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June 4, 2010

BP Unfiltered

This Week in Minor League History: May 31 - June 6

by Geoff Young

One of my favorite parts of researching this column is discovering great minor-league team names. This week alone features Bloomers, Rugmakers, Millionaires, Tobs (short for Tobacconists), Hillies, and Bingoes. Let's find out what happened to those teams, shall we?

May 31

1909: The Decatur Commodores defeated the Bloomington Bloomers, 2-1, in 26 innings. The longest game in Organized Ball to that point featured just two pitchers: Otto Burns gave up a run in the first for Decatur and then hurled 25 straight shutout innings. Ed Clarke was the tough-luck loser.

1941: Right-hander Virgil Trucks worked 9 1/3 no-hit innings for the Buffalo Bisons against the Montreal Royals. Trucks' fourth no-hitter in five minor-league seasons ended in a loss, with Montreal's Alex Kampouris scoring the game's only run in the 10th, making a winner of right-hander Ed Head. We've covered Trucks a couple of times, but it's worth noting that Kampouris and Head also had big-league careers. Kampouris knocked 17 home runs for Cincinnati in 1937 (among Reds second baseman, only Joe Morgan, Bret Boone, and Brandon Phillips have hit more in a season) and hit .243/.325/.367 in 708 career games. Head saw action for the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1940 to 1946, finishing with a 27-23 record and 3.48 ERA in 118 appearances (53 starts).

1948: Speaking of the Dodgers, Schenectady Blue Jays left-hander Tommy Lasorda struck out 25 in 15 innings and singled home the winning run in a game against the Amsterdam Rugmakers. Lasorda went 9-12 with a 4.64 ERA that year and tied for second (behind Rome right-hander Lynn Lovenguth) in the Canadian-American League with 153 walks.

1954: The Jackson Generals of the Kitty League lost their 26th consecutive contest in the first game of a doubleheader. They ended the streak in the nightcap, in front of 64 fans. The next day, the team disbanded; Johnson and Wolff's Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball (2nd ed.) and other sources credit the Generals with a 1-44 record, although that hardly seems possible if they lost "only" 26 in a row.

June 1

1915: John Cantley of the Waycross Moguls (FLAG League, aka Georgia State League) no-hit the Valdosta Millionaires. Cantley lost the game, 1-0. The league disbanded July 17.

1937: The Winston-Salem Twins won a game, improving their record to 2-31. They would finish the season 35-105, 54 1/2 games back of the first-place Asheville Tourists and 30 1/2 behind their nearest competitor, the Charlotte Hornets. The Twins ran through four managers on the season. Had they been a celestial body, they likely would have lost their planetary status.

1974: San Antonio Missions right-hander Larry Andersen no-hit the Victoria Toros. Andersen is perhaps most famous for delivering Jeff Bagwell to the unsuspecting and grateful Houston Astros, but he was a darned good pitcher in his own right. He went 10-6 with a 3.83 in the Texas League in '74, was moved to the bullpen in '77, and arrived in the big leagues for good in '81. Andersen appeared in 699 games, winning 40, saving 49, and finishing with a 3.15 ERA.

1977: Richmond Braves southpaw Mickey Mahler no-hit the Toledo Mud Hens (Corporal Klinger represent). The 24-year-old Mahler went 13-10 with a 3.53 ERA that year, leading the International League in innings pitched before appearing in five games for the parent Atlanta Braves. Mahler, brother of Rick Mahler (no relation to Gustav), owned a 14-32 big-league record and 4.68 ERA spread over parts of eight seasons. Speaking of bad trades involving good first basemen, Mahler was once shipped from the Pirates to the Angels for Jason Thompson. Oops.

June 2

1934: From the Encyclopedia: "In the first baseball game ever played between England and Scotland, the Scots team of university players was triumphant over the English, 24-3." According to Baseball Scotland, the game took place in Edinburgh and drew 5300 fans.

1951: The Tarboro A's beat the Wilson Tobs, 31-4, on the strength of a 24-run fifth. Shortstop Bill Carr homered, doubled twice, and walked in the inning, as 25 batters came to the plate before a single out was recorded. The game provided a nice sendoff for the Tarboro club, which disbanded on June 6 with a 13-22 record.

1973: Hawaii Islanders right-hander Dave Freisleben no-hit the Albuquerque Dukes. The 21-year-old Freisleben went on to lead the PCL with a 2.82 ERA and 206 strikeouts, finishing second to Tucson's Glenn Abbott with 16 wins. Freisleben would move up to the parent San Diego Padres in 1974 as part of a young but not terribly talented rotation. He won 31 games for the Padres over the next few years before making stops in Cleveland and Toronto en route to retirement at age 27 in 1979.

June 3

1921: From the Encyclopedia: "Lou Gehrig made his pro debut with Hartford of the Eastern League under the name of Lou Lewis." Gehrig went 0-for-3 for the Senators in a contest against the Pittsfield Hillies. He hit .261 in 12 games before returning to Columbia University, where he was temporarily banned from playing baseball thanks to his exploits.

June 4

1904: The Kansas City Blues turned two triple plays against the Toledo Mud Hens.

1938: Trucks (see May 31), pitching for the Andalusia Bulldogs, spun his second no-no of the season. This one came against the Dothan Browns. The Browns, incidentally, finished the season with the Alabama-Florida League's best record but were eliminated from the playoffs when they "refused to flip a coin to decide the location of the deciding game" of their semi-final series against second-place Troy, which went on to defeat Trucks' Bulldogs, 4-2, in the finals.

1961: Mickey Lolich, David Reed, and Ross Grimsley combined to throw a no-hitter for the Knoxville Smokies against the Asheville Tourists. That must have been one ugly game, because the Smokies managed to lose, 4-3. Lolich reached the big leagues a couple years later and won 217 games, all but 10 with the Detroit Tigers. The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract ranks Lolich as the no. 72 pitcher of all time. Grimsley was in the final season of a long career that saw him win 129 minor-league games from 1946 to 1961. He made seven big-league appearances for the Chicago White Sox in 1951 and was the father of another pitcher with the same name who won 124 games for the Orioles, Expos, Reds, and Indians from 1971 to 1982 before becoming a successful pitching coach.

1990: The independent Miami Miracle (Florida State League) irked MLB by selecting 16 players in the free agent draft, prompting a rules change that prohibited minor league teams from participating in the draft. The only players to reach the big leagues were fourth-round pick Paul Carey, an outfielder out of Stanford who got into 18 games for the Orioles in 1993, and Wichita State shortstop Mike Lansing, who hit .271/.324/.401 with 84 homers in a career that stretched from 1993 to 2001. As for the Miracle, they finished the season 44-93, 50 1/2 games behind the East Division champion West Palm Beach Expos.

June 5

1914: Cantley (see June 1), pitching for the Opelika Pelicans, beat the Talladega Indians, 19-1. He hit three grand slams in the game, driving in 15 of his team's runs. Eat your heart out, Rick Wise... and all the rest.

1971: Tulsa Oilers left-hander Fred Norman no-hit the Indianapolis Indians. Norman, who had bounced back and forth between the majors and minors from 1962 to 1970, went 6-1 with a 2.18 ERA in the American Association before getting his final call to the big leagues at age 28 and spending the next decade there. Norman won 103 games, most with the Cincinnati Reds, and is among the best short pitchers of the last 40 or so years.

June 6

1892: Willie Keeler made his professional debut for the Binghamton Bingoes. The left-handed throwing Keeler played shortstop. It makes me pine for the good ol' days when Mike Squires played third base... which hadn't happened yet, so they weren't really the good ol' days.

1952: Right-hander Elroy Face threw a no-hitter for the Fort Worth Cats, beating the Houston Buffaloes, 3-0, in 10 innings. Face went 14-11 on the season, with a 2.83 ERA. The Brooklyn Dodgers farmhand would be taken by the Pirates in the Rule 5 draft following the season and end up being a very effective reliever for many years. He won 104 big-league ballgames, most famously finishing 18-1 for the '59 Bucs. At age 41, Face finally retired after pitching for the Montreal Expos in their inaugural 1969 campaign.

* * *

And now you know...

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