Results tagged ‘ Appleton Baseball History ’
Appleton Baseball Birthday (January 10):
Juan Silvestre – 40
Silvestre holds the Timber Rattlers franchise record for career home runs with 36. He hit 15 in 1998 and 21 in 1999.
To see the main Flashback Friday for this week, follow this link to the Timber Rattlers website.
I wanted to supplement this week’s entry with a column and a few notes on the Seattle Mariners exhibition game that was rained out. Plus, there are a few photos from the front page of The Post-Crescent that I wanted to share in a fuller size…speaking of…Click the images for full size.
Here is a better look at the photo of Junior signing for the fans before the rain:
The first entry is a Chuck Carlson column from July 30, 1996:
Rattlers try to keep a sunny disposition
In barely 45 minutes, two years’ worth of work was washed away.
Literally, figuratively, meteorologically.
It was supposed to be the glorious capper to a wonderful season for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. After two years of negotiating, begging, and wrangling, the Rattlers had finally worked out a way to get their big club, the Seattle Mariners, in town for an exhibition.
And Monday evening, Ken Griffey, Jay Buhner, prodigal son Alex Rodriguez and all the other big-leaguers would give the home folks a treat they wouldn’t soon forget.
Well, forget it.
The weather, horrendous weather, which has tortured this team all season, got in one more shot and ruined yet another important night for the Rattlers.
And this one really hurt because it seemed the weather, which had toyed and taunted with the game all day, seemed ready to behave itself.
The Mariners arrived, took batting practice and fans oohed and aahed as Griffey, Buhner, Rodriguez, and others sent rockets over the stadium walls.
But it was all just a cruel hoax. Five minutes before the game was to start, the skies unloaded and the rains came.
Just as they had a month or so earlier during the second most important night of the Rattlers season – the Midwest League All-Star Game.
Remember? It poured that night too, but at least the Rattlers, by working all night, were able to get the field playable and the game in the next night.
There will be no such reprieve for this one.
“If we’re lucky, maybe we’ll get (the Mariners) back in six or seven years,” said John Wollner, president of Appleton Baseball Inc.
Luck? The Rattlers? Please.
“Thank God I’m young and my heart is strong,” said Rattlers general manager Mike Birling, who has watched nine precious home dates rained out this season after only five all of last year. “It’s so disheartening, but I guess that’s life in Northeast Wisconsin.”
After the initial 10-minute deluge, Manager Lou Piniella was still willing to play a seven-inning game, though without most of his key players. But when the second round came through, that clinched it.
“Timing is everything and our timing was lousy,” Birling said.
But it wasn’t a total disaster.
The Mariners agreed to participate in a home run derby, with Griffey, Rodriguez, and Dan Wilson against Rattlers Luis Tinoco, David Arias, and hitting coach Joaquin Contreras.
For the record, Wilson won, beating out Arias in the final round.
But while it wasn’t exactly what the fans had shown up to watch, most of the sellout crowd stuck around to observe.
“That shows how big an event this was,” Birling said, “Thank God the Mariners agreed to the home run derby because this would have been a disaster for us and the community. Just to get the Mariners on the Fox Cities Stadium field was something. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance.”
You really have to feel for these guys.
First it was the cold and wind in April and May. Now it’s been the rain of June and July.
What will August bring? Locusts? A plague or two? Who knows?
As for the Mariners, they hopped on their bus afterward and headed for a four-game series in Milwaukee that starts today. The Rattlers hit the road for a game in Beloit.
And the forecast today? More rain.
RATTLERS NOTES by Chuck Carlson and Jeff Sherry
Rodriguez an old-fashioned guy
The Mariners all-star shortstop prefers Goodland Field to Appleton’s new home for minor league baseball
If Alex Rodriguez’s taste in cars is anything like his taste in ballparks, his next vehicle will probably be a Pacer.
Rodriguez, who made his professional debut two summers ago with the Appleton Foxes, returned to the area Monday as an all-star shortstop for the Seattle Mariners. The 21-year-old participated in the home run derby after his team’s exhibition with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers was cancelled by rain.
It was his first trip to Fox Cities Stadium and Rodriguez, who played at Goodland Field with the Foxes had mixed thoughts on the team’s new home.
“It’s a night and day difference,” Rodriguez said. “But for me, I like Goodland Field more. It was kind of like my first girlfriend. It was the first professional experience I had and it was a lot of fun. I love the mystique of that field.”
Apparently Rodriguez has yet to be spoiled by his new four-year $10.6 million contract extension.
“I love this field, but I play in a lot of nice stadiums in the big leagues,” Rodriguez said. “They’re nice, and their locker rooms are nice, but there’s just something I like about old parks.”
PROPERLY PAMPERED: Timber Rattlers officials have been working hard the last few weeks to make sure everything was just perfect for when the Mariners arrived.
“Our whole purpose from when we got this game was to make them feel like this was a major league game, like they just went to another stadium,” Timber Rattlers general manager Mike Birling said. “We wanted them to have all the novelties here that they have at major league parks.”
Among the novelties the Mariners received were free hats, free T-shirts, pregame and postgame meals…the list goes on and on.
“Each player had to have three towels, they had to have gum in their lockers, shavers – all kinds of things that normally we don’t really provide,” Birling said. “It’s all the little things that these guys have gotten used to in the major leagues that minor leaguers don’t get.”
All the extra work seemed to pay off. Birling said the Mariners were very complimentary about the treatment they received.
“They’ve been very pleased,” Birling said. “Everything they’ve said has been positive so far.”
KINDER AND GENTLER: There was a time not so long ago when Mariners manager, the volcanic Lou Piniella, could work in expletives the way some artists work in oils.
As a player and then as a manger, he made his reputation as a fiery, bawdy, take-no-prisoners type who would just as soon pop his cork than look at you.
But, apparently, that’s all changed thanks to his new religious awakening.
“I’ve found the Lord,” he said. “He has taught me what my priorities in life are.”
Piniella admits that sometimes it hasn’t been easy following the straight and narrow.
“There are days,” he said with a smile, “when I take two steps back and three steps forward. But, I feel great.”
SIGN HERE: It was hard to tell who was more excited about the Mariners being in town – the fans or the Rattlers players.
Just about every Rattlers players had his picture taken with Rodriguez or Ken Griffey Jr. or Jay Buhner as well as procuring a raft of autographs.
“It’s weird,” said pitcher Kevin Gryboski, who was toting four baseballs to be autographed. “Even though you see these guys in spring training, just to get an opportunity to play against them is an honor. I know I’m a professional baseball player, but watching these guys makes me feel like a little kid again.”
Appleton Pro Baseball Birthdays for January 8:
Taylor Wall – 26
Justin Ockerman – 33
Herb Conyers – Born 1921
Nick Starasta – Born 1923
Chauncey Fisher – Born 1872
Ken Griffey, Jr. – and Mike Piazza – have both been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Griffey had already been the Seattle Mariners starting centerfielder for several years by the time the Foxes/Timber Rattlers became Seattle’s Midwest League affiliate so he never played in a minor league uniform.
However, he did come to Appleton twice for in-season exhibition games.
The exhibition game on July 30, 1996 was rained out, but there was a home run derby in which Griffey participated. The exhibition game that was played was held on April 29, 2001.
This was before social media (what a time THAT was) so I couldn’t find a lot of photos of Griffey in town. The following screencaps are from this KIRO-TV story that was done in 2014 by Gary Horcher, who covered the home run derby in 1996 as a reporter for one of the Fox Cities TV stations and provided the video.
There was a Griffey who wore a Timber Rattlers jersey. Craig Griffey, Ken’s brother, was drafted by the Mariners in the 42nd round of the 1991 draft out of Ohio State and would play 37 games for the 1993 Appleton Foxes.
Flashback Friday will have more on the home run derby and how it happened.
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers Birthdays – January 7
Eric Semmelhack – 25
Phillippe Aumont – 27
Michael Marseco – 29
Jose Escalona – 30
Brian Kappel – 33
Alan Zambrano – 37
The season premier of Flashback Friday is available on the main website. It’s a review of Appleton Baseball History from 1891 through 1990 and of the 1990 Appleton Foxes season from the 1991 Midwest League Yearbook.
Curt Rallo’s list of the MWL’s Top 10 prospects of 1990 for Baseball America is on page nine of the yearbook. There is also a list of the MWL Top Ten from 1985. Just for fun, here are those lists.
Top 10 MWL Prospects of 1990:
- Reggie Sanders, OF, Cedar Rapids Reds
- Scott Bryant, OF, Cedar Rapids Reds
- Rafael Novoa, LHP, Clinton Giants
- Alan Newman, LHP, Kenosha Twins
- Lance Dickson, LHP, Peoria Chiefs
- Rich Tunison, 1B, Appleton Foxes
- Ramon Caraballo, SS, Burlington Braves
- Javy Lopez, C, Burlington Braves
- Troy O’Leary, OF, Beloit Brewers
- Damion Easley, SS, Quad City Angels
Top 10 MWL Prospects of 1985:
- BJ Surhoff, C, Beloit Brewers
- Eddie Williams, 3B, Cedar Rapids Reds
- Greg Maddux, RHP, Peoria Chiefs
- Alan Sontag, RHP, Kenosha Twins
- Edwin Correa, RHP Appleton Foxes
- Tony Mendez, RHP, Appleton Foxes
- Jim Fregosi, SS, Springfield Cardinals
- Miguel Roman, OF, Waterloo Indians
- Bill Mendek, LHP Wausau Timbers
- Bryan House, 2B, Peoria Chiefs
Rafael Palmiero, OF, Peoria Chiefs
Jackie Davidson, RHP, Peoria Chiefs
Three way tie for tenth in 1985. Like no one could pick Palmiero over those other two guys on the Chiefs.
I saw this tweet from Ed Berthiaume of The Post-Crescent yesterday and it reminded me of some photos in old Appleton Foxes Programs.
— Ed Berthiaume (@EdBerthiaume) November 3, 2015
Former Mayor Dorothy Johnson was remembered Tuesday as a trailblazer for women in politics and a champion for Appleton.
Johnson died Saturday from natural causes at her home in Highlands Ranch, Colo., where she and her husband, Rue, lived for the past five years. She was 89.
In 1980, Johnson was elected as Appleton’s first and only female mayor. She served three consecutive terms, leaving office in 1992. Before her reign as mayor, she served a term on the Appleton Board of Education.
The 1981 Appleton Foxes Home Opener at Goodland Field was the first with Johnson as the Mayor of Appleton. This page in the 1982 Foxes program documents here throwing out the first pitch along with a brief recap of the game and a photo of the Paranaut Skydiving team landing!
The 1983 program included this letter from Johnson:
Click the image for the full text of the letter. It reads, in part:
To the Players, Management, and Fans of the Appleton Foxes:
Among the outstanding attractions of our city is a professional baseball team: the Appleton Foxes. Our community takes great pride in this highly respected and talented group of athletes.
As Mayor of Appleton, I convey my admiration and personal endorsement to the team members, their sponsors and fans during this year. May 1983 be the best ever!
She wasn’t far off. The 1983 Foxes went 87-50 for the best record in the Midwest League. Then, the Foxes beat Waterloo in the first round and Springfield in the Championship Series to win their second straight MWL Pennant.
I was in another lifetime one of toil and blood
When blackness was a virtue and the road was full of mud
I came in from the wilderness a creature void of form
“Come in” she said
“I’ll give you shelter from the storm”.
The other choice was Gimme Shelter….But, I never realized how dark those lyrics were.
The Timber Rattlers haver added a tent to the third base picnic area.
And now a word from out Sponsor:
The Fang & Whiffer Valentine’s Deliveries for February 13 are sold out.
Don’t bother the snake….Leave the snake alone:
Alumni Birthdays for February 4:
Brett Iddon (’96) – 39
Rick Thoren (’76, ’77) – 60
Larry Smith (’63) – 74
Rex Carrow (’47, ’48) – Would have been 88
Rex also played baseball and basketball at Michigan State, played on the European Baseball Championship winning team while in the military beating the Mediterranean Champions in Leg Horn, Italy, and went on to play professionally as a third baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies and Cleveland Indians for a total of seven seasons. He was a non-rostered player on the 1948 Cleveland Indians World Series team. Rex served in the U.S. Army during WWII in the 1st Infantry Division (Big Red One) and as an MP, personally guarding infamous Nazi war criminals, Hermann Goering (Commander of the German Air Force) and Ernst Kaltenbruner (Commander of the German Gestapo) during the historic Nuremburg Trials in 1945-46.
This week’s Flashback Friday is an article by Gordon McIntyre that appeared in the 1948 Appleton Papermakers program.
Bill Miller, who has dropped off some other cool things from Appleton Pro baseball’s history, brought a few more things this week. I’ll be going through those and sharing them from time to time.
The Milwaukee Brewers have announced the signing of Dontrelle Willis to a minor league deal heading into Spring Training of 2015.
The one-time pitching phenom, who hasn’t appeared in the major leagues since 2011, signed a minor-league deal Wednesday with the Brewers with an invitation to their spring camp.
“You never know,” said Melvin, who has been looking for left-handed relief help. “You give guys another chance and sometimes they come through for you. He has kept himself in shape and continues to work at it.”
Melvin has tried reclamation projects in the past. Some worked out (Gabe Kapler), some didn’t (Bobby Crosby, Kelvim Escobar). The way he sees it, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
“I know some other clubs gave him a shot and it didn’t work out,” Melvin said. “Sometimes, things change and work out differently. There might be something that clicks.”
Willis, 33, was a sensation as a young pitcher, going 14-6 with a 3.30 earned run average for the World Series champion Florida Marlins in 2003 to earn National League Rookie of the Year honors. In 2005, he went 22-10 for the Marlins and is still their only 20-game winner.
I saw that and just couldn’t believe that it had been almost THIRTEEN years since Willis was in the Midwest League and – it seemed – made it his personal mission to crush the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.
Flashback to 2002: The Kane County Cougars were in their final season as the Midwest League affiliate of the Florida Marlins and Willis was listed by Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook (2002) as the #21 prospect in the Chicago Cubs organization. Willis had joined the Marlins on March 27, 2002 in a trade with the Cubs. (Antonio ALfonseca & Matt Clement to the Cubs. Willis, Julian Tavarez, Ryan Jorgenson, and Jose Cuteo to the Marlins).
Just over two weeks later – April 13 at Kane County, Willis made his first start against the Timber Rattlers (a Seattle affiliate at the time). I missed that game due to the Green Bay Gamblers being in the USHL playoffs in Des Moines on that day. But, I heard about his performance – 7IP, 3H, 1R, 0ER, BB, 2K – in a no decision.
The first time I got a chance to see Willis in person was on May 7 at Fox Cities Stadium. It was the first game of a doubleheader and it was….eye-opening. Willis pitched a 7-inning, complete-game, shutout in an 8-0 Kane County victory. He took a no-hitter into the sixth inning. Dan Floyd singled to start the frame to break up the no-hitter. The Rattlers would collect four hits that day – singles by Floyd, Shin-Soo Choo, and Jason Rainey and a double by Jerry Amador. Willis walked two and had just one strikeout, but picked up the win to run his record to 3-0.
The final matchup between the Rattlers and Willis was set for June 23 at Kane County. To put this in context, the Rattlers finished the first half of the season with a 30-39 record. They would open the second half of the season at Kane County. The Cougars were – somehow – just 29-40 in the first half. Both teams were looking to get a good start to the second half.
June 23 was a Sunday afternoon and it was the fourth game of the four-game series. The Rattlers had lost the first three games of the series and were trying to avoid the sweep. Kane County scored six times in the second inning off Emiliano Fruto to give Willis a 6-0 lead.
Wisconsin scored their first earned runs off Willis in the top of the third inning with an RBI double by Floyd and an RBI grounder from Choo. They Rattlers would get another run off Willis in the sixth when Greg Dobbs doubled and scored on a single by Jason Van Meetren. That would make the score 7-3. Kane County would win 10-3.
Willis went seven innings again in this game and allowed six hits with two walks and four strikeouts.
His totals in three starts against Wisconsin:
21IP, 13H, 4R, 3ER, 5BB, 7K, 2-0 with a 1.29ERA.
The Rattlers would go on to lose their first eight games of the second half with an eventual record of 2-20 in the first 22 games of the second half of the 2002 season.
Just under a year after his last start against the Timber Rattlers, Willis was pitching for the Marlins in the Major Leagues.
Alumni Birthdays for January 22:
Tyrone Taylor (’13) – 21
BROCK! Kjeldgaard (’09) – 29
Shawn Nottingham (’05) – 30
Dave Leonhard (’63) – 74
This week’s Flashback Friday is…amazing.
The letter in the Flashback calls the item depicted below as a ‘Calliola’….But, a google search of Calliola brings up somewhere in Finland. We will stick with calliope. Yes. part of the marketing plan for the Appleton Foxes was a calliope.
Here are full sized pictures of the Foxes Calliope from the late 1960’s. As always….click for the full-sized pictures.
Alumni Birthdays for November 21:
Jeff Perez (’02) – 36
Mike Mason (Pitching Coach ’91, ’92) – 56
Alumni Birthdays for November 22:
Greg Hopkins (’11, ’12) – 26
Eddy Fernandez (’07) – 28
Lindsay Gullin (’98) – 38
Gene Walter (’90) – 54
Mike Henley (’83) – 55
Alumni Birthdays for November 23:
Karl Drezek (’88, ’89) – 49
Fred Blackwelder (’67, ’68) – 68
Jerry Nyman (’66) – 72
John Griffin (’61) – 75
Jack MeKeon (Manager, ’59) – 84