Saturday, March 31, 2012

Jim Essian, Game-Winner - Playing Days

It was something everyone dreamed about, Jim Essian told The Associated Press. And it happened to Essian. Finally.

"Fifteen years of pro ball and it's the first time I ever won a game in the ninth inning," Essian told The AP hitting a game-winning home run in April 1984. "I guess I was a little slow in circling the bases, but I was excited and I enjoyed it."

Essian was in his 12th season with time in the majors that year. It was also his last as a player. But, in a career that began in 1969, signed by the Phillies as an amateur free agent, Essian's career in baseball would continue as a manager in the minors. He would also return to the majors, as the manager of the Cubs.

Essian got into his first games as a pro in 1970, joining the Phillies out of Troy High School in Illinois. He split that first year between rookie Pulaski and single-A Spartanburg.

Essian made AA Reading in 1972, returning there for 1973. He then jumped directly to Philadelphia in September, getting into two games, three at bats and no hits.

Essian returned to Philadelphia for 17 games in 1974, then two in 1975. He got his first regular major league time in 1976 with the White Sox, getting into 78 games and hitting .246.

In 1977, Essian hit his first major league home run. He also hit nine more. In August, the catcher sold a play at the plate getting Ranger runner Bump Wills out. Essian, though, admitted to The AP later, "If they had a replay, it might show Wills was safe."

Essian stayed with the White Sox for those two seasons, before joining the Athletics after a trade. He got his most major league time that first year with Oakland, 126 games.

In 1979, Essian got into 98 games, hitting .243. He then hit .232 for Oakland in 1980. Moving back to the White Sox for 1981, Essian got into just 27 games. In 1982, with Seattle, Essian got into 48 games.

With the Mariners, Essian also hit three home runs, one in a May game. He also knocked in four runs, and broke out of a personal hitting skid.

"It's not that I'm doing things wrong physically, but when I'm in a slump my biggest problem is getting mentally prepared," Essian told UPI afterward. "When I'm in a slump, I don't take advantage of mistakes."

Essian played two more seasons, 48 games with the Indians in 1983 and 63 final games with the Athletics.

Essian's managerial career started the next season, down in the single-A Florida State League in Miami.

Read about Jim Essian's managerial career: Jim Essian, Risk-Taker

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