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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 40.
40 Years Ago:
The 1972 Foxes get a huge dose of Vitamin Lamar for another run at the MWL pennant.
Team Name: Appleton Foxes
MLB Affiliate: Chicago White Sox
Manager: Bert Thiel (1st Year)
1st Half: 36-28 (3rd, North Division)
2nd Half: 40-23 (1st, North Division)
Future MLB Players:
2B Mike Buskey hit .265 with two homers in 122 games
Catcher George Enright hit .230 with no homers in 25 games
Pitcher Jeff Holly (5-5, 4.58) in 39 games – no starts – over 59 innings
Pitcher/Outfielder Bart Johnson hit .329 with six homers in 50 games AND was 1-0 with a 0.53ERA in 5 games – 2 starts – over 17 innings.
First Baseman Lamar Johnson hit .313 with 26 homers over 114 games
That’s the Modern Record Stat: Lamar Johnson was THE MAN in 1972. His 26 home runs is a modern record (1958-present) for home runs in a season for Appleton Pro Baseball. Johnson was one of the most popular players in Foxes history and considering how hard it was to hit home runs at Goodland Field, you can understand why he was.
What Are You Doing Back Here Stat: Bart Johnson was the 2nd overall pick in the 1968 draft by the White Sox. He won 16 games for the Foxes in 1969 and made his MLB debut in 1969. He went 12-10 with 14 saves for the White Sox in 1971 and was on their Opening Day Roster. Then,
[Q]: In 1972 the strike shortened season, you started in the bullpen. That first weekend in Kansas City you got charged with two extra inning losses in back to back days and you didn’t seem yourself that year. Did that just screw with your head, was there an injury, because by June 3rd you were shipped back to the minors and never got called back up.(Author’s Note: Johnson’s short season was punctuated in a game on June 3rd. In relief against the Yankees, Bart gave up eight runs (three earned), with five walks in two innings of an 18-10 loss at home.)
BJ: “I was supposed to be what’s now termed the ‘closer’ for the Sox that year and I got two losses in about 18 hours. I was hurt. I hurt my right knee the off season playing basketball. I immediately told the Sox about it and they examined me and said the knee was basically OK but I did tear some cartilage. I rehabbed it hard, I gave it an honest attempt but when I went out to pitch I just couldn’t push off it. When they told me I was going to be sent back down I didn’t want to go because they were the one’s who told me that the knee was OK. They said if I didn’t go that I’d be suspended so I went back to Appleton. They wound up operating on my knee that September.”
Which begs the question….WHAT THE HECK WAS HE DOING IN THE OUTFIELD?
On a calmer note, Bart Johnson had great baseball cards. I am partial to his 1975 card:
Some may be partial to his 1976 card:
Keep in mind that he looked like this in the late 60’s:
What Does That Average Out To Stat: Paul Patterson made 28 starts in 1972. He pitched 183 innings. That averaged out to about 6-1/2 innings per start. He was 12-9 with a 3.20ERA. His WHIP (Walks + Hits/ Innings Pitched) = 1.31 (59 Walks + 180 Hits/ 183IP).
Hey, Bert Stat: Bert Thiel, the manager of the Foxes for the 1972 season is from Marion, Wisconsin*.
Thiel pitched four games in the majors with the Boston Braves in 1952. He was a minor leaguer from 1947 through 1959 with stops in Eau Claire and Milwaukee – when the Brewers were a Triple A team in the American Association. He became a minor league manager in 1960 and also made an mound appearance in 1961 with Pocatello. He spent time as a scout before coming to Appleton for 1971. His Bullpen page notes that after baseball he returned to Marion and opened a bar called Bert’s 10th Inning. Can any of our Marion readers help me out and let me know where this was?
*What is it with that town? As noted in the 1968 entry, Ken Frailing was from there, too.
1972 MWL Season:
North Division: Appleton, Cedar Rapids, Clinton, Wisconsin Rapids, & Waterloo. South Division: Burlington, Danville, Decatur, Quincy, & Quad Cities in the South.
Here is the Foxes schedule for 1972. Note the date for Opening Day:
Also, there was a special guest for Opening Day at Goodland Field in 1972. Click for a larger image:
1972 MWL All-Star Game:
On July 24, 1972, the Wisconsin Rapids Twins hosted the Midwest League All-Star Game. As in years past, the host team took on the MWL All-Stars. However, despite having 10 pitchers on the roster, the All-Stars only had three pitchers available for the game.
The score was tied 1-1 after ten innings. I’ll let Joel Dinda’s MWL Guide take it from there:
Officially: The All-Stars tied the Twins, 1-1, in ten innings in a classic pitcher’s duel. WR’s Ken Dempsey had three hits and scored his team’s run. No pitchers got any decisions, of course.
Alternatively, and widely reported: The All-Stars beat the Twins, 6-1, in eleven innings. Mike Buskey knocked in two runs for the winners, including the ninth-inning run that put the game into extra innings. Tony Velazquez got the win as pitcher of record in the top of the eleventh; Twins manager Jay Ward was the losing pitcher.
How this came to pass: League VP Roger Crow, who’d originally persuaded everyone on the field to agree to play the eleventh with the managers on the mound, made the decision to discard the last inning, perhaps after consulting with others. WR Tribune Sports Editor Bob Des Jarlais called the outcome “Wisconsin Rapids’ biggest baseball farce.”
And you thought the Miller Park All-Star Game in 2002 was ridiculous.
A bigger farce was that Lamar Johnson was not the starting first baseman for the MWL All-Stars. Kim Cates of Clinton was the starter.
Other Foxes in the lineup that day were Catcher Mike Reynolds and shortstop Mike Buskey. Pitchers Paul Patterson and Paul Sands were on the All-Star roster, but did not play.
1972 MWL POST SEASON:
Appleton defeated Wisconsin Rapids in the one game playoff to see which team would represent the North Division in the Finals. The Danville Warriors, Milwaukee’s MWL Affiliate, won both halves in the South to gain a bye into the Championship Series.
In the finals, Danville swept the Foxes in a best-of-three series.
I could go on for days about Sixto Lezcano and most of it would be about his Opening Day Walk Off Grand Slam to beat the Red Sox on Opening Day in 1980 at County Stadium. I loved watching him play. I loved the way that Bob Betts announced, “Sssixxxxtoooooooo Lezzzzzzcaaannnnnnooooooo!” when it was time for #16 hit. I was really happy when he won a Gold Glove for the 1979 season. I understand why he had to be part of the trade with the Cardinals that brought Rollie Fingers and Pete Vuckovich to the Brewers for the 1981 season..but I hated that trade at the time.
We’ve got to get him here for a Brewers Sunday.
Another MWL Alum of Note:
The 1972 season was Jim Leyland’s second year as a manager. He took over as the skipper of the Clinton Pilots, a Detroit Tigers affiliate at the time, for 1972. Leyland managed the Pilots again in 1973 and from there it was on to the big leagues…eventually.
Opening Day, 2012 is April 5. Get here soon!