50 Years in 50 Days: 1973

Fifty years ago, Appleton Professional Baseball joined the Midwest League. As part of 50 Years in 50 Days, Rattler Radio is counting down to April 5 with a look back at each season of Appleton Professional Baseball team since 1962 (with a lot of help from MWLGuide.com and baseball-reference.com). The countdown to Opening Day, 2012 has reached 39.

39 Years Ago:
The 1973 Foxes had a tough year.

The only change from the 1972 cover was a tint from blue to red.

Team Name: Appleton Foxes
MLB Affiliate: Chicago White Sox
Manager(s): Deacon Jones (1st year) & Bert Thiel (2nd Year)
1st Half: 17-41 (5th, North Division)
2nd Half: 27-35 (5th, North Division)
Overall: 44-76

The 1973 Foxes

Future MLB Players:
Catcher George Enright hit .165 with no homers and eight RBI in 54 games
Pitcher Santiago Guzman (0-3, 5.04) in 5 games – all starts – with 25 innings pitched
Pitcher Jeff Holly (8-9, 3.45) in 35 games – 19 starts – in 154 innings pitched. Holly also hit .197 with three homers and nine RBI
Outfielder Nyls Nyman hit .315 with two homers and 24 RBI in 92 games
First Baseman Mike Squires hit .298 with three homers and 27 RBI in 68 games

Category Leaders:
AVG: Nyls Nyman – .315
HR: Jeff Sovern – 9
RBI: Sovern – 55
OPS: Manny Estrada – .846
SB: Nyman – 25
WINS: Jeff Holly – 8
ERA: Holly – 3.45
IP: Leo Williams – 167

Rough Start Stat: In a nutshell, this article tells you what you need to know about the 1973 Appleton Foxes season:

Woody Eppinette, with ninth-inning relief help from Ron Slingerman, [made] a first-inning outburst standup Sunday as Appleton beat Clinton, 4-2, to end its season opening losing string at 15 games.

Note that the Welcome Home Banquet was held on April 30. The team hadn't won a game yet and they were eight games into the season.

Fall Guy Stat: Deacon Jones was the manager on Opening Day for the Foxes. At some point during the year, Bert Thiel replaced Jones.

What Are You Gonna Do Stat: Pitcher Jeff Holly had three homers. He tied for fourth on the team in home runs.

A Little Bit of Math Stat:  The Foxes scored 510 runs and allowed 627 runs in the 1973 season.  Their predicted Pythagorean Win-Loss record was 49-71.   According to this formula, they under-preformed by five wins.

A Little Bit of History Stat:  Deacon Jones of the Foxes and Bernie Smith of the Danville Warriors were first year managers on Opening Day, 1973.  Jones and Smith became the first African-American managers in Midwest League history.  This was two seasons before Frank Robinson became the manager of the Cleveland Indians.

Bernie Smith played for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1970 & 1971. He managed the Danville Warriors in 1973.

THE DEACON:  The 1973 Foxes Program has this page on Deacon Jones:

Click for a larger image of the Deacon Jones story from the 1973 Appleton Foxes Program.

There is a part in there that goes:

He was instrumental in bringing the Foxes the Midwest League pennant in 1966 and was also a busy man off the field – appearing throughout the valley aas speaker and holding batting clinics for interested youth.

There was also this from the American Legion Hall of Fame:

Deacon Jones 1951 American Legion Player of the Year.


…Deacon Jones was selected in 1951 for his efforts with the White Plains Post #135 of White Plains, New York. Through special cooperation with Clifford Kachline and the Hall of Fame staff, the accompanying photo shows Deacon as he looked back in 1951.

People involved with the Foxes at the time with whom I have spoken always say that Jones was put in a difficult spot.  They always speak highly of Jones and say that he didn’t get a very good team for 1973.

How highly do we think of Grover “Deacon” Jones? He was an inaugural member of the Appleton Pro Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998 along with Earl Weaver, Boog Powell, Goose Gossage, and Glen Miller.

1973 MWL Season:
North Division:
Appleton, Cedar Rapids, Clinton, Wisconsin Rapids, & Waterloo.
South Division: Burlington, Danville, Decatur, Quincy, & Quad Cities.

The main change was an affiliation and nickname flip  in Cedar Rapids.  They became the Cedar Rapids Astros after switching affiliations to Houston from St. Louis.

1973 MWL All-Star Game:
Wisconsin Rapids hosted the MWL All-Stars on July 23, 1973.  This one turned out a bit better than the 1972 game.

The Twins won the game 4-3.  Nyls Nyman was the only Foxes player to be selected to the All-Star game.  He was the starting first baseman and was 1-for-4 with a run scored.  The MWL Guide boxscore notes that the All-Stars collected 13 hits in the game, but stranded 17 runners.

1973 MWL Postseason:
For the first time since going to the two-tier playoff, there were a pair of Division Championships before the Finals.  And this time, the divisional rounds were also best-of-three.  In the North Division playoff, Wisconsin Rapids swept Clinton.  In the South, Danville, a Brewers affiliate, swept Decatur.

In the finals, Wisconsin Rapids won the pennant with a win in the decisive Game Three victory over the Warriors.

MWL Alum of Note:

Ron Washington (Waterloo Royals – .277, 6 homers, 85 games)

Ron Washington's 1984 Donruss card.

Ron Washington spent his second year in Waterloo during the 1973 season.  He was signed as a minor league free agent by the Kansas City Royals in 1970 and made his MLB debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1977.  He would go back down to the minors, but return to the majors with the Twins in 1981.  He would stay up with Minnesota (1981-1986), Baltimore (1987), Cleveland, (1988), and Houston (briefly in 1989).

Washington is about to enter his sixth year as the manager of the Texas Rangers.

Opening Day, 2012 is April 5.  Get here soon!

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