Baseball History on April 3

BIRTH ANNOUNCEMENTS:

1854 Joe Ellick

According to MLB Profiles, 1871-1900 (Vol. 1), Ellick was a baseball nomad – he played all over the country for various clubs and teams from about 1872 into the 1880s.  Occasionally, he’d get a few games in the majors – his longest stay was 92 games with the Chicago franchise in the Union Association.  Later, he managed and umpired, though – much like the rest of his baseball career – he moved around some.

After his career, he had a number of jobs for the railroad, then in the auditor’s office of a meatpacker, and finally as a cigar maker before passing away in Kansas City in 1923.

1856 Guy Hecker

One of my favorite personalities of the early days of baseball, Hecker was a remarkable pitcher – threw a no-hitter once and led the American Assoiciation with 52 wins in 1884.  He was a pretty good hitter, too – once led the association in batting average at .341 in 1886.  He then formed semi-professional teams in Pennsylvania’s Oil Country where he would manage and play first base.  Hecker’s Hitters – a team in Oil City, PA, would frequently play (and win) exhibitions over teams from Pittsburgh and Washington.

Among the odd records in Hecker’s professional career – he once had three homers and three singles (and a walk), scoring seven runs (still a MLB record) while being the winning pitcher in the second game of a August 15 doubleheader.

Bill Bailey wrote an excellent bio for SABR:

1860 Tom Lynch

National League umpire in the 1880s and 1890s.

1864 Bill Schwartz

Briefly played two games for Columbus in 1883, then was able to get a gig with the Cincinnati Outlaw Reds of the Union Association, but only played 29 games there.  His major league career was over just after his 20th birthday.

1867 Paul McSweeney

St. Louis native who must have played semi-pro ball in the river city during his youth.  The Browns needed help for a few games in 1891 and McSweeney got to play in three games as a second baseman and third baseman.  He got three hits, a double and two RBI, even stole a base.  However, he committed eight (!) errors in the field – one every fourth inning he played – and was sent back to the sandlots.

1875 John Pappalau

Holy Cross grad, got to pitch in two games – one in relief, and one was a complete game loss – for the Cleveland Spiders in 1897.

1879 John Frill

John Edmund Frill was a former artillery construction worker for the US Army around the time of the Spanish-American War who later worked his way from the low minors all the way to the New York Highlanders.

Read his biography here.

1886 Bert Graham

Eight games with the Browns in 1910.  He was pulled out of the Cotton States League by Robert Hedges, but it didn’t work out…  Back to the minors he went, playing in several B level leagues for about a decade.

1892 Harry Kingman

Played four games with the Yankees in 1914.

Except, of course, that Kingman was the first person born on mainland China to play in the majors – his parents were missionaries – and he had a remarkably long career in education and missionary work.

This remarkable story was written by Bob Timmermann for SABR.

1905 Gordie Hinkle

Played in 27 games for the 1934 Red Sox, a catcher who batted but .173 and struck out nearly a third of the time.  His brother, Clarke, was a Hall of Fame fullback with the Green Bay Packers.

Hinkle coached into the late 1940s, then joined Mobil Oil until his retirement.

Bill Nowlin penned this bio for SABR.

1919 Larry Shepard

Minor league pitcher, lost five years to World War II, and never made it to the bigs even though he pitched from 1941 to 1958.  Was a coach for years after that, though, and briefly managed the Pirates in the late 1960s.  Went back to coaching in 1970 and was the pitching coach for the Big Red Machine under Sparky Anderson.

1921 Dick Conger

UCLA student signed by the Tigers in 1940.  Pitched briefly for Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia from 1940 to 1943.  Got the call of duty in World War II, then returned to the minors when he got back in 1946.

Died in his native LA in 1970.

1926 Alex Grammas

Fine fielding shortstop for St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Chicago in the 1950s and 1960s.  Some of you may remember him for his coaching time – he managed the Brewers in the 1970s, and was a coach for Sparky Anderson on both his Cincinnati and Detroit teams.

1929 Art Ditmar

The last pitcher to win a game with the Philadelphia As as a rookie in 1954, he suffered through a 12 – 22 season in Kansas City before being traded to the Yankees in 1957.

Casey Stengel got a lot out of Ditmar for five seasons, including a 15 – 9 mark in 1960.  However, Ditmar lost two games in the 1960 World Series and his arm didn’t seem as solid in 1961.  He was traded back to Kansas City and his career ended after just 21.2 innings with the As in 1962.

Ditmar was incorrectly identified by a radio broadcaster as the guy who served up the Bill Mazeroski homer to end the 1960 World Series – that sound byte was later used in a Lite Beer commercial about 20 years later.  Ditmar sued unsuccessfully to collect damages for the use of his name.

1930 Wally Moon

Texas A&M grad, homered in his first at bat with St. Louis in 1954 and beat out Hank Aaron for rookie of the year.  A decent hitter for a few years, was traded to the Dodgers after a down season and helped them to the World Series in 1963 and 1965.

1936 Don Rowe

Appeared in 26 games, once as a starter, for the 1963 Mets – never got a decision.

By the time Rowe was on the Mets, he had spent a decade pitching in the minors but never being good enough to get the call to the Pirates, who had his rights from 1954 to 1962.  His career ended after the 1967 season and he took on coaching at various levels, including a tour with the White Sox in 1988 as a pitching instructor.  He passed away in 2005 of Parkinson’s disease.

1939 Hawk Taylor

Bonus baby signing of the Braves right out of high school and his first taste of the majors was a World Series win…  Robert Dale Taylor was born in Metropolis, IL and got the nickname from a movie serial of the period.

Bounced around the majors and minors for nearly 15 years and only once was a regular – that with the 1964 Mets when he was in some odd Stengel platoon system.

Steven Schmitt penned this SABR Bio:

1940 Jose Vidal

Indians and Pilots outfielder of the late 1960s.  At a time nobody was getting many hits, Vidal hit .164 in 165 plate appearances and that cost him a regular job.

1943 Barry Moore

Senators pitcher of the 1960s taken out of Pfeiffer University in 1962.  Also pitched briefly for Cleveland and the White Sox.  Moore won 26 of 63 decisions in a six year career.

1944 Gomer Hodge

Harold Hodge was a kindly southern gentleman signed by the Indians in 1963.  Born in Rutherfordton, North Carolina, Hodge spent eight years in the minors as a switch hitting line drive hitter who could play nearly every position on the field.

In 1971, he made the Indians out of spring training and managed to make quite the impression in his first three games.  He had four hits in four at bats, a run scored, two doubles, and four RBI.  Excited, he told his teammates, “Golly, fellas, I’m hitting 4.000!”

His southern accent and physical resemblance to Jim Nabors earned Hodge the nickname “Gomer”, and – like everything else – Hodge took it with a smile.

His batting fell off – 1971 was his only season in the bigs.  However, Hodge spent most of the next 30 years in baseball as a coach, manager, or scout.  He’s the one who first noticed Vlad Guerrero, for example.

Hodge contracted ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and passed away 13 May 2007.

1946 Rod Gaspar

Cal State – Long Beach grad taken in the second round by the Mets in 1967 (this, after passing on being drafted by the Mets in 1966 in the 18th round).  Made the club as a 4th outfielder in 1969 when Art Shamsky got injured and hung around a second season.

Gaspar was traded to San Diego to complete the Ron Herbel acquisition, played with the Padres on two occasions, and spent the bulk of his minor league career in Hawaii.  Eventually, the travel and minor league accommodations got old and he got involved in financial services instead.

Gaspar lost a son to Leukemia; another son was drafted by the Astros but hurt his arm before making the bigs.

Maxwell Kates penned this biography for SABR.

1954 Larry Littleton

Charlotte native who was drafted by the Pirates in the first round out of the University of Georgia in 1976.  He was also drafted in the first round by Boston in 1975, but chose to stay in school one more year…

As an outfielder, he wasn’t going to take a job away from Dave Parker, Bill Robinson, or Willie Stargell,…  He got a break, though, and was traded to Cleveland for reliever Larry Anderson.  Littleton had his best spring training ever and made his debut as a pinch hitter in April, 1981 – in 26 games he batted 27 times, getting 23 at bats, three walks, an RBI on a sacrifice fly, but not a single hit.  His 0/23 is the worst oh-fer in MLB history by a non-pitcher.

Still, that season had value.  He was introduced to someone who helped getting Littleton a job with Merrill Lynch.  Life works out sometimes.

1956 Darrell Jackson

Arizona State grad taken by Minnesota in the 1977 draft…  Jackson made the bigs in 1978, went 9 – 9 as a regular member of the 1980 rotation, but when his ERA ballooned in 1982 (a shoulder injury contributing to this), his career was over.

He returned to his native Los Angeles and apparently took up a pretty significant addition – crack cocaine and alcohol – and it nearly ruined his life.  He found help, and now works as a counselor preventing kids from following in those footsteps.

1958 Gary Pettis

Five time gold glove winner – just amazingly fast and smooth as a centerfielder.  At one time, he held the Angels record for stolen bases in a season (56 in 1985).  Career ended when he couldn’t outrun his strikeout rates.

One year, the face on his baseball card was that of his kid brother.

1960 Tim Conroy

First round draft pick by Oakland in 1978 and brought up to the majors at just 18 years old (similar to Mike Morgan).  Sent back to the minors, he got back to the bigs in 1982 and alternated between starting and relieving for a few years.  He was traded (with Mike Heath) to the Cardinals for Joaquin Andujar in 1985 and pitched for two seasons in St. Louis.

Since retiring, he’s been a scout and front office exec – first in Atlanta and now with the Royals.

1961 Tim Crews

Six years as a pitcher for the Dodgers, signed with the Indians for 1993.  Then, during spring training, he drove his boat into an unlit dock (it was twilight) killing both him and Steve Olin, and seriously injuring Bob Ojeda.

Originally drafted by the Brewers in the second round in 1981, was traded with Tim
Leary to the Dodgers for Greg Brock.

1961 Doug Baker

Arizona State grad drafted by the Tigers in 1982.  Got to the Tigers in 1984, backing up Trammell and Whitaker (a lineup nobody could crack as they weren’t going anywhere), and played in 43 games as Trammell suffered with a sore throwing arm.  Could never hit, though, so after seven years as a AAAA infielder for Detroit and Minnesota, his career ended.

Older brother Dave also made it to the majors with Toronto in 1982.

1962 Dave Miley

Career minor leaguer, then coach.  Spent three years as manager for the Reds, and another decade after that as a AAA manager in the Yankees chain.

1962 Marty Clary

Detroit native taken in the third round by the Braves out of Northwestern in 1983.

Got a few appearances in 1987, then a regular turn in the rotation in 1989 where he was moderately successful (4 – 3, 3.15) despite only 30 strikeouts against 31 walks in 108.2 innings.  In 1990, he went 1 – 10 with a 5.67 ERA and went back to AAA for good.

1963 Chris Bosio

Second round pick of the Brewers in 1982, was one of the aces of the staff from 1987 to 1992, winning 30 games in his last two years there.  Crafty guy, threw strikes, but didn’t really blow guys away.  Signed a four-year deal with Seattle, but couldn’t stay healthy after that. Made three post-season starts with the Mariners in 1995, but lost only decision.  Threw a no-hitter against the Red Sox in April, 1993.  Finished with a 94-93 career won-loss mark.

Been a pitching coach for several organizations since 1998, and now a pitching coach with the Cubs.

1967 Danny Leon

Venezuelan righty made 15 appearances for Texas in 1992, winning one of two decisions.  Originally signed by the Expos, Detroit tried him for a year, and then Texas.  Sent back to AAA by the Rangers in 1993, he had an ERA around 7.00 and was done.

1967 Miguel Garcia

Venezuelan lefty, smallish, who briefly pitched with the Angels and Pirates.  Pittsburgh tried to make a starter out of him in 1990 and that failed miserably.

1968 Mike Lansing

I first saw him play for Wichita State in 1989…  Drafted by an independent Miami team in 1990, joined the Expos in 1993.

He was immediately an impact infielder, moving to second base.  In his best years, he’d have double-digit homers and stolen bases, bat around .280, and play a solid second base.  And yet, he was traded to Colorado for three prospects…

A regular in 1998 but injured in 1999, he was traded in mid-2000 to the Red Sox, struggled, and then to Cleveland – but never played a game there.

Kirk Radomski named Lansing in the Mitchell Report – he was recommended to Radomski by David Segui.  This was after Lansing was out of the majors – perhaps he was trying to get back.  No matter – he never played in the majors again.

A businessman now, Lansing is the Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Club of the Los Angeles Harbor.

1971 Quilvio Veras

Dominican infielder signed by the Mets in 1989.  Took a while to get to the bigs, but once there, he established himself as a threat on the bases.  Stole 56 bases as a rookie with Florida in 1995, leading the NL.  Two years later, he was traded to San Diego, and then again to Atlanta.

Involved in trades with many big names – Mets sent him to Florida for Carl Everett.  The Marlins sent him to San Diego for Dustin Hermanson, and then the Padres moved Veras, Wally Joyner, and Reggie Sanders to Atlanta for Bret Boone, Ryan Klesko, and Jason Shiell.

Signed on as a free agent with both Boston and Los Angeles, but never played in a game for either club.

1972 Steve Soderstrom

First round pick out of Cal-State Fresno in 1993 for the Giants and made three starts for them in 1996, winning two.  And that was it.  Spent a number of years in the minors trying to get back – now runs a youth sports academy.

1974 Jim Pittsley

First round pick of the Royals whose arm injuries prevented him from having much of a career.

1975 Koji Uehara

After years pitching in Japan, Uehara was brought to the US by Baltimore for the 2009 season as a starter.  Turned into a reliever the next season and has been one of the most effective relievers (99 career saves) ever since.  Closer for the Red Sox the last three seasons, but expected to be a set up man in 2016.

1978 Bobby Hill

University of Miami shortstop taken in the second round by the Cubs in 2000.  Moved to second base, hit all the way through the minors and got his first chance in 2002 with Chicago.  Part of the Aramis Ramirez trade – didn’t seem to make a huge mark in the majors and yet was a .262 hitter with patience at the plate.

Currently the head coach of the Mission College (CAL) baseball team.

1980 Justin Christian

Speedy outfielder for the Yankees in 2008, Giants in 2011 and 2012.  Still active – played in Mexico last season.

1981 Ryan Doumit

Second round pick by the Pirates in 2009, had a nice ten year career as a catcher, first baseman, outfielder with three teams.

Ryan Doumit Trivia:  Third on the Pirates career list for homers by a catcher (Kendall – 66, Pena – 63, Doumit – 55).  Actually homered on back-to-back nights off of Trevor Hoffman (4/27 and 4/28, 2010).

1984 Kyle Phillips

Twins took this catcher out of high school in 2002.  Got a quick look in 2009 with the Blue Jays, then 36 games with the Padres in 2011 (See Luis Martinez, below).

Originally signed to be a scout after the 2011 season, but was still trying to play as of a couple of years ago…

1985 Luis Martinez

Miami native… Martinez, a catcher, got short stints with San Diego (2011) and Texas (2012).  Has played all over the country and with various teams…  Last seen in 2015 playing for Portland and Pawtucket in the Red Sox chain.

1985 Mike McClendon

Orlando native drafted by the Brewers out of Seminole Community College in 2006.  Went 5 – 0 in 35 relief appearances between 2010 and 2012.  Signed as a free agent by the Rockies in 2014, but now pitching in China.

1987 Jay Bruce

Beaumont, TX native taken in the first round by the Reds in 2005.  His batting average has fallen off the last couple of years, but he has averaged 26 homers a year since his 2008 debut.  Was an All-Star in 2011 and 2012, back when he had three straight years with more than 30 homers.

1987 Jason Kipnis

Second baseman – a second round pick by Cleveland in 2009 out of Arizona State – who has skill at the plate and in the field.  A two-time All-Star, he batted .303 last year – seventh in the AL – and his 43 doubles were second in the AL.

I’m a fan – he’s from Northbrook, IL and went to Glenbrook North HS where my cousins attended (many more years ago, though).  Also a charter member of the Taylor Hooten Foundation – a group that advocates against the use of performance enhancing drug use by kids.

1991 Tom Murphy

Third round pick of the Rockies in 2012, a catcher with some power.  Twice has cleared twenty homers in a season in the minors, and three of his nine hits in a September call up last season were homers.

1992 Blake Swihart

Rookie with the Red Sox last year, Swihart is expected to log 100 games or so as a catcher for Boston in 2016.  A first round pick out of high school in 2011, Swihart has hit at every level and appears to have decent defensive tools.

OBITUARIES:

1894 Billy Redmond
1909 George Barclay
1921 George Bechtel
1921 Pop Corkhill
1938 Charlie Brown
1938 Count Campau
1942 John Rudderham
1952 Dick Harley
1952 Phenomenal Smith
1953 Larry Benton
1956 Clay Roe
1956 Dolly Gray
1969 Charley Stanceu
1971 Jack Boyle
1972 General Crowder
1975 Sugar Cain
1977 Hank Steinbacher
1978 Ray French
1979 Harry Simpson
1980 Bob Linton
1980 Bob Trowbridge
1981 Clayton Lambert
1983 Mickey Livingston
1991 Whitey Miller
2002 Roy Nichols
2002 Karl Swanson
2006 Royce Lint
2010 Jim Pagliaroni

YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN THERE!

1989 Ken Griffey, Jr. just 19, doubles in his first professional at bat off of Oakland starter Dave Stewart.

TRANSACTION WIRE:

1931 The Browns sold Lu Blue to the White Sox for $15,000.  Blue gave the Sox one good year (.304 with one homer and 62 RBI – also 127 walks), but fell back in 1932 and was released the following spring.

1938 Washington signs a washed up Goose Goslin as a free agent.  Goslin got something like nine hits in 57 at bats in his final season.

1958 The Cubs send Bob Speake and cash to the Giants for outfielder Bobby Thomson.

1962 Minnesota releases infielder Billy Martin.  He’d come back and manage a few years later…

1966 New York signs non-drafted free agent Tom Seaver.

1974 The Phillies sign free agent outfielder Jay Johnstone.  That worked out pretty well for the Phillies…

1987 Oakland acquires Dennis Eckersley and Dan Rohn from the Cubs for minor leaguers Dave Wilder, Brian Guinn, and Mark Leonette.  Oakland won that deal…

1991 Chicago signs free agent DH Bo Jackson.

1994 Seattle signs free agent pitcher Goose Gossage.  He promptly beans four guys for smiling after hitting a homer in batting practice.

1995 Oakland signs free agent pitcher Dennis Eckersley – it was his last contract with the A’s.  By then, his ERA had been over four a couple of times and he soon would be in St. Louis.

2004 Cleveland sends Milton Bradley to the Dodgers for Franklin Gutierrez and a player to be named later (Andrew Brown).

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