50 Years in 50 Days: 1994

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 18.

18 Years Ago:
The Appleton Foxes sad good bye to Goodland Field and hello to a guy by the name of Alex Rodriguez made his professional debut.

Same Paul Birling cover from 1991, but with a different tint.

Name: Appleton Foxes
Affiliation: Seattle Mariners (2nd Year)
Manager:  Carlos Lezcano (2nd Year)
First Half Record:  39-30 (2nd, North)
Second Half Record: 36-34 (4th, North)
Overall Record: 75-64

Carlos Lezcano, Foxes manager in 1994.

Future Major Leaguers:
Pitcher Dean Crow (2-4, 7.04) in 16 games – no starts –  with two saves & 11Ks in 15.1IP
Pitcher John Cummings (0-0, 3.00) in one game – a start – with 6K in 3IP
Pitcher Scott Davison (0-1, 3.68) in 4 games – no starts – with 7K in 7.1IP
Shortstop Wilson Delgado hit .194 with no homers & no RBI in 9 games
Pitcher Shawn Estes (0-2, 4.58) in 5 games – 4 starts – with 28 K in 19.2IP
Pitcher Ryan Franklin (9-6, 3.13) in 18 games – all starts – with 102Ks in 118IP
Second Baseman Giomar Guevara hit .301 with 8 homers & 46RBI in 110 games
Pitcher Tim Harikkala (8-3, 1.92) in 13 games – all starts – with 63K in 93.2IP
Pitcher Brett Hinchliffe (11-7, 3.21) in 27 games – all starts – with 160K in 173.2IP
Catcher Raul Ibanez hit .312 with 7 homers & 59RBI in 91 games
Pitcher Matt Mantei (5-1, 2.06) in 48 games – no starts – with 26 saves & 70K in 46.0IP
Shortstop Alex Rodriguez hit .319 with 14 homers and 55RBI in 65 games
Pitcher Matt Wagner (4-2, 0.83) in 15 games – one start – with a save & 48K in 32.2IP

Alex Rodriguez baseball card from the 1994 Appleton Foxes.

Category Leaders:
AVG: Raul Ibanez – .319
HR: Alex Rodriguez – 14
RBI: Raul Ibanez – 55
SB: Mike Barger – 40
OPS: Raul Ibanez – .905
WINS: Brett Hinchliffe – 11
ERA: Ryan Smith – 2.81
IP: Brett Hinchliffe – 173.2
SO: Brett Hinchliffe – 160
SV: Matt Mantei – 26

He did play in Appleton, but he played for the Foxes, not the Timber Rattlers.

A-Rod Stat:  The Mariners selected Alex Rodriguez with the #1 overall pick of the 1993 draft.  He made his professional debut with the Foxes.  Rodriguez was named to the MWL All-Star game, but did not play in the game at Fort Wayne due to being promoted.  Despite just 65 games in the MWL in 1994, Rodriguez was named the Prospect of the Year for 1994.

Everyone says that they saw him play at Goodland Field. Everyone also saw the Marlboro Man at Goodland Field, too.

No-Hitter Stat: Brett Hinchliffe tossed a no-hitter against Cedar Rapids on June 28, 1994.  The Foxes won the game 13-0.

See. There were other guys on that '94 Foxes team.

Count Them Up Stat:  There were thirteen future major league players on the 1994 Appleton Foxes roster.

Ryan Franklin as an Appleton Fox in 1994.


Raul Ibanez as an Appleton Fox in 1994.

Tim Harikkala as an Appleton Fox in 1994.

Matt Mantei as an Appleton Fox in 1994.


Goodbye, Goodland Stat: The 1994 season was the final year of Foxes baseball at Goodland Field.  This Flashback Friday captures the night.

Fifth row of the bleachers.  Third-base side.  Above the Foxes’ dugout.  Aisle seat.  This has been Patti McFarland’s home away from home for the better part of 50 years.

Scorebook in hand, she’s dutifully recording history tonight.  As she records each out, the emotions rattle around her head like a pinball machine.

“It’s sad,” she says, groping for the words to express her feelings.  “We’ve had a lot of good memories here.  We’ve made a lot of friends, made friends with the players, even the umpires.”

The “we” Patti speaks of are the people she sits with at the ballpark.  They have become her family.

“Yes, this is definitely my second home,” she says.  “I know a lot of people who won’t be able to get to the new ballpark.  I’m going to miss all those people.”

But she’s thinking of doing something for them, as well as others.

“I’ve kept saying that someday I’m going to write a book and someday I think I might.  It’d be about life in the minor leagues.  It’s been a good life.”

1994 Midwest League Season:

The schedule for the final season of Foxes baseball at Goodland Field.

Lots and lots of changes for the MWL in 1994.

Madison left for West Michigan
Springfield left for Madison
Waterloo left for Springfield

Clinton Giants to Clinton LumberKings
Madison Muskies to West Michigan Whitecaps
Springfield Cardinals to Madison Hatters
Waterloo Diamonds to Sultans of Springfield
South Bend White Sox to South Bend Silver Hawks

North: Appleton Foxes, Beloit Brewers, Fort Wayne Wizards, Kane County Cougars, Rockford Royals, South Bend Silver Hawks, West Michigan Whitecaps
South: Burlington Bees, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Clinton LumberKings, Madison Hatters, Peoria Chiefs, Quad City River Bandits, Sultans of Springfield

1994 MWL All-Star Game:
Fort Wayne hosted the game on June 20.  The South beat the North 3-2.

1994 MWL Postseason:
Rockford won both halves in the North, but there was no first round bye in the MWL playoffs in this season.  That was when the oft times confusing MWL tiebreaker system kicked in to high gear.

The Appleton Foxes finished the first half in second place and had a better overall record (75-64) than West Michigan (74-65).  The Beloit Brewers (40-30) finished tied for second in the second half with West Michigan (40-30) AND had a better record (76-64) than BOTH Appleton and West Michigan.  But, West Michigan claimed the second half playoff spot.  Head-to-head record must have been the tie-breaker.

Not that it mattered which team Rockford would play.  They had MWL’s best record at 89-50 and swept West Michigan in the North Division Series.  In the South, Cedar Rapids  swept Springfield.

In the Championship Series, the Kernels beat Rockford 3-1 in the best-of-five set.

1994 MWL Alumni of Note:
Torii HunterFort Wayne Wizards

Torii Hunter as a Fort Wayne Wizard. Photo from baseballinfortwayne.com

Hunter played 91 games for the Wizards in 1994.  He hit .293 with 10 homers and 50RBI.  Hunter repeated the MWL in 1995, but he has been a mainstay in the Major Leagues for a long time.

Billy WagnerQuad City River Bandits

Billy Wagner as a Quad City River Bandit in 1994.

Wagner (12th) was selected eight spots higher than Hunter (20th) in the first round of the 1993 draft.  Wagner was a starting pitcher with the Bandits (26 starts) and finished with a record of 8-9, but he had, oh what’s the term…eye-popping strikeout numbers.  Wagner struck out 204 opposing batters in just 153 innings.  You can understand why he became one of the more dominant closers in the 90’s and early 2000’s.

1994 Brewers Farmhand of Note:
Cory LidleBeloit Brewers

Cory Lidle's in memoriam card.

Lidle signed with the Twins as a minor league free agent in 1990.  He was released by Minnesota in 1992.  Lidle signed with Pocatello, an independent team in the Pioneer League in 1993.  The Brewers liked what they saw and purchased Lidle for the 1994 season and sent him to Beloit.

While in the MWL, Lidle went 3-4 with a sub 3.00ERA in 13 games.  He was promoted to Stockton for the rest of the season and spent 1995 with El Paso in AA.   Milwaukee sent him to the Mets for Kelly Stinnett in January, 1996.

Lidle’s journey to the major leagues was not a straight one and he spent time in many organizations.  Here is a link to all of his transactions.

He made the Mets in 1997 and the Devil Rays in 1999.  Lidle also was a member of the A’s, the Phillies, the Blue Jays, the Reds, and Yankees.

Lidle pitched in the ALDS series for the Yankees against the Detroit Tigers in October of 2006.  It would be his final appearance because of a tragic plane crash.

Lidle died on October 11, 2006, when an airplane he was co-piloting crashed into a residential New York City building. He had taken up flying as a hobby in the previous year and a half and had been planning to fly home to California after the baseball season ended in New York. He was survived by his wife Melanie and a 6-year-old son, Christopher.

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

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