Those Who Did — and Did Not — Play Minor League Ball

John Elway had nearly a .900 OPS in his only minor-league season. (via Spc. Jonathan Montgomery)

John Elway had nearly a .900 OPS in his only minor-league season. (via Spc. Jonathan Montgomery)

In the movie Bull Durham, which traces the adventures of career minor leaguer Crash Davis and his Single-A Durham Bulls, Davis and three teammates sneak into a ballpark and turn on the sprinklers one night in efforts to flood the field. It’s a great scene — revealing, funny, and, as it turns out, true. Like Hollywood counterpart Kurt Russell, Bull Durham writer/director Ron Shelton really did play minor league baseball, and in 1970, while playing for the Double-A Dallas-Fort Worth Spurs, the 24-year-old catcher and his teammates flooded the field three times in hopes of forcing cancellations of the next days’ games. It worked twice, he has said, and failed once.

Thanks largely to Bull Durham, Shelton’s story, like Russell’s, is well known. Each spent time in the minors before embarking for a bigger stage. Less well known are the tales of other men who, like Shelton and Russell, would gain fame in fields other than baseball. In still other cases, however, the stories are murkier. Did they really play minor league ball

Some did. Others did not.

Those Who Did

The Candidate

He wore Bermuda shorts on the ballfield, and a sleeveless shirt, too.

Such was the uniform — a dandified ensemble perhaps more appropriate to the Promenade Deck of an ocean-going cruise ship — of the 1952 Brunswick Pirates. Regardless of its look, the uniform felt more comfortable than the wool outfit the team had been wearing in the heat of the Class D Georgia-Florida League. While wearing those heavy threads in center field one day, he had passed out because of the swelter. It wasn’t that he lacked physical toughness. A 1951 scouting report read, “Will run over you if you get in his way.” It wasn’t that he lacked mental toughness, either. When his college coach wanted to move him from the outfield to the catcher’s position, he had left school and signed with the Pirates. His signing bonus: $2,000. Three years earlier, Mickey Mantle had signed for $900 less.

The heat had beaten him, but so what? By now he’d changed uniforms, to shorts and a sleeveless shirt, and would likely continue to do so until he donned the big league togs of the mid-’50s Pirates, with that up-and-comer Clemente. The scouting report had hinted at the promise of a future big leaguer — “Potentially best prospect. Could go all the way.” — and his Mantle-beating bonus had validated reports of his strong arm and quick bat.

Indeed, the 1952 season would be his last in Brunswick.

It would also be his last in baseball.

Fans can never be sure if oft-referenced “injury” is the genuine reason for a prospect’s failure to reach the big leagues. As often as not, it serves as a convenient whitewash of preexisting infirmities, e.g., the inability to hit a slider. In any case, it is now a matter of public record: Prior to suffering a wrist injury when he slammed into a cinderblock fence, the 20-year-old Brunswick outfielder owned a batting average of .353. After the injury, he went hitless in his next 25 at-bats and would finish the season — his season — at .244. The end, alas, would arrive sooner than the final game on the Brunswick schedule. A beaning in August put him in the hospital for two weeks. Afterward, Mario Cuomo would never play another game of baseball, but he would go on to serve three terms as governor of New York.

The Crooner

He had gotten so hungry, so utterly famished while playing for a minor league team in Iowa, that he pulled weeds from the ground, washed them and ate the bottoms as if they were grilled asparagus. The team received a percentage of ticket sales, and if it rained, they didn’t play. And if they didn’t play, they didn’t get paid. And if they didn’t get paid, they often didn’t eat — unless, like the young right-hander from a town called Sledge, they made a meal of wild vegetation.

A year later, following a partial season in which he received $2 a day for meal money, the 6-foot-1 Mississippian left a team in Memphis to join the Boise Yankees, a Class C squad that included future major leaguers Ken Hunt and Johnny James. Still just 17, he was five years younger than league average. After injuring his shoulder during a game in Lodi, he got shipped to a Class D Fond du Lac for rehab. There he yielded nine runs in 12.1 innings. He left to join a team in Louisville just before the 1954 season but didn’t last long. Strapped for cash, the team traded him and a teammate to the Birmingham Black Barons for money to buy a team bus.

“Jesse (Mitchell) and I may have the distinction of being the only players in history to be traded for a used motor vehicle,” he would write in his autobiography three decades later.

Undeterred, he returned from a stint in the military to join the Missoula Timberjacks, a Class C team that included 19-year-old Cesar Tovar. After just three games, the Timberjacks released him. He then went to work in a Montana smelter, shoveling coal into a 2,400-degree furnace, and also pitched and played the outfield for its semi-pro team, the East Helena Smelterites. Impressed by the musical chops he’d shown while playing gigs around town, the Smelterites manager began paying him $10 to perform for 15 minutes just prior to home games. A decade later, upon releasing Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’, Charley Pride had yielded the biggest hit of his professional career.

The Grappler

He stood in the outfield one day and began making throws to home plate with his left hand. It would have been an everyday sight if he weren’t a right-handed catcher. He was 21 years old, in his fourth season of pro ball and, as he told coaches that day, searching for any way to become more valuable to the Class A Tampa Tarpons. Throw by throw, he edged closer to ambidexterity, and closer, perhaps, to rising through the ranks of minor league baseball.

A Hardball Times Update
Goodbye for now.

After batting .525 as a senior in high school, he had overcome the disappointment of being overlooked in the 1971 MLB draft to attend an open tryout with the Cardinals. Assigned to their Rookie League squad upon signing a $500 per month contract, the 18-year-old catcher had batted .286 in 35 games while working to increase strength by performing 1,000 sit-ups per day, a feat not unlike that of his dad, a professional wrestler who had set a world record with 6,033 sit-ups in four hours and 10 minutes. The catcher had also strengthened his forearms by hitting a rubber tire with a bat, a regimen that one of his teammates, future big leaguer Larry Herndon, would use for many years.

Now here he was, a year after the Cardinals cut him, throwing southpaw on the field of a Class-A Cincinnati affiliate. Ultimately, his ambidextrous efforts wouldn’t send him to the major leagues; after posting a .652 OPS in 131 games for the Tarpons, he left baseball for a different professional pursuit. But today, five years after his death, fans can assume that Randy Poffo, a.k.a. wrestler “Macho Man” Randy Savage, could snap into a Slim Jim with either hand. Ohhhhh yeahhhhh!

The Performer

He sat in the Arlington Hotel in Lynchburg, Va., one afternoon and penned a postcard to his mom back in East Texas. “Dear Mother, How are you feeling? I am doing fine and hope you are well. It has been raining here for the past two days, but the sun came out this afternoon.… Tell all hello for me. I’ll be thinking of you. Love, Travis.”

What he failed to mention was that five days later, on May 8, 1945, he would pitch in his first professional game, for the Lynchburg Cardinals of the Class B Piedmont League. He had been an all-state pitcher back in Carthage and accepted a baseball scholarship to the University of Texas, but after an injury he had left school to work in the Houston shipyards. In time he had returned to the mound, pitching for the Hughes Tool Co. semi-pro team, and performed so well that he caught the attention of a Cardinals scout.

Now, having received a Western Union telegram stating that the Cardinals would furnish him with room and board, the 5-foot-11 pitcher waited restlessly in a “modern fireproof hotel” with “room, bath and free parking” to debut for a team that would soon include war hero and future major leaguer Al Papai. (VE Day would come five days later, and Papai, having seen front-line action in North Africa and Central Europe, would return to the States with a Silver Star and a Purple Heart and then notch a 2.39 ERA in 11 games for Lynchburg before reaching the big leagues in 1948.)

The 5-foot-11 East Texan would pitch 29 innings across six games that season before moving to a pair of White Sox affiliates in 1946. Still younger than league average, he posted an aggregate 3.06 ERA and 12-8 record while pitching for three teams in 1947 — the same year his baseball career ended. Seventeen years later, having scored half a dozen No.1 hits on the Billboard charts, the man once known as Travis stepped to a stage in Oslo, Norway, following a pleasant introduction: “And now we bring a gentleman from Texas,” the emcee told the audience that night. “He’s an ex-boxer and ex-baseball player…. Let’s welcome Mr. Jim Reeves.”

The Host

He played in 38 games that season and registered 38 total bases. He didn’t need sabermetrics to know that one total base per game would not deliver him from Salina, Kan., to the parent club in Philadelphia. The Phillies had drafted him out of North Hollywood High School the previous year and assigned him to Class D Klamath Falls. But now, having totaled three doubles, two triples and zero home runs in 138 at-bats for the Class D Miami Eagles and the Class C Salina Blue Jays, the young man had begun to realize he couldn’t muscle his way to the big leagues.

“I was a first baseman,” he would tell a reporter in 1976, exactly a quarter century after his professional baseball debut, “but after those two years, I realized I had no real future in professional baseball. I hit for a pretty good average, but I was never a long ball hitter. And, as a left-hander, the only places I could play were first base and the outfield, and I knew the majors wanted distance hitters in those positions.”

A year after his interview with the (Meriden, Conn.) Record & Journal, and 25 years after his final professional at-bat, he won an Emmy award for Best Game Show Host in honor of his performance on Tattletales. Having served as a host and panelist on several other game shows, Match Game and Password among them, he also guest-starred on several TV shows, including Mission: Impossible and Fantasy Island, and appeared in movies ranging from Semi-Tough to The Cannonball Run. Bert Convy had powered his way to the bright lights, at last.

The Player

He made his way to the big league roster one season, but the Yankees wouldn’t activate him. He kept trying to cross that most difficult threshold, the one separating Triple-A Columbus from New York, New York, but the right-hander just couldn’t keep his walk rate down. His ERA and WHIP stayed up, too, and so he stayed down, down in Columbus, down even to Nashville before bouncing back up again, but never to the big stage, never to Gotham’s bright lights.

After a final season in Columbus, where, at age 27, he posted a 4.3 walk rate and a 5.13 ERA, he left the sport without having worn a major league uniform. He would flip that script eight years later, when, in the role of Mike McGrevey, actor Scott Patterson made it to the majors at last by appearing as a Twins pitcher in the movie Little Big League.

“You’re a frickin’ prima donna, McGrevey,” pitching coach Mac Macnally tells him in one scene.

“You know, you’re right, Mac,” says the scheming right-hander, searching for a way to move to another club. “I’m a disgrace to the Twins. I think you should trade me.”

He would go on to wear another ballcap, always backward, as Luke Dane on Gilmore Girls.

The Prince

He is credited with inventing the hook shot. It helped that he had an arm span of 84 inches. His greatest contribution to the hardwood, however, was not a new way to score but a new way to entertain. Known as the Clown Prince of Basketball, he would convert his gift for physical comedy into a lucrative career with the Harlem Globetrotters.

“The first showman,” the great Meadowlark Lemon called him.

Before creating many of the go-to Globetrotter bits — replacing the ball with a trick ball; playing hide-and-seek with the referees; pretending to faint until being revived by the odor of his shoes — the Arkansas native honed his athletic and comedic talents on the baseball field. A lanky 6-foot-3 first baseman, he debuted at age 20 with the Birmingham Black Barons. Among his teammates were future big leaguer Dan Bankhead and Hall of Famer Willie Wells. After serving in the Army Air Corps in 1944, he returned to the Negro American League to play for the Indianapolis Clowns, where he teamed with catcher Sam Hairston of the multigenerational baseball family.

With the aptly named Clowns he continued to refine his on-field comedy, often smoking a stogie and wearing a goofy hat while using his long limbs to draw laughter from the crowd. He wasn’t all play and no work, though. In 1947, as a first baseman, he played in the East-West All-Star Game at Comiskey Park. A year later he hung up his spikes in favor of basketball shoes. Having said his “goal in life is to make people laugh,” Reece “Goose” Tatum would play for the Globetrotters for a dozen seasons and enter the Basketball Hall of Fame as a funny guy and seriously good player.

* Note: Though the Negro Leagues weren’t classified as the minor leagues, per se, we include them here for purposes of this narrative, and to give Goose some well-deserved praise.

The Actor

He showed some promise at North Miami Beach High School, enough that Spud Chandler, the one-time American League MVP and now a scout for the Indians, signed him to a contract. He debuted in 1959 for the Class D Selma Cloverleafs, a team that included future All-Star Max Alvis among four players who would reach the big leagues and one, 36-year-old Johnny Lipon, who already did. Still a year younger than league average, the Chandler signee struggled in his first pro season, notching in 26 at-bats just a pair of base hits. One was a home run — a solo shot — the only dinger he’d hit in the 17 games of his two-year career.

His final season of 1960, with the Rutherford County Owls, did bring a pair of big opportunities: an audience with Ted Williams, who argued that an upper-cut swing is superior to the downward swing advocated by the 21-year-old minor leaguer, and an audience with actor Ozzie Nelson, which led to a role in the sitcom The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet.

Seventeen years later, as assistant principal Richard Vernon in The Breakfast Club, Paul Gleason would turn to Judd Nelson and say, “Grab some wood there, bub.”

Those Who Didn’t

Others might not have “grabbed some wood” — i.e., sat on the bench — during their time in baseball, but in contrast to rumor and myth, they never played minor league ball. Legend has it that blues musician George Thorogood played in the minors, but no, he played for a semi-pro team in Delaware. Country artist Conway Twitty did receive an offer from the Phillies, but the Army drafted him before he could sign a contract. Country artist Roy Acuff had a tryout with the Yankees-affiliated Knoxville Smokies in 1929 but succumbed to heat stroke. Gangster John Dillinger played shortstop for his town team in Mooresville, Ind., and later for his prison team, but never in professional baseball.

Robert Ripley, the founder of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!, pitched for a semi-pro team and once had an informal workout with the New York Giants but never played so much as Class D. According to several biographies, 1950s actor Jeff Richards played shortstop for the Portland Beavers and Salem Senators before setting out for Hollywood, but a thorough review of baseball records indicates that his bio might have been a studio invention to promote baseball movies in which he appeared, including the original Angels in the Outfield and, ironically, Big Leaguer.

Several politicians are said to have played — or had the chance to play — pro ball, but did they? Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson claimed he was drafted by the Athletics and Cubs, but journalists later discovered he’d made up the claim. Former Cuban President Fidel Castro is rumored to have played pro ball, or had a tryout with the Yankees, but research indicates he merely pitched in University of Havana Law School intramural competition.

The trickiest case belongs to Dwight Eisenhower, the 34th President. It is said that Eisenhower played the outfield for the Class D Junction City Soldiers in 1911. It is also said that in order to protect his college-football eligibility at West Point, he played under the fictitious name Wilson. For his part, Eisenhower said he didn’t. Mel Ott said he did.

Today, no one knows if he did or didn’t.

And Those, Again, Who Did

Actor Drake Hogestyn, best known for his role as John Blackon Days of Our Lives, accrued a .773 OPS while playing two seasons in the Yankees system with 13 future big leaguers, including current Baltimore manager Buck Showalter. Gentleman Jim Corbett, the one-time world heavyweight champion, played with several minor league teams at a time when his boxing fame made him a gate attraction. He also served as a celebrity umpire and a representative for his brother, Joe, who pitched in the big leagues for four seasons and went 24-8 in 1897. It was the same year Jim Corbett lost the heavyweight title while also playing for 13 teams — count ’em, 13! — from Derby to Des Moines.

Art Rooney Sr., the founding owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, played with the Class B Flint Vehicles and the Class C Wheeling Stogies, serving as the Stogies’ player-manager in 1925 and leading the Middle Atlantic League in games, hits, runs and stolen bases while batting .369 in 106 games. Prior to becoming a pizza mogul and owner of the Detroit Tigers, Mike Ilitch played four seasons for affiliates of the Tigers, Yankees and Senators. In his best season, the second baseman batted a combined .324 for a pair of Class B teams, the Tampa Smokers and Miami Beach Flamingos. In his final professional season, with the Charlotte Hornets, he played with 10 future big leaguers.

Future NHL Hall of Famer Babe Dye posted a .342 batting average in his seven-year minor league career. In his final season of 1926, with Double-A Toronto, he counted Carl Hubbell among 17 teammates who would play in the bigs. Like Dye, Andy Phillip made his name in another sport, becoming a five-time NBA All-Star while playing as high as the Triple-A level during the basketball offseasons. He posted a .281 batting average in his three seasons. Among teammates on the 1952 Indianapolis Indians were 26 future major leaguers, including 19-year-old Herb Score.

Before winning Super Bowl rings with the Broncos, John Elway posted an .896 OPS with the Oneonta Yankees in 1982. Following his first year as a defensive back for the Eagles, Tom Brookshier took a year off to pitch for the Class C Roswell Rockets, posting a 7-1 record before returning to play six more seasons in the NFL and moving to a career in the broadcast booth. Sweetwater Clifton enjoyed a long tenure as a Harlem Globetrotter and became the second African-American to sign an NBA contract, but in the meantime accrued a lifetime .307 batting average while playing in the Negro Leagues and minor leagues. At Class A Wilkes-Barre, he counted Sad Sam Jones among teammates. Las Vegas headliner Danny Gans, who portrayed Deke in Bull Durham, played a season of low-A ball.

Prior to becoming an author, Eliot Asinof posted a batting average of .296 in each of his two seasons in the Phillies farm system before leaving to serve in the Army during World War II. A decade after VE Day, Asinof published his first baseball book, Man on Spikes, a novel based on the experiences of his friend Mickey Rutner, who, among the 1,172 games he played in professional baseball, played 12 in the big leagues. As for Asinof, he would go on to write Eight Men Out, reconstructing the Black Sox scandal that saw eight White Sox players banned from major league baseball after being found to have fixed games in the 1919 World Series. Per the tale of Eight Men Out, several of the banned players would go on to play minor league baseball under assumed names, like Ike is rumored to have done.

Years later, during his presidency, Eisenhower would make known the identity of his favorite writer. It wasn’t Eliot Asinof. It was a man who had also played minor league baseball under an assumed identity — namely, this guy….

The Author

He would write three fictional books about baseball, but first, in a form of nonfictional research, he suited up for the Findlay Sluggers of the Interstate League, a team rostering five future big leaguers, including his brother, Romer. The year was 1895, and the future author was now a former pitcher. Two years earlier, a rules change had moved the pitching distance from 50 feet to 60 feet six inches, and the added distance had extinguished his once killer curveball.

Not only had he switched positions, he had also switched names. Even then, professional ballplayers could not participate in collegiate sports, and as a scholarship baseball player and dental student at the University of Pennsylvania, he had to protect his eligibility by playing under an assumed identity. That identity: Pearl Zane.

In his first season with the Sluggers, the outfielder batted .295 in 21 games. When the league folded later that summer, he and several teammates went to play for the Jackson Jaxons of the Michigan State League. There, younger brother Romer batted .454 in 31 games while the man known as Pearl batted .398 in 27 games.

Following his graduation from Penn, the outfielder moved to New York City to open a dental practice while playing semi-pro ball for the Orange Athletic Club. In 1898, while continuing his dentistry, he indulged his major league dream once more by playing for the Newark Colts, a Class B team that fielded no fewer than 20 future big leaguers, including the phenomenally named Phenomenal Smith, the less phenomenally named Stub Smith, and infielder Tom Delahanty, one of the five famous Delahanty brothers, each of whom played in the big leagues.

After batting .277 in 38 games with the Colts, the Manhattan dentist quit baseball to focus on writing. Eight years later, after publishing three historical novels and one Western, he published his first baseball novel, The Short Stop. Five years hence, in 1911, he published his second baseball novel, The Young Pitcher. No longer using a fictitious name, Zane Grey would go on to publish dozens of books and novels, primarily in the Western genre, becoming the country’s most authorial voice of the American frontier and one of its first millionaire writers.

Famed for novels like Riders of the Purple Sage, Gray would add one more baseball book to his canon: The Redheaded Outfield and Other Baseball Stories. In it, he dispensed with his habit of concealing identities by making plain the muse for one main character. “Reddie Ray was striding to the plate,” he wrote. “There was something about Reddie Ray that pleased all the senses. His lithe form seemed instinct with life; any sudden movement was suggestive of stored lightning.”

If the lightning was stored, its release was brief. Seventeen years earlier, in 1903, Zane’s brother, Romer “Reddy” Grey, had compiled a statistical line of one hit in three at-bats for the Pittsburgh Pirates. And that was it: His big league career was finished. Of course, his lone game as a Pirate would save him from the fate of his brother and other famous men, a fate that involved any number of games in the minors but not one, alas, in the majors.

References & Resources


John Paschal is a regular contributor to The Hardball Times and The Hardball Times Baseball Annual.
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Anon
7 years ago

Excellent piece – love it.

Cuban X Senators
7 years ago

Shelton was a keystoner, not a backstop.

Paul G.
7 years ago

*applause*

So there are 9 of them, if I read that correctly. Do you have a line-up?

Dennis Bedard
7 years ago

I seem to recall somewhere along the line that Art Rooney played minor league baseball. It would have been a long time ago but I read it in some Steeler promo in the 1960’s.

87 Cards
7 years ago

I must add a pair of Houston Astros farmhands/New York Islanders/Stanley Cup Champions to the list: NHL Hall-of-Famer Clark Gillies and future Islander teammate Bob Bourne.

Gillies played pro baseball (1970-71-72 in Covington, VA of the Appalachian League) between his hockey seasons with the Regina Patriots who he led to the Memorial Cup Championship in 1974. He was the fourth overall NHL pick that year and permanently traded his spikes for blades.

Bourne played just the 1972 season with Covington.

Bourne and Gilles are both from Saskatchewan. In 1974, the future Stanley Cups hoisters were not in Covington; however, future MLBer Terry Puhl (Saskatchewan-born and raised) hit .284 for the Apply-League Astros.

Clearly, Houston was beating the Saskatchewan prairie for talent in the early 1970s.

David Chadwick
7 years ago

loved the article! shows that baseball certainly was and to some of us still is “America’s pastime.”

Cliff Blau
7 years ago

Sweetwater Clifton’s teammate was probably Toothpick Sam Jones, not Sad Sam Jones, who last played in 1940. Also, the pitching distance wasn’t increased from 50 to 60.5 feet in 1893; the pitching distance in 1892 had been 55.5 feet from the middle of the plate; the next year it was 60.5 feet from the rear of the plate, an increase of 4 feet and 3.5 inches.

Philip
7 years ago

For decades, U.S. Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) claimed he pitched in the Brooklyn Dodgers farm system.

Domenici played for the Albuquerque Dukes, saying they were then a farm club for the storied major league franchise.

Domenici was a senator from 1973 to 2009. And Albuquerque is, of course, the largest city in New Mexico and its major media center.

So it probably didn’t hurt Domenici when he was running for the Senate for the first time in 1972 that the Dukes, managed by future Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda, went 92-56 and ran away with the Pacific Coast League championship with future Dodgers Ron Cey, Davey Lopes, Rick Rhoden, Doug Rau, Steve Yeager, Joe Ferguson, Tom Paciorek and a number of other future major league ballplayers.

Wikipedia claims the same thing:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pete_Domenici

So does the The Domenici Institute at the New Mexico State University:
https://domenici.nmsu.edu/pete-v-domenici-bio/

NBC News mentioned it in a story on the Senator in 2007:
http://www.nbcnews.com/id/15922365/ns/us_news-power_play/t/sen-pete-domenici-nuclear-renaissance-man/#.V8vruP_QAeg

The New York Times did here:
http://www.nytimes.com/1995/05/13/us/for-senate-s-budget-expert-a-long-climb-gets-tougher.html
(erroneously calling the Dukes a class A minor league team)

As even so no less an authority than the U.S. Congress:
https://www.congress.gov/congressional-record/2007/10/4/senate-section/article/S12699-1

The Albuquerque Journal says the same thing and goes into the details of Domenici’s brief baseball career, blaming his failure to succeed on Dukes manager Tom Jordan.
https://www.abqjournal.com//news/state/0710012state12-07-08.htm
(erroneously calling the Dukes a class D minor league team)

A published biography on the Senator does as well:
http://nmsantos.com/Bookstore/NM-Senator/NM-Senator.html

C-span interviewed Domenici about his baseball career:
https://www.c-span.org/video/?31925-1/life-career-pete-domenici
“Domenici had always relied on his fastball. In the pros, batters learned to look for the heat. To compound matters, Domenici didn’t get along with the Dukes’ manager, who made Pete a relief pitcher. The man rode Pete, the college boy. Rode him hard. Things got particularly sour one July night. The Dukes had just played the Roswell Rockets, and the Rockets’ great hitter, Big Joe Bauman, — who held the American professional baseball record for home runs (72) in a season for nearly 50 years — had clubbed two triples off Pete, knocking a hole in the outfield fence with one blast. On the way out of town, the Dukes’ manager ordered the team bus to stop. The manager stood up and said for all to hear, “Domenici, here’s a five-dollar bill. Go into that hardware store tomorrow and buy a hammer and some nails. Then go back and fix that fence.”

And Domenici, in his book “A Brighter Tomorrow: Fulfilling the Promise of Nuclear Energy”, repeats the claim he pitched for the Brooklyn Dodgers organization:
https://books.google.com/books?id=96Ddi0BXIHgC&pg=PA128-IA7&lpg=PA128-IA7&dq=pete+domenici+brooklyn+dodgers&source=bl&ots=qp4s8yrdH6&sig=zOKbnbMnStE3rXxJYq5rc2gEPHs&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjXsquatvXOAhXCKWMKHYtpCrQ4ChDoAQgnMAI#v=onepage&q=pete%20domenici%20brooklyn%20dodgers&f=false

Most of these claims about Domenici playing in the Brooklyn Dodgers farm system all seem to emanate from the same original source: Pete Domenici.

Here is the archive of his official U.S. Senate website:
http://web.archive.org/web/20080430204257/http://domenici.senate.gov/about/index.cfm

But it seems no one ever bothered to check out Domenici’s claims.

The trouble with Domenici isn’t that he didn’t pitch for the Albuquerque Dukes. He did indeed. For part of one season – 1954.

In fact, the 1955 Sporting News Official Baseball Guide details out the future Senator’s pitching line: 3 games, 0 wins, 1 loss. (The published stats are limited to that brief mention because Domenici pitched fewer than 30 innings.)

But the Baseball Guide (p. 352) also reveals this about the Class C West Texas-New Mexico League: “No club affiliated with major league farm system in 1954.”

Baseball-Reference.com notes that the Brooklyn Dodgers had 15 minor league affiliates in 1954. The Albuquerque Dukes were not one of them:
http://www.baseball-reference.com/register/affiliate.cgi?year=1954

Here’s a little bit of club history:
http://www.albuqhistsoc.org/SecondSite/pkfiles/pk215sports.htm
http://genealogytrails.com/newmex/Bio_of_Governors.htm

Also, not quite sure how Domenici served up that homerun ball to Joe Bauman. Roswell wasn’t in the same league in 1954. Perhaps some exhibition game? (There was no inter-locking schedule for sure.)

Domenici’s old manager, Tom Jordan, is quoted in the book “Bush League Boys: The Postwar Legends of Baseball in the American Southwest” by Toby Smith that no way did Domenici play against Bauman.
https://books.google.com/books?id=Y2zaBAAAQBAJ&pg=PT35&lpg=PT35&dq=%22Bauman%22+%22Domenici%22&source=bl&ots=uCLxWPLSRU&sig=JUb7nRVqCMLPBYa_bKAMAMxy_TE&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiHna6dv_XOAhVU-GMKHZpvAE0Q6AEIOzAF#v=onepage&q=%22Bauman%22%20%22Domenici%22&f=false

Now it’s possible the Dodgers had some sort of working agreement with the Dukes in 1954. But the only webpages that could be found via Google that mention “1954”, “Albuquerque Dukes” and “Brooklyn Dodgers” are all in reference to Domenici.

So it does seem clear that while Pete Domenici did indeed pitch for the Albuquerque Dukes in 1954, he did not play for the Brooklyn Dodgers organization.

TBJESE
7 years ago
Interesting Animals
7 years ago

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