On this date in 1949, Luke Easter became the first black Mississippian to play in a major league game. A native of Jonestown, in Coahoma County, Easter made his debut as a pinch hitter for the Cleveland Indians at old Cleveland Stadium. This was two years and several months after Jackie Robinson broke the modern-era color line. Easter was 34 when he got his chance, having already played numerous years in various Negro Leagues. Easter did not homer in 45 at-bats for the Indians in 1949 but mashed 93 homers over the next four seasons, many of them tape-measure shots. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound first baseman produced two 100-RBI campaigns and had another of 97. Easter’s big league career was over after six games in 1954, but he played 10 more years in the minors. Despite his short time with the team, Easter was selected as one of the 100 Greatest Cleveland Indians in 2001, when the club celebrated its 100th anniversary. He died tragically in 1979 (see previous posts). P.S. In the majors on Thursday: Corey Dickerson, the former Meridian Community College star, snapped an 0-for-21 skid with a game-changing three-run homer for Tampa Bay in a win over Cleveland. It was homer No. 22 for Dickerson, who joins Southern Miss alum Brian Dozier atop the leaderboard in the All-Mississippi Home Run Derby. Ex-Mississippi State star Hunter Renfroe has 20. … Ole Miss product Lance Lynn was hit in the head by a batted ball in the third inning but stayed in the game for St. Louis. He worked six innings all told, allowing two runs, and took a no-decision in the surging Cardinals’ 8-6 win vs. Kansas City.
Rookie Stuart Turner took center stage Wednesday among Mississippians in the majors. Turner, the ex-Ole Miss star, struck his first big league home run, an upper deck shot in the Reds’ 8-3 win vs. San Diego. “It could’ve been a wall-scraper and I would’ve taken it,” Turner told The Associated Press. Turner, a catcher and a Rule 5 draftee from Minnesota, has played sparingly, with only 46 at-bats all season. He is hitting .174. Footnote: Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton got his 45th stolen base for the Reds. … Southern Miss alum Brian Dozier went 3-for-4 with his 22nd homer – and fifth in his last seven games – to spark Minnesota’s 4-0 win at Milwaukee. Dozier’s bomb came off ex-Mississippi State standout Brandon Woodruff, who took the loss in his second big league start. He went 5 2/3 innings, allowing two runs. … East Central Community College product Tim Anderson homered – his 11th – doubled and drove in three runs to help the Chicago White Sox knock off Houston 7-1. It’s been a tough sophomore season for Anderson, who is batting .242, but he has warmed up lately (.346, two homers over his last seven games). … Ex-State star Tyler Moore also has been scuffling in limited playing time for Miami. He got a start at first base on Wednesday vs. Washington and went 2-for-3, but he is just 3-for-16 in August. He is batting .233 with six homers, the last of those on June 17. … Boston beat Tampa Bay 8-2 for its eighth straight win, but former MSU star Mitch Moreland of the Red Sox and Meridian CC alum Corey Dickerson of the Rays had a quiet night. They were a combined 0-for-8. All-Star Dickerson’s average has slipped to .293. … Ex-Mississippi Braves star Dansby Swanson went 0-for-4 in his return to Atlanta. Fellow M-Braves alum Sean Newcomb (1-7) took the loss against Philadelphia, which won 3-2 and improved to 11-2 against the Braves. The Phillies are 42-69 overall. … Former Ole Miss standout Lance Lynn, 4-0 in his last six starts, goes to the bump for St. Louis tonight against Kansas City on MLB Network. Lynn is 10-6, 3.12 ERA for the Cardinals, who have won five straight. … UM product Chris Coghlan is 4-for-8 with two doubles in his rehab assignment at Class A Dunedin in Toronto’s system. He has been on the disabled list since June 16. … Former Rebel Bobby Wahl, on the DL with Oakland, reportedly will see a shoulder specialist in Dallas on Friday. Wahl has been out since May 24 and was shut down from a recent rehab assignment.
Brandon Woodruff makes his second big league start for Milwaukee tonight. The 24-year-old right-hander, a Wheeler High and Mississippi State alum, went 6 1/3 innings to beat Tampa Bay in his debut last Friday. At Miller Park tonight in the opener of a two-game set against Minnesota, Woodruff will be opposed by a slightly more experienced pitcher: Bartolo Colon. Colon is 44. He has made 517 MLB starts in a career that dates to 1997. He has logged 3,259 2/3 innings and posted 236 wins. Colon, who started this season with Atlanta, is just 3-9 with a 7.32 ERA in 2017 but threw a complete game against Texas his last time out. Both the Brewers and Twins are still playing meaningful games. The Brewers (59-56) are hot on the heels of the Chicago Cubs in the National League Central, while the Twins (55-56) are still hanging around in the American League Central race. “We’re never out of it,” former Southern Miss star Brian Dozier told The Associated Press after belting a grand slam in the Twins’ win over the Brewers on Tuesday. “I think that’s kind of the mentality that we’ve been sticking to.”
The home run was big, but the single proved bigger for Bobby Bradley on Tuesday night. Bradley, the ex-Harrison Central High star, delivered a walk-off hit in the ninth inning for Akron in a 4-3 win against New Hampshire in the Double-A Eastern League. Bradley hit his 19th homer in the sixth, helping the Rubber Ducks rally from a 3-0 deficit. The lefty-hitting first baseman, 21, one of Cleveland’s highest-rated prospects, is batting .242 with 73 RBIs in his Double-A debut. Bradley has a .335 on-base percentage thanks in part to 49 walks, and he has cut down on strikeouts (95 in 364 at-bats) this year. He is slugging .456. A third-round pick by the Indians in 2014, he has blasted 83 homers in his four pro seasons. He’s getting close. … Former Petal High star Anthony Alford, one of Toronto’s top prospects, was in New Hampshire’s lineup and went 1-for-4. Alford, 23, batting .308 in his first Class AA campaign, got a cup of coffee in the majors earlier this season before an injury knocked him back to the minors. He’ll likely return to the Blue Jays next month. P.S. Former Ole Miss and Mississippi Braves standout Chris Ellis notched his second straight win for Springfield, St. Louis’ Double-A club in the Texas League, on Tuesday. Ellis, who scuffled at Triple-A Memphis to start 2017, is 4-6, 3.60 ERA at Springfield. … Mississippi State product Zac Houston recently was elevated from low-A to high-A ball in the Detroit system. The 6-foot-5 right-hander, a 2016 draftee, has thrown 2 2/3 scoreless innings in his two appearances for Lakeland, where he has joined fellow Mississippians Will Allen, Jake Robson and Spencer Turnbull.
Kudos to former Jackson State coach Bob Braddy and ex-Mississippi State and MLB star Jay Powell on their induction into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame over the weekend. Braddy, an icon at JSU, should have been in a long time ago. Who’ll be the next baseball luminary to get the call? Longtime big leaguers Roy Oswalt (163 MLB wins, three-time All-Star) and Charlie Hayes (.262, 144 homers, World Series ring) certainly should get in at some point, as well as Luke Easter, who was the first black Mississippian to make the major leagues. Sam Hairston and Howard Easterling, a couple of Negro Leagues stars, also rate consideration. Among coaches, there’s William Carey’s Bobby Halford, the 2017 NAIA coach of the year who has more than 1,100 wins, and Millsaps’ Jim Page, who has over 700 W’s and seven conference coach of the year honors on his ledger. Both are deserving of recognition over on Cool Papa Bell Drive.
Competition was stiff for MLB Line of the Night, Mississippi Division. Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton put up a 4223 (AB-R-H-RBI) on Tuesday, with a homer and a triple, his eighth, which ranks second in the big leagues. Ole Miss product Seth Smith had a 3223 with a double. Jarrod Dyson, the ex-Southwest Mississippi Community College star, produced a 5221 with a stolen base, No. 24 on the year. Former Mississippi State standouts Hunter Renfroe (3220) and Adam Frazier (4030) also put up some numbers worthy of mention. But Line of the Night must go to State product Mitch Moreland, whose 5323 included a double, a homer, his 13th, and a “productive” out that figured prominently in Boston’s crazy 12-10 win against Cleveland. With two outs and one on in the ninth at Fenway Park, the Red Sox down a run, Moreland reached first on a wild-pitch third strike. Christian Vazquez followed with a three-run bomb that beat Indians closer Cody Allen and moved Boston back into first place in the American League East. P.S. Dyson’s stolen base was the 200th of his career. He has an amazing 85 percent success rate. The McComb native ranks third among Mississippians on the all-time steals list, behind Hamilton (228) and Gee Walker (223). … Smith’s big night helped Baltimore beat Kansas City and give Buck Showalter his 1,481st managerial victory. The former State star moved into sole possession of 24th place on the all-time list, ahead of Earl Weaver. … Former Mississippi Braves Lucas Sims and Ozzie Albies debuted for Atlanta on Tuesday. Sims took the loss against the Los Angeles Dodgers, allowing three runs in six innings. Albies went 0-for-2 with a run.
Trade chatter has not distracted Lance Lynn. The Ole Miss product registered his fifth straight quality start for St. Louis on Sunday, going six innings to beat Arizona 3-2. “I told you guys all along, I’m not going anywhere,” Lynn said in an Associated Press story. “So, I’m not worried about anything.” Lynn, a pending free agent, is 9-6 on the season and now has 70 career MLB victories. Former Mississippi Braves outfielder Jose Martinez drove in all three Cardinals runs. … Ex-Southern Miss star Brian Dozier had a hot-and-cold kinda day for Minnesota. He led off the game at Oakland with his 17th homer – 23rd career leadoff blast – then struck out five times in the 12-inning loss. … Former Mississippi State standout Dakota Hudson made his first Triple-A start in the St. Louis system and yielded four runs in seven innings. He was 9-4, 2.53 ERA at Double-A Springfield. … Petal High product Anthony Alford went 3-for-5 with a home run for Double-A New Hampshire. It was his fourth homer of the year for the Fisher Cats, first in nine games since he returned to the team. Alford made his big league debut with Toronto in May but was injured and sent back to the minors. He is batting .312 in 42 games all told at New Hampshire. … Ex-State star Ryan Gridley, a 2017 draftee by Oakland, has a nine-game hitting streak in the short-season Class A New York-Penn League. He is batting .302. … The North Delta Dealers beat the Tallahatchie Rascals 7-6 to win the Cotton States League title in New Albany. Beau Simpson drove in three runs and Delta State’s Sam Williams two for the Dealers, who got six strong innings from Collin McPherson. The Rascals’ four-run rally in the bottom of the seventh came up just short. … Brandon High’s J.T. Ginn was recognized by Baseball America for having the “best fastball” in Saturday’s Under Armour All-America Game at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Ginn hit 97 mph during his two-inning scoreless stint. Hattiesburg’s Joe Gray took an 0-for-4 but impressed with his throwing arm in the outfield.