01 Dec

familiar territory

After a three-year hiatus, Dave Clark will be back on a major league staff in 2024. The ex-Jackson State star from Tupelo will be the first base coach for Houston and its new manager, Joe Espada. It’s a homecoming of sorts for Clark, who played a year for the Astros, coached five years with the club and even managed the team for 13 games in 2009. Clark last coached in MLB with Detroit from 2014-20; he spent last year as a manager in the Pioneer League, an independent developmental league. A renowned slugger at Shannon High and JSU — where he was a SWAC MVP — Clark was the 11th overall pick in the 1983 draft by Cleveland. Playing parts of 13 seasons with six teams in the majors, the lefty-hitting outfielder batted .264 with 62 home runs and 284 RBIs, finishing up with Houston in 1998. Expectations in Space City have changed considerably since Clark’s previous time there, 2009-13, when the team never had a winning season. The Astros lost to Texas in the American League Championship Series this past season under former skipper Dusty Baker and have made the postseason seven years in a row, winning two World Series in that span. … There are three players with Mississippi ties on the Astros’ current 40-man roster: former Mississippi State pitchers Kendall Graveman and J.P. France and ex-Ole Miss shortstop Grae Kessinger.

14 Apr

whatever happened to …

Bobby Bradley, the erstwhile big leaguer from Gulfport, has signed with the Charleston (W.Va.) Dirty Birds of the independent Atlantic League. The lefty-hitting slugger, 26, was Cleveland’s opening day first baseman in 2022 but wound up being released out of the minors last August. Bradley was drafted in the third round out of Harrison Central High in 2014 and was ranked among Cleveland’s top prospects during his climb to the majors. He debuted in 2019. But he didn’t make enough consistent contact to stick in The Show, batting just .199 with 17 homers in parts of three seasons. He hit .246 with 163 homers and 539 RBIs in the minors, belting 33 homers in Triple-A in 2019. Many former big leaguers populate Atlantic League rosters, and Mississippi natives Stan Cliburn and Barry Lyons are managers in the league. The season starts April 28. Don’t be surprised if Bradley is among the league home run leaders.

03 Feb

historic significance

Much attention is being given to the fact that two black quarterbacks will face off in the Super Bowl for the first time on Feb. 12. As a nod to Black History Month, let’s highlight a less-celebrated but perhaps equally significant event that occurred in baseball 70 years ago and involved a pioneering Mississippian. Dave Hoskins, a Greenwood native, faced future Hall of Famer Satchel Paige in an American League game on Sept. 7, 1953, marking the first time in history that African-Americans opposed each other as starting pitchers in the traditional major leagues. This was six years after Jackie Robinson broke the color line. Hoskins was a major league rookie at age 35 in 1953 with Cleveland. Hoskins, who had attended G.H. Jones Industrial School in north Mississippi (per a SABR article), pitched several years in the Negro Leagues and was the first black player to appear in two minor leagues, including the Texas League in 1952. He became on May 10, 1953, the first black Mississippian to win a game in the major leagues. On May 24 of that year, he and Paige, with the St. Louis Browns, faced each other as relief pitchers in a game in Cleveland. Months later, they met again as starters at old Cleveland Stadium. Neither pitched well. Hoskins gave up five runs in 3 2/3 innings, Paige seven in 4 2/3. Neither was involved in the decision as the Indians prevailed 10-7. Hoskins won nine games for Cleveland in ’53 but would last just one more year in the majors, finishing 9-4 with a 3.81 ERA — and a piece of history — over 40 games. P.S. Jackson State is ranked eighth among the big schools and Rust College No. 3 among the smalls in Black College Nines preseason HBCU Top 10 polls.

12 May

here and there

Beyond the score — Ole Miss 4, Southern Miss 1 — three numbers jump out of the box from Wednesday night’s game in Hattiesburg: 1 — hits allowed by the Rebels’ bullpen over the last four innings of the game, backing up a strong start by Drew McDaniel; 15 — strikeouts by Golden Eagles batters, most in a game this season; 6,346 — the attendance, a record, at Taylor Park. (Can any other state match Mississippi’s passion for college baseball?) … Congratulations to Millsaps’ Jim Page, named coach of the year in the Southern Athletic Association. The Majors, 10-24 in 2021, went 24-21 and reached the league championship series. Page also won his 800th game in purple-and-white this season. … Christian Yelich hit for the cycle for Milwaukee on Wednesday, his third cycle since 2018. The last Mississippian to accomplish this neat feat was Fred Lewis, a Stone County High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College product who did it on May 13 — Mother’s Day — in 2007 for San Francisco. … Orlando Arcia’s first career walk-off home run boosted Atlanta past Boston on Wednesday night. Biloxi Shuckers fans will remember Arcia as one of the stars of the inaugural team back in 2015. He was Milwaukee’s No. 1 prospect at the time and was one of the first Shuckers alums to make the majors. … Left-hander Joey Wentz became the latest former Mississippi Braves standout to make the big leagues; he started and took a loss for Detroit. Wentz joins Bryce Elder and William Woods as M-Braves alums to debut in 2022; the list is approaching 160 all told. … Former Mississippi State standout — and Shuckers alum — Ethan Small, the International League’s pitcher of the month for April when he had an 0.77 ERA in four starts, makes his second May start tonight for Triple-A Nashville. The left-hander, Milwaukee’s No. 7 prospect, took a loss in his first May outing and is 2-1, 1.98 with 37 K’s in 27 1/3 innings. His MLB debut can’t be far off. … Harrison Central High alum Bobby Bradley, reassigned to the minors by Cleveland earlier this month, went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in his first game with Triple-A Columbus. … Blaze Jordan, the ex-DeSoto Central star, is heating up at Low-Class A Salem in Boston’s system. A nine-game hit streak (13-for-34) has lifted the young slugger’s average to .235; he hit his second homer of the year Wednesday night.

23 Sep

follow the leader

Here’s a very interesting and very telling statistic about the 2021 Chicago White Sox: Heading into the first game of a twinbill at Cleveland today, the White Sox were 32-4 when Tim Anderson drove in at least one run. So, yeah, it was a pretty good omen when the former East Central Community College star led off with a home run. The White Sox (86-66) rolled on to a 7-2 victory that clinched the American League Central championship, their first in 13 years. Anderson finished 3-for-4 with two homers and four RBIs. For the year, the dynamic All-Star shortstop is batting .306 with 16 bombs, 58 RBIs, 90 runs and 17 stolen bases. He might not be the league MVP, but he is certainly the straw that stirs the ChiSox’s drink. Former Ocean Spring High standout Garrett Crochet got a couple of outs in the game. Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn and Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton, both contributors in their first year with the club, didn’t play but were on the field for the largely subdued postgame celebration. They had another game to play.

30 Aug

big league chew

Boston will be without slugging outfielder Hunter Renfroe again tonight when it takes on first-place Tampa Bay in the opener of a big, four-game American League East series. Renfroe’s father and “best friend,” Todd, died from cancer last Thursday and the Crystal Springs native has been on bereavement leave since then. He had eight hits – four homers – over a seven-game stretch Aug. 17-25 and is batting .258 with 25 homers overall. Ex-Mississippi State star Renfroe was cut loose by the Rays after last season and signed as a free agent with the Red Sox. … Jarrod Dyson made his Toronto debut on Sunday, entering the game against Detroit as a pinch runner, then staying in to play center field. The Blue Jays are team No. 7 on the former Southwest Mississippi Community College standout’s career list. … Gulfport’s Bobby Bradley returned from the injured list for Cleveland over the weekend, going 2-for-9 in a series against Boston. Bradley is at .214 with 11 homers for the season with the Indians, clinging to wild card hopes in the AL. … Southern Miss alum Nick Sandlin has been on Cleveland’s 10-day IL since Aug. 12 with no clear date for a return for the rookie right-hander. He reportedly is working out in Arizona. … Though there are no reports of an injury, MSU product Mitch Moreland did not leave the bench during the last three games of Oakland’s four-game series vs. the New York Yankees. Moreland is batting .227 with 10 homers. … Ex-Taylorsville High star Billy Hamilton continued his rehab assignment at Triple-A Charlotte, going 1-for-3 Sunday. He is 3-for-19 with one stolen base in six games for the Chicago White Sox’s top affiliate. … Dakota Hudson, who had Tommy John surgery a year ago, made a rehab start for St. Louis’ Class A Palm Beach team on Saturday. The State product worked two scoreless innings, throwing 24 pitches and hitting 94 mph. … Former State star Jonathan Holder made his second rehab appearance of 2021 on Friday, yielding a homer in one inning for the Chicago Cubs’ Triple-A Iowa club.

29 Jul

trade winds

The Chicago White Sox sent former Mississippi State star Konnor Pilkington to Cleveland today in a trade for veteran big league second baseman Cesar Hernandez. Pilkington, a Pascagoula native and East Central High alum, was 4-4 with a 3.48 ERA at Birmingham in the Double-A South. He’ll likely report to Double-A Akron. The third-year pro has a 4.13 career ERA over 47 games in the minors; Baseball America ranked him No. 17 on the ChiSox’s prospect chart early in 2020. … The trade deadline is 3 p.m. CDT Friday. Other Mississippi products involved in recent trades include Corey Dickerson (Miami to Toronto), Adam Frazier (Pittsburgh to San Diego) and Kendall Graveman (Seattle to Houston). P.S. Taylor Broadway, a 2021 draft pick by the White Sox out of Ole Miss, has signed, leaving only Christian MacLeod unsigned among the 12 picks from Mississippi this year, per mlb.com’s Draft Tracker. … Tanner Allen, SEC player of the year at MSU, made his pro debut today for Miami’s Florida Complex League team, going 0-for-3.

14 Jul

circle the date

It happened on July 14, 2002. It had never happened before that in the big leagues and would happen only four times after that. Bill Selby, the pride of Horn Lake and a former Southern Miss star, hit a walk-off grand slam against Mariano Rivera on that date at Cleveland’s Jacobs Field. Rivera, the Hall of Famer and MLB’s all-time saves leader, had not allowed a walk-off bomb in his seven previous seasons as the New York Yankees’ closer. He yielded only four more over the next 11 years. The July 14 homer was the only walk-off Selby hit in five big league seasons. He hit only 11 homers all told. Talk about catching lightning in a bottle. Now a coach at Northwest Mississippi Community College, Selby eloquently and humbly described his star turn in a published interview a few years back: “You put yourself in a position to be successful and if it happens, then be thankful and keep on trucking. Not everyone can do what those guys (MLB stars) do. I certainly use that as motivation and to help people understand that you don’t have to be ‘the guy’ to have a ‘the guy’ moment.” Of all the homers struck by Mississippians (natives or college alums) in big league history, Selby’s improbable game-ender vs. Rivera is arguably the most memorable. Here’s a few more to round out a top 10:
2. Will Clark’s homer against Nolan Ryan in his first career at-bat in 1986.
3. Rafael Palmeiro’s 500th homer on May 11, 2003; he’s the only state product in that club.
4. Dmitri Young’s three home runs on opening day 2005, making him the third player ever to achieve that feat.
5. Marcus Thames’ homer against Randy Johnson on the first pitch he saw in the big leagues in 2002.
6. Brian Dozier’s American League-record 40th homer as a second baseman on Sept. 26, 2016; he hit 42 on the year, most ever by a Mississippi native.
7. Bill Hall’s Mother’s Day walk-off blast, with a pink bat and his mom in the stands, in 2006.
8. Luke Easter’s 477-foot bomb in 1950 at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium, the longest ever hit there.
9. Brandon Woodruff’s homer off Clayton Kershaw in Game 1 of the 2018 NLCS.
10 (tie). Anthony Alford’s first career homer, a walk-off in the 15th inning on Sept. 24, 2019, and Jack Reed’s only career homer, a 22nd-inning game-winner on June 24, 1962.
Honorable mentions: Bobby Kielty’s pinch-hit homer in Game 4 of the 2007 World Series in what would be his last major league at-bat. Mitch Moreland’s two-out, three-run pinch homer in Game 4 of the 2018 World Series. Austin Riley’s 448-foot go-ahead homer in Game 1 of the 2020 NLCS. Dave Parker’s big blast in the strike-ending All-Star Game in 1981. Hunter Renfroe’s homer onto the roof of the Western Metal Supply Co. building outside Petco Park in September 2016. Tim Anderson’s brawl-inducing bat-flip homer in April 2019.

10 Jul

walk it off

He has mashed 167 home runs in his pro career, but Friday night’s bomb was unique for Bobby Bradley. The ex-Harrison Central High star from Gulfport hit his first career walk-off homer, lifting Cleveland to a 2-1 victory against Kansas City. Bradley, 25, in his second big league season, did a modest bat flip as the line drive sailed out to right-center at Progressive Field. He was mobbed at home plate by his teammates, who were celebrating their second straight walk-off win after a nine-game skid. “Everybody was pumped up and beating me up a little bit and throwing water everywhere,” Bradley told mlb.com. “It’s awesome.” The article said it was Bradley’s first walk-off homer at any level, though it’s hard to imagine he didn’t hit one at Harrison Central. The left-handed hitting first baseman has 10 homers in 100 at-bats this season, which is an amazing ratio even for a small sample size. He has 11 in 145 MLB at-bats overall, one per 13.2 ABs. Mark McGwire’s career record is 10.6. Babe Ruth had an 11.7, Barry Bonds a 12.9. Bradley has 156 minor league homers (one every 16 ABs) since 2014, when the Indians drafted him in the third round out of high school. That’s a special kind of power. P.S. Former Mississippi State star Brandon Woodruff is slated to pitch Sunday for Milwaukee, which means he can’t pitch in Tuesday’s All-Star Game. He has been replaced on the National League roster by teammate Freddy Peralta, another Biloxi Shuckers alumnus. … Ex-Ole Miss standout Drew Pomeranz has returned to the injured list (forearm) for San Diego. Pomeranz, who missed most of May and June on the IL, has a 1.59 ERA in 18 relief outings.

03 Jul

an odd couple

A couple of pitching performances, from very different pitchers, jumped out from Friday’s array of games. Both, by sheer coincidence, involved the Detroit Tigers, who were on the losing side in each game. In the big leagues, former Ole Miss star Lance Lynn delivered one of his typical workhorse performances in the Chicago White Sox’s 8-2 win against the Tigers. In Triple-A, ex-Southern Miss star Kirk McCarty, a Cleveland farmhand, delivered one of his typical crafty performances in Columbus’ 7-1 win over Toledo, Detroit’s top farm club. The veteran Lynn threw 117 pitches to get through six innings. He allowed four hits, walked five, struck out nine and yielded just one run in improving to 8-3 for the first-place White Sox. His 2.02 ERA ranks second in the American League. The self-proclaimed “big bastard” just might get an All-Star Game invite. McCarty, a 5-foot-8 lefty in his fourth pro season, worked seven innings for Columbus, allowing four hits, two walks and the one run with six strikeouts. The only Toledo hitter who really gave him any trouble was Mississippi State alum Jacob Robson, who went 3-for-3. McCarty, an Oak Grove High product, is 6-1 with a 4.11 ERA in his first Triple-A campaign. The six wins rank second in the Triple-A East. He isn’t rated among the Indians’ top prospects, but he is surely on their radar.