The New York Yankees have a lot of history. A whole lot. To have your name associated with part of that history is pretty special. On this date in 1962, Jack Reed enjoyed his shining moment in the big leagues, one that endures in Yankees lore. The Silver City native hit a home run – his only big league homer – in the 22nd inning to give the Yankees a win over Detroit at Tiger Stadium in a game that lasted 7 hours. It remains the longest game in Yankees history by innings and time. Reed entered the game in the 13th inning and was 0-for-3 when he took Phil Regan deep for a two-run bomb. The game story in the New York Daily News called Reed “the weakest hitter on the club.” A two-sport star at Ole Miss, Reed had a 19-homer season in the minors, so he could hit a little. But in parts of three seasons with the talent-laden Yankees, he was used primarily as a defensive replacement in the outfield (often for Mickey Mantle), a pinch hitter and pinch runner. In 222 career games – just 18 starts – he batted .233 in 129 at-bats. He appeared in – but, alas, did not bat in — the 1961 World Series, which the Yankees won.
It has only happened 30 times in major league history. First career at-bat. First pitch. Home run. Louisville native Marcus Thames did it on this date in 2002. And he did it against a future Hall of Famer, no less: Randy Johnson. Thames was batting ninth for the New York Yankees before a crowd of 45,000-plus at Yankee Stadium. Johnson was pitching for Arizona in an interleague rematch of the 2001 World Series. Johnson threw a fastball up and over the middle and the right-handed hitting Thames deposited it over the left-center field wall. The two-run bomb in the third inning gave the Yankees a 2-0 lead – yes, Thames got a curtain call from the amped-up crowd — and the Yanks went on to beat the Diamondbacks 7-5. Thames, now the Yankees’ hitting coach, wasn’t drafted out of high school and wasn’t picked until the 30th round out of East Central Community College by the Yankees in 1996. Defying the odds, he went on to play parts of 10 MLB seasons. And that show of power on June 10, 2002, was no fluke. He hit a bunch of big home runs, 115 all told in the big leagues on top of 147 more in the minors. … Other notables on the list of batters to homer on the first pitch they saw: Bert Campaneris, Jay Bell, Kaz Matsui, Starling Marte and Willson Contreras, the last to do it in 2016.
Among the impressive pitching feats of 2019, this one deserves a special mention: Former Mississippi Braves left-hander Mike Minor and a pair of Texas relievers beat the New York Yankees 7-0 on Monday, handing the Bronx Bombers their first shutout in 221 games. The Yankees – whose hitting coach is Louisville native Marcus Thames — have averaged 5.8 runs per game this season. Minor worked 7 1/3 innings, scattering five hits, walking one and fanning five. One of the Yankees hitters called Minor’s four-pitch repertoire “nasty.” “We mixed every pitch,” Minor told mlb.com. “We didn’t get into any patterns. I felt like we attacked.” Minor, an All-Star this year, is 12-8 with a 3.12 ERA. He was a first-round pick by Atlanta out of Vanderbilt in 2009 and pitched for the M-Braves in 2010. He was 2-6, 4.03 but showed his stuff by striking out 109 in 87 innings. He debuted in the big leagues later that season. His career was derailed by injuries in 2015, but he has made a strong comeback the last two years with Texas.
Corey Dickerson and Drew Pomeranz have new addresses and new perspectives on their 2019 season. The Mississippi college products were among the slew of players traded on Wednesday, both moving to teams with designs on a division title. Former Meridian Community College standout Dickerson, an outfielder, was traded from last-place Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, which is still in the hunt in the National League East. Ole Miss product Pomeranz, a left-hander who can start or relieve, went from San Francisco, barely an NL wild card contender, to Milwaukee, which is in the thick of the NL Central battle. (Former Biloxi Shuckers shortstop Mauricio Dubon, a top Brewers prospect, went to the Giants as part of the Pomeranz deal.) Dickerson, who figures to play regularly for the Phillies, is a .285 career hitter with 107 homers. Now in his seventh MLB season, the former All-Star and Gold Glove winner is joining a fourth different team. Pomeranz, in his ninth big league season, is now with his seventh different organization. Also a one-time All-Star, he has a 4.09 career ERA, a 46-57 record, 14 holds and three saves. He is expected to work out of the Brewers’ bullpen. … Atlanta, in much-needed moves, added relievers Shane Greene (from Detroit) and Mark Melancon (Giants). In the Greene deal, the Braves parted with Mississippi Braves alums Joey Wentz (5-8, 4.72 for the current club) and Travis Demeritte. Former M-Braves standout Kolby Allard was traded to Texas on Tuesday for reliever Chris Martin. … Other Mississippians who were rumored to be on the block – Jarrod Dyson (Arizona), Billy Hamilton (Kansas City), Lance Lynn (Texas), Hunter Renfroe (San Diego) – stayed put. P.S. Former Mississippi State standout Jonathan Holder is back up with the New York Yankees after a second stint this season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Holder has a 6.63 ERA in 32 MLB appearances.
On this date in 1939, Morton native Atley Donald set the American League rookie record for consecutive wins at 12 when he beat the St. Louis Browns 5-1 at Yankee Stadium. The record would stand for almost 40 years. Donald, nicknamed “Swampy,” went 13-3 for the ’39 New York Yankees, considered by some to be the best team of all-time. Throwing a fastball said to touch the upper 90s, Donald went 65-33 with a 3.52 ERA in an eight-year big league career curtailed by injuries. He became a Yankees scout after his playing days and scouted Ron Guidry, who signed with the Yankees and, as a rookie in 1978, won 13 straight games, breaking Donald’s record.
There were five Mississippi college products in uniform for Tuesday night’s St. Louis-Pittsburgh game, and all five had something to feel good about. Start with Dakota Hudson, the ex-Mississippi State star. He went 6 1/3 innings in a 4-3 Cardinals victory, winning his fourth straight start to improve to 10-4 on the year. Ole Miss alum Mike Mayers did not pitch for St. Louis but was available in the bullpen for the first time since mid-April, having come off the injured list on Tuesday. MSU product Adam Frazier, Pittsburgh’s second baseman, led off the bottom of the first with a single and went 2-for-4 with a run. Former Meridian Community College standout Corey Dickerson, the Pirates’ left fielder, went 1-for-3 with a double, boosting his average to .301. And ex-State star Chris Stratton worked three perfect innings in relief for the Pirates. Hudson’s performance stole the show for a surging Cardinals club that has moved to within a half-game of first-place Chicago in the National League Central. After allowing a three-run homer in the first inning, Hudson pitched into the seventh without surrendering another run. He valiantly worked out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the fifth, getting a strikeout (of Josh Bell) and a double-play ball. “What it comes down to, it’s just bearing down and having some guts and trusting your stuff to make quality pitches,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt told mlb.com. St. Louis had taken the lead in the top of the fifth on a homer by Mississippi Braves alum Jose Martinez. P.S. Mitch Moreland, the State product from Amory, came off the IL and went 0-for-2 for Boston in a win at Tampa Bay. … Former Bulldogs star Jonathan Holder of Gulfport was recalled from the minors by the New York Yankees on Monday and pitched a clean inning that night at Minnesota. He did not appear in Tuesday’s wild 14-12 Yankees win.
There is something sort of Yankees-esque about baseball at the University of Tampa, which hosts Delta State this weekend in the NCAA Division II South Super Regional. Two of Tampa’s most famous alumni, Lou Piniella and Tino Martinez, played for the New York Yankees, as did another Spartans alum of note, Sam Militello, now a UT coach. Coincidentally, the UT baseball field sits not far from George M. Steinbrenner Field, where the Yankees hold spring training and field a Class A club. And then there is the championship pedigree. The Yankees – the team of mystique and aura — own 27 World Series titles. The Spartans claim seven NCAA D-II titles, second-most all-time, including the 2015 and ’13 crowns. They should consider wearing pinstripes. The current Tampa team is 39-14, ranked third in the nation and has designs on another championship. Delta State, 42-12 and ranked fifth, has a case full of trophies back in Cleveland but owns only one national championship, from 2004. DSU has a trio of starters – Hunter Riggins, Seth Hougesen and Dalton Minton – that gives it a good shot at winning any best-of-3 series. The key hitter for Tampa might be Yorvis Torrealba – son of the ex-big leaguer Yorvit – who is batting .420 with 11 homers, mainly from the leadoff spot. Stevie Mangum is a .345 hitter and has eight homers. DSU’s offensive leader much of the season has been Jake Barlow (.327, 11 homers, 53 RBIs). The schools have played 10 times over the years, with the Statesmen winning six, mystique and aura be damned.
Jonathan Holder, the Mississippi State product from Gulfport, got the last six outs and earned the win in the New York Yankees’ 4-3, 14-inning victory against the Los Angeles Angels on Monday night. Holder, the fifth reliever called on by the Yanks, trimmed his ERA to 5.54 and struck out three, running his season total to 14 in 13 innings.
Jarrod Dyson, the former Southwest Mississippi Community College star from McComb, went 1-for-5 with a walk and scored twice as the leadoff batter in Arizona’s 12-4 win over Pittsburgh. Dyson scored in both the seventh and eighth innings as the Diamondbacks rallied for 11 runs to overcome a 4-1 deficit. Getting more regular playing time of late, Dyson is at .286 (.379 OBP) with three homers, seven RBIs, 10 runs and three steals.
Brian Dozier, the ex-Southern Miss standout from Fulton, hit his fourth home run, a three-run shot that gave Washington an early lead in a game the Nationals would ultimately lose 7-5 to Colorado. Dozier, who was batting .080 with no RBIs on April 6, has three homers in his last four games and has lifted his average to .188 with six RBIs.
If you hate the New York Yankees, you have to be cringing at the thought of what they might have in 2019. No major league team has ever hit more home runs than the Yankees did in 2018. They might hit more this season. The Yankees’ bullpen set a record for strikeouts in 2018. It might be even better this season. Yikes. A couple of Mississippi natives could be factors in both of those developments, as they were last year. Louisville’s Marcus Thames, a pretty fair slugger in his playing days, is the Yankees’ hitting coach. He gets to work every day with Aaron Judge, Mike Stanton, Gary Sanchez, et al., mostly the same bunch that belted 267 homers in 2018, with 12 guys hitting 10 or more. Some think 300 bombs is well within reach. “If we have a healthy Judge, a healthy Stanton and a healthy Sanchez, who knows what happens?” Thames recently told the New York Post. “I look forward to having them healthy and seeing it.” But is the Yankees’ power hitting even the best element of the team? “Their strength is their bullpen,” Boston manager Alex Cora told mlb.com. New York relievers, including Gulfport native – and Mississippi State career saves leader — Jonathan Holder, averaged 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings last season, and the team has added the intimidating Adam Ottavino to the mix. So, yes, that pen might be mightier still in 2019. “That’s a scary thought,” a rival scout told the New York Daily News. For Yankees haters, it is indeed.
Curious to see what’s next for Jacob Lindgren, the ex-Mississippi State star from Biloxi who has been removed from Atlanta’s 40-man roster and outrighted to Triple-A. Lindgren had Tommy John surgery – his second one – last March and missed all of the 2018 season. The left-hander also missed all of the 2017 season and pitched just seven innings in 2016. The Braves signed him as a minor league free agent after the 2016 season. The future seemed so bright for Lindgren in 2014. After a dominant season at State (0.81 ERA, 100 strikeouts in 55 innings), he was picked in the second round of the draft by the New York Yankees. He made his big league debut in May of 2015. Shortly thereafter, the arm problems began. Some pitchers have returned from two Tommy John surgeries, but the odds aren’t great.