50 Years in 50 Days: 1977 (Updated)

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 35.

35 Years Ago:

The cover of the 1977 Foxes Program.


Team Name: Appleton Foxes
MLB Affiliate: Chicago White Sox
Manager: Gordy Lund (3rd year)
1st Half: 26-44 (5th, North Division)
2nd Half: 28-40 (3rd, North Division)
Overall: 54-84

Your 1977 Appleton Foxes!

Future MLB Players:
Pitcher Ross Baumgarten (3-6, 3.75) in 17 games – 12 starts – with a save and 65 Ks in 84IP
Outfielder Harold Baines hit .261 with five homers and 29 RBI in 69 games
Pitcher Mark Esser (3-4, 7.80) in 12 games – 8 starts – with 53Ks in 45 IP
Catcher Marv Foley hit .272 with three homers and 21 RBI in 48 games
Infielder Lorenzo Gray hit .237 with two homers and 15 RBI in 55 games
Pitcher Fred Howard (2-5, 2.14) in 9 games – 8 starts – with a save and 52Ks in 63IP
First Baseman Chris Nyman hit .300 with five homers and 17 RBI in 59 games
Pitcher Dewey Robinson (0-0, 2.40) in 10 games – no starts – with four saves and 19 Ks in 15 IP
Outfielder Leo Sutherland hit .264 with no homers, 36RBI, and 49 stolen bases
Pitcher Steve Trout (6-8, 4.05) in 21 games – 18 starts – with 101 Ks in 111 IP

Category Leaders:
AVG: Andy Pasillas – .318
HR: Curt Etchandy & Orestes Minoso – 8
RBI: Ed Olszta – 52
SB: Leo Sutherland – 49
OPS: Andy Pasillas – .786
WINS: Robert Madden – 9
ERA: John Martin – 3.26
IP: John Martin – 171
SO: John Martin – 139
SAVES: Marshall Harper – 6

Yes He Is Stat:  The Orestes Minoso who hit eight homers in 95 games for the Foxes in 1977 is actually Orestes Minoso, Jr…Son of Orestes Minoso, Sr…You might know Minoso the elder as Minnie Minoso.

Minnie Minoso card from baseball-almanac.com

Going Somewhere Else Stat: Candy Mercado played in Appleton in 1975 and 1976.  He appeared in 105 games, including one game as a pitcher, for the Foxes in 1977, but wrapped the season with 21 games for the Burlington Bees, the Brewers Midwest League affiliate that year.

Gordy’s Back Stat:  Gordy Lund, the Foxes manager in 1974 & 1975 returned to the Foxes for the 1977 season.  He spent 1976  as the manager for Knoxville, Chicago’s Southern League affiliate.

#1 #1 Stat:  Harold Baines was the first #1 overall pick in a draft to play for the Foxes.  Baines, was picked by the White Sox with the #1 pick of the June draft in 1977.  He was 18 and made his pro debut with the Foxes.  Baines played just 59 games with the Foxes that season.  He was in the big leagues to stay in 1980.

Harold Baines. Great player...horrible uniform.

Baines was inducted into the Appleton Professional Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003.

1977 MWL Season:
The Midwest League did something counter-intuitive for the 1977 season.  The league contracted to eight teams as Dubuque and Danville folded and were not replaced AND they went from a 130 game schedule to a 140 game schedule.  MWL Guide notes that Opening Day was April 15 and the last scheduled regular season game was August 31.

North Division: Appleton, Wisconsin Rapids, Waterloo, & Wausau.
South Division: Burlington, Cedar Rapids, Clinton, & Quad Cities.

1977 MWL All-Star Game:
The Burlington Bees hosted the 1977 Midwest League All-Star game on June 8.  The game pitted a squad of MWL All-Stars against the Iowa Oaks, the AAA Affiliate of the Chicago White Sox.  The All-Stars won the game 5-3.  Leo Sutherland was the only Foxes player to participate in the game for the MWL.  Pitcher Fred Howard was picked for the team, but did not play.  Lots of former Foxes played for Iowa in the game, including Kevin Bell, Nyls Nyman, & George Enright.

I’m just going to swipe a few things from Joel’s notes at the bottom of the boxscore:

  • Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn and Hall of Fame pitcher Lefty Grove attended this game as guests of Burlington GM Dave Hersh. It seems that Commissioner Kuhn threw out the first pitch, and Lefty told stories. Ernie Banks was also scheduled to attend, but high winds in Chicago prevented his plane from leaving.
  • League President Bill Walters appointed Christine Wren umpire crew chief for the game. The papers seemed to think he was sending a message to the Commissioner.
  • It rained in Burlington. The game’s start was delayed 45 minutes by the weather.

I’ll focus on that middle bullet point in a little bit.

1977 MWL Postseason:
Waterloo won both halves of the North Division to earn a bye into the Finals.  Burlington defeated  Cedar Rapids in a one game playoff for the South Division Championship.

The Bees claimed the title and denied the Royals a third straight MWL pennant with a sweep in the finals.

1977 MWL Alumni of Note:

Paul Molitor (Burlington Bees)

Paul Molitor on his 1979 TOPPS card. In 1977, he played for the Burlington Bees.

Sorry, Mike Scioscia and Dave Stewart of the 1977 Clinton Dodgers, it really couldn’t be anyone else.

Molitor was the third overall pick of the 1977 draft.  The Milwaukee Brewers took him out of the University of Minnesota.  Molitor was in the big leagues for 1978, but his brief time in Burlington made a large impact on the Midwest League.

He appeared in just 64 games, but he hit .346 with eight homers with 50 RBI and 14 stolen bases for the Bees.

Burlington went 28-42 and finished in fourth in the Southern Division in the first half.  Add Molitor to the mix for the second half and the Bees went 43-26 to claim the second half playoff spot and an eventual MWL championship.  Despite playing less than a half season in the MWL, Molitor was named the league MVP for 1977.  On second thought, that may be because he played less than half a season.

After that season… oh, you know…Hall of Fame Career.

Paul Molitor as a Burlington Bee and as a Milwaukee Brewer. From gobees.com.

There were only two other players from the 1977 Bees to make it to the big leagues.  First baseman Jesus Vega and pitcher Willie Mueller.  Mueller went 15-7 for the Bees in 1977.

The 1977 Burlington Bees. from gobees.com

You know that Harold Baines was the #1 pick in 1977 and Paul Molitor was #3.  Did you know that the Montreal Expos drafted Bill Gullickson with the #2 pick?  Here is the entire first round of the 1977 draft.

Back to that bullet point:
Christine Wren was a female umpire in the Midwest League in 1977.  I’m just guessing here, but it appeared that she  did not have a pleasant time.

Christine Wren, a MWL Umpire in 1977. From Women Umpiring Baseball

That picture is from this website.

MWL Guide has this entry for Wren.

1977 was Wren’s third professional season; she’d worked in the Northwest League during the previous two summers. She’d also worked in spring training for two years, though she’d not been invited to participate in the 1977 spring. In 1975, she’d umpired a Dodgers/Southern Cal exhibition game before 51,000 baseball fans.

Wren’s umpiring received generally good reviews, even from those who didn’t approve of a woman ump. According to most reports, she was an excellent balls-and-strikes umpire; as a basepath umpire, it was claimed she needed some work. It was also reported that her basepath work improved from year to year. Some baseball men, including Baseball Umpire Development administrator Barney Deary, expressed concerns about her stamina which, quite frankly, read like sexism.

Joel notes that Wren was invited back to the MWL for the 1978 season, but she took a leave of absence and did not umpire in organized ball again.  Joel also notes that he cannot discover what happened to Wren after she left baseball.

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

1 Comment

Look for more photos and Appleton Foxes history on Ed Holtz’s Facebook Page – http://www.facebook.com/EdHoltzontheAppletonBaseballHallofFAme

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