28 Dec

not to be forgotten

You could put together a fairly impressive list of star-quality seasons by Mississippi natives in the major leagues. Fred Valentine’s 1966 campaign belongs on that list. The Clarksdale native, who died on Monday at the age of 87, batted .276 with 16 homers, 29 doubles, seven triples, 59 RBIs and 22 stolen bases for the Washington Senators that year, after which he got MVP votes. On July 29, 1966, the switch-hitting outfielder enjoyed what might have been his greatest day in The Show. He banged out seven hits, drove in four runs and scored four more in a doubleheader sweep against Boston at D.C. Stadium. Valentine, nicknamed “Squeaky,” went to high school in Memphis and was a two-sport star at Tennessee State before signing with the Baltimore Orioles in 1956. He debuted in the big leagues in 1959, with the Orioles, and spent parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished with a .247 career average, 36 homers and 47 steals in 533 games.

25 Sep

spoiler alert

On this date in 1965, Corinth native Don Blasingame got the only hit for the Washington Senators in a 5-0 loss to Jim “Mudcat” Grant and the Minnesota Twins. Strange but true fact: It was the fourth time in Blasingame’s 12-year major league career that he got his team’s only knock in a game. The record for that quirky feat — yes, there is a record for everything — is reported to be five (by Cesar Tovar and Eddie Milner). Blasingame also got the lone hit against Cal Koonce in a 1962 game and against Stan Williams and Moe Drabowsky in 1963 contests. Nicknamed “Blazer,” or the “Corinth Comet,” Blasingame was much more than a four-trick pony. He had 1,366 hits in his big league career (1955-66), batting .258. He got MVP votes in 1957 and was an All-Star at second base for St. Louis in 1958.

16 Oct

way, way back

Two Mississippians were on the field the last time there was a World Series game in Washington, D.C. They wore flannel uniforms and gloves that looked like leather oven mitts. Franklin D. Roosevelt was in the White House. It was 86 years ago. Nationals Park will play host next week to a Series game, or two or three, marking the first time the nation’s capital will have hosted a Fall Classic contest since way, way back in 1933. On Oct. 7 of that year, at Griffith Stadium, the Washington Senators (sometimes called the Nationals) lost Game 5 – and the series – to the New York Giants 4-3 on a 10th-inning homer by Mel Ott. Ellisville native Buddy Myer manned second base and batted leadoff for the Senators, going 0-for-5. Starkville native Hughie Critz played second and hit second for the Giants, also putting up an 0-for-5. There have been many twists and turns in Washington’s baseball history since. That Senators franchise moved to Minnesota in 1961 – the Twins have made three Series appearances — and was replaced by an expansion Senators franchise, which later moved to Texas, where, as the Rangers, the team has made two Series appearances. The current Nationals club arrived in Washington in 2005 from Montreal, a 1969 expansion club which never made the Series. Finally, after an 86-year wait, Washington gets to host the World Series again. As fate would have it, there is a second baseman from Mississippi — Fulton’s Brian Dozier – on the 2019 Washington club.

24 Oct

classic stuff

In case anyone was wondering – and someone was – Brian Dozier was not the first Mississippian to lead off in a World Series game when the Fulton native did so in Game 1 on Tuesday night. That distinction belongs to Buddy Myer, the Ellisville native who hit first for Washington in Game 1 of the 1933 Fall Classic against the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds. Myer, like Dozier, struck out to start the game. Longtime big leaguer Myer, who would win a batting title in 1935, led off in all five games of the ’33 Series for the Senators, who lost to the Giants. Myer went 6-for-20 overall, including a three-hit, two-RBI performance in Game 3, the only game the Senators won. (In the 1945 Series, Meridian native Skeeter Webb led off in all seven games for Detroit, which beat the Chicago Cubs.) … Eduardo Nunez’s big home run on Tuesday – off former Mississippi Braves ace Alex Wood — was the first pinch-hit Series homer for Boston since ex-Ole Miss star Bobby Kielty went deep in Game 4 of the 2007 Series against Colorado. (See previous post.) … Saw this very cool item on the baseball subreddit: Dave Parker, Ellis Burks and Mitch Moreland are tied for the most postseason home runs by a Mississippi-born player. As of today, each has three. Amory native Moreland, of course, could jump ahead with a bomb in this World Series. He struck out in a pinch-hit opportunity in Game 1. Moreland hit his three postseason homers in 2010 and ’11 with Texas, two of them in World Series games. Parker, a Grenada native (per baseball-reference.com), hit all of his postseason homers with Oakland in 1989 – at the age of 38. Vicksburg’s Burks – the state’s career home run leader — hit one each with the Chicago White Sox in 1993, San Francisco in 2000 and Cleveland in 2001. Of note: Louisiana’s leaders are Reggie Smith and Albert Belle (6). For Arkansas, it’s Brooks Robinson and Pat Burrell (5), Alabama Delmon Young (9), Georgia J.D. Drew (7), Tennessee Bill Madlock (4) and Florida Chipper Jones (13).

05 Jan

totally random

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.