During the broadcast of Shohei Ohtani’s MLB pitching debut today on MLB Network, it was noted that only three players in big league history have produced both a 10-win season and a 10-home run season at some point in their career. Ohtani, whom the Los Angeles Angels plan to use as both a DH and a starting pitcher, did it in the same season twice in Japan. The great Babe Ruth did both in 1918, when he was with the Boston Red Sox, going 13-7 on the mound and hitting 11 homers, the first of 17 straight double-digit homer seasons. Rick Ankiel, who broke in as a pitcher and converted to the outfield, did it during his career (1999-2013) but not in the same season. The only other player to achieve this impressive feat was Jackson native Ewell Albert “Reb” Russell, who played in the early 1900s. Russell, a left-hander, won 23 games as a rookie for the Chicago White Sox in 1913 and posted three other double-digit win seasons before hurting his arm in 1918. He spent some time in the minors, came back to the big leagues in 1922 with Pittsburgh and belted 12 homers in 60 games. He hit nine more the next year in what was his final fling in the majors.
Fifty years ago this season, Jim Miles made his big league debut. The Grenada native did not make much of an imprint, appearing in just 13 games for the Washington Senators over two years in The Show. Miles, of course, is much better known for what he did after pro ball: coaching at Northwest Mississippi Community College, his alma mater, for 20 years. The Rangers’ field in Senatobia now bears his name. Also in 1968, Bill Melton, a Gulfport native, debuted with the Chicago White Sox and went on to make quite a dent. Melton, sometimes called “Beltin’ Bill,” hit 160 career homers in 10 seasons and won an American League home run crown with 33 in 1971. If Melton isn’t the best third baseman from the Magnolia State, Charlie Hayes is. The Hattiesburg native made his MLB debut 30 years ago and went on to bat .262 with 144 homers over 14 years. Hayes won a World Series ring with the 1996 New York Yankees. Among the first Mississippians to play in the majors was Dode Criss of Sherman; he broke in 110 years ago – 1908 – with the St. Louis Browns and hit a sweet .341 in 82 at-bats that year. Morton native Atley Donald came along 80 years ago, playing the first of his eight seasons with the Yankees in 1938. “Swampy” won 65 games all told and a World Series in 1941. Hard to believe, but it has been 20 years since Byram’s Chad Bradford – he of Moneyball fame — arrived in the big leagues. The Hinds Community College and Southern Miss alum, known for his submarine-style delivery, posted a 3.26 ERA in 561 games – and a 0.39 in 24 postseason appearances. Time marches on: Bradford’s son Keller now pitches for USM.