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Monday, November 23, 2020

John Fishel did what was asked of him, made bigs over 19 games

Originally published Oct. 1, 2012
John Fishel's call up to Houston in July 1988 had to wait, The Houston Chronicle wrote, as Fishel got to play in the AAA All-Star game.

After the game, though, it was off to Houston and Fishel's first shot at the major leagues.

"I'm real excited to get my first opportunity in the big leagues," Fishel told The Chronicle. "I'm willing to do anything they ask me to do. I'd like to be able to come in an play every day but I know that is not always possible for a new guy."

Fishel did what was asked of him with the Astros that year and that resulted in appearances in 19 major league games through early October, totaling 30 plate appearances.

Years later, Fishel would do what was asked of him and play replacement ball. His appearance there, or one exit from there, would provide one of the more bizarre moments in a bizarre spring.

Fishel's professional career began in 1985, taken by the Astros in the ninth-round of the draft, out of Cal-State Fullerton.

The Astros selected Fishel a year after he led Fullerton to the 1984 College World Series Championship, Fishel earning tournament MVP honors.

With the Astros, Fishel started at short-season Auburn, hitting .261 in 77 games. He moved to single-A Osceola in 1986, hitting .269 there.

He made AA Columbus in 1989, then AAA Tucson in 1988. That July, he made Houston.

Leading into his 1988 call up to Houston, Fishel had 13 home runs at Tucson, four of those came in one late-June week, according to The Los Angeles Times.

"He can pack a wallop," Tuscon clubhouse manager Bill Gleason told The Times in late June. "He goes for the long ball. He's going to be a major league star."

With the Astros that year, Fishel ended up getting into those 30 games. But he also just started two. One of those was a 17-inning, late-September contest where Fishel played the entire game. He went 2 for 6, with a walk and an RBI.

Overall, Fishel got six hits in 26 official at bats, hitting one home run. He played his final game Oct. 2, what turned out to be the final major league game of his career.

Fishel, though, continued playing through 1990, moving to the Yankees system, at AAA Columbus, for 1989 and 1990. He hit .219 his first year there and .200 his second, ending his six season professional career.

Fishel, though, returned five years, later, for spring 1995 and replacement ball with the Angels. Before one early March game, though, Fishel found himself not in the game, but in a cell, according to The Times.

A woman from Arizona claimed Fishel owed her $50,000 in back child support. A warrant was issued for his arrest and that's what happened, right before the game. He told The Times if he was the child's father, he would pay support.

"I never want to go back there again," Fishel told The Times later of his 12 hours spent in jail. "I saw some pretty bizarre stuff. There were 30 to 40 people in there at times, and I was the only one without a tattoo. I stood the whole time. I wouldn't fall asleep for a second."

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Mark Charbonnet came through in clutch over 12 pro seasons; Made AA, played in independent ball

 Mark Charbonnet had a big day for the Harrisburg Senators in this May 1995 game, according to The Carlisle Sentinel.

His day included two hits, one a solo home run, two RBIs, and praise from his manager Pat Kelly, The Sentinel wrote.

"He's very good in the clutch. Last I saw he was hitting .375 with runners in scoring position," Kelly told The Sentinel afterward. "You kind of overlook him in the lineup with the big three ... at the top. I don't know if they relax on him or he's that good. But he's really come up big for us."

Charbonnet came up big for Harrisburg that year in his seventh professional season and his first at AA. He went on to play five more campaigns in independent ball and in Mexico. He never made the majors.

Charbonnet's career began in 1989, taken by the Indians in the sixth round of the draft out of Gahr High School in Cerritos, Ca

He started at rookie Burlington and hit .231 in 41 games. He then moved to high-A Reno and short-season Watertown for 1990, then single-A Columbus and Watertown for 1991. He hit .267 in 84 total games in 1991.

Charbonnet saw high-A Kinston in 1993, then moved to the Expos system and high-A West Palm Beach for 1994. 

He had a slow start for West Palm Beach in 1994, hitting .214 in the first half, but broke out with a .344 average by early Augist in the second half,  The Palm Beach Post wrote.

"I'm trying to relax and help the team the best way I can," Charbonnet told The Post then. "In past years, I've done well the first half and slowed up the second half. This year I turned it around." 

Charbonnet hit .266 on the year and made AA Harrisburg for 1995. In 120 games there, he hit .251, he then moved to independent ball.

He played 1996 between independent Moose Jaw and Southern Minnesota, then 1997 and 1998 at independent Bend. At Zion in 1999, he hit .350, with 28 home runs. The home runs marked a Western League record.

"He definitely has the attention of the opposition," Zion batting coach Randy Wilstead told The Saint George Daily Spectrum in August 1999 of Charbonnet. "Mark is a big guy and he can hit a home run on any pitch and he can hit a home run any place in the league." 

Charbonnet played 2000 at independent Tri-City and then for Torreon and Puebla in Mexico to end his career.

1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured:3,511
Made the Majors:1,223-34.8%
Never Made Majors:2,288-65.2%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors:509
10+ Seasons in the Minors:301-X

John Habyan proved valuable in relief over 11 major league seasons

Originally published Feb. 1, 2012
Yankees manager Buck Showater was blunt in his assessment of John Habyan in April 1992.

On the young season, Habyan had thrown 11 innings of relief, giving up one run. He was also the Yankees top set-up man.

"I don't think we have a player any more valuable than John Habyan," Showalter told The Baltimore Sun.

Habyan would go on to pitch in 56 games for the Yankees that year, his seventh season with time in the majors. He would also play a valuable role at the end of games in 1992, picking up a total of seven saves.

It was all part of a career that spanned 11 big league seasons, not ending until 1996 with the Rockies. It was a career, though, that began back in 1982, taken by the Orioles in the third round of the draft, out of Brentwood High school in New York.

He played that first year in rookie ball, at Bluefield. He made AA Charlotte in 1984, then got his first look at Baltimore in 1985, for two games. He even picked up a win.

For 1986, Habyan played at AAA Rochester, getting another six games in Baltimore. With the Orioles, he went 1-3 in five starts, with an ERA of 4.44.

In 1987, he got into 27 games, 13 starts. Late that September, he even had a role in the AL East pennant race, pitching against the Tigers. He was up to the task, shutting down the eventual division-winners on five hits over eight innings.

"I felt real pumped up out there, going into the eighth inning," Habyan told The Associated Press. "I haven't been in too many situations where something was on the line. It was a different feeling."

Habyan got seven games in 1988, then none in 1989. He was traded mid-year to the Yankees. After six big league outings in 1990, Habyan broke out with the Yankees in 1991 with 66 appearances.

The next year, he got into 56, then 48 in 1993. In that stretch, he saved a total of 10 games, working the rest of the time in middle relief.

After being traded to the Royals mid-year 1993, Habyan arrived with the Cardinals for 1994. He was then traded again in 1995, to the Angels. Habyan's final year came in 1996, getting 19 games with the Rockies.

After his final trade, to the Angels, Habyan quipped to The Los Angeles Times that he knew it was coming, not so much because of anything on the field, but because of observations off it.

"It was the first time in a year and a half reporters had talked to me," Habyan told The Times. "That's how you know a middle reliever is getting traded."

He was still valuable, just not for quotes.

Habyan has gone on to be valuable in other ways, as a high school gym teacher and baseball coach at St. John the Baptist High School on Long Island.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Tim Donahue stayed positive over three pro seasons, made high-A; Later saw his son turn pro


Tim Donahue had a good night in this July 1990 game as he picked up three hits, but his Reno Silver Sox still lost, The Reno Gazette-Journal wrote.

The defeat marked the club's 10th straight. Donahue, though, knew the club couldn't focus on that, he told The Gazette-Journal afterward.

"We can't go out there and be afraid to lose," Donahue told The Gazette-Journal. "You have to be positive about all this."

Donahue worked to be positive over that season and the next two. Those three campaigns marked the extent of his pro career. He topped out at high-A.

Donahue's career began that year in 1990, signed by the Indians out of the University of Washington. He went to Washington out of his native Hawaii.

Donahue started with the Indians at high-A Reno. He hit .264 in 103 games. He hit five home runs and stole 19 bases.

He moved to high-A Kinston and single-A Columbus for 1991, but saw just 36 total games. He hit .277.

Donahue returned to Kinston in 1992 and saw 66 total games. He hit a two-run single in an August game. He hit .225 overall in what turned out to be his final pro season.

Donahue ultimately settled back in Hawaii. His son Christian Donahue has since followed his father into the pros. Christian signed with the Cubs in 2018 and has briefly made AAA.

In July 2018, the younger Donahue spoke to MiLB about his father's influence.

"He's the one who has taught me everything I know," Christian Donahue told MiLB. "From my hard work or my discipline, I learned everything from him about the game of baseball." 

1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured:3,510
Made the Majors:1,223-34.8%
Never Made Majors:2,287-65.2%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors:509
10+ Seasons in the Minors:300

Todd Karli served as top-notch radio broadcaster for Reno, has since done same in TV sports, news


The Reno Silver Sox needed a radio announcer for 1989 and the voice of Western New Mexico State's sports teams, Todd Karli, offered his services, The Reno Gazette-Journal wrote

Only, the Silver Sox needed someone to do some other jobs, too, General Manager Jack Patton told The Gazette-Journal.

"He contacted me," Patton explained to The Gazette-Journal in February 1989. "I told him he could have the job if he was willing to sell, produce and raise money so the club wouldn't have to subsidize anything. I've listened to some of his tapes. He sounds top-notch to me."

Karli then was just two years out of college himself, but he's since added many tapes to his resume, first in sports, then in news.

After a brief career as a radio announcer, Karli then moved into local TV, first serving as a sportscaster, then as a full station news director and managing editor. He continues as a managing editor at a station in Maryland in 2020.

Karli's career began in California, out of San Pedro High School. There, his involvement in sports included playing. He served as a reserve guard on the school's basketball team and hit a game-winner in December 1981, The San Pedro News-Pilot wrote.

He then went on to attend and graduate from USC, with a degree in sports information. After a stint at Western New Mexico State, he arrived in Reno in 1989. 

He then took on radio duties for the short-lived Bakersfield Jammers of the CBA in November 1991. After that team folded, Karli spoke to The Gazette-Journal about his future, including whether he'd be back in Reno for 1992.

"I'd consider it, just to stay in the game," Karli told The Gazette-Journal about returning to Reno. "But I might also pursue TV once again. Everything is up in the air."

Karli soon did pursue TV again, and in Bakersfield. In 1996, he served as a sportscaster at Bakersfield's KERO, as well as on radio, the year he married his wife Jackie, herself a TV news anchorwoman.

By 2003, he was the TV station's news director, at a news directors association meeting, speaking to The Salt Lake Tribune as he picked up ideas on how to make meteorologist segments hook viewers when weather is pretty consistent.

"That's why I'm here," Karli told The Tribune. "I don't have the answers."

By 2016, both Todd Karli and his wife Jackie had made their way cross-country to WBOC News, on the Delmarva Peninsula. Delmarva Life interviewed the pair that August.

Upon his departure from Bakersfield after 20 years, fellow anchor Todd Callahan wrote of Todd Karli's impact at the station.

"Todd was the news man who's delivered the stories at the 23ABC desk for so many years and helped 23ABC to the station it is today," Callahan wrote.

The Karlis continue at WBOC as managing editor and broadcast journalist in 2020.

1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured:3,509
Made the Majors:1,223-34.9%
Never Made Majors:2,286-65.1%
5+ Seasons in the Majors:509
10+ Seasons in the Minors:300

Dave Eiland oversaw wins in 10 ML seasons as player, many more as ML coach

Originally published Sept. 30, 2011; Updated November 2020
Dave Eiland was in a forgiving mood, especially after seeing the Yankees bullpen fail to hold what would have been his first major league win.

Eiland went seven innings in that August 1988 contest, leaving with a 5-1 lead. Eiland's Yankees lost 6-5.

"It's happened to me before," Eiland told The New York Times. "That could have been me out there. It's part of the game. It happens."

Eiland went on to see time in 10 major league seasons, starting 70 big league games. But wins would be at a premium, he would only pick up 12.

Eiland, though, would go on to oversee many more wins, as pitching coach for the team that first brought him to the majors, the Yankees and elsewhere. Eiland's three season stint with the Yankees  also included overseeing a world title. He then did the same in the same role with the Royals.

Eiland's career began in 1987, taken by the Yankees in the seventh round out of the University of Florida. He split that first year between short-season Oneonta and single-A Fort Lauderdale.

In his second season, Eiland hit AA Albany, AAA Columbus and got that first start in the Bronx. With the Yankees that year, Eiland got three starts and no decisions. His second and third starts were less successful, totaling 5.2 innings and eight runs given up.

Eiland returned for six more starts in 1989, getting his first win against three losses. Eiland got five starts in 1990, going 1-2. That September, Eiland got another hard-luck no decision, throwing 8.1 innings of shutout ball. The Yankees, though, couldn't score either.

''You can't pitch any better than he pitched,'' Yankee manager Stump Merrill told The Times after that September 1990 outing.

In 1991, Eiland got into 18 games, 13 starts. He also went 2-5, with a 5.33 ERA. He was also released that next off-season, signing with the Padres for 1992.

Eiland got seven starts for the Padres that year, going 0-2, with a 5.67 ERA. He also got one home run, in is first major league at bat that April. "I couldn't believe it," Eiland told reporters of the home run. "Strange things happen."

Nine more starts for the Padres in 1993 and Eiland was back to the minors until 1995. That year, back with the Yankees, Eiland got a single start and three relief appearances.

Then came two more seasons back in the minors. In 1998, Eiland returned to the majors, in a single start for Tampa Bay. That he didn't get more opportunities that year, upset Eiland, according to The Orlando Sentinel. He went 13-5 at AAA Durham with a 2.99 ERA.

"I think I've been labeled by some people,'' Eiland told The Sentinel. "You reach a certain age and everyone thinks you stop improving and you can't do the job."

Eiland, though, didn't do well in that one start, giving up six earned runs in 2.2 innings. It also came against the Yankees. In 1999 Eiland got more time, 15 starts, the most of his major league career.

Going into that year, Eiland also got some screen time, serving as a pitching double for Kevin Costner in the movie For the Love of the Game, The Sentinel wrote.

Eiland finished out his big league career in 2000, with 17 appearances, 10 starts. He went 2-3, with a 7.24 ERA for the Devil Rays.

Eiland's post-playing career began by 2003, back with the Yankees. He coached that year in the Gulf Coast League, moving to short-season Staten Island for 2004. He hit AA Trenton in 2005, AAA Scranton in 2007 and arrived back in the Bronx in 2008. Eiland stayed through 2010, when he was dismissed.

"Dave spent his entire coaching career with the Yankees organization, and there is little doubt the impact he had on a great number of pitchers during his tenure," Yankees manager Joe Girardi told reporters in a statement after Eiland's dismissal.

"He was a passionate and knowledgeable pitching coach on the major league level," Girardi added in the statement, "and he played a valuable role in our team's achievements in recent years. I wish him continued success moving forward as his baseball career continues to evolve."

Eiland then went on to join the Royals as pitching coach in 2012. He stayed there through 2017, helping the club to the 2015 World Series title. He then spent two seasons as pitching coach for the Mets. In 2020, he served as a manager in the Constellation Energy League based out of Sugar Land, Texas.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Milt Harper worked to win over decade as pro, made AA, Taiwan; Died in Taiwan in 1993 at age 31


Even though it was only a spring training game, Milt Harper's walk-off single for his Cleveland Indians still saw Harper's teammates celebrate, The Arizona Daily Star wrote

Harper explained the celebration afterward to The Daily Star.

"You try to win all games no matter what," Harper told The Daily Star.

Harper helped win enough games in his career to get him to AA, but not higher. His playing ability, however, eventually got him overseas, to three seasons in Taiwan

His time in Taiwan, however, ultimately ended in his death at the age of 31.

Harper's career began in 1984, signed by the Indians as an undrafted free agent out of California, after only having picked up the game his senior year in high school.

Harper started with the Indians at single-A Waterloo. He hit .278 in 110 games. He returned to Waterloo and got a look at AA Waterbury for 1985 and saw Waterbury again for 1986. He hit .223 in 50 games there, his season cut short by an elbow injury that required surgery.

He played at single-A Kinston for 1987, where he hit 20 home runs, then got his spring look with the Indians for 1988. His work that spring drew praise from manager Doc Edwards, according to The Associated Press.

"He is really a good-looking first baseman," Edwards told The AP. "And the thing I like about him offensively is that he's a guy who can hit for power, a high average and still draws a lot of walks."

Harper played that year at AA Williamsport.  He hit .225 in 122 games. He then moved to single-A Reno in 1989 and returned there for 1990. He hit 25 home runs with a .275 average at Reno in 1989 and 20 home runs with a .317 average in 1990.

Harper then moved to Taiwan for 1991. He first played for Uni-President. He hit .300, had 13 home runs. He played for Uni-President and Wei Chuan for 1992 and then Wei Chuan again in 1993. He hit .305 over 90 games that year, with 15 home runs.

Then, on Oct. 16, 1993, he fell to his death from a Taiwan high rise. Harper's death was initially ruled a suicide, but witnesses later told police they'd heard an argument, according to The Reno Gazette-Journal, citing USA Today's Baseball Weekly.

Some accusations were brought in his death, but a man initially accused had been cleared by April 1994, according to The San Bernardino County Sun.

After Harper's passing, The Gazette-Journal noted Harper signed on with Reno in 1989 and, in 1990, he'd been voted by fans most popular player. The club's then general manager Jack Patton also recalled Harper's work.

"Milt Harper was the best player to ever play for me," Patton told The Gazette-Journal.

1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured:3,508
Made the Majors:1,223-34.9%
Never Made Majors:2,285-65.1%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors:509
10+ Seasons in the Minors:300-X