Monday, July 15, 2019

Birmingham Barons Batboys, Years Later - 30

Rhett White served as a bat boy for the Birmingham Barons in 1989. Years later, he made a brief appearance as a pro player himself.

In between, according to The Associated Press, he and teammates got into a horrible car wreck that he almost didn't survive.

Three weeks after the crash, as White recovered, his Vestavia High School team went on to the state championship game - held on the same field on which he served as a bat boy, The AP wrote.

"The chance to play on this field would have blown his mind," Vestavia coach Casey Dunn told The AP in May 1995. "We're sort of living his dream because he can't."

Three years after the crash White took the mound at independent Tupelo in the Heartland League. He pitched in six games in relief and gave up one earned over 3.2 total innings.

White was one of many Birmingham Barons bat boys to take the field for the club over the years. He was one of six for the team in 1989 alone.

All six in 1989 got their own card, gracing the front of the team's checklist.

Along with White, the other bat boys were identified as Nathan Sparks, Brad Reznik, Brian Picard, Jeremy Berry and Adam Power.

At least one of those bat boys stayed with the club for 1990, and got onto the 1990 version of the team's checklist card, according to fellow bat boy Jeremy Berry. (Unlike the 1989 version, the 1990 card does not identify the bat boys.)

Reznik is the bat boy on the bottom left of the 1990 card, Berry wrote.

Berry has referenced his time as a Birmingham Barons bat boy multiple times on Twitter, including in a March 2018 tweet. Berry is now an attorney in Atlanta.

"I saw a lot of great players come through during those four years," Berry wrote. "Was an amazing experience for sure."

More recently, author Shawn Powell wrote of banter between himself and four Birmingham Baron bat boys in a 2018 book, titled "The Keys to the Batter's Box."
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured:3,154
Made the Majors:1,144-36.3%
Never Made Majors:2,010-63.7%
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 475
10+ Seasons in the Minors:283

Frank Thomas, Dimension of Power - 11

Originally published Aug. 29, 2011; Updated Jan. 8, 2014
Asked about the promotion of the White Sox' young first baseman in early August 1990, White Sox GM Larry Himes said they did so because the club needed a bat, The Chicago Tribune wrote.

That young first baseman was Frank Thomas and he rewarded that confidence in just his second game, hitting a two-run triple against Milwaukee.

"Frank adds that dimension of power to our lineup," Himes told The Tribune of Thomas' promotion from AA Birmingham. "I've watched our ballclub the last four or five days and decided we needed pop."

And Thomas gave them pop. He gave them pop over much of the next 16 seasons, winning consecutive MVP awards in 1993 and 1994 and five All-Star appearances.

When his career was finally over in 2008, after 19 total seasons, Thomas had amassed 521 home runs. He also tallied more than 1,700 RBIs and a career batting average of .301, numbers that in 2014 won him induction into the Hall of Fame.

Thomas' career began in 1989, taken by the White Sox in the first round, seventh overall, out of Auburn.

He played that first year between rookie ball and single-A Sarasota. He played his second between AA Birmingham and major league Chicago.

After his early-August call-up, Thomas played 60 games for the White Sox, hitting .330 with his first seven home runs. He also earned his permanent home as the White Sox lineup, infield and history.

In 1991, Thomas hit 32 home runs in 158 games. He also hit .318. On June 24, he hit his first career grand slam. It was also Thomas' first grand slam since high school.

Going into 1992, the talk was about Thomas' pitch selection. In 1991, he drew 138 walks, the most in the league. In four of his first five years, Thomas led the league in walks.

"I just learned to be patient," Thomas told The New York Times in March 1992. "If a pitch isn't in the strike zone, I'm so picky I won't swing the bat."

Thomas' first MVP award came in 1993. He hit 41 home runs, with a batting average .317 as the White Sox made the playoffs. His 37th home run of the year tied the team record and marked Thomas' 100th.

As the seasons went by, Thomas continued to solidify himself in Chicago sports lore. He won his second MVP in the strike-shortened 1994 season with 38 home runs and a .353 average.

In 1996, 1996, 2000 and 2003, Thomas hit 40 or more home runs. Through 2000, Thomas only hit under .300 once, in 1998. In 1997, he won the American League batting title, hitting .347.

As 2001 came, injuries caught up with Thomas. He got into only 20 games that year, 74 in 2004 and, the year the White Sox won the World Series in 2005, Thomas got into only 34 games. In 2001, it was a torn arm muscle. In 2005, it was a broken foot.

Throughout his accomplishments, Thomas was never tainted as others were. After hitting his 500th home run, Thomas said that made the accomplishment that much more meaningful.

"It means a lot to me because I did it the right way," Thomas told The New York Times. "I could care less what others have done."

Thomas hit that home run as a Blue Jay, playing his final three seasons with Toronto and Oakland.

In August 2010, after Thomas finally called it quits, the White Sox honored his contribution to the team by retiring his number, No. 35. At the ceremony, Thomas became emotional.

"Eighteen years in this game and 16 full ones here," Thomas told ESPNChicago.com later, "it brought back a lot of memories, thinking about all the teammates and all the great times, good and bad times. It just got to me. I was emotionally caught up. I'm a very proud man and this probably was the proudest day of my life."

Thomas had another proud day Jan. 8, 2014, with his induction into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot, garnering 83.7 percent of the vote.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Tony Brown, Hit Hard - 1

Originally published Dec. 25, 2016
Tony Brown fueled the Tidewater Tides in this May 1989 game, knocking three hits and scoring twice, according to The Newport News Daily Press.

He picked up those hits after a 10-at-bat stretch where he picked up no hits, The Daily Press wrote.

"I wasn't too concerned, because I had been hitting the ball hard," Brown told The Daily Press of his hitless streak. "But sometimes when you hit the ball hard it goes right at someone."

Other times when Brown hit the ball, it went over the fence. On one day the previous year at AA, Brown hit the ball hard enough over a double-header to knock the ball over the fence four times.

Overall, Brown hit the ball in 10 professional seasons. He never hit it hard enough to make the majors. He made it as high as AAA, but no higher.

Brown's career began in 1982, signed by the Phillies out of his native North Carolina.

Brown started with the Phillies at short-season Bend. The outfielder hit .312 over 51 games. He moved to single-A Spartanburg and Peninsula for 1983. He knocked in a run on a single and another on a home run in an August game for Spartanburg.

He returned to Peninsula for 1984 then moved to AA Reading in 1985. He stayed at Reading into 1988. He hit .289 in 1986 and then .293 in 1987.

Playing for Reading in June 1988, Brown became a home run hitter. After never hitting more than 12 home runs in a season, Brown hit four in one day. He hit two in each end of a double header against Albany, winning league Player of the Week honors.

Brown even predicted his home run feat, former teammates recalled years later. He bet $100 the night before that he'd do it and he did it, according to a 2016 Reading video.

"I didn't see him swing and miss," former teammate Shane Turner said in the team video. "Everything that he took was a ball. When he swung, the ball was hit hard - and mostly out of the park."

Brown moved to the Mets and AAA Tidewater for 1989. He went 4 for 5 in a June win, knocking two doubles. He hit .270.

Brown then played 1990 with the Athletics at AA Huntsville, then 1992 with the Angels at AA Midland. He spent part of 1992 and then 1993 in Mexico, ending his career.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Lenny Webster, Tough Decision - 12

Originally published Nov. 10, 2013
Lenny Webster made his return to Minnesota in early June 1991 and he did his best to make sure he stayed, according to The Associated Press.

The catcher Webster did so by hitting a home run in each of his first two games back.

"I'm 26; I'm not getting any younger," Webster told The AP. "I'm going to play hard every time I'm in the lineup and try to force them to make a tough decision."

Webster ended up getting into only 18 games for the Twins that year, but he eventually did make his mark. By the time his career was done, Webster had seen time in a total of 12 big league seasons, getting into a total of 587 major league games, hitting a total of 33 major league home runs.

Webster's career began in 1985, taken by the Twins in the 21st round of the draft, out of Grambling State University.

With the Twins, Webster hit the field in 1986 at rookie Elizabethton and single-A Kenosha. He first saw AA Orlando in 1989. He also made the jump to Minnesota, getting 14 games there that September. He went 6 for 20.

Webster then returned to the Twins again in 1990, but for just two games. His first significant time in the bigs came in 1992, with 53 games in Minnesota. He hit .280.

Webster stayed with the Twins through 1993. He moved to the Expos for 1994, getting into 57 games for the best team in baseball, hitting .273. He moved to the Phillies for 1995, getting three hits in an August game, part of a 9-run Phillies barrage.

"It's a game of inches," Webster told The Philadelphia Inquirer afterward. "The line drives we were hitting into double plays are starting to go through for hits. Some of those balls just barely got through, but they got through."

Webster continued playing in the majors into 2000, returning to the Expos twice and playing with the Orioles and the Red Sox. Webster had perhaps his most successful seasons in 1997 and 1998, with the Orioles, getting into 98 games in 1997 and 108 games in 1998. His 1998 season was also marked by a .285 average.

In July 1998, Webster also helped the Orioles to a win, with a two-run, walk-off home run to beat the Athletics.

"I'm not a home-run hitter, I just try to hit the ball hard," Webster told reporters afterward. "He got it down and I took advantage of his mistake. I feel very relaxed at the plate. I was tired. I wanted to go home."

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

William Suero, Been Tattooing - 10

Originally published March 22, 2013
William Suero started the spring well for the Brewers in 1993, picking up nine hits in his first 13 at bats, The Milwaukee Sentinel wrote.

It was enough for the non-roster to get the notice of Milwaukee's manager Phil Garner, according to The Sentinel.

"He hasn't hit a ball soft yet," Garner told The Sentinel of Suero. "He's been tattooing the ball."

Suero already saw Milwaukee for 18 games the previous year and he would make Milwaukee again in 1993. But his stay there would again be brief, 15 games, with 14 at bats. Those two seasons marked the extent of Suero's big-league career.

Suero's career began in 1985, signed by the Blue Jays as an amateur free agent out of his native Dominican Republic.

Suero started at rookie Medicine Hat, hitting .278 in 64 games. He made single-A Myrtle Beach in 1988, then AA Knoxville in 1989. At Knoxville in 1989, Suero hit .259 in 87 games. In July, a Suero home run broke a tie and led to a Knoxville win.

Returning to Knoxville for the full season in 1990, he hit .263 in 133 games. In 1991, he made AAA Syracuse, getting 98 games there.

That August, Suero was sent to the Brewers to complete an earlier trade. He finished the year at AAA Denver, scoring the Triple-A title-winning run.

Suero didn't get the call-up to Milwaukee that September. But he did get the call out of the next spring, making his major league debut April 9. And he stayed up through mid-May, getting more time in late June. He ended up getting three hits in 16 at bats.

Returning for 1993, Suero got into two April games, then made it back for June and part of July. In all, he got four hits in 14 at bats.

Suero moved to the Pirates system for 1994, playing much of the year at AAA Buffalo and the rest at AA Carolina. It was his final year as a pro.

The next year, in November 1995, Suero's life ended, killed in a car crash in his native Dominican Republic.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Will Magallanes, From Injury - 3

Originally published May 30, 2013
Single-A Daytona Beach didn't play well to start 1987 and Daytona owner Blake Cullen looked to returning prospect Will Magallanes to get the offense going, according to The Orlando Sentinel.

"We've lost 26 1-run games," Cullen told The Sentinel that July after Magallanes had a hot start. "You just know a player like that could have turned a bunch of those around."

Magallanes was in his third professional season that year with the White Sox, coming back from an injury to his ankle suffered that spring.

Magallanes ultimately would play in six seasons in the White Sox organization, never seeing Chicago. His stint with the club would also end in an ugly incident where Magallanes intentionally caused an injury to a teammate, using a bat to do so.

Magallanes' career began in 1985, signed by the White Sox as an undrafted free agent out of his native Venezuela. Magallanes has also been called Willie Magallanes and the more formal William Magallanes.

With the White Sox, Magallanes started in the rookie Gulf Coast League, hitting .208 in 30 games. He then played 1986 between single-A Appleton and single-A Peninsula, hitting .242 between them.

Returning for 1987, Magallanes played the season at Daytona, getting into 69 games, hitting 11 home runs over that span. Magallanes had nine of those home runs by early August.

For 1988, Magallanes moved up to AA Birmingham, playing the year there. He hit just .193, with nine home runs. He knocked in the winning run in a May game with a ninth-inning single. He then hit one of his home runs in a July game at Charlotte.

Magallanes then took a step back for 1989, to single-A Sarasota. His average recovered, though, to .295. He then returned to Birmingham for 1990, hitting a solid .292 on the season. But it was his final year with the White Sox, the bat incident at year's end likely having something to do with that.

It was on the Birmingham bus that Magallanes got into a fight with teammate Todd Trafton, according to The Associated Press. Once off the bus, Magallanes ended the fight, picking up a bat and hitting Trafton in the back of the head, resulting in Trafton getting 12 stitches.

"The doctor told me that an inch higher or an inch lower and I might not be walking now," Trafton told The AP afterward. "I'm fine, but I have an awful headache."

Magallanes apparently was never charged. But his career in the White Sox organization was over.
 
He caught on with the Cardinals for 1991, getting 41 games at AAA Louisville. In 1992, he is credited as playing in Mexico, then 1993, seven games at AA Orlando. His last credited time came in 1995, with Tabasco of the Mexican League.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Jorge Pedre, Pretty Consistent - 7

Originally published March 13, 2013
Jorge Pedre looked around in 1991 and saw others get a chance to move up. He was just waiting for his chance, he told The Los Angeles Times.

He'd just gotten his chance to move up to AAA Omaha, but he wanted to take that last step, to the majors.

"I've been pretty consistent at the plate," Pedre told The Times that August. "I also had a chance to prove at Memphis that I could catch on a full-time basis. Now I'm waiting for a break. Hopefully it will be this year."

Pedre did get that break, called up to Kansas City in September. But he couldn't stick. He got into 10 games that year with the Royals and four more the next year with the Cubs, marking the extent of his major league career.

Pedre's pro career began in 1987, taken by the Royals in the 33rd round of the draft, out of West Los Angeles College and Los Angeles Harbor College.

Pedre started with the Royals at short-season Eugene, the catcher getting into 64 games, hitting .270. He also hit 13 home runs, one in a mid-August game against Everett.

"It was a slider or a curve, I'm not sure," Pedre told The Eugene Register-Guard after that August two-run shot. "Whatever it was, it hung up there."

Pedre moved to single-A Appleton for 1988, hitting .272. In 1989, he moved to single-A Baseball City, hitting .327 in 55 games there.

By early June, Pedre was hitting .351, which represented a drop from where he had been hitting. His manager Luis Silverio told The Orlando Sentinel he saw big things for Pedre.

''He has all the tools necessary to be a major-league catcher,'' Silverio told The Sentinel. ''Like all young players, he has things he needs to work on, but he has a great attitude and works hard. I think he has a shot to make it.''

Pedre moved up to AA Memphis later that year, returning to Memphis for 1990. In 1990, he hit .258 in 99 games. Then, in 1991, he made the move to AAA Omaha. In September, he was in Kansas City.

With the Royals, Pedre got five hits in 19 at bats, picking up three RBIs and three walks. For 1992, Pedre moved to the Cubs system, taken by the team off waivers. He played the year at AAA Iowa, returning to the majors for four late-season games. He got four at bats and no hits, ending his big league career.

Pedre continued playing in the minors through 1994, moving to the Red Sox system that final year, but he never returned to the bigs.

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