15 Oct

just stuff

As we await Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, let’s take a moment to give a shout-out to the 2013 Mississippi State Bulldogs, an outstanding team that produced two players in this series plus five others who have played in the big leagues. Hunter Renfroe, the pride of Crystal Springs, plays right field for Boston and Kendall Graveman pitches out of the Houston bullpen. They were key members of the 2013 Bulldogs, who, under John Cohen, won 51 games before losing in the College World Series final to UCLA. Also on that club were 2021 MLB All-Stars Brandon Woodruff and Adam Frazier, as well as Jonathan Holder, Jacob Lindgren and Jacob Robson along with several others who played pro ball but never reached the majors. That team was loaded. The sting of coming within two wins of a national title might have been assuaged a bit by the Bulldogs’ run to the championship this year. Maybe. A bit. … That familiar face coaching first base for San Francisco — the face that was covered by both hands after the check-swing call that ended Thursday’s game — belongs to Antoan Richardson, the former Mississippi Braves outfielder. The Giants’ expansive list of coaches got a lot of credit for the team’s surprising success this season. Former M-Braves Tommy LaStella and Alex Wood were part of the team that saw their 109-win season end in the National League Division Series loss to Los Angeles. … Louisville native and ex-East Central Community College star Marcus Thames is looking for another job — and likely will find one — after being fired as hitting coach of the New York Yankees. The Yankees made the postseason in each of Thames’ four years on the job, but they had some well-chronicled offensive struggles this season. “At the end of the day, when you sign up to be a coach, sometimes this is what happens,” Thames said in a radio interview. “It’s just another chapter in my book … .” … Former MSU star Buck Showalter has been mentioned as a candidate for the New York Mets and San Diego Padres managerial jobs. Showalter has had success (1,551-1,517-1 career record) with several different MLB clubs. … Ole Miss product Grae Kessinger, an Astros minor leaguer, went 3-for-5 with a home run Thursday for Glendale in the Arizona Fall League. He played at the Double-A level this season. … Robert Carson, the former Hattiesburg High standout and onetime major leaguer, is with the Lexington Legends, who are playing for the Atlantic League championship. Carson has been in the independent league since 2015; the 32-year-old lefty had an 8.00 ERA in 39 games this season but worked two scoreless innings in the Legends’ division series win. The Legends now play Long Island, managed by former Jackson Mets star Wally Backman. The Ducks eliminated Southern Maryland, managed by Jackson’s Stan Cliburn. East Mississippi CC product LeDarious Clark hit .286 with a homer for Cliburn’s Blue Crabs in the division series loss.

09 Oct

back in ’62

Dodgers-Giants is one of the game’s best rivalries with a rich history spanning many decades. They met Friday night for the first time in a postseason series — San Francisco won 4-0 behind the brilliant Logan Webb — but this isn’t the first time the two have clashed in a win-or-go home October series. They’ve squared off twice in a playoff for the National League pennant, most famously in 1951, when Bobby Thomson hit the legendary walk-off homer in Game 3, but also in 1962, when a third baseman out of Southern Miss played a big role for the victorious Giants. Jim Davenport, who played 13 years for San Francisco, had one of his best seasons in 1962, batting .297 with 14 homers and 58 RBIs on a team that also included Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Felipe Alou. Davenport was an All-Star and a Gold Glove winner that year. He continued to sizzle in the best-of-3 series vs. the Dodgers that broke a tie atop the NL standings. In a Game 1 win, he went 2-for-3 with a homer off Sandy Koufax. The Giants dropped Game 2, but Davenport went 2-for-6 with an RBI and a run. In the deciding game, he had a hit in four trips, but his biggest contribution was drawing a bases-loaded walk that forced in the go-ahead run in the Giants’ four-run ninth that led to a 6-4 win. Davenport, called Peanut or Peanuts by teammates, didn’t fare as well in the World Series, which the Giants lost to the New York Yankees in seven games. He went 3-for-22 in his only Fall Classic appearance.

22 Sep

all too familiar

One run allowed on two hits and a walk over six innings. Ten strikeouts. An excellent day’s work for a big league pitcher — but not quite good enough for Milwaukee’s starter on this particular day. Brandon Woodruff, the former Mississippi State standout from Wheeler, hung up that pitching line against St. Louis on Tuesday night but suffered a loss. Woodruff has seen this movie before. Despite a 2.52 ERA, one of the best in MLB, Woodruff’s record is 9-10. He surpassed 200 strikeouts on the season but had no reason to celebrate. The Brewers’ lone run in the 2-1 loss came after Woodruff had departed. They have scored an average of 2.82 runs in his 29 starts. That’s the worst run support for any qualified pitcher in the majors. “It’s a hard game, man,” Woodruff told mlb.com postgame. “We’re doing everything we can.” Milwaukee has clinched a playoff berth but not the National League Central title. The magic number remains 3 to put away the Cardinals, who have won 10 in a row. The two meet again today in Milwaukee. P.S. DeSoto Central High product Austin Riley’s 30th home run of the season propelled Atlanta to a 6-1 win over Arizona and kept the first-place Braves 3 games up on Philadelphia in the NL East. … Another former Mississippi Braves standout, Tommy LaStella, led off the game with his sixth homer to help San Francisco beat San Diego 6-5 and stay a game up on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West.

02 Sep

resume building

Far from the MLB playoff races, where teams are looking to next year and players are seeking to make good impressions, the Chicago Cubs met the Minnesota Twins at Target Field on Wednesday. Justin Steele, the former George County High star, made one of those good impressions. The Cubs’ rookie left-hander threw five shutout innings for his first win since shifting from the bullpen to the rotation. Relying mainly on two different fastballs, Steele allowed one hit, walked three, hit a batter and fanned three in the 3-0 victory. “I thought the fastball looked electric, to be honest with you,” Cubs manager David Ross said in an mlb.com story. Steele, who has made four starts, is 3-2 with a 3.48 ERA overall in 15 games for the fourth-place Cubs. Drafted in 2014, the 26-year-old Steele logged over 300 innings in an injury-plagued minor league journey before making his big league debut on April 12. Meanwhile, for the last-place Twins, ex-Mississippi State star Brent Rooker was a bright spot, getting the club’s only two hits, both singles. Rooker, also looking to make an impression for 2022, is batting .201 with six homers in 38 games. Former Petal High standout Anthony Alford, hoping to secure a 2022 job with Pittsburgh, hit his second homer of the season in the last-place Pirates’ loss to the Chicago White Sox. The oft-injured Alford is batting .180 in 23 games. MSU product Nate Lowe, toiling for last-place Texas, went 1-for-3 in a loss to Colorado. Lowe is batting .321 over his last 15 games and .261 with 14 homers on the season, his first with the Rangers. P.S. Mississippi State alum Will Bednar, the first Mississippian picked in this year’s draft (14th overall), made his pro debut on Monday, working a 1-2-3 inning for San Francisco’s Arizona Complex League club. … The White Sox put shortstop Tim Anderson on the injured list Wednesday with a hamstring issue; the former East Central Community College star, an MVP candidate, had missed several games recently with sore legs.

24 Aug

box score treasure

Box scores are a wonderful thing. You stumble onto one and suddenly you’re digging up treasure. Take Aug. 24, 1930. New York Giants-Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. This was the last game of Tupelo native Andy Reese’s relatively brief big league career. An outstanding minor league player and manager for many years, Reese is in the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. He played in 331 big league games for the Giants, batting .281. In his final game, he drew a walk as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning with the Giants down 2-1. The Cubs pitcher was Guy Bush, the Mississippi Mudcat from Aberdeen. The play-by-play from baseball-reference.com reveals that after a bunt by Starkville native Hughie Critz, Reese tried to score from second on a base hit but was cut down at the plate. He was tagged by Gabby Hartnett, called out by umpire Beans Reardon. If you know baseball history, you know those names. Hartnett hit the famous “Homer in the Gloamin’” in 1938. Reardon umped for 24 years and was behind the plate in 1935 when Babe Ruth hit his last homer, coincidentally against Bush. Hall of Famers Mel Ott and Bill Terry played for the Giants on Aug. 24, 1930, and fellow HOFer Hack Wilson was in the Cubs’ lineup. After the Giants tied the score at 2-2 in the ninth, the Cubs won it in the bottom half on a steal of home. Bush got the win while allowing 11 hits and three walks. The game took just an hour and 50 minutes. It was Andy Reese’s last game – but it was a lot more than that.

16 Aug

here and there

The Mississippi Braves have risen to the best record in the Double-A South by minding their P’s: pitching and power. On a lazy Sunday afternoon at Trustmark Park in Pearl, they didn’t get enough of either. Biloxi bludgeoned the M-Braves 11-3, snapping an eight-game winning streak. The M-Braves lead the league in ERA (3.66) and rank second in home runs (117). On Sunday, the Shuckers, the league’s worst team by record, pounded out 16 hits – two by Ole Miss product Thomas Dillard, his first in Double-A – and drew six walks against five M-Braves pitchers. Starter Freddy Tarnok and Hayden Deal, first out of the bullpen, yielded four runs each. Braden Shewmake hit the M-Braves’ lone homer, his ninth, a first-inning solo shot that landed on the roof of the Farm Bureau Grill beyond right field. … Austin Riley hit his 25th home run in Atlanta’s 6-5 victory over Washington on Sunday, but the ex-DeSoto Central High star’s bigger contribution was the play he made to end the game. Riley dove and speared a hot shot down the third-base line, with runners at first and second, and threw out Carter Kieboom at first base. Riley’s glove rates some love. … Corey Dickerson may prove to be a valuable trade acquisition for Toronto, still scrapping in the wild card battle. The Meridian Community College alum hit his first homer for the Blue Jays in a win on Sunday and is 10-for-33 with five RBIs and five runs in 12 games for the team. He hit .260 with two homers for Miami before the trade. … San Francisco maintained the best record (76-42) in the big leagues with a 5-2 win against Colorado on Sunday, with two former M-Braves playing major roles. Alex Wood worked 6 2/3 innings to notch his 10th win and Tommy La Stella went 3-for-4 with two RBIs, boosting his August average to .300 coming off a three-month stay on the injured list. … Tough luck continues to hound former Petal High star Anthony Alford. After battling his way back to the majors from a demotion to Triple-A, the 27-year-old outfielder went on the IL on Sunday with a back strain. He is 4-for-17 since Pittsburgh brought him back to The Show. Alford’s 2020 season was curtailed by a fractured elbow. He suffered myriad injuries while in Toronto’s system from 2012-19.

05 Aug

on this date

On this date in 1988, Jeff Brantley made his debut for San Francisco, throwing two scoreless innings in an 8-5 loss at Atlanta. It was the start of something good for Brantley, one of the “core four” stars of the 1985 Mississippi State team that finished third in the College World Series. Will Clark, Rafael Palmeiro and Bobby Thigpen might have had more celebrated pro careers, but Brantley’s resume is pretty dang good. The Alabama native pitched for 14 years in the big leagues and appeared in 615 games, most as a reliever. He won 43, saved 172 (44 in 1996 with Cincinnati) and posted a 3.39 ERA. He made an All-Star Game and helped the Giants reach the 1989 World Series. Nicknamed “The Cowboy,” he is currently a broadcaster for the Reds.

12 Jul

minor matters

In his first game since the Chicago Cubs decided to return him to a starting role, Justin Steele threw the first 3 2/3 innings Sunday of a seven-inning no-hitter for Triple-A Iowa. Left-hander Steele, a George County High alum, struck out five and walked two in the 1-0 win against St. Paul. Former Delta State star Trent Giambrone drove in the game’s only run with a walk-off sac fly. Former Mississippi State star Brent Rooker went 0-for-3 for St. Paul, a Minnesota farm team. Steele, a starter most of his lengthy minor league career, made his long-awaited MLB debut this season and had a 2.03 ERA in 11 games for the Cubs before landing on the injured list. … MSU product Ethan Small gave up three hits and two runs but got the last two outs in the All-Star Futures Game on Sunday. Small is now at Triple-A Nashville in Milwaukee’s system. … Ole Miss alum Thomas Dillard belted his 10th homer for High-A Wisconsin in the Brewers’ chain. Former Hattiesburg High star Joe Gray, Jr., was recently promoted to Wisconsin after batting .289 with 12 homers in Low-A ball. Gray is at .158 in six games at the new level. … Ex-Bulldogs standout Justin Foscue, recently back from the IL, put up a 3-for-4 that included his third homer for High-A Hickory in Texas’ system. Foscue, a 2020 draftee, is batting .237. … Ole Miss product Parker Caracci notched his sixth save for High-A Vancouver in the Toronto organization. The Jackson Prep alum has a 2-2 record and 1.50 ERA in 22 games in his second pro season. Toronto picked ex-UM star Gunnar Hoglund in the first round (19th overall) of Sunday’s MLB draft; his pro career will be delayed to 2022 as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. … MSU’s Will Bednar, taken with the 14th overall pick by San Francisco, likely would start his pro career in the Arizona Complex League or at Low-A San Jose.

19 May

a little history

To a list that includes Hall of Famers Jim Bunning and Jack Morris and future HOFer Justin Verlander, add Spencer Turnbull. The former Madison Central High star threw a no-hitter for Detroit against Seattle on Tuesday night, joining those legends as Tigers pitchers to pull off the feat. As for the list of Mississippi products (native, prep or college alums), well, Turnbull is it. Natives Guy Bush, Claude Passeau, Boo Ferriss, the great old-timers, never threw one. Neither did recent college products Cliff Lee, Jeff Fassero or Pat Rapp. Weir’s Roy Oswalt threw the first inning of a six-man no-hitter in 2013 and Mississippi State alum Jonathan Papelbon worked the last inning of a four-man no-no in 2014. But those fall into a different category. Considering the rate of no-no’s this season – Turnbull’s is the fifth – it wouldn’t be a shock to see Brandon Woodruff or Lance Lynn toss one, but for now, Turnbull stands alone. “I don’t really know how to think of it in a historical perspective,” Turnbull told reporters postgame. “Just for myself, obviously, it’s the greatest achievement in my life so far, or at least my baseball career.” Turnbull threw 117 pitches at the Mariners, allowed two walks and struck out nine. He capped the performance by fanning Mitch Hanigar on three pitches, the last a 95 mph fastball that Haniger swung through. “You’re getting my best three pitches right here,” Turnbull said of his approach against the final batter. Drafted out of Alabama in 2014, Turnbull debuted in the majors in 2018 and is 10-25 with a 4.33 career ERA pitching for bad teams. He is 3-2, 2.88 this season for a 16-26 team. Contending clubs certainly will have noticed. P.S. Tigers catcher Eric Haase became the first rookie to catch a no-hitter since former Delta State star Eli Whiteside caught Jonathan Sanchez’s no-no for San Francisco in 2009. … Mitch Moreland, the ex-State standout from Amory, has gone on the injured list for Oakland with a rib injury. He is hitting .237 with four homers.

08 Apr

now that’s prophetic

The San Francisco Giants made Will Clark the second overall pick in the 1985 June amateur draft. It didn’t take long for them to get the feeling they had chosen wisely. On April 8, 1986, former Mississippi State All-American Clark homered in his first major league at-bat, going yard against future Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan in the first inning at Houston’s Astrodome. Clark, 22 at the time, hit .287 with 11 homers as a rookie and .303 with 284 bombs over his decorated 15-year career. He hit .333 with five homers in the postseason. Clark was a five-time All-Star and finished in the top five in MVP voting four times during his eight years with the Giants, including the 1989 World Series club. MLB Pipeline recently rated Clark the Giants’ best-ever draft pick. Hard to disagree. P.S. Big league bits: MSU product Mitch Moreland’s sixth career walk-off hit on Wednesday delivered Oakland its first win of the season, 4-3 over the Los Angeles Dodgers in 10 innings. … Brandon Woodruff, another Bulldogs alum, threw six no-hit innings, gave up a single in the seventh (his final inning) but got a no-decision in Milwaukee’s 4-2, 10-inning win vs. the Chicago Cubs. … Ex-State star Brent Rooker (neck) of Minnesota and East Central Community College alum Tim Anderson (hamstring) of the Chicago White Sox have landed on the injured list.