Saluting The Top Black Players In AL History
ALSO: HURRICANE IAN'S AFTERMATH STILL IMPACTS SPRING TRAINING
Did you know…
With Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, the 2023 Mets have joined the 1986 White Sox (Tom Seaver and Steve Carlton) and the 2021 Dodgers (Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw) as the only teams to have multiple three-time Cy Young Award winners in their starting rotation . . .
Buck Showalter and Yogi Berra were the only managers to take both the Mets and Yankees into the playoffs . . .
Although his teams have never won a pennant, Showalter has the most Manager of the Year awards — four — in a tie with Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa . . .
Showalter’s advice to Team USA manager Mark DeRosa: “Make sure they all come back healthy” . . .
Rookie Marlins manager Skip Schumaker hit two home runs in one exhibition game for the Cardinals against the Dodgers on March 7, 2007 . . .
Before St. Louis rookie Jordan Walker did it this spring, the last major-leaguer aged 20 or less with a multi-homer exhibition game was Javier Baez of the Cubs on March 16, 2013 against the Royals . . .
The Cardinals are crippled by the World Baseball Classic, which is claiming an MLB-high 17 players off their roster, perhaps until the WBC finals March 21 . . .
San Franciso will travel an extra 11,094 miles this year — most in the majors — because of the new format that has all 30 teams facing each other . . .
Divisional games will be reduced from 19 to 13 under the new format.
The Greatest Black Baseball Players in American League History
By Matt Whitener
In part two of an observation in honor of Black History Month, we are taking a look at the best African-American player in history of each MLB franchise. After starting with the senior circuit last month, we’ll take a look at the American League this time, via their respective places in history, contributions to each franchise, their era, and the history of the game, at large.
Baltimore Orioles: Frank Robinson
Robinson made an immediate impact upon arrival with O’s in 1966, leading the American League with 49 home runs and 122 RBI, and helping the club to a World Series title. The standout season saw him win AL MVP and become the first player to ever win the honor in both leagues. For his career, Robinson would be elected an All-Star 14 times, hit .300 nine times and total 586 home runs, while also becoming the first African-American manager in MLB history.
Boston Red Sox: Jim Rice
Rice spent his entire 16-year career making Fenway Park his home, hitting 382 home runs, driving in 1451 runs and owning a .298 career average. An eight-time All-Star, Rice was elected AL MVP in 1978, when he led the league in hits (213), home runs (46), RBI (139), triples (15), OPS (.970). It marked a stretch of three consecutive years of Rice leading the AL in total bases, with a career-best 406.
Chicago White Sox: Frank Thomas
Perhaps no player has ever had more fitting nickname than “The Big Hurt”. Thomas was the premier right-handed hitter of the 1990s, hitting .320 during the decade and winning consecutive MVP awards in 1993 and ’94. For his career, Thomas hit 521 home runs, with five seasons of 40 or more long balls. Thomas remains the White Sox’ all-time leader in home runs, RBI, runs scored, extra base hits, doubles, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, among other figures.
Cleveland Guardians: Kenny Lofton
Lofton leveraged his substantial speed to become one of the most exciting leadoff hitters, base thieves and centerfielders of all-time. He led the AL in stolen bases five straight seasons between 1992-’96, averaging 65 per season and finished with 622 lifetime, 15th most all-time. A lifetime .299 hitter, with eight seasons of a .300 or better average, Lofton also brought home four Gold Glove Awards and four-times led the AL in outfield assists.
Detroit Tigers: Lou Whitaker
Whitaker spent his entire 19 year career as a Tiger, playing in the third-most games in club history. Along with Alan Trammell, Whitaker formed one of the great double play combos in baseball history. A five-time All-Star, four-time Silver Slugger winner and three-time Gold Glove recipient, Whitaker’s 75.1 WAR is the seventh-highest among second basemen all-time, with ranked above him enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
Kansas City Royals: Frank White
White spent 18 years at second base in Kansas City and was one of the most outstanding defensive infielders in the game. White earned eight Gold Gloves in his career, earing six consecutive coming between 1977 and 1982. In 1980, White won the first ALCS MVP award, after hitting .545 against the New York Yankees. In 1985, he contributed seven hits and six RBI during KC’s World Series win over the Cardinals.
Los Angeles Angels: Garrett Anderson
Anderson spent 15 years with the Halos and finished his career as a .293 hitter and owner of over 10 club records. Although mostly a quiet and somewhat overlooked contributor, the loudest moments of his career came during the 2002 All-Star Game, when he surprisingly won both the Home Run Derby and claimed All-Star Game MVP. To cap that career-best summer, he played a vital role in club’s lone World Series title, hitting .306, driving in a career-best 123 runs and leading the AL with 56 doubles.
Minnesota Twins: Kirby Puckett
The heart and soul of multiple World Series runs for the Twins, Puckett was one of the best centerfielders of his era. A .318 lifetime hitter with four 200 hit seasons, 10-time All-Star (all consecutive), six-time Gold Glove and Silver Slugger winner, he could truly do it all. The most enduring moment of his career via his Game 6 walk off home run in the 1991 World Series, which set the table for a legendary Game 7 and a second World Series title for Puckett.
New York Yankees: Derek Jeter
There are plenty of numbers that can be attributed to the career of Jeter. Whether it is the five World Series titles, the shortstop and Yankees career hits record, his iconic #2 or even number 1, for the number of votes that left him short of being a unanimous Hall of Famer. But the real legacy of Jeter was to see him perform in the moment, when the stakes were the highest. His impeccable knack for making just the right play or pulling off the big hit is his greatest contribution to the history of the game.
Oakland Athletics: Rickey Henderson
There is no more singularly unique player in history than Rickey (and if you don’t think so, just ask him). Unquestionably the greatest leadoff hitter of all-time, Henderson holds the all-time records for runs scored (2,295), leadoff home runs (81 – 27 more than any other player) and, of course, stolen bases. His 1,406 steals are 468 more than his closest competition and included three seasons of 100+ and 70 more seasons of 60+. Rickey even swiped 66 bases at age 39 – ridiculous.
Seattle Mariners: Ken Griffey, Jr.
‘The Kid’ remains the icon for an entire generation of baseball fans born in the 1980s, as his jaw-dropping home runs, exhilarating leaping catches in centerfield and unparalleled swagger set him apart from every athlete not named Michael Jordan in the 1990s. A 10-time Gold Glove winner with 630 home runs, Griffey remains one of the greatest superstars in the history of the sport and put baseball on the map in Northwest.
Tampa Bay Rays: David Price
Tampa made Price the top pick in the 2007 Draft and he made a beeline to the Majors shortly afterwards, debuting a year later and making an impact in pushing the Rays to their first World Series appearance. Price would go on to make four All-Star appearances in Tampa and win the 2012 Cy Young Award, going 20-5 with a 2.56 ERA. Lifetime, his 82 wins are second-best in franchise history.
Texas Rangers: Darren Oliver
Oliver spent three separate tenures in Texas, where he spent time as both a starter and operating out of the bullpen. He twice reached double figures in wins in 1996-97, making 30 starts in each season. His biggest impact in Arlington came over a decade later however, when he worked to a 2.40 ERA over 125 relief appearances in 2010 and 2011 as he entered his 40s.
Toronto Blue Jays: Joe Carter
Carter’s career went to another level when he arrived in Toronto in 1991. He made the first of five All-Star teams he would appear on as a Blue Jay and enjoyed the first of five 30 homer/100 RBI seasons he would post for the club. However, his most iconic moment would come two years later, when he connected for a World Series-ending walk-off homer in Game 6 against the Philadelphia Phillies, delivering a second-consecutive championship to Toronto.
Matt Whitener is a St. Louis-based writer, radio host and African-American baseball historian. He can be found on Facebook at his name, on Instagram at @CheapSeatFan and via email at WhitenerCSP@gmail.com.
Hurricane Ian Still Poses Problems For Florida’s West Coast
By Dan Schlossberg
Trees are down. Store signs are blown out. Street signs are missing.
The Tampa Bay Rays couldn’t salvage their park at Port Charlotte, while the Atlanta Braves spent more than $1 million — and many man-hours — unearthing the debris at CoolToday Park, 10 miles away in North Port.
Nearly six months after Hurricane Ian caused billions in damage to the Florida Gulf Coast, there are still blue tarps on houses, missing and destroyed signs everywhere, and twisted, cracked, and tangled trees.
To the outsider, it’s almost impossible to imagine what this place must have looked like right after the storm went through.
But it did wake up spring training officials, who realized that things could have been even worse — and can be in any future year.
The Rays retreated to their home park, the domed Tropicana Field, for all but one of their exhibition games. That one, against the New York Yankees, was played at Disney’s Champion Stadium, where the Braves trained for 21 years before coming to North Port.
Tampa Bay has also played several in-season games at Disney in an effort to expand the reach of its attendance-challenge franchise.
The Rays need a new ballpark, as Tropicana Field dates back to 1990 and is the only covered park in the majors where the dome is not retractable. Strange ground rules are called into play for every game at The Trop.
In addition, it’s location across the 25-mile causeway to St. Pete creates traffic nightmares at 5:00. The ballclub needs a new ballpark, whether it be in Tampa proper, Ybor City, Montreal, or some other location.
As for future hurricane damage, the 15-team Grapefruit League must depend entirely upon the vagaries of weather.
The Miami Marlins, of course, could follow the example of the Rays and train at home, where their ballpark does have the retractable dome Tampa Bay lacks.
Instead, the Marlins journey to Jupiter, thus becoming the only team to go north for spring training — with the possible exception of the Phoenix-based Arizona Diamondbacks.
Hurricanes have long influenced baseball scheduling. Peak season for American cyclones is June-September but they have occurred long after that.
The Marlins themselves had to move several games out of Miami because no one could get to the ballpark. And it happened more than once.
The reach of Hurricane Ian was widespread. A Hampton Inn & Suites on U.S. 41, also known as Tamiami Trail, opened less than a year before Ian struck, causing both damage and cancellations. Talk about a classic case of bad timing.
So here’s a word of advice: before making plans for spring training in 2024 or beyond, wait til hurricane season is over. The parks and teams you hope to see might not be where they were the year before.
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is the author of 40 baseball books and thousands of articles about the game. His byline can be found on forbes.com, Latino Sports, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, Memories & Dreams, and other outlets. E.mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I’m convinced that MLB has become nothing better than an annually adjusted, unsanctioned medical experiment, and its fans, trending older and thus fewer, are no more essential than lab rats.”
— New York Post sports columnist Phil Mushnick
Congratulations to Ronnie Gajownik, the 29-year-old female manager hired by the Arizona Diamondbacks to guide their Class High-A affiliate, after she served as bench coach for D’backs manager Torey Lovullo in a major-league game last weekend . . .
In his first outing for Boston after a two-year layoff, veteran lefty James Paxton suffered a Grade 1 hamstring strain that should keep him sidelined into the regular season . . .
Injured slugger Vlad Guerrero, Jr. (knee) has joined Toronto teammates Alejandro Kirk and Jordan Romano in withdrawing from the World Baseball Classic . . .
Oakland’s two-game exhibition series in Las Vegas last weekend has renewed rumors that the troubled franchise will relocate to Sin City as soon as next season . . .
Days after losing Gold Glove second baseman Brendan Rodgers — perhaps for the season — with shoulder surgery, the Rockies signed erstwhile Royals slugger Mike Moustakas . . .
The San Diego Padres, though successful at extending several of their stars, are worried that closer Josh Hader will test free agency this fall and outfielder Juan Soto will follow a year later . . .
Veteran outfielder Jason Heyward, missing in action the last few years, seems to be recovering at the Dodgers’ spring training complex in Arizona . . .
Miami’s muddled defensive picture got murkier when the team decided to shift Jazz Chisholm, Jr. from short to center, Joey Wendle from third to second, and free agent signee Jean Segura from second to third.
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