The 500 Club, Minor League Baseball, and You

During the season I write a column called “Crooked Numbers,” which recaps the most absurd and improbable events to have taken place on a Minor League Baseball field over the past month. I enjoy writing it, as it allows me to indulge the quirkier and more obsessive side of my baseball-writing personality.  This, in turn, encourages others to get in touch so that they may share their own quirky and obsessive baseball observations.

crooked

Which leads me to today’s post, which concerns an email I received from veteran sports announcer Jarrod Wronski in late April but didn’t have the chance to share until now. These emails used the occasion of Albert Pujols’ 500th Major League home run as a launching pad into all sorts of Minor League Baseball ephemera. I think baseball fans possessing a robust quirky and obsessive side — of which there are many — will enjoy this.

Pujols during his Minor League days.

Pujols during his Minor League days.

Wronski writes:

With Albert Pujols hitting his 500th home run on April 22, here are some interesting notes in regards to the home run:

Pujols becomes the second Potomac/Prince William franchise player to hit 500 Major League home runs; he did it against the Washington Nationals who are now the affiliate for Potomac. Pujols, who played for Potomac in 2000, joins Barry Bonds (’85) as the other former player to call Woodbridge home before heading to the bigs to hit 500 career home runs.

Bonds/Pujols become just the second pair of Carolina League organization mates to each hit 500 home runs in their Major League career.  Jim Thome (1990) and Manny Ramirez (1992) are the others; they played for the Kinston Indians. Now, here’s where it gets interesting: Kinston moved to Zebulon, North Carolina, where the Mudcats began as a Double-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. This is the same organization that moved to Woodbridge, becoming the Prince William Pirates, whom Bonds played for.

The only other Class A Advanced team to have more than one former player with 500 or more career home runs is Modesto: Reggie Jackson (1966) and Mark McGwire (1984-85).

Another interesting note regarding these three  Class A Advanced teams is that someone actually worked for all three organizations, and did so in consecutive years. That person worked for Modesto in 2002, Carolina in 2003 and Potomac in 2004.  All three of those teams went to the playoffs, with Carolina winning the Southern League championship.  That person? Me.  I was the P. A. announcer/music person/game producer and worked in the front office for Modesto, worked in the front office, emceed and did fill-in P. A. work for Carolina, and worked gameday as the P. A. announcer/music person for Potomac.

Tacoma has had three former players hit 500 or more career home runs: McGwire (1986), Alex Rodriguez (1995 -’96) and Willie McCovey (1960). The Pacific Coast League has had nine different players “start” their careers here and go on to reach the 500 home run milestone.

Here’s a list of other Minor League teams who had more than one player go on to hit 500 Major League home runs:

Minneapolis Millers (American Association): Ted Williams (1938), Willie Mays (1951)

Burlington Indians (Appalachian League): Jim Thome (1990), Manny Ramirez (1991)

Canton-Akron Indians (Eastern League): Jim Thome (1991-’92), Manny Ramirez (1993)

Charlotte Knights (International League): Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez (1993). This marked the ONLY time in Minor League history that two players to hit 500 or more home runs in the Major Leagues played on the same team.

Peoria Chiefs (Midwest League) Raphael Palmeiro (1985) and Albert Pujols (2000)

Tulsa Drillers (Texas League) Frank Robinson (1954) and Sammy Sosa (1989)

Keep in mind that during this research— with the help of Baseball Reference — I used only teams these players played for before gaining two full years of experience in Major League Baseball. The Pujols/Bonds connection is memorable because Bonds played in the first Minor League game that my dad ever took me to. My dad told me about his dad, Bobby Bonds, and we wound up moving close to the field near the end of the game so that I could see Bonds play close up.  Then, in 2000, I saw Pujols play for Potomac during a weekend visit to Myrtle Beach. My parents were there on vacation, and the team I was working for at the time (the St. Petersburg Devil Rays) were in a lame-duck season so I used it as a chance to interview with the Pelicans.

So there you have it. Thanks to Wronski for sharing this fascinating information. It’s a little dense, to be sure, but if there’s one thing I know about my readers it’s that they, too, are a little dense. We’re all in this together, so get in touch anytime.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

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