50 Years in 50 Days: 1997

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 15.

15 Years Ago:
The Timber Rattlers made the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

Cover of the 1997 Media Guide.

Name: Wisconsin Timber Rattlers
Affiliation: Seattle Mariners (5th Year)
Manager:  Gary Varsho (1st Year)
First Half Record:  40-29 (1st, Central)
Second Half Record: 36-34 (2nd, Central)
Overall Record: 76-63

The 1997 Timber Rattlers wore Papermakers jerseys on Turn Back the Clock Days & posed in front of some cool classic cars for this team photo. Added 3/31/12

Future Major Leaguers:
Pitcher Brian Fitzgerald (3-1, 1.94) 41 games – no starts – with 10 saves & 68K in 69.2IP
Pitcher Brian Fuentes (6-7, 3.56) 22 games – all starts – with 153K in 118.2IP
Pitcher Justin Kaye (8-12, 7.30) 28 games – 26 starts – with 115K in 127.0IP
Catcher Carlos Maldonado hit .190 with no homers and 25RBI in 97 games
Pitcher Joe Mays (9-3, 2.09) 13 games – all starts – with 79K in 81.2IP
Pitcher Gil Meche (0-2, 3.00) 2 games – both starts – with 14K in 12.0IP
Pitcher Roy Smith (3-4, 5.59) 18 games – 11 starts – with 38K in 66.0IP
Pitcher Denny Stark (6-3, 1.97) 16 games – 15 starts – with 105K in 91.1IP
Shortstop Ramon Vazquez hit .269 with 8 homers and 49RBI in 131 games
Pitcher Jordan Zimmerman (0-1, 5.82) 3 games – all starts – with 18K in 17.0IP

Brian Fuentes was a pitcher, folks!

Category Leaders:
AVG: Adonis Harrison – .318
HR: Rob Zachmann & Mike Burrows – 12
RBI: Adonis Harrison – 62
SB: Adonis Harrison – 25
OPS: Adonis Harrison – .865
WINS: Julio Ayala – 11
ERA: Brian Fuentes – 3.56
IP: Justin Kaye – 127.0
SO: Brian Fuentes – 153
SV: Brian Fitzgerald – 10

Joe Mays seems like a fun guy.

Future Managers Stat:  Both Scott Steinmann & Jim Horner were catchers for the Timber Rattlers in 1997.  Steinmann managed the Rattlers in 2005.  Horner managed the Rattlers in 2006 and 2007

1997 MWL Season:

Magnet schedule for the 1997 Timber Rattlers season.

There were three affiliation changes in the MWL for the 1997 season.
Burlington from the Giants to the Reds
South Bend from the White Sox to the Diamondbacks
West Michigan from the A’s to the Tigers

For the record, the White Sox affiliation in South Bend lasted from 1988-1996.  The Sox had been in Appleton from 1967-1986.

West: Burlington Bees, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Clinton LumberKings, Quad City River Bandits,
Central: Beloit Snappers, Kane County Cougars, Peoria Chiefs, Rockford Cubbies, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers
East: Fort Wayne Wizards, Lansing Lugnuts, Michigan Battle Cats, South Bend Silver Hawks, West Michigan Whitecaps

1997 MWL All-Star Game:
Lansing hosted the game on June 17.  The East beat the West 6-5 on a walk-off triple by Steve Medrano of the Lugnuts.

The Timber Rattlers Joe Mays was the winning pitcher.

No Rattlers were in the starting lineup, but three did get into the game for the East:
Luis Figueroa – 3B
Jason Regan – DH
Joe Mays – P

1997 Postseason:
Eight teams made the playoffs: The Division winner in each half and two Wild Card teams

First Round (Best-of-three):
Cedar Rapids 2, Burlington 0
Kane County 2, Wisconsin 0
Fort Wayne 2, West Michigan 0
Lansing 2, Michigan 1

Second Round (Best-of-three):
Lansing 2, Fort Wayne 0
Kane County 2, Cedar Rapids 0

Finals (Best-of-five):
Lansing 3, Kane County 2

1997 MWL Alum of Note:
Scott PodsednikKane County Cougars

He made it to the majors.

Scotty hit .277 in 135 games for the Cougars during 1997.  He became a Brewer for the 2003 season and finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year Award voting (behind Dontrelle Willis).

1997 Brewers Alum of Note:
Allen LevraultBeloit Snappers

Allen Levrault as a Brewer.

Levrault went 3-10 in 24 starts for the Snappers in 1997.

He pitched in the big leagues for the Brewers in 2000 and 2001 and for Florida in 2003.

This story from 2010 caught up with Levrault.

It’s here he rushes near every afternoon, coaching the town’s middle school baseball team through 14-odd games in the regional Massasoit League. Mike Friar — father of varsity players Nick and Jake — stepped down last summer, and district athletic director Gail Silvia was approaching desperation for a replacement when she ran into Levrault in March at Westport’s playoff basketball game in Boston.

Hearing her former student had been laid off from a job as a welder, she told him about the opening.

“His eyes lit up,” Silvia said.

“I’ve been wanting to coach, just haven’t had the time,” said Levrault, a member of Westport High’s athletic hall of fame and its first baseball player to have his number retired. “I make time now.”

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

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