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Sunday, October 24, 2021

Pat Woodruff thought the pros wouldn't call, they did: Saw five pro seasons, made AA

After going undrafted in 1988, Pat Woodruff held out hope that someone would call, he recalled later to The Tampa Tribune.

Weeks later, after hearing nothing, he decided to give up on his dream and he quit baseball, he told The Tribune.

"Of course, a few hours after I quit baseball the Phillies called me up," Woodruff told The Tribune in 1991. "It was an easy decision to make."

Woodruff went on to a pro career that spanned five seasons. He played three of those campaigns in affiliated ball. He topped out at AA.

Woodruff's career began that year in 1988, signed by the Phillies as an undrafted free agent out of  the University of Texas at Arlington.

Woodruff started with the Phillies the next year, at single-A Spartanburg and short-season Batavia. He saw 54 games and hit .253. He also hit three home runs.

He then played 1990 at high-A Clearwater. He hit .240 over 135 games. He also stole 32 bases. He went 5 for 5 in a May game. 

Woodruff arrived with the Tigers for 1991 and split the season between high-A Lakeland and AA London. He hit .326 in 41 games at Lakeland and .212 in 59 games at London to end his affiliated career.

Woodruff, however, returned three seasons later, with the independent Tyler Wildcatters. 

"I'm only 27, I think that I still have a shot, and this league is a perfect opportunity," Woodruff told The Tyler Morning Telegraph upon signing. "I need to put up some good numbers an see what can happen."

Woodruff eventually played two seasons for Tyler. He hit .267 his first year and .265 in his second, to end his career.

1990 Minor League Tally 
Players/Coaches Featured:3,762
Made the Majors:1,273-33.8%
Never Made Majors:2,489-66.2%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors:524
10+ Seasons in the Minors:312

Friday, October 22, 2021

Lee Elia made the bigs as a player, manager and as a coach; Is remembered for what he said


Managing the Phillies' AAA club late in 1979, Lee Elia found himself looking ahead, maybe to a shot at managing the big club in 1980, The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote.

"I'd like to go there," Elia told The Inquirer then. "I'd be a liar if I said I didn't. But whatever happens, happens."

For Elia, he didn't make it up to Philadelphia that next year, but he did make it to the majors two years later, as manager of the Cubs in 1982.

His tenure in Chicago, however, ended up being marked by something else Elia definitely did say - a three-minute long recorded, frustrated tirade that has ended up following him for the rest of a long career in baseball.

Elia's long career began in 1959, signed by the Phillies as a free agent out of the University of Delaware.

Elia started as a player at short-season Elmira. He made AA Chattanooga in 1961, then AAA Buffalo in 1962. After moving to the White Sox system, he finally broke through to the majors in Chicago in 1966.

Elia saw 80 games with the White Sox that year and hit .205. He then returned to the bigs two years later, with the Cubs. He saw 15 games and hit .176.

He's credited as briefly returning to the minors in 1969, then seeing another 16 games at AAA in 1973, ending his playing days.

By 1975, he'd started his coaching and managerial career. He managed at single-A Spartanburg that year,  then made AA Reading  in 1977 and AAA Oklahoma City in 1979.

Along the way, Elia worked with the Phillies' Dallas Green. After Green moved to the Cubs as general manager, he soon brought Elia over, too, as Cubs manager for 1982.

"We kind of think alike," Elia told reporters of Green after being hired. "We yell at each other a lot."

The next April, Green had something to yell at Elia about - his frustrated, expletive-laden tirade. After a rough start and an incident between fans and a couple of his players, he let out the three-minute-plus rant that included 49 bleeped words, by one count from ESPN, and included suggesting fans get jobs.

Elia didn't know he was being recorded, ESPN wrote later.

"I was completely oblivious," Elia recounted to ESPN in 2008. "With God as my witness, when Dallas called me to his office, I told him I had to get to Park Ridge to umpire my daughter's softball game. And he told me, 'If you don't get up here, you can start packing your bags.'"

Elia lasted four more months, before being fired.

Elia then returned to the Phillies, first as manager at AAA Portland, then as bench coach in Philadelphia. In June 1987, he was hired as manager himself.

"Lee was the only candidate I wanted. Lee is the perfect man for the job," Phillies President Bill Giles  told The Chicago Tribune after the hire.

Elia stayed on for 1988, but, with the team in last place, had been fired again by season's end.

He then spent a season as a Yankees base coach. In 1990, he returned to the Phillies as a minor league manager, at high-A Clearwater.

For 1993, he made it back to the majors, as bench coach for the Mariners. He continued as a coach in the majors, also spending time with the Blue Jays, Devil Rays and Orioles, most recently with the Mariners in 2008. 

In 2018, he served as a senior advisor for player development with the Braves.

1990 Minor League Tally 
Players/Coaches Featured:3,761
Made the Majors:1,273-33.9%-X
Never Made Majors:2,488-66.1%
5+ Seasons in the Majors:524
10+ Seasons in the Minors:312

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Shelby McDonald impressed in college; Saw three pro seasons, made AA


Lee College found itself eliminated from the postseason after this late-April 1987 game and the elimination came at the hands of Alvin Community College pitcher Shelby McDonald, The Baytown Sun wrote.

McDonald gave up six hits for the 9-1 win and Lee coach Dick Smith could only praise the hurler McDonald to The Sun.

"You have to give their pitcher a lot of credit," Smith told The Sun. "He really did a heck of a job."

McDonald eventually did a good enough job to turn pro. He saw three seasons - and was slated to start a fourth. He topped out at AA.

McDonald's career started that year in 1987, taken by the Phillies in the 33rd round of the draft out of Alvin.

At Alvin, McDonald threw a three-hit shutout in a February 1987 game. 

With the Phillies, he started at short-season Utica. He went 1-4 over 29 relief outings, with a 3.42 ERA. His win came in a two-batter August outing.

He played 1988 at single-A Spartanburg, going 6-6, with a 2.52 ERA over 47 outings. He saved 13. 

McDonald then saw single-A Clearwater for most of 1989, but also saw seven relief outings at AA Reading. He went 0-2 there, with a 2.89 ERA in his limited work.

McDonald returned to Clearwater to start 1990, but was quickly lost. He isn't recorded as playing in a game that year - though he did get a card. He never got into another.

1990 Minor League Tally 
Players/Coaches Featured:3,760
Made the Majors:1,272-33.8%
Never Made Majors:2,488-66.2%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors:524
10+ Seasons in the Minors:312

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Mark Randall's first love was hockey, but he played better baseball; Played in U.S., Canada and Europe

Mark Randall grew up in Canada, born in Hamilton. So, naturally, he loved hockey, but he loved baseball, too, he told The Allentown Morning Call in 1998.

But it was baseball he pursued.

"My first love is hockey, and I guess every Canadian wants to play hockey in the Olympics," Randall told The Morning Call that April. "But there came a point in my life where I had to decide between the two, and I was a little better at baseball."

Randall spoke to The Morning Call as a member of the independent Allentown Ambassadors. He also spoke as a representative of Canada in his chosen sport, vying for that summer's World Championship tournament.

Randall's pro career eventually took him to eight seasons - and even to Europe. His affiliated career saw him top out at high-A.

Randall's career began in 1989, taken by the Phillies in the 23rd round of the draft out of Saddleback College in California.

Randall started with the Phillies at rookie Martinsville.  He went 2-2 over 27 relief outings, with a 2.51 ERA. He picked up one of his relief wins in a July game.

Randall moved to high-A Clearwater and single-A Spartanburg for 1990, then Spartanburg for all of 1991. He went 4-7, with a 3.65 ERA over 43 relief outings in 1991.

He played 1992 again between Clearwater and Spartanburg, then ended his Phillies career in 1993 at Clearwater.

Randall isn't credited as playing in the U.S. again until 1997, when he signed with Allentown. But in between, he played in Europe, winning a title in Sweden.

He saw two seasons at Allentown, turning in a 1.77 ERA over 26 relief appearances there. He then is credited with six outings at independent Edmonton in 2006 and later coached there.

In 2016, he headed the baseball program at the Vimy Ridge Academy in Edmonton and helped start the University of Alberta's first team.

"If a player is good enough, (scouts) are going to find them regardless of where they play," Randall told The Gateway Online that year.

1990 Minor League Tally 
Players/Coaches Featured:3,759
Made the Majors:1,272-33.8%
Never Made Majors:2,487-66.2%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors:524
10+ Seasons in the Minors:312

Monday, October 18, 2021

Joe Millette made the bigs, had a little fun, played the field over two seasons


Upon Joe Millette's arrival in Philadelphia for his first big league call-up in July 1992, The Philadelphia Daily News noted lack of scouting interest out of college meant he'd almost given up the game then.

But Millette kept at it, and kept his hopes alive. Four years later, the energetic shortstop made his major league debut, The Daily News wrote.

"I want to play the field, get some hits, have a little fun," Millette told The Daily News that July.

Millette went on to have fun in the majors over two seasons, 43 appearances.

Millette's career began in 1988, signed by the Phillies as an undrafted free agent out of St. Mary's College in California.

Millette first hit the field for the Phillies in 1989, at single-A Spartanburg and short-season Batavia. He saw 71 games and hit .239.

He then played 1990 at high-A Clearwater, where he hit just .183 over 108 games, but still made the league All-Star game on the strength of his defense. In the game, however, his defense failed him, but he scored a run.

"Yeah, at least I scored a run," Millette told The Tampa Tribune afterward. "It wasn't all bad. I ust wish it would have been a little better."

Millette spent most of 1991 at AA Reading, then started 1992 at AAA Scranton. Then, that July, he made Philadelphia.

Millette saw 33 appearances for the Phillies that year. He hit .205. The next April, back at AAA, Millette's manager George Culver offered praise of Millette to The Wilkes-Barre Times Leader.

"Joe's been incredible," Culver told The Times Leader. "If there was ever a guy you pull for, it's him. He's a Tommy Barrett-type kid, he wears his heart on his sleeve."

Millette then returned to the Phillies for 10 more games that year. He went 2 for 10 to end his big league career. 

Millette moved to the Marlins and AAA Edmonton for 1994 and AAA Charlotte for 1995. He saw the Pirates and AAA Calgary in 1996 and AA and AAA with the Mariners in 1997. He's credited with one final appearance in 1998, with the Cubs at West Tennessee to end his career.

1990 Minor League Tally 
Players/Coaches Featured:3,758
Made the Majors:1,272-33.9%-X
Never Made Majors:2,486-66.1%
5+ Seasons in the Majors:524
10+ Seasons in the Minors:312

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Lee Langley suffered devastating on-field eye injury, then returned for one more season


Late in Lee Langley's career, he suffered a devastating injury on the mound in independent ball. A comebacker caught him right above his right eye. The result: legal blindness in that eye, The Marin Independent Journal wrote.

But that was late in his career, not the end of it. Langley battled his way back and took the mound again the next season, in 1997, with the help of a hockey helmet. He explained to The Independent Journal why.

"This is my heart's desire," Langley told The Independent Journal. "I can't let that four-ounce ball decide my future."

Langley had played a decade in the pros by that point, including seven spent in affiliated ball where he'd topped out at high-A. He returned to independent ball, where he suffered his eye injury. Post-eye injury, he took the mound for part of one more season, at independent Moose Jaw.

Langley's career began in 1986, taken by the Dodgers in the third round of the January draft out of Linn-Benton Community College in Oregon.

Langley started with the Dodgers between the rookie Gulf Coast League and rookie Great Falls. He  went 1-1 over 15 outings, eight starts, with a 3.60 ERA.

He saw both levels again in 1987, with a brief, five-game look at single-A Vero Beach. That August, with Great Falls, Langley threw a complete game two-hitter for the win. He cited pitching coach Jim Brewer for his success there, according to The Great Falls Tribune.

"He has helped me so much," Langley told The Tribune. "With mechanics, motion, everything."

Langley played 1988 at single-A Bakersfield, then moved to the Phillies system and single-A Clearwater in 1989. He returned to Clearwater at high-A to start 1990, then moved to high-A Reno.

He played 1991 between Clearwater and high-A Miami, then 1992 again at Clearwater. He went 7-4, with a 2.70 ERA during that 1992 season.

Langley isn't credited as playing again until 1995, at independent Sonoma County. He went 5-3 there , with a 2.65 ERA. He also earned the nickname "The Rooster" for his unusual delivery where he almost bobbed his head at the end, his hometown Salem Statesman Journal wrote after his injury in July 1996.

The bob contributed to him losing sight of the batted ball, The Statesman Journal wrote. He tried to raise his glove up, but it hit and shattered his cheekbone.

"The hospital said they got 400 calls that first day," Langley relayed to The Statesman Journal. "That was so unbelievable. The fans really like me here."

The injury ended Langley's 1996 season with 13 relief appearances and a 1.38 ERA. He attempted his return with Sonoma County, but instead caught on with Moose Jaw. He saw 11 relief appearances, but ended with a 11.57 ERA and announced his retirement.

1990 Minor League Tally 
Players/Coaches Featured:3,757
Made the Majors:1,271-33.8%
Never Made Majors:2,486-66.2%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors:524
10+ Seasons in the Minors:312-X

Friday, October 15, 2021

John Martin played a decade in the minors, then started a new career as a coach


Days after being released by the Phillies from AAA Scranton in 1989, John Martin got a call from Lance Nichols, head of the Philadelphia minor league system, The Scranton Times-Tribune wrote.

He'd played into his 10th professional season, but hadn't made the majors. He also wasn't sure what to do, The Times-Tribune wrote.

"He asked me if I'd be interested in possibly coaching," Martin told The Times-Tribune. "I told him I'd think about it and that I liked the idea. I wanted to stay in baseball."

Martin did stay in, embarking on a new career as a minor league pitching coach, and later a scout.

Martin's career began in 1980, taken by the Cardinals in the 16th round of the draft out of the University of Washington. Martin was also sometimes credited as John A. Martin.

Martin started with the Phillies at St. Petersburg and single-A Gastonia. He went 3-6 overall, with a 5.94 ERA.

He returned to Gastonia for 1981, then saw single-A St. Petersburg for 1982 and 1983. He went 14-10, with a 2.68 ERA in 1983. He saw single-A Springfield and AA Arkansas in 1984. He threw a no-hitter at Springfield that August.

In 1985, he played most of the year at Arkansas, going 8-8, with a 3.30 ERA and made the league All-Star team. He also saw AAA for the first time, two outings at Louisville.

Martin saw Louisville full time in 1987 and 1988, but didn't see St. Louis. He then signed with the Phillies for 1989 and started at Scranton until his release.

His first coaching stop came at rookie Martinsville. He then saw high-A Clearwater for 1990. He later coached at short-season Batavia and single-A Piedmont. He's later credited as serving as a scout for the Marlins and then the Orioles.

1990 Minor League Tally 
Players/Coaches Featured:3,756
Made the Majors:1,271-33.8%
Never Made Majors:2,485-66.2%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors:524
10+ Seasons in the Minors:311-X