Don Blasingame, born on this date in 1932 in Corinth, did a little bit of everything in a whirlwind baseball career. He played for five teams, played in both leagues, made an All-Star team, appeared in a World Series, played and managed in Japan. He hit .258 for his 12-year MLB career (1955-66), the first five years of which were spent with St. Louis. Four times in his career, Blasingame got the only hit by his team in a game. An adept bunter, he played hard and he played fast, a style he once said he adopted from reading about Ty Cobb. Nicknamed “Blazer” and the “Corinth Comet,” Blasingame stole as many as 21 bases in a season and three times had eight triples or more. In 5,296 at-bats, he hit into just 43 double plays, one very 123.2 ABs. For reference: Billy Hamilton, the “Taylorsville Tornado,” one of the fastest players in the game today, has hit into one DP every 146.5 ABs. Blasingame, who died in 2005, was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 1980.
There was an under-the-radar Mississippi baseball aficionados moment late in the St. Louis-Detroit Grapefruit League game on Monday: The Tigers’ Kade Scivicque, a former Southwest Mississippi Community College star, took ex-Ole Miss standout Mike Mayers deep in the eighth inning. (Detroit won the game 9-5, but no one really cares about that.) It was the first hit in four at-bats of the spring for Scivicque, in Detroit’s camp as a non-roster invitee. An All-SEC catcher at LSU, he was drafted in the fourth round by the Tigers in 2015, traded to Atlanta (spending some time with the Mississippi Braves), released and re-signed by Detroit (twice). He’s a .268 career hitter in the minors, having reached Triple-A. Mayers, a third-round pick by St. Louis in 2013, has a 6.75 ERA in three spring appearances. He spent most of 2018 in the big leagues, posting a 4.70 ERA with two wins, a save and six holds in 50 games, and figures to land a bullpen job again this season. … Delta State product Trent Giambrone, in the Chicago Cubs’ camp as a non-roster player, went 0-for-1 with a walk and two runs on Monday; he is 7-for-16 this spring with a .471 on-base average, two homers, three RBIs and four runs. … Former Harrison Central High standout Bobby Bradley, in Cleveland’s camp as a 40-man roster member for the first time, went 0-for-1 as a sub and has gotten just three at-bats this spring. He’ll likely be back in Triple-A. … Ex-Ole Miss star Aaron Barrett, making a valiant comeback attempt with Washington, worked a scoreless inning, cutting his ERA to 12.00 in three appearances. Barrett has endured myriad injuries (see previous posts) since his last MLB game in 2015. … Itawamba CC alum Tim Dillard, 35 and in his 18th pro season, suffered a blown save for Texas and saw his ERA climb to 23.14 in three outings. Dillard, son of ex-big leaguer Steve, last pitched in the majors in 2012 with Milwaukee, which drafted him in 2002.
If you’re looking for a potential breakout player among Mississippians in the majors for 2019, keep an eye on Dakota Hudson in St. Louis. The 6-foot-5 right-hander out of Mississippi State, who posted a 2.63 ERA for the Cardinals in 26 relief appearances last summer, could be poised for a bigger role this coming season. Though he isn’t currently listed in the rotation depth chart, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him earn a spot there. Recently named the Cardinals’ minor league pitcher of the year, Hudson was 13-3 with a 2.50 ERA in 17 starts at Triple-A Memphis. He was also the Pacific Coast League’s pitcher of the year and an All-Star Futures Game participant. He was the Double-A Texas League pitcher of the year in 2017. “He’s got a great attitude with how he approaches the game and he’s got confidence in his stuff because he’s had some success,” Memphis manager Stubby Clapp told milb.com. “When you add those two things together, anything good can happen.” Hudson blossomed as a junior in Starkville, going 9-5, 2.55 in 17 starts in 2016. St. Louis picked him with the 34th overall selection that summer, and he has zoomed up the ladder. Hudson doesn’t get a lot of strikeouts but does get ground balls with a hard sinker. He allowed just one home run all of 2018, none with the Cardinals. If Hudson were a stock, you’d buy it.
Ole Miss product Chris Ellis, coming off a good 2018 minor league campaign, is getting some off-season work in the Dominican Winter League. The right-hander threw seven shutout innings to get a win on Wednesday and has yet to allow an earned run in three starts (17 2/3 innings) for Escogido. Ellis went 10-4, 3.93 at the Double-A and Triple-A levels in the St. Louis system in 2018. This was the fifth year in pro ball for Ellis, 26, a former third-round draftee (by the Los Angeles Angels) who starred for the Mississippi Braves in 2016. … Louis Coleman, the former Pillow Academy star from Greenwood, and Southwest Mississippi Community College alum Kade Scivicque have re-signed with Detroit on minor league deals. Veteran big leaguer Coleman, a right-handed reliever, had a 3.51 ERA in 51 games with the Tigers last season. Scivicque, a catcher, played in Triple-A in 2018. … Jackson Prep’s Jerrion Ealy and Southern Miss’ Matt Wallner, both outfielders, made mlb.com’s latest list of the top 50 2019 draft prospects. Ealy, a two-sport star and Ole Miss commit, is ranked No. 18, while Wallner, who has 35 homers in his two seasons in Hattiesburg, is No. 26. Ealy’s skill set is compared to that of Kyler Murray, the Oklahoma quarterback who has signed to play pro baseball with Oakland. … Former Mississippi State standout Hunter Stovall didn’t impress just with his bat during his pro debut this summer. He also played five different positions at rookie-level Grand Junction in the Colorado system, and he may add a sixth to his resume in 2019. Stovall, a catcher in high school before shifting to the infield at State, brushed up on his catching skills in Instructional League this fall. “He’s got a chance to be a true super-utility (player),” Rockies farm director Zach Wilson told Baseball America. The 5-foot-7, 170-pound Stovall, a 21st-round pick last June, homered in his first two at-bats for Grand Junction and wound up at .296 with 10 bombs and 41 RBIs in 49 games. He played primarily second base. … Charlie Hayes, the Hattiesburg native and ex-Forrest County AHS star, was a good big league third baseman for a long time. He batted .262 with 144 homers over 14 seasons and won a World Series ring with the 1996 New York Yankees. That’s a tough act for son Ke’Bryan to follow – but there are those who think he’s up to the task. Ke’Bryan Hayes, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ first-round pick out of a Texas high school in 2015, was the organization’s minor league player of the year in 2018. He batted .293 with seven homers, seven triples, 31 doubles and 12 stolen bases in the Double-A Eastern League. He also won a Gold Glove and played in the All-Star Futures Game. “I think we’re looking at him long term to be the anchor in our infield and our lineup in Pittsburgh at some point,” farm director Larry Broadway told milb.com. That point could come in 2019.
The final career postseason appearance for Roy Oswalt came on this date in 2011 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Ah, but the game is better remembered as the one in which a squirrel — later anointed as the “rally squirrel” — darted across home plate while the Holmes Community College product – and 2019 Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame inductee — was throwing a pitch. It was Game 4 of the National League Division Series between Oswalt’s Philadelphia Phillies and the Cardinals. Oswalt didn’t pitch particularly well, allowing five runs in six innings. He took the loss in a 5-3 defeat that evened the 5-game series at 2-all. The squirrel incident occurred in the fifth inning, with the Cardinals already ahead 3-2. No rally actually took place, but Oswalt and Phils manager Charlie Manuel were upset that the pitch was called a ball and not waved off. As the story goes, back in Philadelphia for Game 5, a Phillies fan threw a stuffed squirrel into the St. Louis bullpen, and after the Cardinals took the series, they adopted the “rally squirrel” as a mascot of sorts. They went on to win the World Series. Only in baseball.
Spencer Turnbull, the former Madison Central star who has pitched a total of 11 innings in the big leagues, gets the start today for Detroit against Milwaukee in one of the four huge games on the schedule for the last day of the regular season. The Brewers are tied atop the National League Central with the Chicago Cubs, who host St. Louis. The Los Angeles Dodgers, at San Francisco today, are tied atop the NL West with Colorado, which hosts Washington. Division titles, much preferable than wild cards, are on the line. Monday playoff games are possible. Seamheads live for stuff like this. Mississippi-connected players could have significant impact, particularly at Miller Park today. Turnbull, a 26-year-old right-hander, was called up mid-month and is 0-1 with a 5.73 ERA in three games. His last start, however, was outstanding: six innings, one run allowed vs. Minnesota. He’ll be opposed by veteran lefty Gio Gonzalez, who has 126 wins in 312 career games and has pitched in four different postseasons. Detroit’s lineup is likely to include former Richton High star JaCoby Jones, who went 1-for-4 with two runs in the Tigers’ loss on Saturday. Pillow Academy alum Louis Coleman has had a good year out of the Detroit bullpen. Milwaukee’s pitching staff includes several former Biloxi Shuckers, among them former Wheeler High and Mississippi State standout Brandon Woodruff. He pitched two clean innings in the Brewers’ win on Friday. … Mississippi Braves alum Alex Wood picked up the win out of the pen for the Dodgers against the hated Giants on Saturday and worked in their victory on Friday. The Dodgers also have ex-Southern Miss star Brian Dozier, who hasn’t played much of late but seems due for a big moment. … St. Louis, eliminated from playoff contention on Saturday, would like nothing more than to spoil any possible Cubs celebration at Wrigley Field today. Mississippi State product Dakota Hudson and Ole Miss alum Mike Mayers could see duty out of the Cardinals’ pen against a Cubs lineup that’ll most likely include ex-M-Braves star Jason Heyward.
Mississippian Lance Barksdale had a great view of a wild and wooly affair in St. Louis on Monday night. The Brookhaven native was the home plate umpire in Milwaukee’s 6-4 win over the Cardinals, a game that had major postseason implications. This one turned when St. Louis right fielder Jose Martinez, who spent a year with the Mississippi Braves, misplayed an Eric Thames fly ball into a triple in the eighth inning. Thames scored the go-ahead run on an errant pickoff throw at first base. The game “featured” 16 pitchers, including an “opener” who threw three pitches. There were three home runs, one by Martinez, whose bat – certainly not his glove — keeps him in the lineup. Brewers bullpen ace and strikeout machine Josh Hader, the former Biloxi Shuckers star, yielded two homers, two walks and three runs, though he did manage two K’s. Ex-Shucker Corbin Burnes got two outs in the seventh and claimed the win; he is 7-0. Former Mississippi State star Dakota Hudson walked in a run (on his first four pitches) and gave up a sac fly that put St. Louis behind in the sixth inning. Ole Miss alum Mike Mayers gave up a big RBI double in the ninth to Brewers star – and likely league MVP – Christian Yelich. Eighteen batters struck out all told, and — oddly — neither team got a hit with a runner in scoring position. There was a runner thrown out at the plate. There were two hit batsmen. There was even a rain delay. When all was said and done, the Brewers stood 1.5 games behind first-place Chicago in the National League Central. The Cardinals are 3 games back of the Brewers and just a half-game up on Colorado in the wild card standings. P.S. Jonathan Holder, the former State star from Gulfport, made his first career start – in his 103rd appearance — for the New York Yankees, serving as the “opener” against Tampa Bay. He walked a pair but didn’t allow a run in his one inning of work and the Yanks went on to beat the Rays 4-1, handing Oakland a postseason berth in the process.
All eyes – well, a lot of them — are on the National League Central and the two intra-divisional series that start today in Chicago and St. Louis. And, yes, Mississippi ties are all around. The first-place Cubs host fourth-place Pittsburgh – officially eliminated from postseason contention on Sunday – in a four-game series at Wrigley Field, while second-place Milwaukee – 2.5 games behind the Cubs – and the third-place Cardinals – 4.5 games behind the Cubs – tangle in a three-game set at Busch Stadium. The Brewers and Cardinals top the wild card standings, with Colorado lurking 1.5 games back. The Brewers’ roster includes former Mississippi State standout Brandon Woodruff and several other former Biloxi Shuckers, notably pitchers Josh Hader, Freddy Peralta, Jacob Barnes and Taylor Williams and shortstop Orlando Arcia. Brewers coach Carlos Subero is a former Shuckers manager. Ex-Ole Miss star Mike Mayers and State alum Dakota Hudson have been key contributors in St. Louis’ bullpen, and ex-Mississippi Braves John Gant and Chasen Shreve are also on the pitching staff. The Milwaukee-St. Louis season series is tied 8-8. The Cubs suit up a pair of M-Braves alums – Jason Heyward and Tommy LaStella – and their pitching coach is former Jackson Generals coach Jim Hickey. The Cubs have the best record in the NL but they’re in no position to breathe easy against a Pirates lineup that usually features Meridian Community College alum Corey Dickerson, one of the league’s leading hitters, and ex-State standout Adam Frazier. Pittsburgh is managed by former Jackson Mets skipper Clint Hurdle, and the hitting coach is Waynesboro native Jeff Branson. P.S. Frazier hit his 10th home run on Sunday and joins Hunter Renfroe, Brian Dozier, Tim Anderson, Mitch Moreland, Dickerson and JaCoby Jones as Mississippians with double-digit bombs in the majors this season.
Anthony Alford is back in the big leagues, looking for his first at-bat since May 13. The former Petal High star was recalled from the minors by Toronto on Monday; he is not in tonight’s lineup against Baltimore. Alford, 24, had a tough year at Triple-A Buffalo, batting .240 with five homers and 17 steals. He was injured in big league camp in the spring and got into just seven games with Blue Jays in May before heading to the minors. In 22 MLB at-bats over the last two years, the erstwhile college quarterback has three hits. Alford’s prospect star has dimmed a bit from what it once was, though he is still rated No. 5 in the Toronto system by MLB Pipeline. The remains of this season could be important to his future. Alford said he is particularly pumped about playing in the big leagues with his brother-in-law, Jonathan Davis, who came up through the minors with him. “We’re both here and now it’s just a matter of going out there and playing and having fun,” Alford told the Toronto Sun. P.S. Mississippi State product Nathaniel Lowe, a rising prospect in Tampa Bay’s organization, will lead Durham against Memphis in tonight’s Triple-A championship game in Columbus, Ohio. Lowe, named to Baseball America’s Minor League All-Stars second team, batted .260 with four homers for Durham and .330 with 27 bombs over three levels on the year. Suiting up for Memphis, St. Louis’ top affiliate, is ex-Ole Miss star Chris Ellis, who went 6-4 with a 3.76 ERA in 16 games for the Redbirds. The 6 p.m. game will be broadcast by the NBC Sports Network.
Bullpens for contending teams come under extreme scrutiny in September. Crucial situations abound. To wit: At SunTrust Park in Atlanta on Monday night, Dakota Hudson, pitching for St. Louis, faced a few and survived, if a little bloodied. The former Mississippi State star entered the game in the sixth inning with two runners on, one out and the Cardinals up four. Hudson retired the two batters he faced. Both the inherited runners scored, but the runs were unearned because of throwing errors. Hudson got the first two Braves batters in the seventh but then yielded three straight hits and a run that pulled Atlanta within 6-5. Cardinals manager Mike Shildt struck with the rookie right-hander, and he struck out Johan Camargo to end the inning. Hudson got a hold, his 10th (to go with four wins) in 21 appearances, as the Cardinals rolled on to an 11-6 win, keeping pace in the National League Central and a grip on the second wild card. … Flash to Minute Maid Park in Houston: Pascagoula native Tony Sipp, pitching for the Astros, entered in the seventh with his club up 1-0 on Seattle. Sipp, very effective this year as a situational reliever, got a strikeout and a ground out sandwiched around a walk but was lifted after allowing a single. Ryan Pressley bailed Sipp out — the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College alum actually was credited with a hold — but the Astros went on to lose 4-1 when Hector Rondon gave up an eighth-inning grand slam to Daniel Vogelbach. Houston’s lead in the American League West dipped to 4 games over Oakland. … At Miller Park in Milwaukee, MSU product Brandon Woodruff got the ball in the seventh inning with a nice cushion, the Brewers leading Cincinnati 8-0. Still, the former Wheeler High star made the most of the opportunity, delivering three scoreless innings for his first MLB save. He now has a 3.99 ERA (and three W’s) in 16 games for the Brewers, who lead the NL wild card standings and lurk just 2.5 games behind the Chicago Cubs in the Central Division.