(Note: On March 4th, the Southern League announced its 2015 Hall of Fame inductees. This post is therefore now updated to include not just my selections, but the actual voting results as well.)
For the most recent edition of “Minoring in Business,” I wrote about establishing Halls of Fame in the Minor Leagues and the tricky issues that that endeavor raises. The piece begins thusly:
Minor League Hall of Fame.
To some, this is an inherently contradictory concept. How can there be a Hall of Fame for individuals who competed within a professional baseball realm that, by its very definition, exists only as a proving ground and launching pad for greater accomplishment?….How does one establish the criteria for a Minor League Hall of Famer? What is the voting and induction process? And will this Hall of Fame occupy a physical space or simply exist within a virtual realm?
I then attempted to justify the reasoning that has led 11 leagues across Minor League Baseball to establish a Hall of Fame, using the Southern League as an example.
Why the Southern League? For one, this Double-A circuit is the most recent Minor League to have established a Hall of Fame, having done so in 2014 as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations. And, not insignificantly, they had asked me, earlier in the week, to be one of 31 voters on their 2015 Hall of Fame class. This marks the first year that the Southern League has factored outside voting into the equation, as in 2014 they simply allowed each of the 10 teams in the league to choose their inaugural inductee. This year, each team has submitted multiple nominees. The process, per Southern League Hall of Fame Committee head Jason Compton:
As you know, the SL HOF is in its infancy and is still very much a work in progress. During our December, 2014 Hall of Fame Committee Meeting, it was decided that we would allow one (1) inductee from each organization in the 2015 class. So, you are to vote for one (1) nominee from each organization.
As a voter, I thought it would be fun and educational (my two favorite activity qualifiers) to share the ballot with you and explain the reasoning behind my choices. I may not be a BBWAA member, but BBWAA nonetheless is an apt acronym for how I hope you feel about me: Ben’s Biz Writes Awesome Articles.
And now, to the ballot! If you have any critiques or criticisms of my reasoning, then please let them be known. In true Hall of Fame fashion, let’s make this as contentious as possible.
Team: Biloxi Shuckers (choosing on behalf of their previous iteration, the Huntsville Stars)
Nominees: Scott Brosius (player, 1989-90), Rocky Coyle (1985-1986), Jimmy Jones (1987-88)
My Pick: Jimmy Jones
Why: This slate of choices is indicative of the murky criteria that surrounds virtually all Minor League Hall of Fame elections. Should priority go to future Major League stars or those who made the most impact in the Minor League cities in question? I may not vote consistently as regards this conundrum. My preference, on the whole, is to go with those in the latter category, especially when the future Major League standout (in this case, Brosius) is not of superstar caliber and/or did not accomplish anything spectacular in the Minor League city in question.
Per the “supporting information” PDF that was included with my ballot, Rocky Coyle played two seasons with the Stars and was named “Star of the Decade” at the conclusion of the team’s first 10 seasons as a result of his community-friendly approach. I went with Jones, however, despite his negligible impact on the playing field. Upon retiring as a player, Jones remained in Huntsville and became a team and community fixture. Per the supporting information:
“Never asking for anything in return, Jimmy has taken the road from the Minor League Baseball player to the consummate supporter of everything happening at the ballpark. Our experience with Jimmy has gone way past player, season ticket holder, or friend of the team…he’s essentially become a family member that the team can’t live without.”
2015 Inductee: Scott Brosius
Team: Birmingham Barons
Nominees: Rollie Fingers (1967-68, Birmingham A’s), Frank Thomas (1990)
My Pick: Frank Thomas
Why: Okay, so now the choice is simply between two big league Hall of Famers who passed through Birmingham en route to superstardom. So what criteria should I apply here? The strength of the numbers that they put up in Birmingham? Whom I feel had the most impressive career overall? I went with Thomas, simply because he was extraordinary as a member of the 1990 Barons (Baseball America 1990 Player of the Year, including an unreal .487 OBP). His time with the club was more indicative of future success than Fingers, who was primarily a starter throughout his two seasons in Birmingham.
2015 Inductees: The voting ended in a tie, so both Fingers and Thomas are going to go in. Here’s hoping that this results in a dual bobblehead promotion.
Team: Chattanooga Lookouts
Nominee: Trevor Hoffman (1991-92)
My Pick: Trevor Hoffman
Why: They didn’t leave me a choice! I’ve got nothing against Trevor Hoffman, but, c’mon Chattanooga. Up your nominating game.
2015 Inductee: Trevor Hoffman (shocker, I know)
Team: Jackson Generals (nominating on behalf of their previous iteration, the Memphis Chicks)
Nominees: Charlie Lea (1978-80, Memphis Chicks), Razor Shines (1981-83, Memphis Chicks)
My Pick: Charlie Lea
Why: Both Lea and Shines played three seasons in Memphis, and both put up generally solid if generally unspectacular numbers. Shines has gone on to manage in the Southern League (he spent 2014 looking out for the Lookouts), but he made his biggest impact as a player with Triple-A Indianapolis and not the Double-A Memphis Chicks.
Lea, however, was a Memphis icon. He grew up in the city, went to college there, and later broadcast games for the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds (he passed away in 2011 at the age of 54). And while it’s a very small sample size, his 1980 season with the Chicks was a thing of beauty: Nine starts, nine wins, seven complete games, three shutouts, and an ERA of 0.84. That effort earned him a promotion to the Montreal Expos, for whom he would pitch seven seasons.
2015 Nominee: Razor Shines
Team: Jacksonville Suns
Nominees: Randy Johnson (1987 Jacksonville Expos), Gabe Kapler (1998), Larry Walker (1987 Jacksonville Expos)
My Pick: Randy Johnson
Why: In this case, we have three recognizable names, each of whom played one season with the Suns. Kapler’s 1998 season in Jacksonville was truly spectacular (28 home runs, 146 RBIs, .976 OPS) and Walker was a force to be reckoned with as well (26 homers, 83 RBIs, .917 OPS). Both men were better during during their one season in Jacksonville than was Johnson. The future pigeon killer was solid (11-8, 3.73 ERA) but predictably wild (128 walks in 140 innings) during the 1987 campaign. Still, I went with Johnson because, well, it’s Randy Johnson. The Big Unit is set to be enshrined in Cooperstown this summer; why not now take the opportunity to immortalize him in the Southern League as well?
2015 Inductee: Randy Johnson
Team: Mississippi Braves (nominating on behalf of previous iteration the Greenville Braves)
Nominees: Steve DeSalvo (executive, 1987-2004 Greenville Braves, 2005-present Mississippi Braves), Tom Glavine (1986 Greenville Braves), Chipper Jones (1992 Greenville Braves)
My Pick: Chipper Jones
Why: DeSalvo has a very distinguished track record as a Southern League executive, and there’s no doubt that he will one day be enshrined in the league’s Hall of Fame. But the Southern League Hall of Fame is a new creation, and in the early going it’s probably better to induct candidates who have a little more sex appeal (with all due respect to Mr. DeSalvo’s sex appeal). I went with Jones over Glavine because, as the first pick of the 1990 draft, he came into the Southern League with high expectations and proceeded to meet them and then some. He hit .346 with Greenville over 67 games, compiling a .961 OPS in the process. That 1992 squad went on to win 100 games, a very rare feat in Minor League Baseball.
2015 Inductee: Chipper Jones
Team: Mobile BayBears
Nominees: Tony LaRussa (player, Mobile A’s 1965-67), Turner Ward (manager, 2011-12)
My Pick: Turner Ward
Why: Tony LaRussa is known as a manager, not a player, so I did not want to select him for enshrinement in that capacity. That leaves Ward, who, yes, is better known as a player (he played in the Major Leagues for 12 seasons). But Ward has genuine Southern League managerial bonafides, as he piloted the BayBears to back-to-back championships in 2011-12. That 2012 team finished with a losing record, but no matter. A championship’s a championship.
2015 Inductee: Turner Ward
Team: Montgomery Biscuits
Nominees: Steve Grilli (1972-73 Montgomery Rebels), Gabriel Martinez (2003, 2005-09), Lou Whittaker (1977 Montgomery Rebels)
My Pick: Lou Whitaker
Why: Kudos to Montgomery for nominating such a diverse group of candidates, as here we have a pitcher for two championship teams (Grilli), a 21st century mainstay (Gabriel Martinez) and a bonafide star (Lou Whitaker). One could make a case for any of them, I think, but I went with Whitaker primarily because, last season, Alan Trammel was selected for the Southern League’s inaugural Hall of Fame class. It only seems fitting that his long-time double play partner should now join him. (Whitaker and Trammel were Montgomery teammates in 1977, marking the first of 19 seasons in which they played together).
2015 Inductee: Lou Whitaker
Team: Pensacola Blue Wahoos (nominating on behalf of previous iteration the Carolina Mudcats)
Nominees: Trent Jewett (manager, 1995), Jason Kendall (1994-95), Tony Womack (1993, 1995)
My Pick: Jason Kendall
Why: In choosing these nominees, the Blue Wahoos clearly had notable alumni of their 1995 champion Mudcats squad on the brain. Jewett was the manager, and future Pirates standouts Kendall and Womack were key components. This was a tough choice and, honestly, none of them jumped out at me. I went with Kendall because his 1995 season was truly impressive, as he hit .326 and struck out just 22 times in 429 at-bats.
2015 Inductee: Jason Kendall
Team: Tennessee Smokies (nominating on behalf of previous iterations the Knoxville Smokies and Knoxville Sox)
Nominees: Chris Carpenter (Knoxville Smokies, 1995-96), Carlos Delgado (1993 Knoxville Smokies), Tony LaRussa (manager, 1978 Knoxville Sox)
My Pick: Tony LaRussa
Why: I couldn’t get behind Mobile’s nomination of LaRussa as a player, but as a manager? No problem. LaRussa made his managerial debut with the 1978 Knoxville Sox, leading them to an 88-56 record. He then joined the Chicago White Sox coaching staff at the end of the season, and in 1979 was named manager of the White Sox. The rest, as they say, is history. Carpenter and Delgado are solid nominations as well, and I imagine that as the years go on they, too, will be inducted into the Southern League Hall of Fame.
2015 Inductee: Carlos Delgado
So there you have it: the logic (or lack thereof) behind my Southern League Hall of Fame ballot. I find this to be an interesting, if not somewhat absurd, process, and enjoyed putting this together. So what are your thoughts? Who would YOU have voted for, and why? Let me know, in the comments section, on Twitter, or send me an email. I’d like to hear from you.
Final Analysis, now that the inductees have been announced: Seven of the 10 players I chose were inducted. The overall preference among the voters was to prioritize the biggest names, in that regard there are no true “upsets” to be found. It is worth noting that Tony LaRussa went 0-for-2 on the ballot, failing to receive induction as both player and manager.
No matter what your opinions may be regarding Carter IV, there’s certainly no disputing the fact that Lil Wayne remains one of the most influential hip-hop stars in the world.
And, last week, this taste-maker par excellence was spotted wearing the following ballcap:
Yes, that would be an Omaha Storm Chasers “O-Bolt” away cap! Wayne is clearly a big fan of manager Mike Jirschele and his PCL-championship winning squad, and it’s only a matter of time before he starts dropping Storm Chasers references into his raps.
Maybe something like “Put away the uzi, cuz, my lumber’s what weighs a ton/They call me Batman, Clint Robinson”
(See, the Public Enemy reference doubles as an analogy to heavy lumber, leading to interpretation of “Batman” as someone swinging a powerful stick. This would certainly include Storm Chasers heavy hitter Clint Robinson, whose name doubles as “Robin, son” ie Batman’s sidekick).
And as if a Lil Wayne endorsement wasn’t enough, the Storm Chasers once again capitalized on their meteorological nomenclature and made a live appearance on the Weather Channel. On Thursday morning, assistant G.M. Rob Crain appeared live in order to promote the following deal: if temperatures hit 60 degrees that day, then the team would offer 60 season tickets at a 60% discount.
Indeed, this is just what happened.
Let’s move from 60% back into the world of hip-hop: 50 Cent, specifically.
Did you know that in recent video for “Wait Until Tonight”, Fiddy is wearing an Idaho Falls Chukars cap? This is the best picture I could find:
So we’ve got Lil Wayne reppin’ Omaha, 50 Cent reppin’ Idaho Falls. Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to the next rapper to give an unexpected endorsement to an MiLB team, but Snoop and the Charleston RiverDoggs seems like an obvious choice.
Finally, congratulations to Barry Larkin on being elected to the Hall of Fame. The star shortstop only played 175 games in the Minors before getting the call-up to the Reds; 72 with the ’85 Vermont Reds and 103 with ’86 Denver Zepyhrs.
Courtesy of Wikipedia, here’s the Vermont logo:
Larkin was MVP of that ’86 Zephyrs squad, who played within the cozy confines of Denver’s Mile High Stadium. While I could not locate an image of the logo, here’s a look at the iconic train that the team could was named for.
The Stockton Ports announced their “Legends of Baseball Memorabilia Raffle” on Tuesday, a charitable initiative with prizes that are nothing short of spectacular.
The raffle begins on Monday, and continues all the way through August 19. Tickets are expensive at $20 a pop, but this seemingly exorbitant price tag is merely a reflection of the prizes the club is offering.
That’s the grand prize right there — a display featuring autographed baseballs from the top 10 home run hitters in Major League history (the photo shows just nine balls, I’m sure the 10th is just resting in a climate-controlled, hermetically sealed vault). Four other prizes are being offered in the raffle, all proud members of the signed ball family. These include a sphere autographed by eight members of the 3000 Hit Club, an orb with the John Hancock of five members of the 500 Home Run Club, a globule inked with the autos of Willie, Mick, and The Duke, and a cowhide pellet inscribed by Joltin Joe D.
Proceeds benefit a range of charities, including the Ports’ Anchor Fund. Furthermore, the team has opened up the raffle to the rest of the California League. Clubs may purchase tickets from the Ports on consignment, with the remainder of the proceeds going to the charitable organization of their choice.
To summarize: Given the quality of the prizes, the length of the raffle, and the league-wide scope, this raffle has the capability to raise a LOT of money. It will interesting to see just how much.
Odds, Ends, Sods, Scraps, Assorted Minutiae
— The big story in baseball this week has been the passing of legendary announcer Ernie Harwell. He has been eulogized far and wide, and will be missed. The Eugene Emeralds sent out a press release reminding fans of Harwell’s connection to the Ems, which ties into the oft-told anecdote regarding how the broadcaster was once traded in exchange for a catcher.
— Earlier this week, I posted a video in which the West Michigan Whitecaps promoted their “Salute to Sweatpants Night”. Well, the team is at it again. Brandon Inge Bobblehead Night is tomorrow, prompting an elaborate contest amongst staffers to see who is the most Inge-like.
— Finally, I would like to suggest that more Minor League players adopt the look currently sported by Orioles farmhand Ryan Berry. With that combination of mustache, glasses, and hairstyle, it’s going to be tough for him to get through the Minors without a Ryan Berry Look-A-Like Night staged in his honor (I’m looking at you, Bowie Baysox).
Apologies for my lack of a post yesterday, as I was caught up in Hall of Fame-related matters. Specifically, I attended Andre Dawson’s press conference at the Waldorf-Astoria Ballroom (a step down from MiLB.com’s swanky offices, but adequate for the purpose).
My mission was to ask Andre a question about his Minor League career, so that I could then base an article around his answer (journalism at its finest!). I succeeded in this quest, but just barely, as mine was the last question granted. It was a very anxiety-inducing experience.
So what sort of masterwork resulted from my Herculean efforts?
But enough about me. It is worth noting that Dawson’s election adds a beatific glow to the 2010 promotional schedules of both the Lakewood Blueclaws and Vancouver Canadians. “The Hawk” is scheduled to swoop into both of these team’s ballparks, gripping a pen in his talons so that he may sign autographs for his assembled
Dawson at the BlueClaws game has a backstory of sorts, as the club has made an effort in recent years to bring on-the-cusp HOF candidates to FirstEnergy Park. This came about after the team hosted Goose Gossage and Jim Rice, both of whom were subsequently elected to the Hall of Fame. More about all of this can be found HERE.
And this gives me that most dangerous of notions: an idea.
May I suggest that teams stage a series of autograph signings entitled “You Will Not Be Forgotten”? The guests of honor would be those who fell off the Hall of Fame ballot in their first year of eligbility (this year, that illustrious group consists of Andres Galarraga, Robin Ventura, Eliis Burks, Eric Karros, Kevin Appier, Pat Hentgen, David Segui, Mike Jackson, Ray Lankford, Shaun Reynolds, and Todd Zeile).
Any takers? No? Well, at the very least let this blog post serve as proof that such an idea was once documented in writing before being consumed by the eternal void.
And speaking of the eternal void, I am happy to report that MiLB.com’s fledgling series of “Roadtrip” articles has avoided such an ignominious fate. There has been a good response to these thus far, and I would encourage any teams that are interested in being featured to send me an email (any and all fan suggestions are welcome as well).
The most recent edition of the column, featuring four teams in southern California, can be found HERE.
And this concludes the first blogging week of 2010. Here’s to 49.5 more.
If there’s one thing that covering the Minor Leagues has taught me, it’s that nearly anything can be turned into a press release.
I mean, why not? The purpose of a press release is to generate publicity for your team. Publicity translates to increased ticket sales, increased ticket sales translates to more money, and more money translates to guaranteed health, happiness, and spiritual contentment. And isn’t that what we’re all after as we navigate through this fleeting enterprise we call “life“?
Today, let’s take a look at two very different, yet equally creative, press releases that have caught my eye this week.
In this missive, the BlueClaws announce that they have invited Andre Dawson, Bert Blyleven, Lee Smith, Jack Morris, and “any other player looking to enhance their [Hall of Fame] candidacy” to First Energy Stadium.
Why are they doing this?
“The last two induction classes at the National Baseball Hall of Fame
have featured players who had spent a day signing autographs at a
Lakewood BlueClaws game.
Goose Gossage signed in 2005 and was inducted in 2008 while Jim Rice signed in 2008 and will be inducted in July.”
Oh, okay. That makes sense.
There must be something special in the air here at the Jersey Shore,”
said BlueClaws General Manager Geoff Brown of the obvious connection
between signing in Lakewood and subsequent induction. “We’ve had the
magic touch in bringing people here and those players getting elected
to the Hall of Fame. We hope that we can get a few more players to
Now, obviously, the logistics and financial commitment involved in bringing these baseball heavyweights to Lakewood are considerable. But I truly hope the team follows up on this premise, as it is fun, creative, and fraught with prophecy.
And why not go a step further and aim to get Pete Rose and, especially, the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson to the ballpark? (Athough the last time we checked in with that restless spirit, he didn’t seem to be doing too well).
I’d also like to see a team launch a “We Still Love You” signing series, featuring players who were knocked off the Hall of Fame ballot after failing to record five percent of the vote. Those who are eligible for this honor include Mark Grace, Matt Williams, Jesse Orosco, Ron Gant, Dan Plesac, and both Mo and Greg Vaughn.
It is absurd that I give these ideas away for free. Take advantage of it now, before I Iaunch a consulting company and start raking in the big bucks.
This is simple — over the past week, members of the Naturals’ front office have found three stray puppies at Arvest Ballpark. The team turned the dogs over to a local animal shelter, which I imagine is what most people would do in that situation. But by putting out a press release announcing this fact, the Naturals accomplished two things: they increased the chance that these Rottweiler mixes would find good homes while also generating a little bit of offseason attention for themselves. It’s a win-win situation.
The Naturals could have also used this opportunity to promote appearances by Jake the Diamond Dog, who will be at Arvest Ballpark on April 16 and 17. Or, they could have chosen to highlight other fun dogs that can be found around the ballpark — namely this unique concoction.