50 Years in 50 days: 1980

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 32.

32 Years Ago:
The Appleton Foxes finish 13 games over .500, but miss out on the playoffs.

The cover of the 1980 Appleton Foxes Souvenir Program.

Foxes Information:
Appleton Foxes
Chicago White Sox
Manager: Gordy Lund (5th season)
1st Half: 34-37 (3rd)
2nd Half: 42-26 (2nd)
Overall: 76-63

Future MLB Players:
Pitcher Juan Agosto (11-6, 2.69) with a save in 23 games – 16 starts – with 93Ks in 144IP
Pitcher Francisco Barrios (2-0, 0.69) in 2 games – both starts – with 5Ks in 13IP
Pitcher Mark Esser (4-0, 1.22) in 5 games – all starts – with 34Ks in 37IP
Pitcher Bob Fallon (11-5, 3.54) in 22 games – all starts – with 103 Ks in 122IP
Infielder Tim Hulett hit .259 with 13 homers and 47RBI in 79 games
C/OF/DH Ron Kittle hit .316 with 12 homers and 56RBI in 61 games
First Baseman Greg Walker hit .280 with 21 homers and 98RBI in 135 games

Category Leaders:
AVG: Keith Brown – .305
HR: Greg Walker – 21
RBI: Greg Walker – 98
SB: AJ Hill – 33
OPS: Greg Walker – .873
WINS: Larry Wright – 12
ERA: Chuck Johnson – 2.63
IP: Larry Wright – 174
SO: Chuck Johnson & Bob Fallon – 103
SAVES: Dennis Vasquez – 16

Once More With Feeling Stat:  Gordy Lund returned to manage the Foxes for a fifth season.  He would wrap up his Foxes career with 350 wins.  Lund went on to manage Edmonton, the PCL Affiliate of the Foxes, in 1981 and 1982.

Gordy Lund, circa 1974

Just Missed Stat:  The Foxes won 42 games in the second half of the season.  But, they finished behind Wisconsin Rapids as the Twins went 45-25.

Talked about Kittle yesterday. Talking about Walker and Doby today.

Walker, Appleton Fox Stat:  Greg Walker was a Rule V pick of the Phillies in December of 1979.  He came to Appleton and raked.  Walker led the MWL in RBI with 98 and finished second in the league in homers.  He made the majors in 1982 and was part of the White Sox AL West Championship team in 1983.  Walker spent nine years in the big leagues with all but 14 games played as a Chicago White Sox player.  He became the White Sox hitting coach in 2003 and remained in that position until resigning at the end of the 2011 season.  Walker was a 1999 inductee into the Appleton Professional Baseball Hall of Fame.

Greg Walker's 1989 Donruss card.

Proud Papa Stat:  Tim Hulett would play 12 seasons in the major leagues.  He played with the White Sox, Orioles, and Cardinals. Tug Hulett is the son of Tim was in the Rangers organization and played against the Timber Rattlers in Clinton in 2005.  Hulett the Younger made the major leagues with the Mariners in 2008 and the Royals in 2009.

I’m Not Sure Stat:  William Luzinski appeared in eight games for the Foxes in 1980.  At the time, Greg “The Bull” Luzinski was playing for the Philadelphia Phillies and one year away from becoming a member of the White Sox.  Greg’s br bullpen page notes that he has a brother (Richard) and a son (Ryan) who played minor league ball.  But, the page does not note any relation to William.

Yep, He is My Dad Stat:  Larry Doby, Jr played for the Foxes in 1980.  His father is Hall of Famer Larry Doby, Sr.  The elder Doby broke the color barrier in the American League and was the manager of the White Sox in the second half of the 1978 season.  The younger Doby, who played his college baseball at Duke, hit .286 with five homers and 43 RBI in 67 games in Appleton during 1980.  He also briefly played with the Foxes in 1981.  Doby did not make it to the major leagues, but according to this 2007 story from the Cleveland Indians website, everything was just fine:

“I could run, and I could hit,” he said. “It ended up that I couldn’t hit the breaking ball, and that’s what ended up sending me home. I had a lot of fun and great memories from that. I played against and with a bunch of guys who made it to the big leagues. Unfortunately, it was a marriage I was divorced from. I didn’t get to say when it ended.”

Soon after it ended, however, a very happy marriage began.

In 1982, Doby became a union stage hand, working at Madison Square Garden in New York City, the Meadowlands Arena in his native New Jersey and Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Long Island.

The first show Doby Jr. worked at was a Billy Joel concert, and Joel’s production manager, Bob Thrasher, ended up asking Doby Jr. if he would consider going on the road with the “Piano Man.”

Doby Jr. accepted, and he’s been touring as part of Joel’s crew ever since.

Apparently, Doby Jr. also had a brief role in an episode of a show called Sex & The City.

Meet the Assistant GM Stat: There is a brief article in the 1980 Foxes program about the new Assistant General Manager:

Sue Iverson, a senior at the University of Massachusetts, is the assistant general manager of the Foxes.  Ms. Iverson is studying sports management with a concentration in professional sports.  Her work with the Foxes during the 1980 season will complete the internship requirement for her B.S. degree.

As a 1977 graduate from Quabbin Regional High School in Barre, Massachusetts she was voted most athletic female.  She played field hockey for six years, basketball for three years, winter cheerleading for two seasons, track and field for two seasons, a softball pitcher for three years, and officiated high school track meets.  She was a captain in both field hockey and basketball.  In addition, Sue participated volleyball, gymnastics, skiing, and instructed swimming.

While at UMASS she was a member of the bowling team, ski and outing club and participated in intramural volleyball, football, and tennis.

She was also the manager of the UMASS men’s varsity baseball team  Some of the areas of her responsibility included a budget, team travel, and media coverage.  Through this experience, she acquired a dedication for the sport and furthered her interest in baseball.

Ms. Iverson acquired this job through attending the Winter Meetings.  She  will be dealing in all aspects of the Foxes operation with primary duties including concession management.

Once and Future Major Leaguer Stat:  Francisco Barrios went 14-7 for the Chicago White Sox in 1977.  By 1980, he made three starts for the White Sox, two for the Foxes, and one for Iowa in the American Association.  Baseball Library notes his troubles.  Wikipedia notes that he was about to sign with the Brewers for the 1982 season, but he died of a drug overdose on April 9, 1982.

Francisco Barrios on his 1978 TOPPS card. In 1980, he pitched two games for the Foxes.

1980 MWL Season:

Here's the Foxes schedule for the 1980 season.

Changes from 1979 were the Dodgers leaving Clinton and the Midwest League.  The Giants moved their affiliation to Clinton.  The Reds joined the MWL by partnering with Cedar Rapids.  Hence, the new nicknames: Clinton Giants and Cedar Rapids Reds.

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

1980 MWL All-Star Game:
Cedar Rapids hosted the 1980 All-Star game on June 21.  The North defeated the South 6-1.  The South was held to just three hits as the North banged out 13 hits.  Greg Walker was the starting first baseman and Ron Kittle was the starting center fielder for the North.  Catcher Jeff Vuksan and pitcher Dennis Vasquez were on the roster, but did not play in the game.

1980 MWL Postseason:
The maximum number of games were played in the 1980 postseason.  In the North, Waterloo took Wisconsin Rapids to three games and advanced to the Finals.  In the South, Quad Cities edged Burlington, the Brewers MWL affiliate, in a decisive third game.

The Finals saw Waterloo win their third MWL pennant since 1975 with a win over Quad Cities in Game Three of the best-of-three finals.

1980 MWL Alumni of Note:
Way to many to choose just one so here are five players from around the Midwest League in 1980 whom you may recall making some kind of impact in the major leagues.

Von Hayes of Waterloo Indians hit .329 with 15 homers & 90 RBI in 134 games
Kent Hrbek of Wisconsin Rapids Twins hit .267 with 19 homers & 76 RBI in 115 games
Gary Gaetti of Wisconsin Rapids Twins hit .266 with 22 homers & 82 RBI in 138 games
Rob Deer of Clinton Giants hit .263 with 13 homers & 58 RBI in 127 games
Jim Presley of Wausau Timbers hit .245 with 12 homers & 52 RBI in 126 games

1980 Brewers Farmhand of Note:
Dion James (Burlington Bees)

Dion James 1984 Donruss rookie card.

James was the first round pick of the Milwaukee Brewers (25th overall) in the 1980 draft.  He played just three regular season games with the Bees in 1980 and he went 1-for-10 with an RBI.  James was taken two spots after the Mets took Billy Beane.

James had hit .317 in Butte, Milwaukee’s Pioneer League team, before joining the Bees.  He was 17 years old at the time.

James worked his way up the minor league ladder and made his MLB debut with Milwaukee in 1983.  James played in 128 games for the Crew in 1984 and hit .295 with a homer and ten stolen bases.

Milwaukee traded James to the Braves for Brad Komminsk before the 1987 season.  James went on to put together his best MLB season in 1987.  He hit a career high ten homers, picked up 37 doubles, and hit .312 with an OPS of .869 in 134 games.  The only season he had a better batting average was in 1993 when he hit .332 in 115 games for the New York Yankees.

James would play with the Braves, Indians, and Yankees between 1987 and 1996.  The Yankees released him in 1996 and Milwaukee re-signed James.  They assigned him to Stockton and New Orleans, but James career ended without a return to the majors.

In eleven seasons, James was a career .289 hitter.  Part of his first professional season was in the Midwest League.

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

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