09 Aug

one fine day

As we watch for the next Mississippian to break through in the big leagues, it’s worth noting that a great debut really isn’t much of a predictor about a player’s career. Some superstars had forgettable first games, and plenty of short-term journeymen started off with a bang. Take the case of Meredith “Mo” Sanford, the former Starkville High star who had an MLB debut that made jaws drop back in 1991. Sanford was a 6-foot-6, 220-pound right-hander whose potential in high school was intriguing enough that a Rolling Stone writer, looking for the “next big thing,” visited Starkville and did a feature for the magazine in the spring of 1984. “I’m not telling you this kid can throw a baseball through a car wash without getting it wet,” a scout told the Rolling Stone writer. “He’s still kind of raw. He’s big and he throws hard and he just turned seventeen and he’s going to get better and who the hell really knows?” Sanford threw hard enough to get drafted in the third round in ’84 by the New York Yankees. He opted instead for a scholarship to Alabama, where he labored rather unspectacularly for four years. He was drafted as a senior in 1988 by Cincinnati in Round 32. Under the tutelage of pro instructors, Sanford pitched well in the minors, advanced quickly and on Aug. 9, 1991, got the call to the majors. He started against San Diego, and in the bottom of the first inning he struck out, in succession, Bip Roberts, Tony Fernandez and Tony Gwynn. He wound up going seven innings, allowing two hits and a lone, unearned run in the Reds’ 5-1 victory. He punched out eight, walked one. Unfortunately, Sanford never quite bottled that lightning again, finishing 2-4 with a 4.81 ERA in 27 games spread over three seasons with three different clubs. His last MLB appearance came with Minnesota in 1995, a forgettable outing (three runs in 2/3 of an inning) against Milwaukee. He pitched in various pro leagues for five more years, chasing the magic of Aug. 9, 1991.

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