May 21, 2013
And here's the full roster.
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And That Happened (3)
50th anniversary: Jim Maloney: a star is born (1)
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Tuesday, March 06, 2012
For this writer, Don Mincher will always hold an important place. Mincher, who died on Sunday at the age of 73, was the first player I interviewed for my first book, "A Baseball Dynasty: Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s."
Not only was Mincher the first, but he might have been the best of the interviews I did. Keep in mind that I really didn’t know what I was doing; I had done interviews before, but never for a full-length book, and this was a book for which I had not yet formulated a theme.
But Don made it easy. He spoke naturally and freely in giving me keen insights to the inner workings of the A’s circa 1971-72. He told me about the strong personalities who did not always agree with each other. He gave me advice on whom I should interview next, and which A’s I should perhaps steer away from.
(Off the record, he even told me about one ballplayer who might ask for money in exchange for an interview. That was good to know, since I had budgeted no money for the research process of writing the book!)
Most importantly, Don was friendly and accommodating. I didn’t feel like I was bothering him. If anything, he made it sound like he was grateful that somebody was taking an interest in his career and life in baseball.
There was plenty of reason to take interest, given his accomplishments, first as a ballplayer and later as a minor-league executive. He was humble about his playing days, preferring to talk about others, but he put up rock-solid numbers during his career.
A left-handed hitter with brute strength, Mincher hit with power and patience, totaling 200 home runs for his career while walking nearly as often as he struck out. During the decade of the deadball sixties, he put up OPS totals better than .800 six times.
He was the only man to play for both incarnations of the Washington Senators, making him the answer to a popular trivia question back in the seventies. He was also the only All-Star representative in the brief history of the Seattle Pilots.
Mincher played for two exceptional teams, the 1965 pennant-winning Twins and the world championship A’s of 1972. In the 1972 World Series, he helped the A’s win Game Four against the Reds with a pinch-hit RBI single, which turned out to be the final at-bat of his career.
The A’s decided not to bring him back for 1973, even though the American League had just voted into existence the new designated hitter rule. Mincher would have made an ideal DH, platooning against right-handed pitching, but no one saw fit to make him a concrete offer.
Unlike some ballplayers who struggle to find life after baseball, Mincher made a smooth transition to the front office. He eventually became the general manager of the Double-A Huntsville Stars, his hometown team, essentially running the franchise for more than 15 years. He then agreed to become the interim president of the Southern League before taking over operation of the league on a fulltime basis.
Before he retired last fall, Mincher impressed people throughout the minor league game with his easy-going manner, his smarts, his work ethic, and perhaps most of all, his integrity. He became a legendary figure in Huntsville, where he was beloved for simply being a gentleman.
I never met Mincher face-to-face, but I felt like I had during our lengthy phone conversation. If there is a way to make a lasting impression over the phone, Mincher was able to turn the trick.
Even though I talked to him only that one time, I’ll miss Don. For those who really knew him, for those who talked to him on a regular basis, I can only imagine how much they’ll miss him. Don Mincher was one of the good ones.
For more on Don Mincher’s career, please see Chris Jaffe’s THT Live entry on his career highlights.
The other day, the baseball world lost another one of its veterans, as Don Mincher passed away at age 73. The first baseman enjoyed a 13-year career mainly with the Twins, but he also played with the Angels, Pilots, Rangers and A’s, and he played with both Senators squads—he was on the clubs that moved out of Washington to both Minnesota and Texas.
After his playing days, he became general manager of the Huntsville (Ala.) Stars, the Double-A affiliate of first the A's, then (and now) the Milwaukee Brewers. And he served as president of the Southern League from 2000 to last October..
When a player dies, it’s time to look back on his life and career. Others can do a better job looking at the man himself. Below are his career highlights. These include his personal highest and lowest moments, the greatest and most important games he participated in, and some of the oddities he was personally on hand for. Also, because he was a Pilot, we’ll also include one or two of the better Mincher-related anecdotes from Jim Bouton’s book, Ball Four.
Here they are, in order and divided by team he played for:
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50 years ago today was a big day in the history of the St. Louis Cardinals. The team itself didn’t do anything of note. The season hadn’t started yet so, there was no game worth mentioning. There were no big trades, signings, or prominent players cut.
The St. Louis Cardinals franchise was itself a bystander on the day, but it was still a very important day for them. For on that day, the voters of St. Louis went to the polls. Aside from the normal litany of elections and political races, there was one item of very special interest to the Cardinals. People voted on a bond issue that meant a lot to the Cardinals.
The St. Louis Cardinals wanted a new stadium, and on that day, St. Louis voters decided to support a bond that would fund the needed downtown improvements that would give the Cardinals their stadium. The new place would be Busch Stadium, and the Cardinals would play in it for over 40 years.
At the time, the Cardinals played in Sportsman’s Park, a holdover from the city’s era of Browns baseball. Sportsman’s Park was one of the oldest sites for baseball. The St. Louis Cardinals played at its original version in their first season way back in 1882. It went through a series of metamorphosis over the years, and in 1909 the Browns, who owned the site by that time, changed it into a modern concrete-and-steel place.
The Browns continued to play there for over 40 years, and in 1920 the Cardinals moved in. For decades they were just tenants, but towards the end, the perennially cash-strapped Browns sold the Cardinals the place. Shortly after, the Browns moved to Baltimore and became the Orioles. The Cardinals had the stadium and town all to themselves.
True, but a new era of stadium building was beginning. Aside from the Browns, several other teams had moved to new towns, and they were getting new stadiums. Baseball had also expanded, prompting interest in new stadiums.
Sportsman’s Park, as one of the oldest places, also seemed like one of the most out-of-date. As St. Louis voters went to the polls, the Dodgers were putting the finishing touches on their new pad, Dodger Stadium. This would serve as the model of how to build a ballpark for a generation of stadiums.
Thus St. Louis voters went to the polls and gave the Cardinals what they wanted, financing for a brand new stadium.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is an event occurring X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones if bold if you’d prefer to just skim the list:
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