World Series anniversaries of note: Ten years ago, Eli Whiteside, the Delta State product from New Albany, won a ring with the San Francisco Giants without playing in any of the five games. Whiteside was the backup catcher for the great Buster Posey, who started every game against Texas. Whiteside hit .238 in 56 games during the season. On the losing side that year were ex-Mississippi State star Mitch Moreland and Meridian Community College alum Cliff Lee. Moreland, a rookie, went 6-for-13 with a homer, while lefty Lee was 0-2 with a 6.94 ERA in two starts. … Forty years ago, former MSU star Del Unser sparked Philadelphia past Kansas City in the pivotal fifth game of the Fall Classic. Unser, a 13-year vet at the time, delivered a game-tying pinch double off Dan Quisenberry in the ninth inning and then scored the go-ahead run in the 4-3 victory. The Phillies took the series in six. Unser went 3-for-6 with two RBIs and two runs overall. On the losing side in 1980, Greenville native Frank White, who had been the American League Championship Series MVP, had a World Series to forget: 2-for-25 with three errors at second base. … Sixty years ago, Magnolia State natives Joe Gibbon and Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizell won rings with Pittsburgh thanks to Bill Mazeroski’s legendary walk-off homer in Game 7 vs. the New York Yankees. Gibbon, from Hickory and Ole Miss, yielded three runs in two appearances, and Leakesville’s Mizell took the loss as the starter in Game 3 and had a 15.43 ERA over two games.
Benn Karr, a Mount Pleasant native, made 177 pitching appearances in his big league career. But his first appearance came as a pinch hitter. He struck out. One hundred years ago today, Karr debuted for the Boston Red Sox against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park. A left-handed batter, he hit for Herb Pennock and fanned in the middle of a two-run rally in the ninth inning that gave Boston a 3-2 win on April 20, 1920. Two days later, Karr, a right-handed thrower, made his mound debut at Griffith Stadium against the Washington Senators. It didn’t go so well, either. Coming on in relief, he retired just one batter, yielded two hits, two walks and two earned runs as the Red Sox blew a lead. He took the loss. Undaunted, Karr, who picked up the nickname “Baldy,” went on to win 35 games over six seasons with Boston and Cleveland, including an 11-win campaign with the 1925 Indians. He even hit .245 for his career. After attending Union University in Tennessee, he first entered pro ball in 1914 at age 21. “I took a pro contract because it gave me, a farm boy, a chance to see the country,” he told The Sporting News in an interview many years ago. Karr bounced around the minors for several years and served in the military for two before Boston signed him in 1919. He died in 1968. … Other anniversaries to be celebrated this season: Eighty years ago, Pascagoula native Harry Walker, who won a batting title in 1947, debuted with the St. Louis Cardinals. Sixty years ago, Hickory’s Joe Gibbon, the former two-sport star from Ole Miss, broke in with Pittsburgh. Forty years ago, Jackson’s Stan Cliburn would make his debut with the California Angels. Twenty years ago, ex-Petal High star Nate Rolison had his one brief fling in the majors with Florida. And 10 years ago, four Mississippi natives broke in: Rhyne Hughes with Baltimore, Mitch Moreland with Texas, Jarrod Dyson with Kansas City and John Lindsey with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Baseball loves its history and its numbers, the good, the bad and the ugly. Much to Mike Mayers’ chagrin, he made history with some ugly numbers on this date – July 24 – two years ago. In his big league debut for St. Louis, the former Ole Miss standout allowed nine runs on eight hits – two of them homers — plus two walks in 1 1/3 innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers. That’s an ERA of 60.90. It was statistically the worst debut ever for a pitcher, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Mayers became the first player to allow nine or more earned runs in fewer than two innings in his first appearance since earned runs became a stat in 1912. From that humbling start, Mayers has evolved into a fairly reliable reliever for the Cardinals. In 29 appearances this season, the right-hander – who hits the upper 90s on the gun – has a 3.86 ERA, a 2-1 record and a save. He was up and down from Triple-A numerous times in the season’s first two months, but he has stuck since his June 8 recall and carved out a role in the bullpen. New Cards manager Mike Shildt, who took over July 15, has gone to Mayers in key situations. It’d be only fitting for Mayers to get into today’s game at Cincinnati, an anniversary gift of sorts. Baseball also loves that kind of thing.
“Of Mudcat, Boo, The Rope and Oil Can … An Informal History of Mississippians in Major League Baseball,” written by yours truly and published by Sartoris Literary Group, will be released this week. Paperbacks will be available at Lemuria Books in Jackson, Book Mart in Starkville, Amazon, barnesandnoble.com, booksamillion.com. They will soon be available at Books-a-Million stores in Mississippi. Ebooks will be released on Wednesday, Oct. 15. Will be on Amazon, B&N, itunes/Apple, Kobo, etc. Book signings are scheduled for Lemuria on Thursday, Oct. 16, from 5-7 p.m. and Book Mart on Friday, Oct. 17, from 3-5 p.m.