Today’s subject: Don Hopkins. Back in the mid-1970s, the Oakland A’s had a thing for pinch-running specialists, with Belzoni native Herb Washington being the most famous of the bunch. Hopkins, a West Point native, also made a mark, stealing 21 bases and scoring 25 runs in 82 appearances (most as a pinch runner) in 1975, when he and Washington were briefly teammates. Unlike Washington, a world-class track star, Hopkins was a ballplayer, though the A’s rarely used him as a hitter or outfielder. Like Washington, Hopkins moved with his family from Mississippi to Michigan as a child. He ran track in high school but also played baseball well enough to be signed by the Montreal Expos. Hopkins hit .250 in the minors and swiped 269 bases over eight seasons. He got six at-bats (and one hit) in the majors and made three putouts in the field. He played his last MLB game in 1976 and was out of the game after 1977.
Jarrod Dyson still plays for Kansas City, he just doesn’t play very much. The former Southwest Mississippi Community College standout from McComb has appeared in three games since May 17. In 25 games total, Dyson, an outfielder, is batting .219 with five stolen bases and nine runs. Dyson led the Royals with 36 steals in 2014, when he hit .269 in 120 games. He appeared frequently as a defensive replacement (for the since departed Nori Aoki) or pinch runner, but those opportunities have been limited this year. The Royals’ starting outfield of Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain and Alex Rios (recently back from the disabled list) is pretty solid in all phases of the game. KC, the defending American League champ, is currently 30-21, a game back of Minnesota in the Central. P.S. Oakland reportedly has called up switch-pitcher Pat Venditte, who may soon become the first pitcher to throw both right-handed and left-handed in the same MLB game since Jackson Mets alumnus Greg Harris did it in 1995. Harris, who spent 15 years in the majors, got outs with both arms in a game for Montreal in September of his final season. A natural righty, Harris went 14-20 with a 3.29 ERA for the JaxMets from 1977-79.
Someone asked recently about details from the career of Jim Joe Edwards, a little-known pitcher from Banner who played in the majors in the 1920s. There is a fantastic website, baseball-almanac.com, that can take you at the click of a button to a box score from the debut of any MLB player. With a little imagination, you’re almost there for Edwards’ first game. It’s May 14, 1922, at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. The 27-year-old Edwards, a 6-foot-2 left-hander, starts for Cleveland against a Senators lineup that includes some familiar names: Donie Bush, Bucky Harris, Sam Rice, Joe Judge, Goose Goslin and Roger Peckinpaugh. Taking the field behind Edwards are the likes of Joe “Doc” Evans (a Meridian native), Tris Speaker, Stuffy McInnis, Joe Sewell and Bill Wambsganss. Edwards gives up a couple of runs in the second inning and leaves after five, trailing 4-0. He allowed nine hits and a walk and took the loss in a 4-3 game. Edwards, a Mississippi College alum, went on to have a decent career, going 26-37 with a 4.37 ERA over six seasons in the big leagues. He won 10 games for the Indians in 1923 and pitched his last game in 1928 for Cincinnati. He died 50 years ago this month. P.S. Came across a Howard Farmer baseball card (Donruss 1992) in one of those odd-ball assortment packages. Remember him? Farmer was a star at Jackson State (and at Utica Junior College before that) and a promising prospect in the minors whose brief fling in the big leagues didn’t go so well. Farmer, a seventh-round draftee in 1987 by Montreal, pitched in six games for the 1990 Expos and went 0-3 with a 7.04 ERA. He never got another shot, though his minor league numbers were good: 59-43, 3.33 ERA. He was out of the game by 1996.