Belated happy birthday to that great young man of baseball, Julio Franco. Julio turned 47 on August 23rd. He’s been in MLB since 1982, virtually half his life. The native Dominican has very impressive career stats with a lifetime batting average of .300, an on-base percentage of .366, 269 stolen bases, and a very respectable fielding average of .977 as a versatile infielder. And he’s still going strong in Atlanta; this year he’s hitting .290 with nine homers, 40 RBI’s and four stolen bases through 8/29. As Julio recently stated during an ESPN interview, he ‘appreciates and respects the game of baseball, and what it has done for him.’ How refreshing! It’s too bad more players don’t share Franco’s attitude toward the game, assuming game is the right choice of words. Cheers to Julio Franco.
This article could have been the Q & A to several trivia questions had I elected to do so. Eddie LeBaron has most often been credited with being the first quarterback on the NFL expansion Dallas Cowboys’ 1960 roster. He wasn’t; that distinction belongs to Don Heinrich, a veteran QB the Cowboys claimed off the Giants’ roster. But the bulk of the work at QB for Dallas was assumed by the diminutive Eddie LeBaron. Eddie was instrumental in helping another QB on that 1960 roster gain prominence, one Don Meredith. A decorated war vet, LeBaron is the shortest QB in modern NFL history at just 5’ 7” and the lightest at just 160 lbs. (LeBaron makes another one of my all-time favorites, Doug Flutie, a comparative giant at 5’ 10”.) In addition to being the shortest QB in modern times, he also owns the distinction of throwing the shortest touchdown pass in NFL history. The pass, thrown in 1960, traveled a whole two inches. He played 12 seasons in the NFL from 1952-1963 with two teams, the Redskins and the Cowboys. This gutsy player was selected to the Pro Bowl four times in his NFL career. He may have been the size of a water boy, but he surely didn’t play like one. Cheers to Eddie LeBaron.
Statisticians keep records on absolutely everything. This piece of info is no exception. Thru 2004, Jose Lima has the ominous distinction of having the highest ERA in a season following a 20-game-victory performance of any pitcher in MLB history. He won 21 games in 1999; he got banged around for an ERA of 6.65 in 2000. That record is on the verge of being lifted off Lima’s shoulders. Curt Schilling won 21 games last season. YTD this year his ERA is a record-setting 6.89 through 8/29.
Story of the Week
ORESTES “MINNIE” MINOSO
Ala many black players back then, Saturnino Orestes “Minnie” Minoso didn’t get his major league start until he was much older than MLB rookies of today. The Havana-born Minnie was 26 when he joined the Cleveland Indians in 1949. He had earlier been a standout third baseman in the Negro Leagues, but was designated for outfield duty in the majors, and logically so. He had great speed.
Minnie Minoso is the only player in MLB history to play in five separate decades; 1940’s-1980’s. With brief appearances in the minor leagues (the independent Northern League’s St. Paul) in 1993 and 2003 (yes, you read it right), Minoso is the only player to have played professional baseball in seven different decades. To put it in the proper perspective, Minnie was 80 years old when he last appeared in a pro uniform. Was it a promotional ploy? Of course it was, but it happened.
Minnie was far more than a publicity stunt as a player. As noted above, he broke in with Cleveland in 1949. He made no great impact as an Indian, and after just eight games in 1951, they traded him to the Chicago White Sox. That’s when it all got serious, serious good, for Minoso. He led the American League in 1951 with 31 stolen bases and 14 triples, finished second in batting with a .326 average and in runs scored with 112.
A right-handed outfielder, Minoso was one of the leaders of the “Go Go Sox” who relied on speed rather than power, and perennially finished second to the great Yankees teams through most of the 50’s. His bona-fide MLB career ended in 1964. Although he played on four MLB teams during that career, it should be noted that he had two different stints in Cleveland, and three different stints with the White Sox. He also played for the St. Louis Cardinals and the Washington Senators. It was the White Sox who brought him back for three games in 1976 and two games in 1980. He actually got a base hit, a single, in one of those 1976 games at the age of 53.
Minnie played 1835 MLB games during his career. He had a lifetime batting average of .298 with 186 home runs and 205 stolen bases. In various seasons of his fine career, he led the AL in games played, base hits, triples, doubles, sacrifice flies, stolen bases, and hit-by-pitches. He was an outstanding defensive ballplayer, having been a Gold Glove winner three times. He was a seven-time All-Star. And to be sure, he was as colorful a player as it gets.
Minnie Minoso is not in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Minnie Minoso should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Last Week’s Trivia
Antonio Inoki gained fame in 1976. He was the Japanese wrestler who fought Muhammad Ali in an exhibition match.
Trivia Question of the Week
I’m getting too easy in my old age. If you don’t know this one, get the puck outta here. What team did the United States hockey team defeat in 1980 to win the Olympic gold medal? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.