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June 19, 2010

BP Unfiltered

This Week in Minor League History: June 14 - June 20

by Geoff Young

Once again, we crack open The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball to relive past glories. Not yours, or mine, but someone's...

June 14

1949: Mickey Mantle made his professional debut for the Independence Yankees, going 2-for-4 and scoring three runs. The 17-year-old shortstop would finish the season hitting .313 (third in the Kansas-Oklahoma-Missouri League) with seven homers (tied for 11th). Mantle arrived in the big leagues less than two years later, at age 19, and went on to accomplish more at that level than I can possibly cram into a few lines. Among other things, he won three American League MVP awards and should have won more.

1966: The Miami Marlins beat the St. Petersburg Cardinals, 4-3, in 29 innings, the longest game ever in Organized Baseball to that point. The Cardinals were managed by a 32-year-old former second baseman named Sparky Anderson.

1991: Sarasota White Sox right-hander Johnny Ruffin no-hit the Charlotte Rangers. Ruffin, a fourth-round pick of the White Sox in 1988, went 11-4 with a 3.23 ERA in '91. He enjoyed modest big-league success, going 10-6 with a 4.13 ERA and three saves in 139 games, but control issues kept him from maximizing his potential.

June 15

1902: Justin "Nig" Clarke, catcher for the Corsicana Oil Citys, hit eight homers in a 51-3 rout of the Texarkana Casketmakers. Corsicana would finish the season 87-23. Clarke hit .316 with 11 homers. He would go on to play parts of nine big-league seasons, hitting .254/.318/.333 in 1711 plate appearances... with six home runs.

1944: Bristol Twins right-hander Mario Picone recorded 28 strikeouts in a 19-inning victory over the Johnson City Cardinals. Picone was 17 years old, and the manager responsible was a man named Harold Gruber. Picone went 11-10 with a 2.50 ERA, working 173 innings that year and 217 the next at Richmond. Picone had a few cups of coffee at the big-league level, going 0-2 with a 6.30 ERA in 13 appearances from 1947 to 1954.

1962: Stockton Ports left-hander Darold Knowles no-hit the San Jose Bees... and lost the game, 3-0. The 20-year-old Knowles went 12-7 for the Ports, leading the California League with a 2.29 ERA and finishing tied for sixth with 202 strikeouts. Knowles enjoyed a long and successful big-league career, going 66-74 with a 3.12 ERA in 765 games from 1965 to 1980 before becoming a pitching coach.

1973: Tommie Aaron was named manager of the Savannah Braves, becoming the first black manager in a Double-A league. Aaron, younger brother of Hank Aaron, took charge of a team that featured several future big leaguers, including two of my favorite names: Brian Asselstine and Biff Pocoroba.

June 16

1943: York White Roses southpaw Thomas "Lefty" George shut out the Lancaster Red Roses, snapping Hall of Famer George Kell's 32-game hitting streak in the process. George finished the season 7-8 with a 4.71 ERA. Those numbers aren't spectacular, but the man had a good excuse: he was 56 years old. George's minor-league career spanned from 1909 to 1944, and saw him win 327 games, including a single-season high of 27 in 1925. George played briefly in the big leagues, going 7-21 with a 3.85 ERA over parts of four seasons with four teams.

1951: Crowley Millers center fielder Andy Strong was killed instantly when struck by lightning in the sixth inning of a game against the Alexandria Aces. The 23-year-old Strong was playing in just his 16th professional game.

1992: West Palm Beach Expos left-hander Joey Eischen no-hit the Vero Beach Dodgers. Eischen went 9-8 on the season, with a 3.08 ERA, finishing third in the Florida State League with 167 strikeouts. Eischen won 64 games over parts of 15 minor-league seasons, and went 11-9 with a 3.67 ERA in 324 big-league appearances (all in relief).

June 17

1951: Ottawa Giants right-hander George Bamberger no-hit the Toronto Maple Leafs. Bamberger finished the season at 11-11 with a 3.36 ERA. He would win 213 minor-league games over parts of 18 seasons and get into handful of games at the big-league level (no record, 9.42 ERA in 10 appearances) before enjoying some success as skipper of the Milwaukee Brewers in the late '70s. Bamberger was the manager there when Hall of Famer Paul Molitor got his start. Another Hall of Famer, Jim Palmer, gives Bamberger (then a minor-league pitching coach) credit for helping Palmer during the early part of his career.

1981: Right-hander Derek Botelho, of the Ft. Myers Royals, no-hit the Miami Orioles. Why do I even remember Botelho? Probably because he pitched for the Chicago Cubs in 1985, around the time WGN started getting pumped into our house. That's my excuse for remembering Drew Hall and Derrick May, too. Botelho went 3-4 with a 4.90 ERA in brief stints with the Cubs and Royals, winning 101 more games in the minors from 1976 to 1988. Naturally he later became a pitching coach, working with Atlanta Braves right-hander Tommy Hanson during his ascent to the big leagues.

1990: Jacksonville Expos right-hander Kent Bottenfield no-hit the Orlando Sun Rays. The Expos were managed by Jerry Manuel that year, while Ron Gardenhire led the Sun Rays. As for Bottenfield, he went on to post a 46-49 record and a 4.54 ERA over parts of nine big-league seasons. His best showing came in 1999, when he won 18 games. The Cardinals, understanding the phrase "sell high," shipped Bottenfield and Adam Kennedy to Anaheim the following spring for Jim Edmonds. That July, the Angels sent Bottenfield and his 5.71 ERA to Philadelphia for 34 games of Ron Gant. Edmonds, meanwhile, went on to pound 241 homers for St. Louis over the next eight seasons.

June 18

1886: Right-hander Mark Baldwin of the Duluth Jayhawks fanned 12 consecutive batters in a game against the St. Paul Freezers. I cannot find minor-league stats on Baldwin, but he did spend seven years in the big leagues, going 154-165 with a 3.37 ERA for five teams. The game was a little different back then. He broke the 300 inning mark in six of his seven seasons, clearing 400 on four different occasions, and peaking with a mind-boggling 513 2/3 in 1889. Baldwin completed 295 of the 328 games he started.

1917: Little Rock Travelers right-hander Ben Tincup spun a perfect game against the Birmingham Barons. He finished the season 11-10 with a 2.50 ERA and would go on to win 251 minor-league games in a career that stretched from 1912 to 1942. Tincup went 8-11 with a 3.10 ERA in parts of four big-league seasons. Most of his success came as a member of the 1914 Phillies, who featured a couple of talented young pitchers that year:

Player     Age GS  IP  ERA K/9 W-L
Ben Tincup  21 17 155 2.61 6.3 8-10
Eppa Rixey  23 15 103 4.37 3.6 2-11

Rixey ended up winning 266 big-league games and being inducted into the Hall of Fame (by the Veteran's Committee, but still). Tincup won nearly as many games in the minors and got nothing. I'm not suggesting that Tincup was Rixey's equal (I have no clue), but it seems to me he deserved a better shot.

1941: Paragould Browns left-hander Clarence "Hooks" Iott allowed two hits and fanned 25 in a 4-2 victory over the Batesville Pilots of the oddly specific Northeast Arkansas League. Iott won 175 minor-league games over parts of 16 seasons, including 22 and 24 for the St. Petersburg Saints in 1951 and 1952, respectively. He pitched briefly in the big leagues, going 3-9 with a 7.05 ERA for the St. Louis Browns and New York Giants.

1980: El Paso Diablos outfielder Tom Brunansky hit four homers in a game against the Midland Cubs. Brunansky hit .323/.412/.549 with 24 home runs on the season. He played his home games in a bandbox, but that kind of production from a 19-year-old in Double-A is impressive. Brunansky, taken two picks after the Detroit Tigers selected Kirk Gibson in the first round of a pretty strong 1978 draft, would go on to hit .245/.327/.434 with 271 homers over 14 big-league seasons. In April 1988, the Twins traded Brunansky to St. Louis for Tom Herr. I will always be grateful for that trade because I then played in a Rotisserie League whose rules stipulated that my ownership of Herr entitled me to Brunansky when he crossed over to the National League. It was a stupid rule that we abandoned the next year, but I sure liked it at the time.

June 19

1916: According to the Encyclopedia, Winnipeg Maroons center fielder Hack Miller "broke the world record for fungo hitting by batting the ball 438 1/2 feet." Hall of Fame right-hander Ed Walsh previously held it at 419 1/2 feet. As for Miller, he hit .326 with 85 homers in nearly 1300 minor-league games. He also enjoyed success in a short-lived big-league career, hitting .323/.361/.490 in 349 games. Miller finished third in the NL with a .352 batting average for the Cubs in 1922. The next year, he finished third in the circuit with 20 homers.

1964: Jim Palmer, then pitching for Cal Ripken Sr.'s Aberdeen Pheasants, no-hit the Duluth-Superior Dukes. The 18-year-old Palmer went 11-3 with a 2.51 ERA on the season. He also led the Northern League with 130 walks in 129 innings. Despite having no semblance of control, Palmer jumped to the big leagues a year later. He didn't achieve immediate success but eventually developed into one of the best pitchers ever (The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract puts him at no. 17), winning 268 games, three AL Cy Young Awards, and three World Championships for the Orioles en route to enshrinement in Cooperstown.

1968: Burlington Bees 18-year-old left-hander Vida Blue no-hit the Appleton Foxes. Blue finished the season 8-11 with a 2.49 ERA. He would go on to win 209 big-league games, picking up an AL Cy Young Award and MVP in 1971 along the way, to go with three World Series rings. Blue was taken in the second round of the 1967 draft, three picks ahead of another high-school lefty, Jerry Reuss:

Player     Years  GS     IP  ERA   W-L
Blue   1969-1986 473 3343.1 3.27 209-161
Reuss  1969-1990 547 3669.2 3.64 220-191

Blue was the better pitcher (TNBJHBA has him at no. 86), but it's weird to see two players that started out in roughly the same place end up there as well.

June 20

1972: Winter Haven Red Sox right-hander Mark Bomback no-hit the Orlando Twins. Bomback won 125 minor-league games from 1971 to 1984, including 22 for the Vancouver Canadians in 1979. He won 16 more in the big leagues, topping out at 10 with the New York Mets in 1980.

1975: Toledo Mud Hens right-hander Wayne Simpson no-hit the Syracuse Chiefs. Simpson, just 26, had already seen his best years. The eighth player taken in the 1967 draft (two picks ahead of Ted Simmons; not that the Reds needed a catcher, but wouldn't that have been interesting...), Simpson went 14-3 with a 3.02 ERA as a rookie for Cincinnati in 1970. Tragically, he never again approached that kind of success at the big-league level, finishing his career with a 36-31 record and 4.37 ERA over parts of six seasons.

1985: Veteran left-hander Rick Waits, then of the Vancouver Canadians, no-hit the Portland Beavers. The 33-year-old Waits would win 10 games for Vancouver that year and 3 more for the Milwaukee Brewers. Over parts of 12 big-league seasons, he went 79-92 with a 4.25 ERA.

Elsewhere, the son of a former big-league outfielder reported to the Prince William Pirates to begin his professional career. Barry Bonds, taken sixth overall in the '85 draft (one pick after high school catcher Kurt Brown) would hit .299 with 13 home runs in 71 Carolina League games that year. The rest, you know.

1988: Right-hander Luis Aquino of the American Association's Omaha Royals no-hit the International League's Columbus Clippers. Aquino spent parts of nine seasons in the big leagues, going 31-32 with a 3.68 ERA for five teams. His main claim to fame, if you insist on calling it that, is that he once faced 234 consecutive batters without allowing an extra-base hit. Really, is that even a thing? Hey, if a guy can hold the fungo hitting record, I don't see why not.

* * *

And that is the week that was.

1 comment has been left for this article.

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