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.
Climbing into the Wayback Machine here to celebrate some MLB debut anniversaries. The year 1984 was a banner year for Mississippians to break in. Four made The Show that season: Chris Brown, Stewart Cliburn and Mike Smith — all Jackson natives — and Natchez’s Fred Toliver. Brown had the best sustained career of that group, playing six seasons, hitting .268 and even making an All-Star Game appearance. But let’s go back further. Way back in 1924 — 90 years ago — Hughie Critz, a former Mississippi A&M player from Starkville, made his major league debut with Cincinnati. A second baseman, Critz would enjoy a fine career, batting .268 over parts of 12 big league seasons. Eighty years ago saw the debut of Ole Miss alumnus Charlie Moss, a catcher from Meridian who came up with the Philadelphia A’s. Former Mississippi Southern star Hugh Laurin Pepper broke in in 1954 as a pitcher with Pittsburgh. In 1974, Belzoni native Herb Washington, the Oakland A’s designated pinch runner, made his famous debut. He stole 29 bases that season — without once swinging a bat — but was released early in 1975, never to return. Twenty years ago, Pontotoc’s Steve Pegues, a former first-round draft pick, arrived in the majors for his brief stay (100 games as an outfielder over two years). And in 2004, Hattiesburg’s Joey Gathright and Natchez’s Nook Logan, both outfielders with exceptional wheels, got their calls. Both enjoyed some success, but neither remains in the big leagues.