16 Jul

ode to power

Power excites. It’s why people will turn out and tune in for tonight’s MLB Home Run Derby. Let’s see some dingers. Power brings to mind Ruth and Aaron and Bonds. Mantle, Mays and McGwire. Well, how about Burks, Parker and Pierce? When it comes to Mississippi natives and power, there are several who deserve to be remembered. Consider the credentials of Ellis Burks, Dave Parker, Jack Pierce, John Lindsey and Luke Easter, a Mount Rushmore plus one of Magnolia State mashers. Burks, from Vicksburg, is the all-time leader among Mississippi natives for MLB home runs. He hit 352 in a career that began in the mid-1980s, with four seasons of 31 or more and a high of 40. He participated in one Home Run Derby, in 1996. Parker, from Grenada, is No. 2 on the career list with 339 – and he won the very first All-Star Game Home Run Derby in 1985. A massive man, he used to swing a sledge hammer in the on-deck circle. Laurel native Pierce hit only eight big league bombs back in the 1970s but is credited by some sources with 395 minor league home runs, most of those in the Triple-A level Mexican League, where he is a legend. He hit 101 in affiliated minor league ball. Hattiesburg’s Lindsey, who only recently retired, crushed 377 homers all told in pro ball, including 232 in the affiliated minor leagues. Sadly, he did not homer in his handful of MLB games. Easter, from Jonestown, hit 93 big league homers in the 1950s, another 247 in a long minor league career and five (officially) in two short stints in the old Negro Leagues. He hit some legendary bombs, including a 500-footer in Buffalo’s long-gone Offermann Stadium and a 477-footer in Cleveland’s old Municipal Stadium. That’s a power five that could put on a spectacular Home Run Derby – if only in the imagination. P.S. Aside from Parker and Burks, Brian Dozier, from Fulton, is the only other Mississippi native to hit in the Home Run Derby. That was in 2014, at his home field in Minnesota, two years before he belted 42 bombs, a record for a second baseman. Not considered a slugger, per se, the 5-foot-11, 200-pound Dozier has 167 homers over seven seasons.

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