50 Years in 50 Days: 1979

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 33.

33 Years Ago:
The Foxes used the 1978 Championship ring on the cover of their 1979 program:

The cover of the 1979 Appleton Foxes Souvenir Program.

Team Name: Appleton Foxes
MLB Affiliate: Chicago White Sox
Manager: Jim Breazeale (1st year)
1st Half: 38-29 (2nd)
2nd Half: 25-43 (4th)
Overall: 63-72

Future MLB Players:
Designated Hitter Jim Breazeale hit .357 with five homers and 24RBI in 36 games
IF/OF Lorenzo Gray hit .313 with two homers and eight RBI in 17 games
Pitcher Kevin Hickey (5-10, 3.57) in 29 games – 15 starts – with 121 IP
Pitcher Guy Hoffman (0-0, 0.00) in 2 games – no starts – with five IP
IF/OF Randy Johnson hit .263 with nine homers and 46RBI in 105 games
C/OF/DH Ron Kittle hit .258 with two homers and 12 RBI in 35 games

Question: What is more frightening? Homer the mascot or the collared jerseys? Answer: Homer. Those jerseys must be brought back for a retro night at some point in the near future.

Category Leaders:
AVG: Ivan Mesa – .283
HR: Dave White – 11
RBI: Vincent Bienek – 58
SB: David Daniels – 31
OPS: Randy Johnson – .820
WINS: Paul Soth – 10
ERA: Kevin Hickey – 3.57
IP: Kevin Hickey – 121

Player Manager Stat: Jim Breazeale was a Major League player (with Atlanta and the White Sox) before he was the manager of the Foxes. He was a first round pick of the Braves in 1968 and was in the big leagues in 1969.  But, he was backing up this guy by the name of Aaron…Hank Aaron.  Maybe you’ve heard of him.  According to his bullpen page, Chicago picked up Breazeale in the Rule V draft.  In 1978, Breazeale played for Iowa in the American Association (for former Foxes manager Joe Sparks) and also with the White Sox.  He hit a pair of homers in a game for the Sox on June 20, 1978 against the Mariners..  The image below is taken from the 1979 Foxes program.  It notes that Breazeale suffered a serious leg injury in a car accident early in his career.

Jim Breazeale, manager of the Foxes in 1979.

It’s Not Him Stat:  The Randy Johnson on this Foxes team is not the Randy Johnson known as ‘The Big Unit’.

Kittle Stat: Ron Kittle played against the Foxes in 1977 and 1978 as a member of the Clinton Dodgers.  After the 1978 season, LA released Kittle and the White Sox signed him.  The future AL Rookie of the Year played just 35 games for the Foxes in 1979 and returned to the team again in 1980, but he was on his way.

Lapels were everywhere in the White Sox organization.

1979 MWL Season:

There were two big changes in the Midwest League heading into the 1979 season.

The first was the end of the long affiliation between Quad Cities and the Angels.  The team in Davenport became the Quad Cities Cubs for 1979 as the Chicago Cubs returned to the MWL for the first time since 1973.

The second was Wausau becoming a co-op team after the Mets left the MWL.

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

Note the start and end dates for the 1979 season.

1979 MWL All-Star Game:
The MWL returned to the traditional All-Star Game format with players from one division within the league taking on players from the other division.  The South beat the North 9-2 in Cedar Rapids on June 20, 1979.  The Foxes had four players in the starting lineup for the North: Vince Bienek (LF); Ivan Mesa (SS); Vito Lucarelli (C); and Phil Bauer (2B).  Pitcher Mark Teutsch got into the game as a reliever and worked two scoreless innings.  Pitcher Mark Platel was named to the squad, but did not play in the game.

Mitch Webster of the Clinton Dodgers had three hits and two RBI for the South.

1979 MWL Postseason:
All three series went to a decisive third game during the 1979 playoffs.  Quad Cities edged the Dodgers in the South and Waterloo beat Wausau in the North during the divisional round.

In the Finals, Quad Cities beat Waterloo in Game Three.

1979 MWL Alum of Note:

Orel Hershiser (Clinton Dodgers)

A LumberKings bobblehead giveaway from a couple of years ago. The number for Orel Herhiser, who played in Clinton in 1979, seems a bit low.

The Dodgers selected Hershiser with a 17th round selection in the 1979 draft out of Bowling Green State University. Hershiser started his professional career with Clinton. He went 4-0 with a 2.09ERA and appeared in 15 games – four starts)

I only note this to note it, not to make a judgement. Seattle picked Bud Black with the first pick of the 17th round in 1979. The Brewers had the pick right before the Dodgers in the 17th round in 1979. They took Ray Alonzo, an outfielder from Grand Canyon University.

Eight years later, this was Hershiser:

Former Clinton Dodger on the cover of SI after the defeat of the A's in the 1988 World Series.

1979 Brewers Farmhand of Note:

Doug Jones (Burlington Bees):

Doug Jones with the Burlington Bees in 1979.

Doug Jones with the Milwaukee Brewers circa late '90s.

Doug Jones was drafted by the Brewers in the third round of the 1978 draft.

He was a starting pitcher for the Burlington Bees in 1979 and went 10-10 with a 1.75ERA in 28 games – 20 starts – and racked up 190 innings.

He made his MLB debut with the Crew in 1982, but that was just a cameo. He stayed in the Brewers organization -mainly as a starting pitcher – through 1984. Just before Opening Day in 1985, Jones signed with Cleveland. It took about two seasons, but The Undertaker became one of the very good American League closers and was an AL All-Star from 1988-1990. After stops in Houston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and the Cubs, Jones returned to Milwaukee as the setup man for Mike Fetters in 1996. He became the closer for Milwaukee in 1997 and saved 36 games that season.

Jones started 1998 as the closer, but he was replaced by Bob Wickman during the season and the Brewers traded Jones to Cleveland for Eric Plunk.

Jones finished his career with two seasons in Oakland (1999-2000). Jones saved 303 games in his career.

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

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