If you enjoy baseball history – and doesn’t everybody? – you owe it to yourself to occasionally take a cyber-stroll through nationalpastime.com’s This Day in Baseball History. You’ll get hooked – and you’ll run across things like this item from the May 26 entry about Daryle Ward, the former Jackson Generals slugger (circa 1997), and his exploits in a 2004 game: “In the Pirates’ 11-8 win over St. Louis at Busch Stadium, Daryle Ward hits for the cycle with a two-run double in the first, a run-scoring triple in the fourth, a three-run homer in the fifth, and a single in the ninth. The Pirates first baseman and his dad Gary become the first father-son combination in major league history to hit for the cycle, with the elder Ward accomplishing the feat 24 years ago with Minnesota.” That’s ballpark-worthy chatter material right there. Daryle Ward, 6 feet 2, 240 pounds in his prime, played 11 years in the majors and hit 90 homers, 231 doubles and a grand total of five triples, two in 2004.
When thinking back about a minor league team from a particular season, there is usually one player who jumps to the forefront in the memory bank. The Jackson Generals of 1997? Oh yeah, that was the Daryle Ward year. There were other players of note on the club – Carlos Guillen, Scott Elarton, Mitch Meluskey, Donovan Mitchell – but Ward was the man. He is famously remembered by old Smith-Wills Stadium cranks for hitting a foul ball through the wooden fence down the right-field line. Of course, he did a lot of damage with fair balls, as well, batting .329 with 19 homers, 25 doubles and 90 RBIs for Houston’s Double-A club. He also got a lot of attention for a bomb he launched in an exhibition game against the Astros. Listed at 6 feet 2, 240 pounds, the lefty-hitting outfielder/first baseman was all about power. Ward, son of a former big leaguer, made the majors with Houston in 1998 and mashed 90 homers over 11 MLB seasons, 20 with the Astros in 2000. Now a coach in the Cincinnati organization, he was still playing in independent ball as recently as 2015. All told, he hit 290 homers in pro ball. Twenty years after his star turn with the Generals, Daryle Ward is not forgotten.