Down On The Farm: Legends In The Minor Leagues.
I love the history of Baseball, to me it’s the most interesting thing in the world. While I love some aspects of the Major Leagues in present times, I got to admit that nothing gets my Baseball juices flowing like Baseball of yesteryear. In particular the old Negro Leagues, Pacific Coast League, Independent Leagues and even the old Minor Leagues. In addition, lately I have been learning as much as I can about the history of Baseball in Cuba and it is incredibly fascinating. Well to get back at my point…I post a ton about the Majors, Negro Leagues and PCL, so I figure I need to start spreading out. So to start today, I am doing a photo post on legendary players of the past during their time in the Minor Leagues. I hope you enjoy.
1950. Mickey Mantle was a member of the Joplin Miners who were the Class C affiliate of the New York Yankees at that time. In 137 games The Mick batted .383, had 199 hits which 26 of those were home runs. It was obvious even in Class C ball that the Mick was destined for greatness.
1954. Roberto Clemente was a member of the Montreal Royals who were the AAA affiliate of the Brooklyn Dodgers. That’s right, the Dodgers not the Pirates. Brooklyn lost Clemente to the Pirates in the Rule 5 draft of 1954. As a huge fan of the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers, it blows my mind that Clemente hypothetically could have been member of that team if he wasn’t lost in the draft. Clemente in the same lineup as Jackie Robinson, holy shit that would have been awesome. Not so much for Pirates fans though. I am assuming the Dodgers did not protect him in the draft because in 1954 he didn’t turn many heads as he only hit .257, had 38 hits, and hit 2 home runs in 155 plate appearances in 87 games.
1953. Hank Aaron was a member of the Jacksonville Braves who were the Class A affiliate of the Milwaukee Braves. In 137 games that season he hit .362, had 208 hits, and 22 home runs. If you are confused by Hammerin’ Hank not playing Right Field in the photo above there is an explanation: During his time in the Minor Leagues and in the Negro Leagues as a member Indianapolis Clowns he was a Short Stop & Second Basemen. The Braves organization converted Aaron to an Outfielder during the Puerto Rican Winter League late in 1953.
1938. Ted Williams was a member of the Minneapolis Millers who were the AA affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. Williams was bought by the Red Sox from the San Diego Padres of the PCL. He was the hometown hero for the Padres during the 1936 & 1937 seasons before departing for Minneapolis. In 148 games with the Millers he hit .366, had 193 hits, and hit 43 home runs. That is no typo, 43 freaking round trippers.
Oh yeah, he continued to wear #19 as a member of the Millers which was also his number with the Padres. He was not able to keep #19 when he was called up to the Red Sox in 1939 so he dropped the 1 and wore #9 for his entire 19 season career in Boston. The #19 is relevant and interesting to me due to the fact that the modern player most compared to the Splendid Splinter was Tony Gwynn. He also wore #19 with the Padres. I’ve mentioned this before, but seriously that’s incredibly cool.
1946. Jackie Robinson was a member of the Montreal Royals who were the AAA affiliate of the Brooklyn Dodgers. As a 27 year old playing his first year in Professional Baseball outside of the Negro Leagues he tore up the International League. In 124 games Jackie hit .349, had 155 hits, stole 40 bases and hit 3 home runs. It’s kind of crazy to think that Jackie started his Major League career while he was 28 years old, imagine what he could have accomplished if he was able to play more than 10 seasons in big leagues?
A cool note on Jackie during his 1946 season in Montreal is that he lead the Royals to winning the Governor’s Cup which is awarded to the Champion of the International League. Jackie was incredibly popular in Montreal and always spoke highly of the city for the rest of his life for being accepting and kind. The following season when he left to play for the Dodgers, he was chased by cheering fans to the train as he left to Brooklyn. According to the Ken Burns’ Baseball Documentary (now on Netflix instant view by the way!) writer Sam Maltin of the Pittsburgh Courier was quoted as saying that “It was probably the only day in history that a black man ran from a white mob with love instead of lynching on its mind.”
1951. Willie Mays was a member of the Minneapolis Millers who at that time were now the AAA affiliate for the New York Giants. Prior to the Giants signing Willie in 1950 he played with the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Leagues during the 1948, 1949 and part of the 1950 season. In 1951 Willie was called up to the Giants from the Millers after only playing 35 games but during those 35 games he had 71 hits, 8 home runs, 10 stolen bases and hit .477. That is pretty unreal to accomplish in just 35 games in AAA but goes to show you the kind of player Willie was.
A little what if piece of info on Willie during this time of his career is that before the Giants signed him in 1951, both the Dodgers and Braves passed up on him after showing initial interest. It’s unreal to think that Willie could have played in the same Outfield as Hank Aaron. I am guessing that the Braves are still kicking themselves about this.