Minors – Majors: An Obsession
Same Place, Some Other Year: The Heretofore Untold Saga (with Good Reason) of Ballplayers who hit Home Runs in the Same Ballparks as Minor Leaguers and as Major Leaguers
By Alan Cohen
Chapter 1 – Introduction and Overview of the Migration/Expansion Era
I have been a baseball fan for as long as I can remember and after I retired from my day job I became involved in research. My first research involved short biographical essays for SABR’s bio-project. SABR is the Society for American Baseball Research, and the folks at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown told me to join SABR if I was serious about research.
This story began, if you will, with a trivia question and evolved into something far more significant. It is a story not only of home runs and players, but of research and the changing face of baseball and baseball stadiums not only during my lifetime which spans the second half of the twentieth century and takes us into the 21st century, but also as far back as organized baseball’s beginnings in the 19th century.
I was doing a biography of R C Stevens for the SABR Bio-Project on the 1960 Pirates. Stevens made several stops in the minors and majors during a career that stretched from 1952 through 1965. His best year in the majors was 1958 with Pittsburgh. In an article that I found in The Quad City Times, he had spoken about one memorable Home Run against the Giants at Seals Stadium on May 5, 1958. In researching his minor league career, I discovered that he had also hit home runs at Seals Stadium as a member of the Hollywood Stars, for whom he played during the 1955-57 timeframe. The first of his homers at Seals Stadium came on April 24, 1955. Stevens also homered on July 15, 1956 during a season when he hit 27 home runs, good for third in the Pacific Coast League.
I got to thinking, “How common is this?” and did some research. I quickly realized that the feat was probably quite common. Indeed, I was to discover that another player had hit a minor league homer at Seals Stadium in 1955 (just like R C) and a major league homer on May 5, 1958 (again, just like R C). More on that later.
One of Stevens’ minor league teammates was Bill Mazeroski, who had a very good start in 1956 before being called up by the Pirates. During his time in Hollywood, he hit 10 home runs and I surmised that he may have hit one at Seals Stadium. Since the Giants, during the first two years in San Francisco, played at Seals Stadium, I thought it quite possible that Maz had hit a major league homer there. Courtesy of Baseball Reference.com, I determined that he had done so on June 11, 1958.
I even figured that Mazeroski might have been the only Hall of Famer to hit homers in the same park in the minors and majors. So, I posed a question to the trivia group on Facebook. “Name the Hall of Famer who hit home runs in the same ballpark as a minor leaguer and as a major leaguer.” The trivia group includes some very bright and astute people and, within minutes, there was an answer. It was not the answer I expected.
On April 18, 1946, the Montreal Royals played the Jersey City Giants before a crowd of more than 25,500 on Opening Day at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City.[i] The crowd was there to witness history, and history was indeed made by the Montreal second baseman. For it was on that day that Jackie Robinson played his first game in Organized Baseball.
The importance of the day was not lost on Robinson. In his first at-bat, he was struck by a case of nerves and he could feel his knees weakening. The result was a groundout to shortstop. He observed “that watching this minor league game would be more sports writers than would be watching any opening day major league game – sports writers present because they knew that unfolding here on this diamond was a story much bigger than baseball, a story as far-reaching in essence as the very idea of democracy and the equality of men.” [ii] He came to bat for the second time in the third inning with two runners on base. It was a bunting situation, but manager Clay Hopper ordered Robinson to swing away, and swing away he did, slamming a three run homer over the left field fence. He showed off his trademark speed and aggressiveness in the fifth inning. A bunt single enabled him to reach first. He stole second and advanced to third on a ground ball. Once he got to third base, he darted down the line causing the pitcher to balk. Jackie was awarded home plate. For the day, he went 4-for-5 as Montreal won 14-1. His third inning homer was Jackie’s only minor league homer at Roosevelt Stadium. The next year, Robinson made his debut with Brooklyn.
In 1956, Robinson was in his tenth year with the Dodgers, and the owner, Walter O’Malley, was looking for an alternate site to Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field. Seven games were played at Roosevelt Stadium that year, and Robinson homered on July 31 against Milwaukee.
Not many games were played in Jersey City, so I researched the 15 games played there by the Dodgers in 1956-57. Lo and behold, there were 13 homers hit there by a veritable who’s who of National League stars. Of the eleven players who homered at Roosevelt Stadium in 1956-57, ten were All-Stars, and six of these were named to the Hall of Fame. The eleventh player twice finished in the top-25 in the MVP voting. So I checked out Ernie Banks, Frank Robinson, Eddie Mathews, and Willie Mays and found out that none of them had played minor league ball in the International League. Other than Jackie Robinson, there was one Hall of Famer Left. This guy had played for St. Paul in the American Association in 1947 and was brought up to the Dodgers in 1948. He got off to a bad start and was sent down to Montreal on May 22. His first opportunity to play in Jersey City was on June 10, 1948. He went 3-for-5, scored 3, drove in 6 and homered in the process. He returned to Jersey City as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers and hit two homers at Roosevelt Stadium in 1956. How could I have ever overlooked the Duke of Flatbush, Edwin Donald Snider?
Roosevelt Stadium was used for minor league baseball before and after major league games were played there. In 1960, the Havana Sugar Kings moved to Jersey City after the change in regime that swept Fidel Castro to power. Castro had come to power in 1959, and it was said that there were more automatic rifles than bats in the ballpark during the 1959 Little World Series games between Havana’s Cuban Sugar Kings of the International League and the Minneapolis Millers of the American Association.
In 1959, Carl Yastrzemski was called up to Minneapolis just in time for the post season playoffs. After defeating Omaha and Fort Worth to secure the American Association championship, they faced Havana. After two games in a very cold Minneapolis, the teams concluded the series in Havana. As Carl noted in his biography, “You had to be there to understand what it was like. Sheer chaos and anarchy. People marched in the streets, parading with guns and signs. Worse for us, they did the thing same at the ballpark.” Fully armed soldiers stood along the foul lines, and games were delayed until Fidel Castro arrived to throw out the first pitch. Prior to Game Seven, he went up to the Minneapolis pitcher and said, “Tonight, we win.” After Havana won the series, Yaz and his teammates just wanted to leave the country.[iii]
In 1960, things came to a head. Things were popping in Havana in 1960. On June 26, there was an explosion at a nearby ammunition dump that delayed play for 90 minutes.[iv] Shortly thereafter, they relocated. The Sugar Kings were renamed the Jersey City Jerseys and played at Roosevelt Stadium through the end of the 1961 season. The Stadium played host to Eastern League (AA) ball in 1977 and 1978, and was eventually demolished in 1985.
Alas, on further research, I determined that Mazeroski had not hit one out at Seals Stadium when he was in the minors. He only played in four games at Seals Stadium before being called up to Pittsburgh on July 6, 1956. He went 5-for-16 with no homers in those games.
Seals Stadium and Roosevelt Stadium were only two of many minor league ballparks to be used by major league teams over a five decade period extending from 1954 through 2010. The face of baseball changed dramatically for any number of reasons. Major league baseball, prior to 1953, was confined to ten cities, the westernmost being St. Louis. Several cities, including Chicago, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Boston had two teams, and New York had three. There also had not been a new ballpark opened since Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium welcomed the Indians in 1932. Aging ballparks, dwindling crowds, and the moving of the country’s population resulted in owners looking to make changes.
The Boston Braves were struggling to stay alive, and Milwaukee wanted a major league team. Boston’s National League pedigree was second to none. The Braves were one of two National League teams that had been in the league continuously since the league’s founding in 1876. Milwaukee was the Braves affiliate in the American Association in 1952, and played at Borchert Field. They finished first that year with a 100-54 record and had a lineup with several players amongst them being Bill Bruton, Johnny Logan, and Gene Conley who would become staples in the lineup of the Milwaukee Braves. To attract the Braves, they built a brand new Stadium that was ready for the Braves when they arrived in 1953.[v] In their last year in Boston, the Braves finished in seventh place at 62-92, and saw 281,278 fans go through the turnstiles. In their first year in Milwaukee, they had the highest attendance in the league, 1,826,397.
The St. Louis Browns were the doormats of the American League, and by 1953 it was clear that the franchise could not survive in St. Louis. They shared the ballpark in St. Louis, Sportsman’s Park, with the Cardinals, a perennial contender in the National League. In 1953, the Browns finished dead last with a 54-100 record and drew a bewildering 297,238 spectators. The organization was in such disarray that they did not even have a Triple A farm team. In hopes of attracting major league baseball, and to accommodate the Baltimore Colts football team, which had been playing in the All-American Football Conference from 1946 through 1949, the city of Baltimore had completely renovated a facility then known as Babe Ruth Field. Memorial Stadium saw its first action in 1950, and for four seasons, the Baltimore Orioles, the Phillies’ affiliate in the International League, called the new Memorial Stadium their home. In the fall of 1950, Baltimore joined the NFL, playing at the new stadium, but it was for only one season as the team went 1-11 and folded. Professional football would not return to Baltimore until 1953 when the Dallas Texans moved into Memorial Stadium, became the “new” Baltimore Colts, and enjoyed a 30-year stay.
The 1950 season at Memorial Stadium started in a very inglorious fashion as rain and cold weather played havoc with the schedule and a couple of games had to be stopped early due to the 11:00 PM curfew.[vi] The kinks were worked out and, in late 1953, the St. Louis Browns were sold to a group based in Baltimore. The major league Orioles commenced play at Memorial Stadium in 1954, drawing 1,060,910 fans in their first season, as the stadium was enhanced with the addition of an upper deck.
The Orioles stayed there for almost forty years, closing up the building at the end of the 1991 season. Well, not really. In 1993, the Bowie Bay Sox joined the Eastern League. While their stadium was being built, they played for one year at Memorial Stadium.[vii] Could it be that someone got sent down to Double A from the major leagues and did the feat? Stranger things have happened. Actually, there were three players who homered in the Eastern League that year who had homered at Memorial Stadium when they were in the majors. Were any of their 1993 Eastern League homers at Memorial Stadium? We’ll get into that later. For now, let’s continue with the history.
The next migration was that of the Philadelphia Athletics to Kansas City in 1955. The A’s had declined significantly over the years and were no longer the Championship caliber team of the glory days of Connie Mack. In 1954 they stumbled to a last place finish, winning only 51 games and attracting only 303,666 witnesses. Kansas City was home to the Kansas City Blues of the American Association, but the minor league facility was totally inadequate for major league ball.
Anticipating the arrival of major league baseball, a bond issue was passed to put an upper deck on the existing facility and increase the seating capacity to major league standards. Early in the efforts to acquire the Athletics, the city had paid for a survey and it had been assured that this structure, built in 1923, contained pilings strong enough to support a second deck. And so the plans for a new stadium were drawn up accordingly. Then came the bombshell. Engineers discovered that the underpiling was not nearly strong enough to support a second deck. In fact, it had been barely substantial enough to support the single deck which had been used.[viii]
In the off-season between 1954 and 1955, Municipal Stadium was completely restructured. For purposes of this research, it has been determined that the changes were so major that, indeed, the A’s played in a new ballpark when they relocated. In their first year in Kansas City, the A’s played in front of 1,393,054 spectators, second best in the league.
Minneapolis was the next city to join in the pursuit of a major league team. In 1956, the replaced their minor league facility, Nicollet Field, with Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington. The stadium was built so as to be expandable to major league size when major league ball came to the Twin Cities. The minor league Minneapolis Millers occupied the facility for five years.
The next moves were by far the most dramatic in terms of both distance and impact. The Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants were both playing in outdated arenas. The Dodgers were winners of six of ten National League pennants going into the 1957 season. They were drawing well at Ebbets Field, attracting 1,213, 562 of the faithful in 1956. But owner Walter O’Malley was set on getting a new facility. Indeed, during the 1956 and 1957 seasons, his Dodgers played a total of 15 games at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, New Jersey. But O’Malley had his sites further west, and in Los Angeles he found his pot of gold. Los Angeles was home to two minor league teams in 1957. The Hollywood Stars, an affiliate of the Pirates, played at Gilmore Field, and the Los Angeles Angels played at Wrigley Field, their home since it opened in 1925. The Angels for many years had been affiliated with the Cubs but, prior to the 1957 season, O’Malley bought Wrigley Field and affiliated with the Angels. Wrigley Field, even as a temporary home, was too small for O’Malley and the Dodgers played their first four seasons at the Los Angeles Coliseum before record audiences. 1,845,556 newly anointed Dodger fans came to the Coliseum in 1958. In 1962, the new Dodger Stadium opened to 2,755,184 paying customers. Wrigley Field remained unoccupied until 1961.
The Giants were playing at the Polo Grounds, a horseshoe shaped facility in upper Manhattan. In their championship year of 1954, attendance was 1,155,067, but from 1955 on, it was downhill. Attendance in 1956 was only 629,156, last in the league. Owner Horace Stoneham had been looking to move for some time and his eyes were initially set on Minneapolis, and the new ballpark in nearby Bloomington. However, Minneapolis wasn’t the destination for the Giants, and Metropolitan Stadium would not see major league baseball until 1961. O’Malley knew that in order for his move to Los Angeles to be viable his could not be the only team on the West Coast. Thus, he encouraged Stoneham to also set his eyes west and the city of San Francisco embraced the Giants with open arms. San Francisco had long been the home of the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League, and they had been playing in Seals Stadium since 1931. For two years while their new home, Candlestick Park, was under construction, the Giants played at Seals Stadium. In 1958, the Giants were seen by 1,272,625 fans at Seals Stadium. Attendance grew to 1,795,326, second only to the Dodgers, when the Giants moved to Candlestick in 1960.
So, in the space of six years, the major leagues had gone from 16 teams in 10 cities to 16 teams in 15 cities.
But expansion was on the horizon. The country was growing and people were moving into new areas. Also, the player pool had grown dramatically. When Jackie Robinson broke the color line in 1947, full integration of the major leagues was inevitable. At first, the pace of integration was all too slow. From 1947 through 1959, only 120 players of color entered the major leagues. But as the country moved into the 1960’s, more and more black and Hispanic players, barred from the game prior to 1947, knocked at the door.
The first wave of expansion came in 1961-62. The American League was first to expand. The Washington Senators, perennially at or near the bottom of the American League standings, moved to Minneapolis and became the Minnesota Twins. They took up residence at Metropolitan Stadium, previously home to the Millers of the American Association from 1956 through 1960, and stayed there from 1961 through 1981. To pacify the Washington populace, the American League placed one of the expansion teams in the Nation’s capital. The other expansion team was awarded to Los Angeles, and the major league Los Angeles Angels in 1961 played at Wrigley Field, home of the minor league angels from 1925 through 1957. In 1962, they took up residence at Dodger Stadium where they stayed for four years while their permanent facility was being completed in Anaheim. During the 1961 season, Wrigley was a veritable launching pad with no less than 242 home runs being hit there by the Angels and their opponents.
The National League expanded in 1962. The New York Mets took up residence in the abandoned Polo Grounds (aka Polo grounds V) for two years until Shea Stadium was completed in 1964. The other franchise was awarded to Houston. The minor league ballpark in Houston was so far lacking in capacity that a temporary structure, Colts Stadium, was built and served as the home of the Houston Colt 45’s, as they were then called, until 1965 when the team was renamed the Houston Astros moved into their new facility, the Houston Astrodome.
So, by 1961, five ballparks that had been used as minor league venues had also been used by major league teams. Memorial Stadium, Roosevelt Stadium, Seals Stadium, Metropolitan Stadium and Wrigley Field (LA) were so used.
But they were not alone for long. By the mid 1960’s, the honeymoon between the Braves and Milwaukee was coming to an end. Attendance had dropped from a high of 2,215,404 in 1957 to 555,584 in 1965. In each of the last four years in Milwaukee, attendance was less than one million. The Braves’ next home was Atlanta. Atlanta, anticipating the arrival of major league baseball, had completed Atlanta Fulton County Stadium in 1965. Due to an action by the Milwaukee City Fathers, the Braves were not allowed to move to Atlanta in 1965 as initially planned. While they were in lame-duck status in Milwaukee, they put their Triple A affiliate into Atlanta and Atlanta Stadium became the home of the Atlanta Crackers for the 1965 season. The Braves moved in in 1966.
Another honeymoon ended not long thereafter when the Kansas City A’s moved to Oakland in 1968. Oakland had been without minor league baseball since 1955, when the Oakland Oaks became the Vancouver Mounties. The A’s moved into Oakland-Alameida Country Stadium in 1968 and have been there ever since.
The next wave of expansion came in 1969, and with it, the introduction of divisional play. The American League added teams in Kansas City and Seattle. The National League added teams in Montreal and San Diego. Although there had been minor league baseball in each of these locations, only two of those teams used former minor league parks. The Seattle Pilots, as they were known, went into a 30-year-old facility known as Sick’s Stadium. Sick’s Stadium, during its years as a minor league venue, was decidedly not as much of a home run haven as Wrigley in Los Angeles. Indeed, during a game in 1964, the visiting Indianapolis team scored 15 runs in the first inning without the benefit of a home run. Structurally, the ballpark left much to be desired and, after the 1969 season, the Pilots relocated in Milwaukee, becoming the Milwaukee Brewers.
Of the five Hall of Famers who hit home runs in 1969 at Sick’s Stadium, only Brooks Robinson had played there as a Minor Leaguer. Indeed, someone suggested that he had performed the feat. He was with Vancouver for only a short time in 1959, and in his only game in Seattle, went 1-for-4 with a double. His time at Sick’s Stadium was limited. There were two rainouts during his team’s first series there and an injury kept him out of the second series. By the third visit, he had been recalled to Baltimore. I would find that several non – Hall of Famers that homered in 1969 had played for the Seattle Rainiers in the PCL prior to 1968 and were likely candidates. That research would come later. From my early research on the 1957 and 1959 minor-league seasons, I knew that home runs did not sail out of Sick’s Stadium in the PCL days. Only 46 were hit there in 1957, and 39 in 1959.
That was not the end for Organized Baseball at Sick’s Stadium. The Seattle Rainiers of the Class A (Short Season) Northwest League played there from 1972 through 1976. This was a very low level minor league that attracted few former Major Leaguers. There were a couple of younger players who showed some promise, and in 1976, two 17-year-olds started their long careers in this league. Rickey Henderson played for the Boise A’s and batted .336 with three homers. Interestingly enough, Henderson also played at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City in 1978. Mike Scioscia was playing with the Bellingham Dodgers in 1976 and hit seven home runs. Tracking down game-by-game information for that league is problematical, and it is hard to determine if any of Henderson’s or Scioscia’s blasts were at Sick’s Stadium.
In 1968, the city of San Diego opened San Diego Stadium, a multi-purpose field that would be home to the San Diego Padres of the NFL and, in 1969 and beyond, the San Diego Padres of the National League. However, in a scenario much the same as Altanta, there was minor league baseball for one year at San Diego Stadium. In 1968, the minor league Padres were the Triple A affiliate of the Phillies. I had originally, not known of this, but was informed of this when I did a presentation at the SABR convention in 2012.
In 1972, the new Washington Senators, having enjoyed about as much success in the nation’s capital as the old Washington Senators, moved to Texas where they moved into Arlington Stadium. This facility, first known as Turnpike Stadium, was built in 1965 and was initially the home of the minor league Dallas-Fort Worth Spurs.[ix] The Spurs played in the Double A Texas League. The seating capacity was increased on more than one occasion to accommodate major league baseball and the Texas Rangers played at Arlington Stadium from 1972 through 1993, moving into The Ballpark at Arlington in 1994.
The American League expanded to 14 teams in 1977, adding Toronto and moving back to Seattle. The Seattle Mariners moved into a new arena, The Kingdome, and the Toronto Blue Jays moved into Exhibition Stadium. Exhibition Stadium had never been used for baseball prior to the Blue Jays arrival. The minor league Toronto Maple Leafs had last played in 1967, where they occupied Maple Leaf Stadium for 42 years. Maple Leaf Stadium was demolished in 1968.
And then came 1981. The players went on strike and the country, and its ballparks, were without major league baseball. Some organizations brought minor league games, on a very limited basis, to major league parks.
The Angels and Padres got together for a two game set featuring their Class A California League affiliates. On July 3, the Redwood Pioneers and Reno Padres (aka Silver Foxes) played at Anaheim Stadium. The next day, San Diego Stadium saw its first minor league game since 1968 when the teams played in front of a Class A record 37,665 onlookers.[x] Did anyone on either of these teams make it to the majors? Five Reno player sand four Redwood players made it to the majors, but none of them ever homered in the majors at San Diego or Anaheim.
Another stadium that saw a minor league game during the strike was County Stadium in Milwaukee. Milwaukee, in 1981, hosted one other minor league game, this one at County Stadium. During the strike, Wausau played Burlington in a Midwest League game.
Further expansion took place in 1993 as the National League added teams in Denver and Miami. The Denver team took up residence in Mile High Stadium. This storied ballpark had seen many minor league campaigns over the years, and served as the home of the Colorado Rockies in 1993 and 1994. The Rockies moved into Coors Field in 1995. In Miami, the Florida Marlins took up residence in the local football stadium and stayed there for nineteen years.
The final expansion took place in 1998 with the additional of Tampa Bay and Phoenix. The Tampa area had been trying to attract a team for some time and had built a new enclosed stadium. The Devil Rays, as they were called at the time, took up residence in the new arena – Tropicana Field. The Devil Rays were placed in the American League and the Milwaukee Brewers were moved to the National League. The Phoenix entry became known as the Arizona Diamondbacks and moved into the new Bank One Ballpark. The team has been there since, although the stadium is now called Chase Field.
The final migration took place in 2005 when the Montreal Expos moved to Washington, DC, making them the third franchise to call the Nation’s Capital home. They temporarily moved into RFK Stadium. RFK Stadium had never housed a minor league team. However, prior to moving to Washington, the Expos played 22 games in San Juan, PR, at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in 2003 and another 21 in 2004. Also, the Florida Marlins played three games against the Mets at Bithorn Stadium in San Juan in 2010. Puerto Rico had a rich heritage as a Puerto Rico Winter League site in the 1950’s and 1960’s. As a minor league locale, San Juan’s days were limited to part of the 1961 season in the International League and part of the 1979 season in something called the Inter-American league.
In 1961, the Miami Marlins moved to San Juan. While waiting for a new ballpark to be built, the San Juan Marlins played at Sixto Escobar Park in San Juan. They broke ground for the new ballpark on May 17, 1961. Unfortunately, the team would not be around long enough to play in the new Ballpark. After the game on May 17, 1961, the franchise was moved once again, this time to Charleston, West Virginia, making it three cities in two years for one franchise.[xi] Their first opponent in Charleston, oddly enough was Jersey City, a team that had also relocated from the Caribbean. The Marlins weren’t in Charleston long, either, as the franchise was moved to Atlanta for the 1962 season – four cities in three years.
The Inter-American League folded after three months in 1979. By the time the Expos and Marlins played in Puerto Rico, anyone involved with either the 1961 or 1979 minor league teams was long gone from baseball.
There were other short term major league stays in minor league venues.
In 1996, modifications in the stadium in Oakland resulted in the A’s playing six games in Las Vegas at Cashman Field. During those six games, 23 homers were hit by 15 different players. Of these players, eight had played in the Pacific Coast League. Las Vegas joined the PCL in 1983 and Cashman Field has been the only facility used by the Las Vegas PCL team.
In recent years, major league baseball has taken to scheduling games outside of the Continental United States. In August, 1996, the San Diego Padres entertained the New York Mets at Estadio de Beisbol Monterey, the home of the minor league Sultanes Monterey team. In April, 1999, they opened the season against Colorado at the same locale. None of the players who homered in those four games ever played in the Mexican League.
In 1997, the Padres ventured to Aloha Stadium in Honolulu for three games with the Cardinals. Honolulu had been in the Pacific Coast League from 1961 through 1987. In the early years, the Islanders played at a ballpark that was quite friendly to home run hitters. They moved into Aloha Stadium in 1975, and stayed for thirteen years through 1987. Aloha Stadium did not yield many long balls. Only one major leaguer, Ron Gant, homered in the series in 1997. He never played in Hawaii during his minor league days.
And then there was the case of the lowly Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Before they changed names and started to win, they played three games at nearby Walt Disney World in 2007. After the name change to the Tampa Bay Rays, they returned for three games in 2008. The ballpark serves as the spring training home of the Braves. Minor league ball was played there from 2000 through 2003 by two teams – The Gulf Coast League Braves and the Southern League Orlando Rays. After the 2003 season, the Rays left for Montgomery, Alabama, and the GCL Braves moved a few miles east to Kissimmee. The GCL Braves returned to Champion Stadium, as it is now known, in 2008. During the six major league games, ten players homered, two of whom played some minor league ball in the Ballpark at Walt Disney World, which, in the minor league days, was known as Crackerjack Stadium.
Now that I got the history straight, I realized just how common this could be with twelve ballparks and as many as twenty-nine Major League teams in the mix (Arizona never played a single game in a former Minor League park). And, to think of it, Major League Baseball had gone from 16 teams in 10 cities to 30 teams in 28 cities. And, of the 15 ballparks in use in 1952, only 2 (Wrigley Field in Chicago and Fenway Park in Boston) would be in use in 2009.
And the answers kept pouring in.
Bill Carle suggested that Mantle, Berra, and Rizutto had accomplished the feat in Kansas City. Berra did not play his minor league ball in Kansas City. He played at Newark in 1946, chasing Jackie Robinson for the International League Batting Crown. Although Mantle and Rizutto each played in Kansas City in the minors, the ballpark that they played in, while at the same site, bore little resemblance to the Municipal Stadium that was used by the Kansas City Athletics when they relocated from Philadelphia in 1955. In late 1954 Blues Park in Kansas City was sold to the city in conjunction with a bond issue that was passed to convert the facility into a Major League Stadium. The conversion was delayed for any number of reasons, including the American League’s failure to approve the move of the Athletics until late October. Initially, it was expected that the addition of an upper deck to the facility would do the trick, but a complete redo became necessary.[xii]
Rizutto did not hit any home runs in Kansas City as a major leaguer. Mantle had 26 major league home runs at Municipal Stadium during the course of his career. He had 11 home runs while a member of the Kansas City Blues in 1951, some of which we can assume were hit at his home ballpark. But then, in reality, Blues Park and Municipal Stadium were definitely not the same ballpark.
Among the non-Hall-of-Famers to accomplish the deed, none stands out more than Steve Bilko. The Los Angeles legend hit 313 minor league home runs and hit 148 in three years (1955-57) with the minor league Los Angeles Angels, 97 of which soared out of Wrigley Field (LA) and four which soared out of Seals Stadium (San Francisco). His first Wrigley blast came on April 20, 1955. Another of those Wrigley blasts, on May 30, 1957, gave Tom LaSorda, another Los Angeles legend, his first PCL victory. In 1956 and 1957, Bilko had 36 home runs at Wrigley Field. His first Seals Stadium round tripper came on May 21, 1955.
Bilko was initially signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1945 and began his climb through their minor league system. In his first full season at the Triple A level, he banged out 34 homers for Rochester in 1949. That got him his first shot at the Big Leagues.
The buildup was significant. No less an observer than Red Smith wrote these glowing words:
“Steve Bilko is a great, lummocking, broad-shouldered, wide beamed broth of a boy whose brutal behavior towards pitchers in the International League last year made him the leading candidate for the job as first baseman for the St. Louis cardinals this year.”[xiii]
At 22, this young man is the most important individual in the Cardinals’ camp. but it was a brief trip. He appeared in 6 games at the end of the 1949 season. He started the 1950 season with St. Louis, but he wasn’t ready for the big time. He was batting a lowly .182 when he was sent back to the Rochester Red Wings in early May. By then the International League Orioles were playing in Memorial Stadium, and he hit the first of his two minor league Memorial Stadium home runs in Baltimore on June 23, 1950.
After a respectable showing with Rochester in 1950, he got another try with the Cardinals in 1951, but once again, he was farmed out to Rochester in May. 1952 was a repeat of the prior two years. That season, by the time he joined the Rochester Red Wings on June 19, the team had played the first seven of its eleven games in Baltimore. Did he muscle one out in 1952, or not? In his team’s next to last game in Baltimore, Bilko launched one as they defeated Baltimore 10-3. That gave him two minor league homers at Memorial Stadium.
In 1953, the Cardinals gave him a real shot, and he had 21 homers in 154 games. However, he led the league with 121 strikeouts, and the Cardinals traded him to the Cubs early in 1954. The Cubs did not use him much and sent him to their minor league affiliate in the PCL for the 1955 season and the phenomenon of Steve Bilko, Angels legend, was born.
He returned to the Majors in 1958 and proceeded, over a four year span, to hit homers at each of the three former minor league venues. On June 9, 1958, as a member of the Cincinnati Reds, he homered off Johnny Antonelli of the Giants at Seals Stadium in San Francisco. Later that season, with the Los Angeles Dodgers, he victimized Antonelli again at Seals Stadium.
On June 7, 1960, as a member of the Detroit Tigers, he homered off Hoyt Wilhelm at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium in a 5-2 Angel win. In 1961, he returned to Los Angeles as a member of the expansion Angels and a year to the day later, June 7, 1961 he returned to Memorial Stadium, and homered again, this time off Billy Hoeft in a 4-0 Angel win.
Bilko was a true character of the game. Los Angeles Angels teammate Billy Moran summed up the Bilko training method. “Bilko would go in the (hotel) bathroom and turn on the hot water to steam up the place. Then he’d climb into the bathtub with a case of beer right beside him. Then he’d sweat and drink the case of beer. That was his routine for getting into shape.”[xiv]
With the Angels, he hit eleven major league home runs at Wrigley in LA. The first of those eleven Wrigley Field home runs came off Herb Score, who was then pitching for the White Sox, on May 19, 1961. Fittingly enough, the last of Bilko’s home runs at Wrigley was the last home run ever hit at the facility. It came on October 1, 1961 in the last inning of the last game played at Wrigley. The solo homer came with two outs off Cleveland’s Mudcat Grant, but was too little, too late in an 8-5 loss.
There are always arguments about players not in the Hall of Fame who belong there. One name that often comes up in this regard (particularly in Cleveland) is Rocky Colavito. After tearing up the American Association with 68 home runs over two years with Indianapolis, he was brought up to the Cleveland Indians at the beginning of the 1956 season. However, he got off to a terrible start and, through 42 games had only five home runs and was batting a dismal .235. In 1956, Cleveland had entered into an affiliation with San Diego of the Pacific Coast League. San Diego’s GM, Ralph Kiner, was a close friend and protégé of Cleveland’s General Manager Hank Greenberg, and knew something about hitting home runs. Rocky was sent down on June 25 and spent about five weeks with the Padres. On the Fourth of July at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles, there were indeed fireworks. During the course of a double header, there were ten home runs, including three by Bilko. It was in the second game of that doubleheader that Colavito slammed his first home run at Wrigley Field. On July 14, after hitting a total of 12 home runs and batting .368 in thirty-five games, he was recalled by the Indians. He would never play minor league ball again.
Rocky was not your classic five tool player. Although lacking in speed, he had a cannon for a throwing arm to go with his power at the plate. During his 14 year career, he was named to six All-Star teams. In 1959, en route to leading the league with 42 homers he had a career day at Baltimore on June 10. In the first inning, he walked and scored on a homer by Minnie Minoso. He homered in each of his next four at-bats as the Indians won 11-8.
Just prior to the 1960 season, in a trade engineered by Frank Lane, Colavito was sent to Detroit for American League batting champion Harvey Kueen. The trade was ill-received in each city, and Rocky’s 1960 output was subpar. After hitting over forty homers and driving in over 100 runs in each of the prior two seasons, he fell off to 35 homers and 87 RBIs in 1960. He bounced back at the plate and in the field in 1961. In 1961, he led the league in assists by an outfielder with 16, and had career highs in homers (45), RBI’s (140), and total bases (338). He returned to Wrigley Field in 1961 with the Tigers and bashed the first of his Wrigley Field major league homers off Ronnie Klein on May 26. In all, he had four home runs at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles during the 1961 season.
Earl Battey, the great catcher of the Minnesota Twins, also was mentioned by Ted Knorr. Earl was originally signed by the Chicago White Sox in 1953, and spent the latter part of the 1957 season with the minor league Angels, going deep for the first time at Wrigley Field on August 13. On September 8, he sent three balls flying out of the friendly confines, accounting for all three of his team’s runs in a fourteen inning 3-2 marathon win over Sacramento. Yes, we all know that Ernie Banks used that nickname for the other Wrigley Field, but it seems appropriate considering the exploits of Bilko and Battey in Los Angeles. Battey never quite made it with the Sox, appearing in only 151 games over a five year span and batting only .209. In those days, Sherman Lollar was a fixture behind the plate for the Sox and showed no signs of slowing down at age 35.
Battey was deemed expendable and was traded to the Washington Senators prior to the 1960 season, along with Don Mincher, for Roy Sievers, as the Sox loaded up their squad with veterans to try to repeat as American league champions. Battey moved to the Twin Cities with the Senators in 1961. Returning to Los Angeles in 1961, as a member of the Twins, he belted a home run off Eli Grba on April 27 in the first major league game played at Wrigley. His three-run-homer in the sixth inning put the Twins in the lead as they spoiled the Angels home opener with a 4-2 win. Two days later, he homered off Ken McBride. He never homered in Minnesota’s Metropolitan Stadium as a minor leaguer. During his time with the Twins, he was named to four All Star teams and earned one Golden Glove, before retiring at the end of the 1967 season.
Never an unkind word was said about Earl Battey. Teammates such as Pedro Ramos extolled his defensive excellence, and pitcher Johnny Klippstein, who was a teammate in 1964 said, “He could settle down any pitcher. I thought he was like a granddaddy.”[xv] In his later years, Earl moved to New York and worked with Con Ed in community relations. It was not unusual to see Earl Battey, who served as a youth worker with Children’s Village in Dobbs Ferry, New York, bring scores of children to afternoon games at Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium, and sit with them, answering questions about baseball.[xvi]
Many other guesses came in and then Cary Smith suggested that Carl Yastrzemski may have done the deed at Metropolitan Stadium. Yaz was highly touted when the Red Sox signed him in 1958, and he had a great year in 1959 at Raleigh in the Carolina League, batting .377. He had hoped to be promoted to the big club in 1960, but was sent to Minneapolis. A key reason for the extra season in the minors was to learn how to play left field. Yaz had been a second baseman. Ted Williams would be retiring at the end of the 1960 season, and Yastrzemski would be his replacement.[xvii] With the Millers, he continued to hit for average and was among the league leaders in batting all season. Towards the end of the season, he went on a thirty game hitting streak that raised his average to .339, good for second in the league. He was chosen the league’s Rookie of the Year. However, in the early part of his career, the home runs came slowly. His first homer of 1960 did not come until June 5, and it was on the road at Indianapolis. He connected at home for the first time on June 11, once again victimizing Indianapolis. He joined the Red Sox in 1961 and, over the course of his 23 year career (spent entirely with the Red Sox), he hit 18 at the Minnesota locale, the first coming on May 29, 1962 against Lee Strange.
That makes two more Hall of Famers for a total of three.
The fourth Hall of Famer hit more than his share of home runs at Metropolitan Stadium during a long career with the Twins. Things did not start out well for this guy. He signed for a bonus with the Washington Senators and spent parts of five seasons in the nation’s capital from 1954 through 1958 amassing 7 home runs and 30 RBI. The first two years, due to the way the bonus rule worked at the time, he spent the entire season with Washington. In 1956, he was sent down to Class A Charlotte and, in 1957, the Senators sent him to Double A Chattanooga, where he was mentored by his manager Cal Ermer. In 1958, the Senators shipped him out to Indianapolis in the American Association where, in 38 games, he banged out, get this, 2 home runs and hit for a .215 average. The second of those two home runs came at Metropolitan Stadium on June 15. On June 16, he was shipped back to Chattanooga of the Southern Association where he found his hitting eye. At the end of the 1958 season, he returned to the Majors to stay.
In 1959, playing fulltime, he banged out an American League leading 42 home runs. He went to Minnesota when the Senators became the Twins in 1961 and proceeded to bang 246 home runs at Metropolitan Stadium over the next 15 years. The first came on April 30, 1961 against Bob Shaw of the Chicago White Sox. At the very end of his career, he played a season for the Kansas City Royals. Fittingly enough, the last of Harmon Killebrew’s 563 career home runs came at Metropolitan Stadium off Eddie Bane on September 18, 1975. In addition to those 246 regular season blasts, Killebrew hit two homers at Metropolitan Stadium in a losing cause during the 1970 League Championship Series against Baltimore.
Killebrew in later years reflected on his early years in Washington. He wasn’t getting much playing time and was pretty much an unknown quantity when he stepped to the plate on June 24, 1955. To say the game was “lopsided” was an understatement. The Senators were trailing 13-0 when Harmon stepped in against Billy Hoeft with one out in the bottom of the fifth inning. “Frank House was the Detroit catcher. And with a 2-2 count, he said, “Kid, we’re going to throw you a fastball.” What did I know? I was a green kid and wasn’t sure if I would get a fastball. But I did get one and hit one of the longest home runs I would ever hit in that park, maybe the longest. When I came around the bases and touched home plate, House said, “Kid, that’s the last time we ever tell you what’s coming.” And he never did it again.”[xviii]
And the research went on. It did not take me long to discover that an ex-Yankee had done the deed. Actually, there were quite a few. Bill Robinson was in the minor leagues with the Atlanta Crackers, the Braves Triple A affiliate in the International League in 1965, when the team played at Fulton County Stadium. He homered there for the first time on May 2, 1965. He returned there with the Pirates and Phillies several years later and hit a total of 12 major league dingers at the Atlanta ballpark. The first one came as a member of the Phillies on September 2, 1972 off George Stone. After his playing days Robinson went on to become a successful hitting coach, and in 1986, he was with the World Champion New York Mets. Research revealed that another member of that Mets’ team was in the “minors-majors” club, by virtue of homering at Atlanta.
Davey Johnson was making his way through the Oriole organization and spent parts of three seasons with Rochester in the International League. In 1965, he began the year with the Orioles, but was batting only .170 on June 11, and was sent back down to Rochester. On July 21, 1965, he homered at Atlanta Stadium. He batted .301 at Rochester in 1965, and in 1966 he was up to the majors to stay. He was traded from the Orioles to the Braves after the 1972 season and he became quite comfortable in his new surroundings, slugging 43 homers in his first year with Atlanta. In all, he hit 33 home runs at Fulton County Stadium, the first coming on April 28, 1973 against Jon Matlack of the Mets. Johnson was named to four All-Star teams during his 13 seasons in major league baseball. He went on to manage the New York Mets to the World Championship in 1986. In all, he has managed five teams to a combined record of 1,333 – 1,042.
As the research went on, the 2012 Hall of Fame inductees were announced and Barry Larkin was selected. Barry accomplished the feat at Denver’s Mile High Stadium. The Colorado Rockies played at Mile High during the first two years of the franchise (1993-94). Prior to that, this ballpark was used for many years by the Denver Zephyrs, for whom Larkin played in 1986. Larkin’s career started when he was signed by the Reds in 1985 after being chosen by the Reds in the first round of the amateur draft. After a year at Double A Vermont, in 1985, he was sent to Denver in 1986. That year, he batted .329 with 10 homers and 51 RBIs, and was named the American Associations Rookie of the Year and MVP. On April 30, he led the way in a 7-6 win over Omaha with two doubles and a home run. He was called up to Cincinnati in August, 1986, and played his entire career with the Reds, retiring at the end of the 2004 season. He was named to twelve All Star teams and was selected as the National League’s MVP in 1995. His one Major League Home Run at Mile High Stadium came on May 24, 1994 off Dave Nied.
That makes five Hall of Famers.
Another player that I thought had accomplished the feat at Mile High is Larry Walker. Walker started his career with Montreal, and moved on to Denver in 1995. Hence, most of his Denver home runs were hit at Coors Field – his personal launching pad. Indeed, he hit 154 homers at Coors. How many at Mile High as a Major Leaguer during his days with Montreal? His first, and only, came on September 1, 1993 off Kurt Bottenfield. In 1989, he was playing with Indianapolis in the American Association and played six games at Mile High Stadium. He had 12 home runs that season, but alas, none came at Mile High Stadium. During the course of the six games, he went 5-for-22 with a pair of doubles.
Rod Nelson suggested that Gary Sheffield had done the deed. Sheffield played for the Denver Zephyrs in 1988, banging out 9 home runs for the Zephyrs. His time with Denver was brief. A first round draft pick of the Brewers in 1987, he began the 1988 season with El Paso and was promoted to Denver at the beginning of July. In his very first game with the Zephyrs, he doubled and homered. By the end of August, he was with the Brewers in Milwaukee. During his major league career, Sheffield hit homers at forty-two different ballparks. Three came at Mile High Stadium. Interestingly, they all came off the same pitcher, Willie Blair, on 06/19/93, 04/19/94, and 07/24/94.
Johnny Callison is best remembered for this time with the Philadelphia Phillies. With the Phillies from 1960 through 1969, he banged out 185 round trippers. He finished his career in the American League and on May 18, 1972, his first home run as a member of the New York Yankees came at Metropolitan Stadium off Bert Blyleven. It was his only major league home run at Metropolitan, and went with two home runs that he hit there as a minor leaguer in 1958 while playing in the White Sox system with the Indianapolis Indians
Bobby Tolan was more renowned for his speed than his power. He started his career in 1963 with Reno, a Pittsburgh farm club in the California League was drafted by the Cardinals from the Pirates prior to the 1964 season. He made the Texas League All-Star team at the tender age of 18 in 1964, stealing 34 bases with Tulsa.[xix] The next season, he was promoted to the International League and, on July 8 and July 11, 1965, at the age of 19, hit homers at Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium while playing for the Jacksonville Suns. That season in the International League he also lit up the base paths He arrived in the majors with St. Louis later in 1965, but did not really hit his stride until he was traded to Cincinnati in 1969. He had 21 homers in 1969 and hit the first of four Atlanta Stadium major league homers on April 21, 1970 off Bob Priddy. His 57 stolen bases led the league in 1970 and he followed that up with 42 thefts in 1971.
The term dynasty tends to, at times, be overused, but during the early 1970’s, few teams could match the Oakland A’s. Dynasties do not happen overnight, and the Oakland dynasty, truth be told, started in Kansas City. In 1965, the amateur draft was introduced and the A’s, one of the American League’s perennial doormats, chose wisely. Their sixth round selection was one of their best decisions. They chose a 21-year-old and sent him to Burlington, Iowa of the Midwest League. He joined the team in mid-season as they went on to post an 82-40 record, winning the league pennant by 11½ games. From there, he was promoted to Mobile in the Southern League. The team won the pennant with an 88-52 record, and included several names that would be associated with the A’s for many years. Names like Blue Moon Odum, Rick Monday, John McNamara, and Tony LaRussa.
Sal Bando moved on to Vancouver for the 1967 season. Vancouver finished in third place, just two games out of first place. With Vancouver, he batted .291, and homered at Sick’s Stadium in Seattle on August 23, 1967. He got to spend some time with the A’s in Kansas City in 1966 and 1967 as a late season call-up, and he arrived in the majors to stay in 1968 when the A’s moved to Oakland. The team finished the 1968 season with an 82-80 record. It marked the first time since 1952, that the A’s had more wins than losses. Bando, was the Iron Man of the Oakland A’s, not missing a game during his first two years with the club. In 1969, he was named to the All-Star team for the first time and set career high marks in home runs (31) and RBI (113). During the course of that season, he hit five homers, more than any other visiting player, at Sick’s Stadium. The first two came on April 27 against Mike Marshall and propelled the A’s to a 13-5 win. 1969 was the first year of divisional play and the A’s finished in either first or second place for eight consecutive years. They won their division five consecutive years (1971-75) and brought home three straight World Series Trophies (1972-74). Bando, during those years, averaged 156 games played per season, banged out 183 homers and drove in 722 runs. His on-base percentage was .361. He was named to four All-Star teams. After the 1976 season, he filed for free agency and signed on with the Brewers. He finished up his career with Milwaukee in 1981.
Of those non-Hall-of-Famers to have homered at Roosevelt Stadium during the 1956-57 timeframe, Hank Sauer excited my interest.
Sauer was initially signed by the New York Yankees in 1937, and spent three years in their minor league system before being drafted by Cincinnati. His last year in the minors was 1947. That season marked his fourth year playing or the Syracuse Chiefs, and he permanently punched his ticket to the major leagues by banging out 50 homers, including four at Roosevelt Stadium. He was named minor league Player of the Year. His first minor league homer at Roosevelt Stadium came on May 20, 1946 when he homered for Syracuse in a 4-2 win over Jersey City.
During his first seven years in the big leagues, he had 30 or more homers six times, and he was named the National League’s MVP in 1952. Sauer played 15 years in the majors with Reds, Cubs, Cards, and Giants. In 1952, with the Cubs, he led the National League in Homers (37) and RBI (121). On June 11 of that season, he homered three times against Curt Simmons of the Phillies in a 3-2 Chicago win. Over the course of his major league career, he hit 288 homers, including the next-to-last major league home run hit during the brief tenure of Roosevelt Stadium as a major league site. Sauer, at age 40, had been acquired by the New York Giants in a trade with the St. Louis Cardinals and hit 26 homers in 1957, earning comeback player of the year honors. His Roosevelt Stadium home run came on August 7, 1957. Sauer was called upon to pinch hit for Valmy Thomas with the Dodgers leading 5-3 with two on and none out in the top of the ninth. His three run homer off Don Newcombe put the Giants in the lead and they went on to win 8-5. He batted cleanup in the lineup for the Giants and provided protection in the lineup for Willie Mays, who batted third.[xx]
Sauer accompanied the Giants to San Francisco and had the distinction of hitting the first homer at the LA Coliseum. But he was now 41, and the Giants were stocked with young outfielders. Sauer only appeared in 88 games in 1958. He retired after the 1959 season, but stayed on with the Giants working with their minor league prospects.
The last player to homer there during the Roosevelt Stadium’s brief tenure as a major league ballpark returned there in 1961 as a member of the Triple A Jersey City Jerseys. Harry Anderson had played his major league ball with the woeful Phillies teams of the mid-fifties. His first season was 1957. That year, he had 17 homers, including a two-run ninth inning poke at Roosevelt Stadium off Don Drysdale on September 3. It tied the game at 2-2, and the Phillies went on the win the game in the 12th inning.
There was no sophomore jinx for Harry, as he had his best season in 1958, batting .301 with 23 homers and 97 RBIs. After that, it was downhill. Anderson was traded to the Reds during the 1960 season and, after playing a handful of games in 1961 was sent to the minors, where he split time between Indianapolis and Jersey City.
He joined the Jerseys on June 27, 1961, and first home game with the Jersey City was on July 11. In that game, he went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles as Jersey City defeated Charleston 4-3. He had five homers with Jersey City but, alas, none were hit at Roosevelt Stadium. He would never return to the major leagues and after playing in 1962 with San Diego in the Pacific Coast League, Anderson hung up his spikes.
Of course, there were others suggested to me who did not make it into this club. One player, suggested by Ted Knorr, was Monte Irvin. Irvin, whose career began in the Negro Leagues, played in Organized Baseball from 1949 through 1957, including eight years in the majors from 1949 through 1956. He finished up with the Minor League Angels in 1957 and hit a home run, his only one of the season, on Opening day at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles.
And there were other dead-end searches. A possibility was Frank Howard. Hondo, it was said, could hit the ball out of any park, including Yellowstone (okay, the quote was about Killebrew, but it applied to Howard as well), and he hit four in six games at Sick’s Stadium as a member of the Washington Senators in 1969. However, he was not successful in 1959, when he was playing for Spokane. In 1960, he had left Spokane for the Dodgers before his team visited Seattle.
The nature of research is such that some of the online copies of The Sporting News are barely legible. So it was that by careful process of elimination, I determined that Andy Carey, playing for Syracuse on September 7, 1952, the last day of the season, had homered with one on at Memorial Stadium in a 5-0 win over the Orioles. I verified this by accessing The Syracuse Herald on NewspaperArchive.com. Carey’s third inning homer off Kent Peterson put the Chiefs in front to stay. In 1952, Carey spent time with the Yankees and the Kansas City Blues before being sent to Syracuse. He played 24 games with Syracuse, during which he had two home runs, and the Chiefs went 16-8 to solidify their hold on second place.
Carey was originally signed by Joe Devine of the Yankees for $65,000 after just one year At St. Mary’s College in Morega, California. He went on to play for the great New York Yankees teams of the 1950’s, hitting 47 home runs before being traded to Kansas City and finishing his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He gained the distinction of being the first player to hit home runs at the same ballpark in the minors and majors in the migration/expansion era when, in his second full year with the Yankees, he homered on May 16, 1954 off Dave Koslo as the Yanks defeated the Orioles 2-0. In all, he homered four times at Memorial Stadium as a major leaguer.
You also never know what to expect. In exploring home runs hit at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore during the 1953 Minor League season, I stumbled across someone named Bell, or so it said in the box score in The Sporting News. He had hit two home runs in a game in May, 1953. He was playing for Syracuse. That year, Syracuse was the affiliate of the New York Yankees. In those days, the Yanks sent their top prospects to Kansas City (still a minor league team). I checked the Syracuse roster and Bell was not amongst the no-names. How could this be? Well, I checked out people named Bell who had played in Organized Baseball and I happened on one Charles Bell who, according to BaseballReference.com was in the Minor Leagues in 1953. His line for 1953 at Syracuse read seven games played. Nothing about at-bats, hits, etc. That explains why he was not listed on the roster. I also discovered that he had never played in the Major Leagues. And the search continued.
I found many others that had hit home runs in the same park as minor Leaguers and major Leaguers. Some are quite obscure. Others knocked on Cooperstown’s doors. They will be shown in no particular order.
[i] Cy Kritzer. The Sporting News, April 25, 1946, page 18.
[ii] Robinson. Pages 151-152.
[iii] Yastrzemski. Page 48-53.
[iv] The Sporting News. July 6, 1960.
[v] Braves Perini Inks Lease on Milwaukee’s New Park. The Sporting News. August 27, 1952. Page 28
[vi] Dick Carroll. The Montreal Gazette, April 25, 1950, page 16.
[vii] Rafael Alvarez, Baltimore Sun, April 16, 1993, Page 1A
[viii] Ernest Mehl. The Kansas City Athletics, pages 132-133.
[ix] Merle Heryford. The Sporting News, May 8, 1965, page 35.
[x] The Sporting News, July 25, 1981, 41
[xi] Jimmy Burns and A. L. Hardman, (Separate Stories), The Sporting News, May 24, 1961, page 32
[xii] Ernest Mehl. The Sporting News, January 26, 1955, page 15.
[xiii] Red Smith, Boston Globe, March 14, 1950, 12
[xvi] The New York Times, August 18, 1968, page S-4.
[xix] Gene Granger, The Sporting News, June 12, 1965, 33