Sunday, April 30, 2006

Mike Fetters

Michael Lee Fetters did not like to mix it up.

Prior to each pitch, the big, burly right-hander went through the same eaxct routine.

As Fetters would go into the stretch, he would take a long, deep breath, bringing his hands slowly to his belt. He then would snap his head violently toward homeplate and glare at the batter before hurling the ball toward homeplate.

He never deviated from this practice.

His wild man antics reminded some baseball fans of Al "The Mad Hungarian" Hrabosky.

However, unlike Hrabosky, Fetters wasn't trying to put on a show to entertain the fans. Nor, was he trying to scare major league batters.

"I didn't do it for publicity or to intimidate hitters," Fetters explained shortly after his playing days were over. "They're major leaguers and they aren't intimidated by things like that. I did it because I had an asthma condition." Fetters noted, "It's hard to pitch to a batter when the bases are loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning and you can't breathe."[1]

Nevertheless, whenever Fetters came into the game it was baseball theater at its best.

And the fans loved it.

A southern California native, Fetters was selected by the California Angels with the 27th overall pick in the first round of the 1986 amateur draft. He played in the big leagues for 16 seasons with eight different teams, including the Dodgers in 2000 and 2001.

Fetters had his best season in 1996 with the Milwaukee Brewers, when he posted a 3-3 record with a 3.38 earned run average while registering 32 saves.


[1] Walters, Jim. "Fetters Turning Heads Once Again." <>, Feb. 25, 2006.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Von Joshua

If it weren’t for bad luck, Von Everett Joshua wouldn’t have had any luck at all. Or, so it seemed for the sweet swining outfielder in the spring of 1973.

The 24-year old Joshua, a two-time minor league batting champion, was hitting a cool .333 as the Los Angeles Dodgers’ starting left fielder when he suffered a broken right wrist two weeks into the young season.

The injury sidelined Joshua for over a month.

By the time he was healthy again, his opportunity to play every day in Los Angeles had vanished.

As in years past, he was back sitting on the Dodger bench, soaking up the southern California sun.

When Dodger manager Walt Alston did call his name, it was usually to go and pinch-hit against a right-handeder. A left-handed hitter, Joshua seldom saw action against southpaws.

Frustrated, Joshua asked to be traded.

"It's just that I feel at an age when I should be playing regularly," Joshua explained at the time. "I'm not old, but I'm concerned that I might look up some day and find the opportunity to really make it in this game has passed me by."

Joshua finally got his wish when he was sold to the San Francisco Giants for the waiver price of $20,000 on January 29, 1975.

A northern California native, Joshua played like a man with something to prove during his first season in San Francisco, batting .318 while stealing 20 bases. And he hit righties and lefties equally well.

But, by the following season, Joshua had worn out his welcome and was sold to the Milwaukee Brewers.

Joshua didn't last long in Milwaukee either and was waived out of the league prior to the start of 1978 campaign.

After a season of playing baseball in the Mexican League, Joshua rejoined the Dodgers in 1979.

Humbled by the ups and downs of his career, Joshua appeared content with his role as a part-time player. It seemed as though he had finally realized how truly lucky he was to have played the game he loved so much.

Joshua wrapped up his big league career the following season as a bench player for the San Diego Padres.



[1] Newhan, Ross. "Joshua Blasts Way to Starting Job." The Sporting News, April 20, 1974, 22.
[2] Newhan, Ross. "Maury Declined: F. Robby a Man of His Word." The Sporting News, March 1, 1975, 32.
[3] Newhan, Ross. "Pitcher May Be Test Case." Los Angeles Times, April 2, 1974, B5.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Claude Osteen

Nicknamed “Gomer” for his uncanny resemblance to the 1960s television character played by actor Jim Nabors, Claude Wilson Osteen Jr. was a reliable and durable pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers during the mid-1960s and early-1970s.

Although Osteen regularly preformed in the shadows of the club’s more celebrated hurlers like Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Don Sutton, he made a name for himself, pitching in three All Star games and winning 20 games in a single season twice. During his nine seasons in Los Angeles, Osteen led the club in shutouts seven times, games started six times, wins and complete games four times, and innings pitched twice.

Much was expected from Osteen from the start. He signed with his hometown Cincinnati Reds for a reported $40,000 bonus in 1957 after leading Reading High School to the Ohio State championship.

Osteen made his major league debut on July 6, 1957 at the age of 17 and although he pitched well in relief, he was sent down to the minors shortly thereafter. He pitched briefly with the Reds in 1959 and spent the entire season with the big club in 1960, but was back in the minors the following season.

The slender southpaw finally got a chance to pitch regularly in the big leagues when he was dealt to the Washington Senators in September 1961. After posting back-to-back losing seasons, Osteen responded with a respectable 15-13 mark and a 3.33 ERA for ninth place Senators in 1964.

Nevertheless, Osteen was traded again over the winter, this time to Los Angeles, along with infielder John Kennedy and $100,000 cash for slugging outfielder Frank Howard and four other big league players.

In 1965, Osteen joined the Dodgers vaunted starting rotation, alongside Koufax, Drysdale and Johnny Podres. Although Osteen split his 30 decisions, he pitched magnificently, posting a 2.79 ERA, good enough for ninth best in the league. Los Angeles won the pennant that year and Osteen was masterful in the World Series against the Minnesota Twins. Osteen tossed seven scoreless innings to win Game __ and allowed just one run in a losing effort in Game 6. The Dodgers went on to win the Series in seven games.

Osteen won 17 games in 1966 as the Dodgers returned to the World Series once again. This time, the club lost the fall classic to the Baltimore Orioles in four straight games. Osteen pitched in Game _ ...........

Phil Ortega

Looking to capitalize on Southern California’s budding Hispanic market, the Los Angeles Dodgers' organization claimed that Filomeno Coronada “Phil” Ortega was of Mexican descent.

But, much to the chagrin of the Dodgers, the right-handed fireballer from Arizona insisted that he was a Yaqui Indian.

He told the press that he didn’t even speak a word of Spanish.

Nicknamed “Chief” and “Kemo” by teammates during the days of political incorrectness, Ortega was signed by Los Angeles in 1959 for a reported $70,000 bonus.

But, it was up and down for Ortega until 1964 when he finally earned a regular spot on the Dodgers’ starting rotation. In 25 starts, he was 7-9 with a 4.00 ERA, striking out 107 batters in 157.1 innings.

After the season, Ortega was traded to the Washington Senators as part of a seven-player deal that brought Claude Osteen to Los Angeles. Ortega went onto pitch in the Nation's Capital for four years before finishing out his career with the California Angels in 1969.

Phil Hiatt

Like Crash Davis, the fictional character played by actor Kevin Costner in the movie Bull Durham, Phillip Farrell Hiatt belted home runs by the bushels in minor league parks throughout the country without much fanfare or adulation.

In all, Hiatt hit 314 four-baggers during his 14-year minor league career while playing for 11 teams in six different leagues.

Hiatt, however, is not the minor league's home run king. That distinction goes to Hector Espino who slugged 484 four-baggers during his long and productive minor league career.

A native of Pensacola, Florida, Hiatt was born on May 1, 1969. He was originally drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the eighth round of the 1990 amateur draft and played sporadically with the big league club in 1993 and 1994. Hiatt also played briefly with the Detroit Tigers in 1996, before making his last big league appearance with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2001.

Hiatt displayed some power in the major leagues as well, slugging 13 dingers in 422 career at bats. However, he struggled to make consistent contact in the "show."

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Jim Campanis

On December 16, 1968, Los Angeles Dodgers' General Manager Al Campanis did the unthinkable, the unimaginible: He traded James Alexander Campanis, his own flesh-and-blood, to the expansion Kansas City Royals for two minor leaguer players to be named later and cash.

You would expect that this particular holiday season turned out to be especially frigid for the elder Campanis.

But, who (other than his wife) could fault the old man for making this deal?

After all, Jimmy had spent parts of the three previous seasons with the big league club and failed to impress as a hitter.

Heck, there was barely any empirical evidence that the Dodger GM's son actually came to bat for Los Angeles.

You don't expect many scuff marks on a bat when you collect 11 hits in 74 at bats for a paltry .149 batting average, do you?

Obviously, nepotism could only take you so far.

The younger Campanis had two brief stints with Kansas City in 1969 and 1970 before ending his big league career with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1973.

He never batted above the Mendoza line in any of his big league stops.

Dennis Springer

A journeyman knuckleball pitcher, Dennis Leroy Springer played in parts of eight major league seasons for six different clubs, including the Dodgers in 2001 and 2002.

When Springer’s knuckleball was working, he could baffle big league hitters by making the baseball float like a butterfly. When the pitch wasn’t working, enemy hitters could make the ball disappear over outfield walls for home runs.

On the final day of the 2001 season, Springer was given the starting nod for the Los Angeles Dodgers in a game played against the San Francisco Giants before a sell-out crowd of 41,257 at Pac Bell Park.

In the first inning, Springer faced Giants’ slugger Barry Bonds.

Two days earlier, Bonds had broken Mark McGwire’s single-season, all-time home run record.

With the count full at three balls and two strikes, Springer threw Bonds a 43-mile per hour knuckleball.

Unfortunately, for Springer, the pitch didn’t knuckle.

It didn't flutter.

Nor, did it float.

And Bonds belted it over the right field wall for his 73rd home run of the year.

Although Springer pitched well that day, yielding just two runs in seven innings, he was charged with the loss.

Springer did not appear to be fazed about yielding the record blast. After the game, he told reporters "It was kind of a thrill to give it up. You don't really want to be the one noted for it, but in the pitching meeting we had today we decided we had to pitch to him."[1]

Originally drafted by Los Angeles in the 21st round of the 1987 draft, Springer made his major league debut with the Philadelphia in 1995 at the age of 30. He went on to pitch for the Angels, Devil Rays, Marlins, and Mets, before wrapping up his big league career with the Dodgers.


[1] Gloster, Rob. Bonds Connects for No. 73 in Final Game. The Associated Press (October 8, 2001).

Karl Spooner

It was supposed to have been a prelude of things to come.

Instead, it was just a tantalizing glimpse of what could have been for Karl Benjamin Spooner, the Brooklyn Dodgers’ 23-year old flame-throwing southpaw.

Spooner broke into the big leagues in spectacular fashion.

On September 22, 1954, he shut out the eventual world champion New York Giants on just three hits, while striking out 15 batters—a record number of whiffs for a pitcher in his first game. Afterward, Dodger catcher Roy Campanella called Spooner “the greatest young pitcher I’ve ever seen.”

Four days later, in the season finale, “King Karl” blanked the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates on four hits, while fanning an even dozen.

His 27 strikeouts in consecutive starts were the most ever by a National League hurler and fell one short of Bob Feller’s major league record. Spooner tied another big league mark by tossing back-to-back shutouts in his first two games.

On a Dodger team loaded with stars, Spooner appeared to have the brightest future.

However, fate intervened.

The following spring, an injury to Spooner's golden left arm ruined what might have been one of the most brilliant of all pitching careers.

The injury limited Spooner to just 98.2 innings as he bounced between the starting rotation and bullpen.

As a starter, Spooner struggled, posting a 3-5 record with an earned run average of 4.24 in 14 starts.

In 15 relief appearances, Spooner sparkled, winning five of six decisions, saving two games, and registering a microscopic 1.11 ERA.

So, it was quite a surprise when Dodger manager Walt Alston decided to start Spooner in the sixth game of the 1955 World Series.

It turned out to be a mistake.

True to form, Spooner retired only one batter in the first inning and was pounded for five runs, including a three-run home run to the New York Yankees’ Moose Skowron.

This would be Spooner’s last appearance in a big league game.

His career was not supposed to end this way; not this early.

But, at least he would go out a champion. Brooklyn went on to win their one and only World Series the following day.

Jim Hickman

After eight forgettable seasons with three different teams, including the Los Angeles Dodgers, James Lucius Hickman was magically transformed from a perennial struggler to a powerful slugger.

In 1970 at the age of 33, “Gentleman Jim” somehow batted .315, with 32 home runs, 115 runs batted in, and 102 runs scored for the Chicago Cubs.

Not bad for a player whose previous career bests were a .257 average, 21 homers, 57 RBI and 54 runs scored. He also drove in a hard-charging Pete Rose with a 12th inning single in that season’s All-Star Game.

When asked to explain his surprising turnabout, Hickman replied, “I really don’t know. If I knew, I’d tell you.”

Originally signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1956, Hickman languished in the minor leagues for six seasons. He got his first break when the New York Mets selected him with the last pick in the October 1961 expansion draft.

Hickman played for the Mets for six seasons, from 1962 to 1966. In those days, the Mets were affectionately known as the “lovable losers” and Hickman was able to provide the club with some of their first exciting moments. He was the first Met to hit for the cycle and the first to smash three home runs in a single game.

On November 29, 1966, New York dealt Hickman along with Ron Hunt to Los Angeles for Tommy Davis and Derrell Griffith. Used sparingly by the Dodgers in 1967, Hickman batted a meager .163 with no home runs and 10 RBI in 65 games. The following season, he was dealt to Chicago, where he would resurrect his big league career.

Predictably, after his breakout season, Hickman came back down to earth, posting a couple of solid but unspectacular seasons before finishing his career with the the Cardinals in 1974.

Dave Goltz

When the Los Angeles Dodgers opened their wallets and signed Minnesota Twins’ right-hander David Allan Goltz to a six-year, $3 million free agent contract during the winter of 1979, they expected to get a workhorse.

Instead, they got horse manure.

At the time of the signing, however, it appeared that the Dodgers had made a wise investment. Between 1975 and 1979, Goltz won 14 or more games each season, averaging more than 250 innings, and finished over 40 percent of his starts. His best year was 1977 when he posted a 20-11 record with an earned run average of 3.36 in 330 innings pitched.

In retrospect, the Dodgers would have been better off spending their money on horse feed.

In his first season in Los Angeles, Goltz was 7-11 with an ERA of 4.31, while completing only two of his 27 starts. In 1981, he won just two of nine decisions with a 4.09 ERA and failed to go the distance in his eight starts. He lost his only decision in 1982 and was released. He was picked up by the California Angels shortly thereafter and pitched effectively as a spot starter for the western division champions, but was released after losing his first six decisions in 1983.

Pepe Frias

Jesus Maria “Pepe” [Andujar] Frias always believed in himself and his abilities, even when others did not.

Released by three minor league teams in successive seasons after failing to bat above the Mendoza line, Frias refused to give up on his dream of playing in the major leagues.

Instead, Frias simply packed up his baseball bat and glove and headed north during the summer of 1969 to play for a Canadian semi-pro baseball team. There, he caught the eye of a Montreal Expos scout, who signed him to a minor league contract. Four years later, Frias made it to the big leagues.

Nicknamed "Harpo" by his teammates because of his resemblance to the silent Marx brother, Frias played in Montreal for six seasons, mainly as a late-inning defensive replacement. Dick Williams, who managed Frias during his final two seasons in Montreal, called Frias "the best middle infield backup in the major leagues." Frias’ stellar play in the field backed up his manager’s high praise. Frias committed just one error in 31 games in 1977 and played errorless ball in 64 games in 1978.

Frias, however, was not satisfied. He wanted an opportunity to play every day and finally got his chance when he was traded to the Atlanta Braves prior to the start of the 1979 season. In 140 games for the cellar-dwelling Braves, Frias batted .259, belted his first and only major league home run and knocked in 44 runs. But, he also committed 32 errors at shortstop, the second most miscues in the National League.

During the winter of 1979, Atlanta shipped Frias along with Adrian Devine to the Texas Rangers for pitcher Doyle Alexander, shortstop Larvell Blanks and $50,000. However, Frias' stay in Texas was not long as he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for minor league pitcher Dennis Llewalyn on September 13, 1980.

Frias served as a backup to Dodger shortstop Bill Russell for the remainder of the 1980 season and for most of the 1981 campaign. Frias was released by Los Angeles on August 31 1981, ending his big league career.

A hero is in his hometown in the Dominican, the street where he lives was named "Pepe Frias Boulevard."

1. Picking, Ken, "Braves Continue Juggling At Shortstop With Frias," TSN, April 21, 1979, p. 21. 2. Picking, Ken, "Glove Flash Frias Turning Out to Be Key Atlanta Belter, Too," TSN, August 18, 1979, p. 24.
3. Picking, Ken, "Braves Take New Look at Frias as Shortstop," TSN, December 15, 1979, p. 48.4. Galloway, Randy, "Rangers Hand Shortstop Post to Frias," TSN, May 24, 1980, p. 36.5. Dunn, Bob, "Expos' Frias Shoots Holes in Spare-Part Label," TSN, February 18, 1978, p. 55.6. McCarthy, Colman, "She Taught Sammy, Julio, Rico, Pepe," National Catholic Reporter, October 3, 2003.

McKay Christensen

A highly touted baseball and football prep star out of Fresno, California, McKay Andrew Christensen was dubbed “Which Way McKay” by the local media because no one knew which sport he would choose after he graduated from high school.[1]

In baseball, Christensen earned All-America honors as a senior from USA Today and Baseball America after hitting a robust .486 while pilfering 28 bases in as many attempts. He was selected by the California Angels with the sixth overall pick in the 1994 draft.[2]

In football, he was named to the Blue Chip Illustrated All-America team as a senior after reaching paydirt a whopping 44 times, two shy of the state single-season touchdown record.[3] Several of the top college football programs offered scholarships and Christensen eventually signed a letter of intent with BYU.

However, when the Angels waved $700,000 at Christensen, he signed. But instead of heading to the minor leagues, Christensen put his baseball career on hold. A devout Mormon, he embarked on a two-year mission to Japan.[4] This was not a surprise to the Angels as Christensen had informed all big league clubs of his intentions prior to the draft.[5]

In 1995, Christensen was traded to the Chicago White Sox as part of a seven-player deal that brought pitcher Jim Abbott back to the Angels. A year later, Christensen returned to the United States and began his professional baseball career. He made his major league debut with the White Sox in 1999 and played briefly with the club in 2000 and part of 2001. Baseball America named Christensen the top defensive outfielder in the White Sox organization in 1999 and 2000.

Christensen was dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas on July 13, 2001. He joined the big club a week later, and got off to a blazing start, collecting 10 hits in his first 14 at bats. “Obviously, no one can keep up that pace but I can definitely go in stretches like that,'' Christensen told reporters. [6] “That's how baseball is. You go in great stretches, you cool down for a bit and you jump back on again. I think it just requires the opportunity to do that.''[7] Predictably, Christensen cooled off by season’s end, but still wound up batting .327 in 28 games.

Thereafter, Christensen played for the New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies and Cincinnati Reds organizations and except for a cameo appearance with the Mets in 2002, he would not return to the big leagues.

Prior to the 2004 season, the 28-year old outfielder announced his retirement from baseball. Christensen told reporters that he did not regret the decision he had made 10 years earlier. “I gained rewards far beyond anything I could ever accomplish on a baseball field on that mission’s trip,” said Christensen. “You touch lives. You impact their future. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.” [8]


[1] Mitchell, John N. Football at BYU Can’t Match Pull of Pro Baseball. USA Today; June 9, 1994.
[2] Bostro, Don. Baseball Isn’t Foremost in Christensen’s Life. The Morning Call (Allentown, PA); March 16, 2003.
[3] Id.
[4] Id.
[5] Id.
[6] Painter, Jill. Man On A Mission: Christensen Making the Most of His Chance. Daily News (Los Angeles, CA); July 29, 2001.
[7] Id.
[8] Bostro, Don. Baseball Isn’t Foremost in Christensen’s Life. The Morning Call (Allentown, PA); March 16, 2003.

Tom Candiotti

Time after time, Thomas Caesar Candiotti took his turn on the mound for Los Angeles, tossing his tantalizing yet utterly mesmerizing knuckleball to opposing batters. But, inexplicably, it was the bats of his Dodger teammates, rather than those of the batters he faced, that would fall into a deep, long slumber.

To say that Candiotti was a victim of poor run support is an understatement. Between 1992 and 1997, the Dodgers provided Candiotti with the fewest runs per start in the major leagues.

Nevertheless, Candiotti always seemed to maintain his sense of humor. After a 15-to-1 drubbing to the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field in 1995, Candiotti told reporters, “I’m really getting ticked off at the lack of run support. If we had scored 16, we would have won.”[1]

Originally signed by the Kansas City Royals as an undrafted free agent in 1980, Candiotti was claimed by the Milwaukee Brewers in the Rule V minor league draft at the end of the year.

In October 1981, Candiotti underwent the dreaded “Tommy John” elbow reconstruction surgery and missed the entire 1982 campaign.[2] “At the time, there had been only eight of those surgeries ever performed,” said the big right-hander.[3] “Nowadays there are probably a hundred guys who have come back from that. But at that time, the only one who had come through it successfully was Tommy John himself.” [4] Candiotti was the second.

Healthy again, Candiotti shuttled back-and-forth between the minors and majors in 1983 and 1984, but was unable to maintain a big league job. The following year, Candiotti began throwing the knuckleball, a pitch his father had taught him as a youngster. “There were some long days, very frustrating days,” recalled Candiotti. [5] “When I first started throwing it, I got sent back to Double-A for about a month, and then to Triple-A.” [6] Unimpressed, the Brewers waived him at the end of the season.

However, the Cleveland Indians liked what they saw and took a flyer on the 28-year old right-hander, signing him to a free agent contract on December 12 1985.

“The Candy Man” exceeded everyone’s expectations, posting a 16-11 record with a 3.57 earned run average and a league-leading 17 complete games in 1986. He slumped to a 7-18 mark in 1987, but then won 14, 13 and 15 games the following three years. With free agency looming at season’s end, the Indians traded Candiotti to the Toronto Blue Jays on June 27, 1991. He finished the season with a 13-13 mark and a sparkling 2.65 ERA, second only to Roger Clemens of the Boston Red Sox.

In December 1991, the Dodgers signed the veteran right-hander to a free agent contract. He pitched in Los Angeles for six seasons, compiling a record of 52 wins and 64 losses, despite a respectable 3.57 ERA.

Unhappy with the way he was used by Dodger manager Bill Russell in his final season in Los Angeles, Candiotti signed a free agent contract with the Oakland Athletics on December 9, 1997. The northern California native won 11 games for Oakland in 1998, but got off to a slow start the following season and was released. He signed with the Indians shortly thereafter, the club where he had his greatest success, but did not pitch well there either. After a failed attempt to pitch for the Anaheim Angels in 2000, he retired.


[1] Gordon, Jeff. The Quote Machine. St. Louis Post-Dispatch; August 16, 1995.
[2] Bush, David. Knuckleball Has Been Good for Candiotti. San Francisco Chronicle: March 27, 1998.
[3] Id.
[4] Id.
[5] Id.
[6] Id.

Steve Bilko

Once hailed as “the next big name in baseball,” Stephen Thomas Bilko posted Ruthian-type numbers in the minor leagues but failed to live up to expectations in the majors.

Originally signed by the St. Louis Cardinals at the age of 16 in 1946, Bilko made his big league debut three years later, after belting 34 home runs and driving in a league best 125 runs for the Rochester Red Wings of the International League.

However, Bilko did not crack the Cardinals’ regular lineup until 1953. That season he belted 21 home runs and knocked in 84 runs, while striking out 125 times, only nine shy of Vince DiMaggio’s major league mark at the time. In 1954, Bilko reported to spring training overweight, lost his starting first base job, and was sold to the Chicago Cubs shortly thereafter for $12,500. He rarely played that year and was released at season’s end.

Undaunted, the hulking slugger traveled west and joined the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League. For the next three years, Bilko terrorized PCL hurlers. In 1955, he batted .328, drove in 124 runs and belted a league-leading 37 home runs. For the pennant-winning Angels in 1956, he won the Triple Crown, batting .360 with 55 home runs and 164 RBI. In 1957, he clouted a league-leading 57 homers and 140 RBI, and batted .300. He was awarded the league’s Most Valuable Player award after each season.

“Stout Steve” decided to give the big leagues one more shot in 1958 and signed with the Cincinnati Reds for ____. He was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 15th along with pitcher Johnny Klippstein for pitcher Don Newcombe.

A fan favorite in Los Angeles, Bilko batted a meager .208 but did show some pop as he slammed seven home runs in 101 at bats. But he was back in the PCL the following year, where he led the league with 92 RBI while playing for the Spokane Indians, the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate. He spent the 1960 season as a bench-warmer for the Detroit Tigers, and was selected in the 1960 expansion draft by the American League’s Los Angeles Angels. In 1961, Bilko clubbed 20 home runs in just 294 at bats, while playing half of his games in the friendly confines of Los Angeles' Wrigley Field, the ballpark where he had his greatest success. [He / Bilko] played one more season with the Angels, before wrapping up his professional baseball career with the _________ ___________ of the _________ League in 1963.

Billy Ashley

"There isn’t a ballpark that can hold him,” Los Angeles Dodgers’ General Manager Fred Claire once boasted of Billy Manual Ashley.

Unfortunately for the 6-foot-7, 227 pound Ashley, there wasn’t a breaking ball he could hit.

Ashley was the King of K; the Sultan of the Strikeout. He whiffed so often that he made Reggie Jackson and Dave Kingman look like contact hitters. Some Dodger fans swear that an umpire once called Ashley out on strikes while he was standing on the on-deck circle, waiting for his turn to bat.

During his career, Ashley struck out a whopping 236 times in 618 at bats. That’s one K every 2.61 at bats.

Yes, he also belted some home runs. Actually, 28 of them, or one every 22.1 at bats. But, the few bombs he hit hardly justified all of the strikeouts he piled up.

And to top it all off, Ashley was a hack in the field. He was a slow, lumbering giant who had abolutely no range or defensive skills.

Originally selected by Los Angeles in the third round of the 1988 amateur draft, Ashley was voted USA Today Minor League Player of the Year in 1994 after batting .345 with 37 round-trippers and 105 RBI in 107 games for Triple-A Albuquerque.

Ashley played in the big leagues for parts of six seasons with the Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox. He enjoyed his greatest success in 1996 when he clubbed an NL best five pinch-hit home runs and nine overall.


[1] Beaton, Rod. "L.A. Has High Hopes for Prospect." USA Today; September 13, 1994.

Eddie Ainsmith

A journeyman ballplayer, Edward Wilbur Ainsmith was a good defensive catcher who had surprising speed, but was weak with the bat. Ainsmith played in over 1,000 games in the big leagues for 15 seasons with five different clubs, including two games with the Brooklyn Robins in 1923.

A native of Cambridge, Massachusetts, "Dorf" as he was known to his teammates, was only 18 years old when he broke into the big leagues with the Washington Senators on August 9, 1910. He played for the Senators for nine seasons, serving primarily as Hall of Famer Walter "Big Train" Johnson's personal catcher. In 1913, Ainsmith pilfered 17 bases in just 84 games, including stealing three bases in one inning on June 26, 1913.

Ainsmith went on to play for the Detroit Tigers, St. Louis Cardinals, Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants. His best season was in 1922 when, as a member of the Cardinals, he batted .293, 61 points higher than his career batting average, while smashing 13 home runs and driving in 59 runs, all career highs.

Hank Aguirre

As a rookie hurler for the Cleveland Indians in 1956, Henry John Aguirre struck out Boston Red Sox legendary slugger Ted Williams the first time he faced him. After the game, Aguirre asked Williams to autograph the ball. Reluctantly, Williams complied. A couple of weeks later Aguirre faced Williams once again. This time “the Splendid Splinter” smashed Aguirre's first offering for a home run. While circling the bases, Williams yelled to Aguirre, "Get that ball, and I'll sign it, too."

Nicknamed “Mex” because he was of Mexican descent, Aguirre was born on January 31, 1931 in Azuza, California. He pitched in the big leagues for 16 years for four different teams. His best season was with the Detroit Tigers in 1962 when he posted a league best 2.21 earned run average, won a career high 16 games, and was named to the American League All-Star team.

The Los Angeles Dodgers acquired Aguirre prior to the 1968 season for minor league infielder Fred Moulder and cash. The tall, lanky southpaw pitched just one season in Los Angeles, allowing just three runs in 39-and-one-third innings for a sparkling 0.69 ERA. He spent the final two seasons of his big league career pitching for Leo Durocher’s Chicago Cubs.

Aguirre was recognized as one of the worst hitters in the history of the game. During his career, he managed to collect just 33 hits in 383 at bats for a microscopic .085 batting average. Legendary Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray called Aguirre, “the no hit leader of the big leagues.” Murray explained, “Hank doesn’t throw them, he swings them. Some guys have no-hit games, Hank has no-hit seasons. He thinks the batting practice pitcher should win the Cy Young Award...”

After his playing days were over, Aguirre spent a couple of seasons as a member of the Cubs coaching staff. In 1979, he founded Mexican Industries—one of the nation's most successful minority-owned companies. He died on September 5, 1994 at the age of 62 from prostate cancer.

Morrie Aderholt

During a baseball career that spanned parts of five major league seasons with three different teams including the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1944 and 1945, Morris Woodroe Aderholt displayed a big league bat and a little league glove.

"He's the world's worst third baseman," Dodgers' President Branch Rickey told the press shortly after Aderholt was called up by the club in September 1944.[1] But, “The Mahatma” noted, "he's a lefthanded pull hitter and a natural batsman.”[2]

A native of Mount Olive, North Carolina, Aderholt graduated from nearby Wake Forrest College in 1938. Shortly thereafter, he was signed to a professional baseball contract by Washington Senators' super scout "Papa Joe" Cambria and joined Charlotte of the Piedmont League in 1939, batting .297 in 142 games.[3] After the season, Aderholt was called up by Washington for the proverbial "cup of coffee."

A lanky, left-handed batter, Aderholt made his big league debut on September 13, 1939. It was his 24th birthday. He responded by belting a home run and a single against the visiting Chicago White Sox.[4] His home run, a mammoth shot over the middle of the scoreboard in right centerfield, was said to be the longest ball hit out of Griffith Stadium all season.[5] However, Aderholt came back down to earth the following day, committing three errors in a game against the St. Louis Browns.[6] Baseball, like golf, is a very humbling game.

Aderholt also made cameo appearances with the Senators during the 1940 and 1941 seasons, but failed to earn a spot on the club's 25-man roster. During his brief trials with Washington, Aderholt committed a whopping nine errors in 11 games at second and third base. His combined fielding percentage was an anemic .862.

Moved to the outfield so he would be less of a defensive liability, Aderholt returned to the major leagues with the Dodgers in 1944. In 17 games, he batted a respectable .271, but continued to pile up the errors, committing four miscues in 31 chances in the outfield for a horrendous fielding percentage of .871. The following season, he got off to a slow start, batting .217 after 39 games, and was sold to the Boston Braves for the waiver price of $7,500.[7] He found his batting stroke in his new surroundings, batting .333 in 31 games. Nevertheless, he was released at the conclusion of the season, ending his big league career.

Aderholt went on to manage in the minor leagues for several clubs and also served as a scout for the Senators.[8] He died on March 18, 1955 at the age of 39 after suffering a heart attack. [9]


[1] Burr, Harold C., "Dodgers Add a Dozen a Day," September 21, 1944, page 8.
[2] Id.
[3] Thompson, Denman. Harris Like Woman in Shoe. TSN: September 21, 1939, p. 3; -----, "Obituary: Morris Woodrow Aderholt," March 30, 1955, page 32.
[4] Povich, Shirley. Nats Stretch Losing Streak to 6 in Row. The Washington Post: September 14, 1939, p. 19.
[5] Id.
[6] Thompson, Denman. Harris Like Woman in Shoe. TSN: September 21, 1939, p. 3.
[7] Burr, Harold C., "B.R. Proposes 5-Year Limit on Light Tilts," TSN, August 9, 1945, page 10.
[8] Id.
[9] Id.

Bert Abbey

Baseball has often been referred to as the thinking man’s game. Like chess, baseball is said to be a game of strategy and percentages.

However, Bert Wood Abbey, the first college graduate to play major league baseball, likely would have disagreed with this notion. Abbey once stated, "Baseball's okay in college, but no place for a man with a brain!"[1]

Abbey was born on November 29, 1869, in Essex, Vermont, a little town located between the majestic Green Mountains and Lake Champlain--the sixth largest body of freshwater in the United States.[2] Although Abbey did not play baseball as a child, he did play the game at the collegiate level for the University of Vermont.[3]

After graduating from college in 1891, Abbey signed a professional baseball contract with the Washington Senators. He made his big league debut on June 14, 1892, and finished the season with an abysmal 5-18 record even though he had a respectable earned run average of 3.45. His .217 winning percentage was the second worst in the league.

Abbey was then sold to Cap Anson's Chicago Colts, but despite a change of scenery he continued his losing ways. In a little over two seasons pitching in the "Windy City," Abbey won just four out of 16 decisions.

Shortly after the start of the 1895 season, Abbey was sold to the Brooklyn Bridegrooms, for whom he would win five of seven decisions in 1895 and split the final 16 decisions of his big league career in 1896.

Abbey died on June 11, 1962 at the age of 92 in Essex Junction, Vermont. He was elected to the University of Vermont Hall of Fame posthumously in 1969.[4]


[1] -----, University of Vermont: Hall of Fame Inductees, Brief Bios: Bert W. Abbey 1969.
[2] -----. Town of Essex, Vermont.
[3] -----, University of Vermont: Hall of Fame Inductees, Brief Bios: Bert W. Abbey 1969.
[4] -----, University of Vermont: Hall of Fame Inductees, Brief Bios: Bert W. Abbey 1969.

Don Aase

Donald William Aase proved false the old adage that says you can never go home again. A Southern California native, Aase came home twice—pitching for the California Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers in addition to three other clubs during a 13-year, injury plagued major league career.

Selected by the Boston Red Sox in the sixth round of 1972 amateur draft, Aase burst onto the big league scene five years later, hurling back-to-back complete game victories against the Milwaukee Brewers and California Angels while striking out 18 enemy batters to earn American League Player of the Week honors.[1]

The Angels were so impressed with Aase’s first-year performance that they shipped Jerry Remy, their starting second baseman, and an undisclosed amount of cash to Beantown for the young, hard-throwing right-hander the following off-season.

A fastball-slider pitcher, Aase was primarily a starter at the beginning of his career, but pitched exclusively in relief after the 1980 season. He suffered a torn rotator cuff in July of 1982, an injury that would sideline him for nearly two years.[2] Although he pitched well in his return, posting a 4-1 record and eight saves, to go along with an earned run average of 1.62 in 1984, the Angels refused to meet the free agent hurler’s contract demands.[3]

Prior to the 1985 campaign, Aase signed a four-year, $2.4 million contract with the Baltimore Orioles.[4] He enjoyed his best season in the majors with Baltimore in 1986 when he recorded career-high 34 saves and was selected to the A.L. All-Star squad. Shortly thereafter, the injury bug bit the big right-hander once again. He underwent arthroscopic shoulder surgery in July 1987 and was waived by the Orioles following the 1988 season.[5] He then pitched for the New York Mets in 1989, before closing out his career with the Dodgers in 1990, compiling a 3-1 record, three saves and an ERA of 4.97 in 32 games.


[1] -----. Henderson, Aase Win Player of the Week Honors. TSN: August 13, 1977, p. 36.
[2] Henneman, Jim. Orioles Gave Lynn What He Wanted. TSN: December 31, 1984, p. 61.
[3] Gammons, Peter. Angels Pull In Bankroll. TSN: January 7, 1985, p. 44. See also, Singer, Tom. Angels Are Upset Over Losing Aase. TSN: January 7, 1985, p. 41.
[4] Henneman, Jim. Orioles Gave Lynn What He Wanted. TSN: December 31, 1984, p. 61.
[5] Lang, Jack. Mets’ Gamble Pays Off. TSN: April 17, 1989, p. 22.