Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Isidro Marquez, Well-Pitched - 17

On the verge of eliminating the United States from qualifying for the 2004 Olympics, Mexico turned to reliever Isidro Marquez to shut the door, according to The Associated Press.

Marquez stepped up. Leading 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth, with two men on and no one out, set down the next three batters on ground outs to secure the win, The AP wrote.

"It was a well-pitched game by their pitchers," Team USA Manager Frank Robinson, the Hall of Famer, told The AP afterward. "We were not able to do much until the ninth inning, and it was not enough."

Marquez pitched in that game deep into his pro career - and at age 38. He'd spent most of that career in the minors and in Mexico. But, for seven games in 1995, he pitched in the majors.

Marquez' long pro career began in 1988, signed by the Dodgers out of his native Mexico. Marquez has also been credited as Isidrio Marquez.

Before signing, he played three seasons in Mexico, for Tampico and San Luis Potosi.

Marquez started with the Dodgers at single-A Bakersfield. He went 8-4 over 20 starts, with a 3.09 ERA.

Marquez then turned reliever for the rest of his career. He played 1989 between Bakersfield and AA San Antonio. He went 7-4, with 12 saves and had an overall ERA of 3.02 over 56 outings.

After an abbreviated 1990 at San Antonio, he returned there for 1991. He isn't credited as pitching in the minors in 1992, but he returned in 1993 to play at both San Antonio and AAA Albuquerque.

Traded to the White Sox for 1994, Marquez played that year at AAA Nashville. In April 1995, he made his debut in Chicago.

He went four outs and gave up two runs in his debut. He allowed two inherited runners to score in his second outing. Overall, he gave up five earned over 6.2 innings in seven outings, stats that mark the extent of his major league career.

Marquez then returned to Mexico. He pitched for the Mexico City Tigres from 1996 to 1999, then the Campeche Pirates through 2004.

He continued playing regularly through 2011 and even got some playing time in 2017-2018 winter league action at the age of 52. He's also served as a pitching coach.

In 2010, at the age of 45, Marquez pitched in his 812th Mexican League game, breaking the old record of 811.
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured: 3,008
Made the Majors:1,103-36.7%-X
Never Made Majors:1,905-63.4%
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 459
10+ Seasons in the Minors:276

Rocket Wheeler, Lengthy Trip - 3

Originally published March 31, 2011
The major leagues weren't so far away for Ralph "Rocket" Wheeler and his high-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans.

And for Jason Heyward, who started 2009 with Myrtle Beach, the majors weren't, WMBF.com wrote.

"It's part of the speech I tell these guys every year, you don't know how close you are to the big leagues," Wheeler told WMBF. "Guys think, ‘here I am in Myrtle Beach, I have to go to Double-A and Triple-A before I get to the big leagues.' Believe me: your trip may be quicker than you think."

Wheeler's trip is still continuing, more than three decades in. After a playing career that lasted six seasons, all in the minors, Wheeler has gone on to a lengthy coaching and managing career, all in the minors.

Wheeler's career in the minors began in 1977, taken by the Blue Jays in the 13th round of the draft, out of the University of Houston. In his six seasons as a player, Wheeler got as high as AA, but no higher.

His playing career over by 1983, Wheeler went right to work in the manager's office, taking the top job at rookie league Medicine Hat, returning there in 1988 and 1989.

With Medicine Hat in 1988, Wheeler told of having to protect his young pitchers.

"You don't want a kid throwing 150-200 pitches and blowing his arm out," Wheeler told The Los Angeles Times. "A kid will tell you he's feeling fine, but you know when he's tiring. You have to protect them."

Wheeler served as hitting coach at AAA Syracuse for four years through 1993. By 1995, he was managing again, with the Blue Jays Gulf Coast League team.

He also soon started collecting awards. In 1996, with St. Catharines, Wheeler won league Manager of the Year honors. He did the same with Dunedin in 1999 and Myrtle Beach in 2008. He also managed his Rome Braves to the South Atlantic League title in 2003.

Among the players on that 2003 Rome team was catcher Brian McCann. Wheeler told MLB.com in 2009 that when he first saw McCann, Wheeler knew he had talent.

"He had a good year that year," Wheeler told MLB.com of 2003. "He knew what he wanted to do at the plate. Usually, you get a young kid coming up like that, they just want to hack. ... As an 18-year-old, he drew a leadoff walk in the game we won for the championship."

Wheeler stayed with Rome for three seasons, moving to Myrtle Beach for five seasons. For 2011, Wheeler was promoted, to the managing job at AA Mississippi.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Bob Shirley, Only Thing - 2

Originally published March 9, 2012
Bob Shirley threw eight innings of shutout ball in that April 1977 contest. Only a ninth inning error in the field, and a tired arm, prevented him from finishing the game and recording a shutout, UPI wrote afterward.

Still, Shirley picked up the win, his Padres taking the game 12-4. It was Shirley's first victory in the majors in his first start in the majors.

"I didn't have anything left when I was taken out," Shirley told UPI afterward. "I would have been pleased if we had won 12-11. Actually, when I went out there, I was just hoping to get out of the first inning."

Shirley would go on to get 11 other wins that year for San Diego, but he would also pick up 18 losses for the fifth place Padres.

Shirley's future, though, was in both relief work and starting. He would go on to be both a starter and reliever over 11 major league seasons. Later, Shirley would have a brief career as a coach and manager in the minors.

Shirley's professional career began in 1976, taken by the Padres in the first round of the January secondary draft, out of the University of Oklahoma. He started at AA Amarillo then moved to AAA Hawaii. Between them, Shirley went 14-10 in 29 starts.

By April 1977, Shirley was in San Diego. going 12-18 in his rookie campaign. He returned to San Diego in 1978, splitting time between starting and relief. He started 20 games and relieved in 30. He went 8-11, with a 3.69 ERA.

In 1979, Shirley again had a sub-4 ERA on the season, but he again had a losing record, 8-16. He picked up his eighth win in late September, against the division-leading Reds.

"Ninety-nine percent of the people don't look beyond the 16 losses," Shirley told The Associated Press afterward. "Hey, this team has lost 91 games. It's frustrating for everybody."

Shirley stayed with the Padres through 1980, sent to the Cardinals for 1981 in an 11-player deal. After spending the season with the Cardinals, Shirley moved on to the Reds in another trade. In five of Shirley's first six seasons, his ERA failed to hit 4. In his only season above 4, his ERA was still 4.08.

For 1983, Shirley signed with the Yankees. In his first year in the Bronx, Shirley got 25 outings, 17 starts. His ERA increased to 5.08. In 1984, Shirley's ERA dropped back to 3.38 in 41 outings.

In 1985, it was 2.64 in 48. It was also a season where Shirley went stretches where he wasn't used. But he still stayed ready. After an injury in June, Shirley was a starter again.

"You don't take the highs and live off them, and you don't let the lows get you down," Shirley told The New York Times that June. "The only thing I had to prove is that I want to win."

Shirley continued with the Yankees into 1987, his tenure there ending amid allegations of a friendly clubhouse wrestling match with Don Mattingly ended with Mattingly injured. Shirley was released soon afterward, but both denied there ever was such a match or incident. Mattingly told reporters soon after that he injured himself fielding grounders, according to The AP and The Times.

Released, Shirley soon signed with the Royals that July, but only got into three more contests. Shirley returned for spring 1988 with the Blue Jays, but he didn't make the team. He played the year at AAA Syracuse, also serving as a coach.

He moved to the manager's office in 1989 with the short-season St. Catharines Blue Jays. In 1990, he was back with the Chiefs, his final season as a coach, Shirley resigned the next spring, ending his coaching career without making the majors.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Bob Bailor, Majors Return - 1

Originally published March 13, 2012
Major league veteran Ozzie Virgil tried to return to the majors and his manager at AAA Syracuse Bob Bailor tried to help him get there.

Virgil had last played in the majors the year before, getting into more than 100 games for the Braves. He'd signed with the Blue Jays, trying to continue his career.

"He realizes this is a chance for him to get back to the big leagues," Bailor told The Newport News Daily Press in July 1989. "He's been working hard."

Virgil, then a veteran of eight seasons, did get back to the majors, twice. The returns, though were brief, all of 12 games.

Bailor, a veteran of 11 major league seasons himself as a player, would also get back to the majors himself, named in 1992 as the first base coach of the big club in Toronto. Bailor also arrived in the majors just in time for the first of his and the team's two trips to the World Series.

Bailor's coaching career began by 1987, serving as manager of single-A Dunedin. His long playing career ended in 1985 with the Dodgers, Bailor also having played for the Orioles, Blue Jays and the Mets.

By 1988, Bailor had made the jump to AAA Syracuse, serving the first of four seasons at the helm of the Jays' top farm team. In 1990, Bailor also managed the American League team in the AAA All-Star game.

One of the players Bailor had on his final two Syracuse teams was Derek Bell, a player who was at the start of his decade-long career in the majors. For Bailor's Chiefs in 1991, Bell hit .346. He also got his first call-up to the majors.

"He's like a young deer in the woods," Bailor told The South Florida Sun-Sentinel in spring 1992. "He likes to run, rove, have fun. A carefree kid."

In spring 1992, Bailor was starting his new job, as first base coach for the Blue Jays in Toronto, a job he held for four seasons. Bailor's last season with the Blue Jays was in 1995. He isn't recorded as coaching elsewhere after that.

That first October, Bailor and the Blue Jays were he champions of baseball. Speaking to The Baltimore Sun, Bailor recalled his days as a player. He was an original Blue Jay in 1977.

"It's a wonderful feeling, because it's a great town and a great organization," Bailor told The Sun. "I would have liked to have spent my whole career with this team. But one of the things that makes this organization so successful is that they [the front office] don't let guys stay beyond their time. It's hard, but that's part of baseball."

For a feature on Bob Bailor's playing days, go to Bob Bailor, Best Available.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Dave Fleming, Fully Appreciated - 57

Dave Fleming had already pocketed wins by August 1992, his rookie campaign, so he went out this night for the Mariners and did the next thing on the list: He flirted with a no-hitter.

Fleming, whose play in 1992 garnered Rookie of the Year consideration, took a no-hitter against the Indians into the sixth inning. He then went the distance on a two-hit shutout.

"He'd have beat anyone tonight," Indians manager Mike Hargrove told The Associated Press afterward. "Even the '27 Yankees."

Fleming received plenty of accolades that year. He ended the campaign with 17 wins to 10 losses and a 3.39 ERA. He also came in third in the Rookie of the Year balloting.

But, while he picked up another 12 wins in 1993, a shoulder injury ultimately limited his major league career.

Fleming's career began in 1990, taken by the Mariners in the third round of the draft out of the University of Georgia. He played his high school ball in Mahopac, NY.

The Mariners took him after he went 12-6 at Georgia, with a 2.86 ERA as he helped Georgia to the College World Series title.

In one College World Series win, Fleming threw a four-hitter for a shutout. "Under the circumstances," Fleming told reporters later, "this is definitely the biggest game of my career and the best game I've pitched."

Fleming started with the Mariners shortly after at high-A San Bernardino. He then jumped to AA Jacksonville and AAA Calgary in 1991. He debuted in Seattle that August.

Fleming got into nine games for the Mariners in 1991. He picked up one win and a 6.62 ERA.

Then came his 1991 campaign. By June, he'd racked up nine wins to a single loss. Fleming couldn't figure out what was happening, according to The AP.

"It's getting a bit ridiculous," Fleming told The AP after a 2-1 win over Texas. "(Rafael) Palmeiro hit three shots that went for outs. That's how it's been this year and now I'm 9-1."

After his 17-10 performance in 1992, he went 12-5 in 1993. Then came his decline. He went 7-11 in 1994, with a 6.46 ERA. He then moved to the Royals in mid-1995 and underwent shoulder surgery to start 1996.

He tried to come back in 1997 with independent Waterbury and earned a spring training slot with the Yankees in 1998. He got looks at AAA that year with the Red Sox and Orioles and again in independent ball to end his career.

That spring, as he tried to make the Yankees, Fleming spoke with The New York Times about being back on the field after his hot career start and then shoulder surgery ultimately sidetracking his career.

''I never thought I took the game for granted,'' Fleming told The Times. ''But you don't fully appreciate it until you're gone and you feel like you're out of the game completely. To think that in four years, I'd be out totally, that fast. . . .''
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured: 3,007
Made the Majors:1,102-36.6%-X
Never Made Majors:1,905-63.4%
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 459-X
10+ Seasons in the Minors:276

Kerry Woodson, Big Butterflies - 308

Originally published July 8, 2010
Two runs were already in when Seattle manager Bill Plummer called to his bullpen. Called in was Kerry Woodson, for his major-league debut. He promptly walked the first two batters, then gave up a bloop two-run single.

"I couldn't hit the broad side of the barn for a couple of hitters," Woodson told reporters after the game. "I had big, big butterflies."

It was the start of a professional career for Woodson that had begun as a late-round draft pick for the Mariners in 1988 and wouldn't end until 12 years later, in 2000. But his major league career would end just about a month after those first two walked batters, injuries helping to see to that.

But Woodson would end up hitting two in his short eight-appearance career, not barns, but one Barnes. And hitting that Barnes may or may not have been intentional.

It was his second appearance, on July 21. Woodson had pitched a scoreless inning when he hit Tigers batter Skeeter Barnes, who quickly charged the mound. Benches cleared, both Barnes and Woodson were ejected.

The AP account of the game had Barnes bunting in a run in his previous at bat, with a three-run lead. Plummer, after the game, told reporters there was nothing to the pitch.

The second time, Aug. 8, there was no talk of intent. A pitch got away from Woodson, hitting Ranger Jeff Frye. Instead of going to the mound, Frye walked back to the dugout, according to a wire account.

Woodson was called up that July after spending parts of four seasons in the minors. He made AA Jacksonville in 1991, then AAA Calgary and Seattle in 1992. Then the injuries started coming.

That year in 1992, despite his call-up, Woodson was on the disabled list twice with elbow problems. During spring training 1993, the tenderness in the elbow came back. An exam led to surgery, Tommy John surgery.

Woodson missed all of 1993 and made just 13 appearances in 1994. None of the appearances in 1994 were above high-A. Released by the Mariners, he spent 1995 with independent Sonoma County of the Western League.

A comeback try into affiliated ball in 1998 fizzled. He went 6-10 with an ERA approaching 5.50. Two more years in independent ball and Woodson was done.

But, back in 1992, after his third appearance, Woodson was positive. He appeared to be referencing two double plays during his 1.2 innings of work. But, given what would be a short major-league career, it could be mistaken for something else.

"When you get an opportunity," Woodson said in an AP account, "you've got to take advantage of it."

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Tony Manahan, Showed Confidence - 83

San Bernardino's Tony Manahan had a good day in this July 1990 game, but he also saw his teammates doing well, too, according to The San Bernardino County Sun.

Manahan picked up three hits in the game, including a home run. Teammates had three and four hits, too, The Sun wrote.

"I think right now we've got a lot of confidence at the plate," Manahan told The Sun afterward. "Everybody wants to hit. And you need that because we play in a tough pitching league. That's what I heard at least."

Manahan showed confidence that year and over a career that spanned seven seasons. He made AAA in four of those seasons, but he never made the majors.

Manahan's career began that year in 1990, taken by the Mariners 38th overall in the draft out of Arizona State University. Manahan is the brother of fellow first-round pick Austin Manahan.

At Arizona State, Manahan was named first-team All-America by Baseball America and second-team All-America by the National Collegiate Coaches Association.

Mananan started with the Mariners that year at high-A San Bernardino. He got into 51 games and hit .318. He hit a three-run home run at the end of July based on what he'd heard of the the opposing pitcher, he told The Sun afterward.

"I've never faced him but the guys told me about him," Manahan told The Sun. "He relies a lot on his fastball and he didn't have the juice tonight."

He then lost some time that August due to some arm soreness.

Manahan returned for 1991 and made AA Jacksonville. He played there two seasons, hitting .254 and .257. He went 3 for 4, with two RBI in a May 1991 game, and picked up 12 hits over 16 at bats in that series.

Manahan arrived at AAA for the first time in 1993 and stayed there through the end of his career in 1996. He played at Calgary with the Mariners in 1993 and 1994. He picked up five hits in a July 1993 game and hit .302 and .285 overall his two years there.

Manahan moved to the Phillies system and Scranton for 1995. He knocked in a run on a single there in July. He got into 90 games that year and 17 more there in 1996 to end his career.
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured: 3,006
Made the Majors:1,101-36.6%
Never Made Majors:1,905-63.4%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 458
10+ Seasons in the Minors:276

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