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Nice Neyer Article on Rickey and Playing Beyond MLB

OAFC BBS - All Topics: Archive: Nice Neyer Article on Rickey and Playing Beyond MLB
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By jenmed on Saturday, May 28, 2005 - 09:34 am:

This is an Insider article on ESPN so I'm going to paste the whole thing here. (ESPN be damned!) :)

I suppose there are people who think it's inappropriate for a player such as Rickey Henderson to ply his trade with a team called the Surf Dawgs. The Atlantic League was one thing, but the Golden Baseball League?

Inappropriate? Some might say it's downright unseemly. How dare Rickey Henderson sully our memories of the greatest leadoff man in baseball's long, rich history?

Except, it's his career and not ours. Except, Henderson's chosen career is professional baseball. Except, there was a time when players of Henderson's stature routinely found nothing extraordinary about finishing their professional careers in the minor leagues.

By my count, 81 Hall of Fame players were active at some point between 1910 and 1929 (inclusive). If we exclude 1) those players who immediately became major-league managers or coaches immediately after (or before) their playing careers ended, and 2) those players whose careers were ended by injury or illness, we're left with 56 Hall of Famers during that period.

And of those 56 great players, 34 finished their playing careers in the minors. A few notable examples:

# In 1917, Chief Bender went 8-2 with a 1.67 ERA for the Phillies, but the next year, he left the game like a number of other players to engage in war-related work (though, to tell the truth, a number of those players spent more time playing semipro baseball than building ships, etc.). With the war over in 1919, Bender coached at the Naval Academy before signing with Richmond in the Virginia League. In addition to managing Richmond, he also posted one of the great minor-league seasons: 29-2 with a 1.06 ERA in 280 innings. Bender pitched â sometimes managing too â until he was 43, finishing up with a 7-3 record and a 1.33 ERA in the Middle Atlantic League.

# Also in 1917, Wahoo Sam Crawford played his last game in the majors, only 36 hits short of 3,000 (not that anyone paid much attention to such things back then). Crawford could still hit, actually, but somehow batted only .173 in 104 at-bats, and so he headed back to the minors, and piled up nearly 800 more hits in the Pacific Coast League.

# Rube Marquard's a Hall of Famer who shouldn't be, but you have to give him credit for persistence. In 1925, when he was 38 (granted, everybody thought he was 35 because that's what he told them), Marquard went 2-8 with a 5.75 ERA while pitching for the Boston Braves. In each of the next five seasons, he pitched in the minors, but sparingly. In 1930 he became a minor-league umpire, but that lasted just one season, and in 1932 Marquard finally closed out his pitching career with six games in the Southern Association.

The list of other great players who played their last games in the minor leagues includes Grover Cleveland Alexander, Home Run Baker, Three Finger Brown, Kiki Cuyler, Goose Goslin, Heinie Manush, George Sisler, Tris Speaker, Rube Waddell and Zack Wheat.

This practice essentially ended in the 1930s and '40s, because the nature of the minor leagues changed. Prior to the 1940s, most minor-league franchises were independent; their goals were to win games and make money (not necessarily in that order). But that changed as major-league franchises began to build, and eventually rule, far-flung farm systems. When a franchise's goal is to develop players rather than win games, there's not much room for the 41-year-old ex-major leaguer who just wants a uniform to wear and a position to play.

But fortunately for geezer ballplayers everywhere, the independent leagues have returned. If you can still play, they'll find a spot for you. Of course, not many future Hall of Famers want to play; most consider it beneath them, and few have much need for the paychecks; but it's nice to know there's a place for them, if they want it.

Rickey Henderson believes he's better, right now, than Tony Womack. I don't know if that's true. What's true is that Rickey Henderson's good enough to help a professional baseball team sell tickets. And as long as that's true, I'm thrilled to know he's still out there, doing what he's been doing for nearly 30 years.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By eyleenn on Saturday, May 28, 2005 - 10:58 am:

Mark Ibanez said on KTVU last night that the A's should bring Rickey back, not only because he could help them, but also to put butts in the seats and generate a little much-needed buzz.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By diamond_lil on Saturday, May 28, 2005 - 11:25 am:

I sure hope the A's don't get Rickey now...he would not be able to help the A's and he would end up being used as a scapegoat or ridiculed.

I think it would be a disaster to have Rickey on a team managed by Macha.

Mark Ibanez should keep his mouth shut and forget saying one word about Rickey. Of all the gnats biased mediots, there were two who helped the most character assassinate and spread lies about Rickey, one was that moron Ken Ditto and the other, Mark Ibanez. They should spend their useless time being apologetic about their Barroid and leave Rickey alone.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By kevink on Saturday, May 28, 2005 - 11:52 am:

What lies did Ibanez tell about Rickey? He seems to always ridicule the A's on his show, and he has that little smirk similar to Radnich when he's talking A's highlights. Strange for a guy that got engaged at an A's game.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By diamond_lil on Saturday, May 28, 2005 - 12:55 pm:

When Ibanez would fill in for the other KNBR-rethreds on the A's post game shows on KSFO and other whatever stations the A's had, both Ken Ditto and Ibanez would take turns accusing Rickey of dogging and wouldn't miss an opportunity to tell stories and bait the other players for something negative about Rickey. They never missed a chance to ridicule him but most of all Ibanez would accuse Rickey of not running when in reality the guy was playing hurt.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By eyleenn on Saturday, May 28, 2005 - 05:25 pm:

FWIW, he praised the good game Rickey had last night and seemed sincere in saying the A's could use his productivity.

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