) 26 G, .235 BA, .333 OBP, 2 HR, 10 RBI


Kyle Keller—Pirates (Jesuit HS, Southeastern) 12 G, 2-0, 1.65 ERA, 16.1 IP, 27 SO


Mikie Mahtook—White Sox (LSU) 34 G, .207 BA, .265 OBP, 8 HR, 18 RBI


Reeves Martin—Mariners (UNO) 5 G, 0-2, 8.10 ERA, 6.2 IP, 4 SO (Has not played since May 18)


Michael Papierski—Astros (LSU) 39 G, .290 BA, .423 OBP, 2 HR, 23 RBI


Kramer Roberston—Cardinals (LSU) 47 G, .245 BA, .369 OBP, 5 HR, 28 RBI, 4 SB


Justin Williams—Cardinals (Terrebone HS) 14 G, .241 BA, .255 OBP, 2 HR, 7 RBI


 

Double-A


Cole Freeman—Nationals (LSU) 41 G, .261 BA, .331 OBP, 4 HR, 14 RBI, 6 SB


Kody Hoese—Dodgers (Tulane) 30 G, .178 BA, .244 OBP, 1 HR, 9 RBI


Andrew Mitchell—Mets (Jesuit, Delgado, Auburn) 14 G, 3-1, 2.05 ERA, 26.1 IP, 30 SO


Tate Scioneaux—Rockies (Riverside HS, Southeastern) 18 G, 0-1, 3.63 ERA, 22.1 IP, 26 SO


Bryan Warzek—Dodgers (UNO) 16 G, 3-1, 2.42 ERA, 26.0 IP, 33 SO


 

Hi-A


Nick Bush—Rockies (LSU) 9 G, 4-2, 2.61 ERA, 48.1 IP, 56 SO


Daniel Cabrera—Tigers (John Curtis HS, Delgado, LSU) 46 G, BA .265, .317 OBP, 4HR, 32 RBI, 5 SB


Brendan Cellucci—Red Sox (Tulane) 14 G, 0-1, 5.87 ERA, 15.1 IP, 22 SO


Antoine Duplantis—Mets (LSU) 41 G, .236 BA, .311 OBP, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 2 SB


Cody Grosse—Mariners (Southeastern) 27 G, .261 BA, .381 OBP, 1 HR, 11 RBI, 7 SB


Zack Hess—Tigers (LSU) 18 G, 0-3, 5.85 ERA, 20.0 IP, 30 SO, 2 SV


Eric Orze—Mets (UNO) 6 G, 0-1, 5.19 ERA, 8.2 IP, 10 SO, 1 SV


Shawn Semple—Yankees (UNO) 10 G, 4-2, 3.15 ERA, 45.2 IP, 53 SO


Josh Smith—Yankees (Catholic HS, LSU) 30 G, .342 BA, .480 OBP, 8 HR, 22 RBI. 14 SB


Bryce Tassin—Tigers (Southeastern) 17 G, 3-2, 2.45 ERA, 22.0 IP, 22 SO, 3 SV


Zach Watson—Orioles (LSU) 43 G, .256 BA, .314 OBP, 7 HR, 22 RBI, 14 SB


 

Lo-A


Hudson Haskin—Orioles (Tulane) 43 G, .280 BA, .382 OBP, 5 HR, 31 RBI, 12 SB


Chase Solesky—White Sox (Tulane) 9 G, 1-3, 4.63 ERA, 35.0 IP, 49 SO


Tyree Thompson—Rangers (Karr HS) 7 G, 1-0, 2.70 ERA, 20.0 IP, 19 SO


 

Rookie


Todd Peterson—Nationals (LSU) 4 G, 1-0, 7.71 ERA, 4.2 IP, 6 SO