23 Jan

one and done

The results of the National Baseball Hall of Fame voting should not, by any means, diminish what Roy Oswalt, Lance Berkman and Freddy Garcia accomplished in the game. Oswalt, arguably the best pitcher the state has ever produced, and former Jackson Generals stars Berkman and Garcia were among the 16 players who appeared on the ballot for the first time and didn’t garner enough support to appear again. It was a tad surprising how little support each received, but such is the nature of a process that had 35 names on the ballot, including the four truly great ones who were elected to Cooperstown. Each voter is limited to 10 picks. Oswalt got just four votes total. Berkman got five and Garcia none. It took 319 votes (75 percent) to get elected. Oswalt, from Weir and Holmes Community College, won 163 games, posted a 3.36 ERA and was a three-time All-Star. Berkman batted .293 with 366 homers, made six All-Star Games and won a World Series ring. Garcia won 156 games over 15 seasons, was a two-time All-Star and also won a ring. Though they’ll slip off the Hall of Fame ballot, Mississippi baseball aficionados won’t forget them. … Former Generals standout Billy Wagner, in his fourth year on the ballot, got 71 votes (16.7 percent), enough to stay on for the 2020 election. Meridian Community College alumnus Cliff Lee and Generals alum Bobby Abreu are among the players who’ll make their first appearance on the 2020 ballot.

02 Jan

almost famous

Roy Oswalt, recently elected to the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, is arguably the best major league pitcher the Magnolia State has ever produced. The right-hander from Weir won 163 games, posted two 20-win seasons, won an ERA title, made three All-Star teams, won an LCS MVP award and pitched in the World Series. His career ERA was 3.36, and he had over 1,800 strikeouts. For what it’s worth, his career WAR is 50.1, which is higher than that of Jack Morris, who went into the National Baseball Hall of Fame last summer. Oswalt was on the ballot for the first time for the 2019 class. As good as he was – and his stuff was unhittable at times — his Hall chances probably aren’t so good. The numbers just don’t rise to that level. Consider this: Guy Bush, the Mississippi Mudcat from Aberdeen, won 176 games – most by a Mississippi native — from 1923-38 and added another 34 saves. Four times he won 18 or more games. His ERA was 3.86, and he played in a hitters’ era. He pitched in two World Series, including 1929, the year he won 18 games and saved eight for the Chicago Cubs. Bush was on the HOF ballot one year and got 1 percent of the vote from the writers. Tough crowd, those writers. There are no Mississippi-born major league players in the National Baseball Hall of Fame – Cool Papa Bell and William Foster were Negro Leagues stars – and while Oswalt will get some voter support, that’s likely to remain the case in 2019. … The HOF ballots were due Dec. 31, and the announcement of new electees will be made on Jan. 22. P.S. Former Jackson Generals Lance Berkman and Freddy Garcia were first-timers on the ballot for 2019 and ex-Gens star Billy Wagner was a notable returnee. A case can be made for both Wagner and Berkman making the grade at some point. No ex-Gens (or Jackson Mets, for that matter) are enshrined in Cooperstown.

05 Oct

squirrel!

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.

29 Jul

busy schedule

Roy Oswalt, who won 163 games in the big leagues, second-most by a Mississippi native, is being inducted into the Round Rock Express Hall of Fame on Saturday in Texas. Next week, the 38-year-old former Weir High and Holmes Community College star is going to play again. Oswalt, who last pitched competitively in 2013, was recruited to play for the Kansas Stars, a collection of ex-big leaguers, in the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kan. Others on the squad include 53-year-old Roger Clemens, Tim Hudson, Josh Beckett, Adam LaRoche, J.D. Drew and Dan Uggla. The field for the NBC is made up mostly of semi-pro teams and college summer league squads. “If you took 10 years off our ages, I guarantee we’d be pretty hard to beat,” Oswalt told the Austin American-Statesman. There is a distinct Mississippi flavor in the NBC event. The semi-pro Laurel Black Cats, champions of the Magnolia State Tournament, are slated to start play tonight. Mason Irby, former Jones County Junior College star who’ll suit up for Southern Miss in 2017, is on the roster of the NJCAA National Team, which opens next week. Oswalt, drafted by Houston out of Holmes CC in 1996, spent the 2000 season in Round Rock. That was the new home of the Texas League franchise that had been in Jackson from 1975-99. Oswalt went 11-4 with a 1.94 ERA for the Express, helping the team win the TL championship. Five years later, he helped the Astros reach the World Series.

02 Oct

a shining moment

While the Houston Astros are keenly focused on the present, and their pursuit of a playoff berth, the rest of us can sneak a peek back at a big day in the club’s history. On Oct. 2, 2005, the last day of the regular season, Weir’s Roy Oswalt outpitched Greg Maddux as the Astros beat the Chicago Cubs 6-4 and claimed the National League wild card. Philadelphia, which also won that day, finished a game back. The win was the 20th of the year for Oswalt, the Holmes Community College alum who won 163 over his 13-year career. The ’05 Astros, with a few former Jackson Generals still around (Lance Berkman, Raul Chavez, pitching coach Jim Hickey, bullpen coach Mark Bailey), went on to beat Atlanta in the division series and St. Louis in the NLCS – Oswalt was the MVP – to reach the franchise’s first and only World Series. They lost to the Chicago White Sox in four (with ex-Generals ace Freddy Garcia winning the clincher, oddly enough). P.S. Though he hasn’t officially retired, Cliff Lee doesn’t have a team for 2016 after the Phillies declined to pick up an option on the ex-Meridian CC star’s contract. Lee, 37, didn’t pitch at all this year because of an elbow problem. His career numbers: 143-91, 3.52 ERA in the regular season and 7-3, 2.52 postseason.

12 Feb

wizard of os

Roy Oswalt, the pride of Weir and Holmes Community College, retired today with 163 career wins and a 3.36 ERA. Forget his struggles the last two seasons. Remember that he made three All-Star Games, twice won 20 games in a year and claimed the National League ERA crown in 2006. Oswalt was drafted by the Houston Astros in 1996 (23rd round), when the team still had its Double-A club in Jackson. Alas, when he reached that level, in 2000, the franchise was in its first year in Round Rock, Texas. Oswalt spent 10 years with the Astros and might’ve enjoyed his finest moments in 2005, when he led the club to its only World Series appearance. Oswalt won three games in four starts in the ’05 postseason. He made one start in the Series and got a no-decision against the Chicago White Sox, who won in four. Oswalt’s MLB win total ranks second among Mississippi-born pitchers, behind only Aberdeen’s Guy Bush, who won 176. Simply put, Oswalt is one the state’s all-time best.