Results tagged ‘ Crooked Numbers ’

On the Road: A Thorough Examination in Erie

(Interested in perusing all of my 2014 “On the Road” content? Click HERE  to visit a continually updated “On the Road” landing page. Bookmark it, and read ‘em all!)

On Sunday, August  24th, after witnessing a game between the State College Spikes and Jamestown Jammers at Russell Diethrick Park, I hopped into my rental car and crossed the state line into Pennsylvania’s northwestern-most region. My destination was Erie, home of the SeaWolves, an outlier on this trip in that they were the only Double-A team I visited and one of just two that were located outside of the great state of New York.

After a good night’s sleep, I woke up on Monday rarin’ to go and ready for some Tigers-affiliated Eastern League baseball action. The SeaWolves compete at Jerry Uht Park, a downtown facility that opened in 1995. The SeaWolves were were a Class A short-season New York-Penn League club from 1995-98, making the jump to Double-A in 1999 as one of two Eastern League expansion teams. They have been a Detroit affiliate since 2001.

So, here we are: Jerry Uht Park, named after a local benefactor who, in 1995, established a fund that would, in perpetuity,  assist with ballpark renovation and maintenance costs. Those in the know call it “The Uht.”

002Upon receiving entry into the ballpark (obtained via the solemn utterance of a secret password), myself and SeaWolves assistant general manager Greg Gania immediately began a journey through the outfield. We were bathed in a resplendent aura during our travels, courtesy of a blazing celestial orb.

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Our destination was the SeaWolves clubhouse, located beyond the center field fence and vaguely resembling a minimum security penitentiary.

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Our purpose was to locate SeaWolves reliever Will Startup, whom I wanted to interview on the subject of his baseball-themed artwork. Mission accomplished.

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You can read my feature on Will HERE. The gist of it is that he spends much of his down time during the season painting baseballs, using gel pens and mechanical pencils, and recently he completed his first home plate artwork as well. Will’s a really nice guy who, at the age of 30, has admirably persevered while riding the rickety wooden roller coaster that is the Minor League existence. This marked the first time that I spoke to him since he won 2008’s Moniker Madness contest for having the best name in Minor League Baseball. Check out his blog and follow him on Twitter, should you be so inclined.

A recent Will Startup creation, designed at the request of a SeaWolves batboy (who gave it to his girlfriend).

005And here’s a page from Will’s journal, showcasing a few of his sneaker designs (this is a post-playing career aspiration of his, to design footwear).

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Will also mentioned to me that he is not the only artistically-inclined reliever in the Eastern League. Did you know that Blake McFarland of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats does incredible work with recycled tires?

After talking to Will, I rather inarticulately thought to myself that “Hey, you might as well take a couple of pictures from out here in the outfield. Carpe Diem and all that.”

So that’s what I did. You’ll notice that Jerry Uht Park has a second deck seating area on the first base side of the stadium. In 2009, ESPN.com named these seats among the top 10 seating areas in the Minors and a lowly scrivener such as I would not dare contest this assertion.

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The left field wall doubles as the back end of the Erie Insurance Arena, home to the BayHawks (NBA D-League), Otters (Ontario Hockey League) and Explosion (Continental Indoor Football League). This got me to thinking — are there any other cities that boast Minor League baseball, basketball, hockey and football franchises? Erie is a Minor League sports lovers paradise.

Anyhow, in its original permutation, Jerry Uht Park boasted a walkway out in left field where fans could watch the game. The arena-as-left field wall set-up occurred as a result of an extensive renovation and expansion to the arena, completed in the fall of 2013.

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“And Popcorn”

Meanwhile, back at the box office, bananas and poncho wearers were steadily selling tickets to a robust walk-up crowd. It was “Buck Night” in Erie, featuring $1 concession items and beer, a deal that has proven to be quite popular with Erie’s returning college students.

“We always do the costumes on Buck Night,” SeaWolves president Greg Coleman told me. “Someone will have a question about where to park and it’s like ‘Talk to the banana.'”

015Speaking of college students, their return to school in August means that, during the last two two weeks of the season, most Minor League teams are short-staffed. After all, college students almost always make up a sizable portion of the intern and game-day employees. In industry parlance, nights in which a team is lacking in personnel are referred to as a “midget wizard” (as in, one with a short staff). “We’re gonna have to make due with a midget wizard” is a phrase that I heard time and time again on this trip.

Just kidding, no  one has ever used this terminology. I should stick to pictures, which I took a lot of as a wandered around the Uht and soaked in the pre-game scene.

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017This gentleman, sitting in an ESPN.com-approved seating area, was already plenty comfortable.

019A lone Baysox player prepares himself for the evening’s upcoming contest.

021Team-logo cornhole? Check.

023Large fun zone bounce house? Check.

025Smith’s Sausage Shack? Check.

026Yes, Smith’s Sausage Shack! Smith’s is an Erie-based meat purveyor, much beloved by individuals in the area. I was delighted to see the Smith’s Sausage Shack with my own eyes, as in 2008 it served as the inspiration for one of my favorite team-produced videos of all-time. I have posted this video on several different occasions, and I am probably responsible for 1200 of its 3500+ views.

Meanwhile, the pre-game preparations continued both on and off of the field.

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034The game was just about ready to begin, and the Buck Night devotees were still streaming in.

Buck Night — Where you don’t have to spend a lot of doe!

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Identification required

IMG_0212Just make sure that you can handle your booze, Buck Nighters. SeaWolves team policy strictly prohibits the loss of consciousness.

049As the game began, Erie right fielder Steven Moya was on the cusp of making SeaWolves history. He entered the game with 34 home runs and 101 RBIs, tied with Kurt Airosa for most home runs in franchise history and one behind Eric Munson’s all-time RBI mark.

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Moya and company sure had their work cut out for them, as, in the top of the first inning, SeaWolves pitcher Wilson Palacios went through the entirety of the Bowie Baysox line-up without recording an out. Leadoff hitter Mike “Carl’s Grandson” Yaztremski, hitting for the second time in the inning, made the ballgame’s first outs via a 6-3 double play that ran the score to 7-0.

The scoreboard must have been in error when this photo was taken, as at no point in the inning was there only one out (save for that brief moment in time which the double play was being turned).

044 The black and white Great Gatsby-esque player headshots were part of the evening’s “20s Night” theme. Mascot C. Wolf was certainly dressed for the occasion.

045As was SeaWolves director of entertainment Kristi Servais, who was manning the fan assistance booth. When I mentioned to Kristi that she had the same last name as a former MLB catcher, she replied “Yeah, Scott’s my cousin.” It’s a small world.

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It was during these early-game wanderings that an autograph-collecting fan named Nick introduced himself. He was not interested in being photographed or serving as designated eater (you know, the individual who eats the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits), but nonetheless he was an enjoyable and knowledgeable ballpark guide. Back in his college days he worked at Smith’s Sausage Shack, and he had nothing but good things to say about its husband and wife proprietors Dee and Barney.

“Smith’s has a cult following around here, but I’m not sure how far that it goes,” Nick told me. “Barney just works it, he’s a local legend. I was fortunate enough to work with him for three years and they were the best summers of my life. He and Dee are real salt of the Earth people.

Smith’s hot dogs certainly did look delicious.

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Nick also raved about SeaWolves second baseman Devon Travis, seen above on the scoreboard in his 1920s-style headshot.

“He’s the most fan-friendly player ever,” he said. “He has fun every day and you can just see it in his face.”

Noted, Nick. In the future, I will make a point to seek out Mr. Travis for an interview.

I also chatted a bit with SeaWolves fan Eric Brookhouser, a SeaWolves season ticket holder and jersey enthusiast (he owns 121 hockey jerseys and 49 baseball jerseys, most of the theme night variety) whom I have long interacted with on Twitter. I’m not sure what beer Eric is drinking there, but let it be known that the SeaWolves proudly serve various offerings from the nearby Erie Brewing Company.

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You can’t spell “Eric Brookhouser” without “Erie.”

Unfortunately, the SeaWolves most unique fan was not in attendance on the day that I visited. Prior to my arrival, team president Greg Coleman described this individual in an email:

Every ballpark has its characters, and Jerry Uht Park is no exception.  Richard Laurie attends each game with his puppet to cheer on the SeaWolves (Viva Los Lobos del Mar! is one of his favorite chants).  He also humorously lets the umpires know when they’ve erred.

Here’s what I (and, by extension, you) missed out on.

In this midst of all of this wandering and hobnobbing, something very unexpected occurred: the SeaWolves, down 7-0 before they came to bat, took the lead! Moya had doubled three times by this point, en route to tying the all-time franchise RBI record. And, most amazingly, Palacios was still in the game and thus in line for the win. I mean, how often does that happen? A pitcher goes through the entirety of the line-up before recording an out and still ends up with the win?

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More like the “no kiss” cam

As previously mentioned, I did not have a designated eater on this particular evening. I did enjoy a gluten-free treat, however, in the form of a walking taco.

Upon finishing the taco, I just kept on walking. The press box was my destination.

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Look closely at the above picture, and you can see an image of a doctor reflected within the top panel of press box glass. Your eyes do not deceive you — there really was a doctor in the press box.

067That’s Dr. Peter Lund of St. Vincent Allied Urology, who was in the press box so that he could administer a prostate exam to team president Greg Coleman as Coleman sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” This philanthropic publicity stunt, unique to the Minor Leagues, has been dubbed the “Two Knuckle Challenge” and was begun by Andy Milovich of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. In the manner of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, this stunt was then passed from team to team. It went from Myrtle Beach to Lake Elsinore to Charleston to Savannah and then here, to Coleman in Erie.

062“I thought it was a joke at first,” said Lund of the Two-Knuckle Challenge. “But prostate cancer is a serious disease, it still kills 30,000 men a year. Men should get screened and it’s not necessarily something that they brag about.”

Coleman had recently turned 40 — as a gift, he received a Startup-designed baseball — so he was a bit on the young side to receive an exam. This wasn’t so much about his health as it was a way to raise awareness.

Here, Lund, Coleman and SeaWolves team doctor Brad Fox set up a makeshift press box examination room.

064And here’s Greg, ready to go. The lyrics to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” were taped to the table in front of him in case he got disoriented. Sing it, Greg!

And that was that. Maybe you find this whole thing stupid and anti-climactic, but the point is crystal clear: if this guy can get a prostate exam in public while singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” then YOU can get one in the privacy of a doctor’s office. It ain’t that big a deal.

With the Two-Knuckle Challenge complete, I then spent some time speaking with SeaWolves team doctor Brad Fox. He is an interesting, enthusiastic and loquacious fellow, and my interview with him can be read HERE. He’s not only the team doctor, he’s also a batboy!

071While all of this was going on, the SeaWolves put the finishing touches on their improbable comeback.

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Final score: Erie 10, Bowie 7. Palacios was the indeed the winning pitcher, despite the fact that the ballgame’s first nine batters reached base against him. This marked the first time that I was in attendance for a game that later ended up in one of my Crooked Nuggets blog posts:

An Erie Occurrence (And I was there) — Erie SeaWolves’ right-hander Wilsen Palacios struggled mightily against the Bowie Baysox on August 25. He went through the entirety of the starting line-up without recording an out, en route to allowing seven runs on seven hits and two walks in the first inning alone. But then a funny thing happened — Palacios settled down and followed up his frightful first with four scoreless innings, and ended up earning the win as the SeaWolves rallied for a 10-7 victory. Baysox starter Branden Kline took the opposite approach, retiring the SeaWolves 1-2-3 in the first but ultimately taking the loss after allowing nine runs over 4 2/3 innings.

And that was all she wrote, folks. Upon the conclusion of the game, balls were launched and children ran the bases. Then everyone went home.

074The only thing I’ve got left to mention is that the SeaWolves are managed by Lance Parrish, surely the only Minor League skipper to have once guest-starred in an episode of Diff’rent Strokes. The internet is really failing us by not having any clips of this episode available, but here, as a consolation prize, is Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker guest-starring in an episode of Magnum P.I. 

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Crooked Nuggets: August 2014

I have safely returned from my latest (and therefore greatest) ballpark road trip, and am now equipped with a seemingly insurmountable slag heap of material to share. But protocol must be followed, and protocol demands Crooked Nuggets.

“What’s Crooked Nuggets?” you ask. “Crooked Nuggets is what you’re reading now,” I answer. “I want a more substantial answer,” is your rejoinder. “Okay, I will provide you with one,” is my reply.

In much the same way that a beautiful butterfly emerges from a chrysalis, my words, as quoted above, will now emerge into action via the delivery of the following information:

Crooked Nuggets is the scrappy, succinct offshoot of my long-running, exceedingly awesome and insanely underrated Crooked Numbers column on MiLB.com. Crooked Numbers is a monthly round-up of the weirdest, wildest and most anomalous things to have occurred on a Minor League Baseball field. Crooked Nuggets contains EVEN MORE on-field weirdness!

So let’s get to it, lest it get to us!

crooked_nuggets_215x1601st of tha MonthBoise Hawks outfielder Charlie White made two pitching appearances this season, each on the first of the month and each resulting in a come-from-behind win. On August 1 the moonlighting position player  took the mound in the top of the ninth inning, with his Hawks losing to the Vancouver Canadians by a score of 10-6. White pitched a scoreless ninth, and then hit an RBI double and scored in the bottom of the frame as the Hawks rallied to tie the game 10-10. White then shut down the Canadians in the 10th and 11th, with the Hawks pushing across a run in the bottom of the 11th for an improbable 11-10 victory.

One month later, to the day, White was at it again in a game against the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. He was called upon to pitch the top of the ninth inning, and allowed a run as the Volcanoes extended their lead to 5-2. No matter — the Hawks scored four runs in the bottom of the inning  en route to a 6-5 win. White contributed to the rally, walking and scoring a run as he earned his second victory in as many opportunities.

Titanium Sombrero —  On August 1, Chevy Clark of the Great Falls Voyagers struck out in the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 10th, and 12th innings in a game against the Billings Mustangs. But six strikeouts were enough for the struggling  center fielder, as he laid down a sacrifice bunt in the 14th and, finally, grounded out to third base in the 16th. Great Falls lost the ballgame, 3-1, in 17 innings, putting a merciful end to what had been a horrific night at the ballpark. The two teams combined to go 2-for-33 with runners in scoring position.

NRISP — On the other end of the “batting with runners in scoring position” equation, we have August 2’s game between the Mississippi Braves and Mobile BayBears. The M-Braves won, 1-0, despite not recording a single at-bat with runners in scoring position during the ballgame. Mycal Jones’ ninth-inning sacrifice fly is what done won it.

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You Can’t Make This Stuff Up — The Dunedin Blue Jays staged an ’80s Night promotion on August 9, featuring a post-game concert by the band Stormbringer. The band’s set was cut short, however, due to an oncoming storm.

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up, Part. 2 — On August 4, the Bakersfield Blaze had to postpone their game against the San Jose Giants due to a transformer failure. The next afternoon, as part of a pre-existing promotion, all fans bringing electronic waste to the ballpark received free admission.

Then Again, Maybe You Can Make This Stuff Up — After the Blaze were forced to postpone August 4’s ballgame, they went ahead and staged a fake game on Twitter. Read all about it.

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Going the Extra Mile — To the best of my knowledge, the only pitcher to record two four-strikeout innings this season was Yankees farmhand Jacob Lindgren. The second-round draft pick accomplished the feat for Class A Charleston on July 12, upon which he was promoted to Class A Advanced Tampa. He then accomplished the feat for Tampa on August 3, upon which he was promoted to Double-A Trenton. On the season, Lindgren struck out 48 batters over 25 innings pitched. That’s a lot, but keep in mind that the maximum number of batters a pitcher could strike out over 25 innings is infinity.

Pitch Perfect, Hit Poorly — August 4’s game between the Dayton Dragons and Great Lakes Loons was notable due to — you guessed it — a snafu. MiLB.com’s Midwest League Notebook has more:

Dayton pitcher Nick Travieso batted three times Monday night in a 3-2 loss to Great Lakes. Manager Jose Nieves made a lineup card mistake, listing Avain Rachal as a designated hitter when Rachal was actually the Dragons’ third baseman. The Dragons lost the DH for the rest of the game, and the pitcher hit in the No. 5 spot. Travieso was 0-for-3 with a pop out and two strikeouts.

Big Easy, Pitching Hard — On August 9 against the Memphis Redbirds, three New Orleans Zephyrs pitchers combined to throw 197 pitches over just eight innings of work: Alex Sanabia (93 pitches, 4.1 innings), Rett Varner (53 pitches, 1 inning) and Donnie Joseph (51 pitches, 2.2 innings). The Redbirds won the game, 21-3. 

crooked_nuggets_215x160Productive Outs — Shawn O’Malley of the Salt Lake Bees tied his season high with three RBIs on August 9, despite not recording a single. Two of O’Malley’s RBIs in this contest against the El Paso Chihuahuas came via the ultra-rare two-run sacrifice fly. Watch and learn:

An Erie Occurrence (And I was there) — Erie SeaWolves’ right-hander Wilsen Palacios struggled mightily against the Bowie Baysox on August 25. He went through the entirety of the starting line-up without recording an out, en route to allowing seven runs on seven hits and two walks in the first inning alone. But then a funny thing happened — Palacios settled down and followed up his frightful first with four scoreless innings, and ended up earning the win as the SeaWolves rallied for a 10-7 victory. Baysox starter Branden Kline took the opposite approach, retiring the SeaWolves 1-2-3 in the first but ultimately taking the loss after allowing nine runs over 4 2/3 innings.

Photographic evidence, taken by yours truly (aka “Me”):

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Triple Trouble — The Oklahoma City RedHawks’ 10-2 win over the El Paso Chihuahuas on August 23 was highlighted by a most unlikely occurrence in the fifth inning. Three RedHawks players — Domingo Santana, Andrew Aplin, Carlos Perez — all hit triples in the frame, accounting for 60% of the triples that these players would combine to hit all season.

crooked_nuggets_215x160C-1B-2B-3B-SS-LF-CF-RF-P — Every year it seems that at least one Minor League player plays all nine positions in a game on Labor Day. This year, that player was Nate Orf of the Brevard County Manatees. Congrats, Nate.

Everybody Loses — The Yankees have two Gulf Coast League affiliates, creatively named “Yankees1″ and “Yankees2″, and this season both GCL Yankee entities won their respective division. Yankees1 then played Yankees2 in a sudden death semi-final, and Yankees1 won. There’s not much more 2 it.

Well, It’s My Birthday Too, Yeah — The Palm Beach Cardinals hosted the Bradenton Marauders on August 23. In that game, Bradenton’s Mason Katz, celebrating his 24th birthday, hit a home run off of Tyler Glasnow, celebrating his 21st.

crooked_nuggets_215x160And that’s it for this month of Crookedness. I’ll be back next month with more, so long as I have more. Meanwhile, a hearty thanks to the many people who helped make Crooked Number/Nuggets possible this month: Nate March, Alex Freedman, Nate Kurant, Mike Safford, Chris Kleinhaus-Schulz, Josh Jackson, Jon Laaser, Tim Hagerty, Dan Besbris and many others whom I am forgetting. Finally, I am still waiting for confirmation that at least one woman has read this column during any point of its existence. It’s got to happen eventually.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Crooked Nuggets: July 2014

Welcome to Crooked Nuggets, the scrappy and succinct offshoot of my long-running , exceedingly awesome Crooked Numbers column on MiLB.com.

crooked_nuggets_215x160For the uninitiated, Crooked Numbers  is a monthly round-up of the the weirdest, wildest and most anomalous things to have occurred on a Minor League Baseball field. Jayson Stark does not know that the column exists, though he inspired it. The July 2014 edition of “Crooked Numbers” appeared on MiLB.com today — read it or die trying – and this post contains even more instances of Minor League Baseball on-field weirdness.

Brevity is key! Let’s get to it, lest it get to us.

WHAT A TAVAREZ-TY — The Salem Red Sox made five errors during July 7’s game against Frederick. Three of them were by right fielder Aneury Tavarez, and two of those were made on the same play. Tavarez has made 12 errors on the season, second-most in the Carolina League.

GAME NOTE OF THE MONTH — On July 4, the Charleston RiverDogs were set to face off against a “To Be Announced” Rome Braves pitcher. Who is “To Be Announced,” you ask? The RiverDogs ace media relations team took it upon themselves to provide an answer:

Today’s Starters:

ROM: LHP/RHP/SHP? — To Be Announced, often abbreviated as TBA, is a fixture in the sporting world. TBA usually shows up in lineup projections in various sports. Much like close relative To Be Determined or TBD, TBA has availability for any and every team as it is also scheduled to face Charleston on Monday with the Greenville Drive. Unfortunately, TBA has not made its debut in full game action although it has often been listed to make appearances for countless numbers of athletic outfits. TBA is of indeterminate age, gender, and virtually any other personal characteristic but is still expected to be seen throughout sports in years to come.

Last Outing: Not applicable (N/A, N/A) N/A IP, N/A H, N/A R, N/A BB, N/A K

WHAT ARE THE ODDS? — The Bakersfield Blaze played their last Thursday home game of the season on July 17; each of their six remaining Thursday games will be on the road. Seriously, I’m asking you — what are the odds? This seems to be highly improbable.

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WAIT, WHAT? — Entering July 16’s ballgame, Lancaster’s Danry Vasquez had hit one home run in 80 games. So, naturally, he went ahead and hit three home runs in one game. 

HEY NOW, YOU’RE AN ALL-STAR, YOU’VE BEEN TRADED, GO PLAY — On the morning of July 16, Omaha Storm Chasers reliever Spencer Patton was informed that he had been traded from the Kansas City Royals organization to the Texas Rangers. Effective immediately, he would be a member of the Round Rock Express. Patton managed to make one more appearance in a Storm Chasers uniform, however. The Triple-A All-Star Game was that night in Durham, and Patton represented Omaha even though he wasn’t technically a member of the team.

BLUE WAHISTORY — It took three seasons, but on July 25 Michael Lorenzen became the first player pitcher in Pensacola Blue Wahoos history to hit a home run. And not only did he hit a home run — he hit a grand slam against one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball. 

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IT’S NOT HOW MANY HITS YOU HAVE. IT’S HOW YOU USE THEM — The Iowa Cubs handily defeated the New Orleans Zephyrs on July 24, winning 11-2. However, the Cubs were outhit in the game, 14-12.

ONE EVENING, TWICE TOSSED — On July 18, Oklahoma City RedHawks pitcher Alex White managed to get ejected in both games of a doubleheader against the Nashville Sounds. And, in both cases, he was ejected by the first base umpire. White, the starting pitcher in the first game, was ejected in the fourth inning by ump Ramon DeJesus after arguing that a ball ruled fair was, in fact, in his humble opinion, foul. In the first inning of the nightcap, White and manager Tony DeFrancesca were ejected from the dugout by umpire Adam Schwarz. Allegedly, the pair had been vocally expressing their disagreement with the umpiring crew’s arbitrating abilities.

SO CLOSE, YET SO FAR AWAY — It is not unusual for a Double-A team to have a pair of first-round draft picks on the roster. But what is unusual is having a pair of first-round draft picks who were picked eight years apart from one another. That was the case in Akron for much of the season, as the RubberDucks’ roster included both Adam Miller (2003) and Francisco Lindor (2011). Miller, 29, is attempting to resurrect his career after a series of injuries. Lindor, 20, is considered one of the top prospects in baseball and was recently promoted to Triple-A Columbus.

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IT TAKES A VILLAGE — The Peoria Chiefs only mustered one hit against the Great Lakes Loons on July 28, but it wasn’t a typical one-hitter. From the MiLB.com recap:

The Great Lakes Loons needed a special effort to avoid a three-game sweep in Peoria Monday afternoon — from five (almost six) different pitchers.

After listed starter Jonathan Martinez was pulled from the game in the middle of the first inning, Great Lakes got a boost from its bullpen as five pitchers combined in a one-hit shutout of the host Chiefs, 4-0.

Martinez was healthy, said Jordan Hershiser, his last-minute replacement. His teammates surmised that, with the MLB trade deadline looming, perhaps Martinez was part of a deal or was being promoted, but nothing had been announced.

Martinez indeed had been traded. He was the Player to be Named “Later” in the deal that sent Darwin Barney to the Dodgers.

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INSIDE BASEBALL — John Drekker reports:

And wouldn’t you know it? As of this writing, Altoona (the Pirates Double-A affiliate) now leads the league in hit batters as well. Bristol (Rookie-level) is now one off the pace, however.

POSITION PLAYERS PITCHING, PART ONE — On July 20, Eric Sim pitched a perfect inning for the Augusta GreenJackets while Kale Sumner fired two perfect frames for the Charleston RiverDogs. Both Sim and Sumner are catchers.

POSITION PLAYERS PITCHING, PART TWO — July 30 was a banner day in the category of “moonlighting position players taking the mound and allowing an extra-inning grand slam in a game involving a Washington Nationals affiliate” The first occurrence was in Richmond, as Flying Squirrels leftfielder Ryan Lollis (relieving second baseman Skyler Stromsmoe) was taken deep in the 13th inning by Harrisburg’s Quincy Latimore. This was the Senators’ first grand slam since 2011.

The next instance took place in Potomac, as P-Nats third baseman Khayyan Norfolk yielded a 16th inning grand slam to  Myrtle Beach’s Lewis Brinson.

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YOUR ALEX FREEDMAN UPDATE OF THE MONTH — Those in the know know that Crooked content is never complete until we hear from Oklahoma City RedHawks broadcaster Alex Freedman.

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“There weren’t a whole lot of Crooked happenings with us throughout the July,” laments Alex. But here goes:

- Between June 21 and July 12, the RedHawks lost nine straight games when scoring first.
– From June 6 through the present day, the RedHawks have played one game that was scoreless through three full innings (July 22 vs. Round Rock). 

Of course, almost immediately after that email was sent, the RedHawks played a game (August 4) that was scoreless through three innings. That’s just the way things work within this Crooked Universe.

CU next time, and thanks for reading.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Crooked Nuggets: June 2014

Welcome to Crooked Nuggets, the scrappy, more succinct, offshoot of my long-running “Crooked Numbers” column on MiLB.com.

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For the uninitiated, Crooked Numbers  is a monthly round-up of the the weirdest, wildest and most anomalous things to have occurred on a Minor League Baseball field. The June 2014 edition of “Crooked Numbers” appeared on MiLB.com today — read it or die trying– and this post contains even more instances of Minor League Baseball on-field weirdness.

Brevity is key! Let’s get to it.

Ownership — Brad Golder, broadcaster for the Great Lakes Loons, recently got in touch to let us know that South Bend’s Daniel Palka has gone 4-for-4 this season against Great Lake’s Victor Arano — with four home runs! Arano has allowed as many home runs to Palka as he has to the rest of the Midwest League combined.

Out and Not Proud — Speaking of the Loons, the team’s Josmar Cordero had a night to forget against Lansing on June 7. For Cordero was thrown out at the plate not once, not twice, but thrice! In the third inning Cordero pounded a one-out double, but was thrown out after attempting to score on Spencer Navin’s double to right field. In the seventh, Cordero singled, advanced to second on a single, and then was thrown out attempting to score on Brandon Trinkwon’s single to right field. Then, in the ninth, Cordero was out at home on a 2-1 putout, after attempting to score from second on a wild pitch. That would have given the Loons a 10-9 lead, but no matter. Cordero was one of three Loons batters to score in the 11th (he scored on a bases-loaded walk, so it was impossible for him to get thrown out), and the Loons held on for a 12-10 win.

A Conundrum — Cordero might want to follow the base running strategies that Lansing Lugnuts employed on June 30. Team broadcaster Jesse Goldberg-Strassler, a cerebral and loquacious man, presents us with the following headscratcher:

The Lugnuts doubled three times in the fourth inning of June 30th’s game against Great Lakes, had no one tagged out on the bases, and scored one run.

Apparently, this is because Lugnuts baserunners are only able to advance one base on a double. From the game recap:

Mitch Nay doubles (16) on a fly ball to center fielder Malcolm Holland.

Derrick Loveless flies out to left fielder Jacob Scavuzzo.

Dawel Lugo doubles (11) on a fly ball to center fielder Malcolm Holland. Mitch Nay to 3rd.

Dickie Joe Thon doubles (12) on a fly ball to right fielder Alex Santana. Mitch Nay scores. Dawel Lugo to 3rd.

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Rapid Misfire — The Modesto Nuts made three errors during June 24’s 14-3 loss to San Jose, and they made them all on the same play! While I’m a little unclear as to the exact sequence of events, some clues can be ascertained via the MiLB.com game recap. Runners were on first and third when the ball was hit, and then:

Ben Turner reaches on a fielding error by pitcher Devin Burke. Brian Ragira scores. Elliott Blair scores. Ben Turner to 3rd. Throwing error by pitcher Devin Burke. Throwing error by left fielder Matt Wessinger. 

A bit more crookedness occurred later in the game as well. In the bottom of the sixth, San Jose’s Trevor Brown had a three-run home run transformed into a two-run single, after he was called out for passing a runner on the bases during his home run trot.

A rip in the space-time continuum — John Dreker of PiratesProspects.com recently contributed the following bit of information. See if you can follow:

Altoona played a doubleheader on [June 20], completing a suspended game from June 11th before their regularly scheduled game. The first game had an odd occurrence, made even more odd by what happened in the second game. On [June 18] Alen Hanson went 0-for-4, breaking his 12 game hit streak. On [June 20], he extended that hit streak to 13 games by collecting two hits in the suspended game. Since the stats count towards June 11th, the streak that was snapped two days earlier, got one game longer. Hanson had two hits in the nightcap, but those stats counted towards June 20th. 

One Fish, Two Fish — Via Twitter, I recently was informed of the following:

For what it’s worth, the next day Great Falls batted Zach Fisher fifth and Zach Fish sixth.

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Putting It Down — In the 10th inning of June 6th’s game between Buffalo and Syracuse, Andy LaRoche laid down a sacrifice bunt. This was his first sacrifice bunt in the Minor Leagues since 2004, a period in which LaRoche played some 700 games and logged over 2500 at-bats. In that 2004 season, LaRoche laid down two sacrifice bunts for the Columbus Catfish and two more for the Vero Beach Dodgers. Both of those franchises are now defunct.

Your Alex Freedman Email of the Month — Those in the know know that Crooked content is never complete until we hear from Oklahoma City RedHawks broadcaster Alex Freedman.

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So take it away, Alex! (And be aware that this first item of his is a stone-cold Crooked classic.)

– On June 13, the RedHawks were trailing Las Vegas 5-4 in the bottom of the ninth inning. Austin Wates led off the inning with a pinch-hit single. He would advance to second, third, and eventually scored on three wild pitches…by three different pitchers! (Miguel Socolovich, Scott Rice, and John Church) The RedHawks would go on to win 6-5 in 12 innings.

– Speaking of that win on the 13th, the game ended with a walk-off home run by Gregorio Petit. It was the team’s first walk-off home run in nearly two years (July 3, 2012). Naturally it didn’t take quite that long for the team’s next walk-off homer. Domingo Santana hit a three-run shot to beat Omaha 8-5 on June 27—a span of five home games. Each of the last three fireworks nights at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark have resulted in walk-off wins.

 -The RedHawks and Tacoma Rainiers played three consecutive extra-inning games June 21-23. It was just the second time in RedHawks team history this had occurred, and the first time since the team’s inaugural season in 1998. Tacoma won all three games by one run. 

Thanks, Alex, and thanks to all who contributed to the column over the last month. Regularly-scheduled road trip content will resume next week, with dispatches from Rome, Hickory, Charlotte and Hickory still to come! Then, on July 18th, I hit the road again. Get ready, Akron!

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Crooked Nuggets: April 2014

Welcome to Crooked Nuggets, the succinct yin to the verbose yang that is Crooked Numbers.

For the uninitiated, Crooked Numbers is my long-running monthly MiLB.com column featuring the weirdest and wildest things to have occurred on a Minor League Baseball field. (“Never heard of it!” raves Jayson Stark.) This month’s edition is now live over on MiLB.com — go check it out! — and this post contains even more instances of Minor League Baseball on-field weirdness.

Let’s get to it, lest it get to us!

Stange Occurences — During the 2013 season, reliever Daniel Stange appeared in 52 Minor League games and threw three wild pitches. The Syracuse Chiefs righthander has  already surpassed that total in 2014, thanks in no small part to this disastrous April 7 outing against Pawtucket.

For the Record — As of this writing, Stockton Ports righthander Seth Streich has struck out 24 batters over 21 innings of work. Fitting, as his last name is pronounced “Strike.”

One Out, Two Runs — It’s not every day that a sacrifice fly results in two runs, but that’s the kind of thing that happens when Billy Burns is on the basepaths.

A Concentrated Dose — Omaha center fielder Brett Eibner drove in 12 runs over his first 19 games of the season, with NINE of them coming in a single ballgame (April 9′ s 20-3 rout of Memphis). Take away that game and, through April 24, Eibner had driven in just three runs over 64 at-bats….Somewhat similarly, Lehigh Valley IronPigs catcher Cameron Rupp homered in each of his first four games of the season. He did not homer in any of his next six games, and then went on the disabled list.

Cardinal Sins — Springfield Cardinal fielders made a franchise-record six errors during April 10’s game against San Antonio, but no matter: The Cards still pulled out a 8-5 victory in 14 innings over the Missions. Shortstop Aledmys Diaz was the only player to make two errors in the ballgame, but atoned for his miscues with a two-run home run in the top of the 14th inning.

Throwing BBs — On April 12, Altoona Curve pitchers combined to issue a franchise-record 12 walks to the Richmond Flying Squirrels. But, despite all of that, they only lost by a 4-3 score. One week later it was Richmond’s turn to go wild, as Flying Squirrels pitchers walked 11 Curve batters but — some way, somehow — won the game by a score of 7-3.  

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You Always Remember Your First — A player’s first professional home run is always memorable, but some first professional home runs are more memorable than others. Witness Erich Weiss of the West Virginia Power, whose first-ever home run was nothing less than an inside-the-park grand slam. 

9-6=3 – The first triple play of the Minor League season, turned by the Lexington Legends, was of the 1-6-3-2 variety. On April 14, the Brevard County Manatees turned three in a simpler fashion: right fielder Michael Reed to shortstop Orlando Arcia. Read all about it.

Believe It Or Not — On April 16 the Jacksonville Suns had runners reach base in five different innings, scoring in three of them. Yet, they were no-hit by Chattanooga for 8 2/3 innings before finally losing by a 5-4 score. 

The Numbers, They Are A-Crooked

The Ecstasy and the Agony — Matt McBride of the Colorado Springs Sky Sox hit his first  Triple-A home run of the season on April 18, and promptly went on the disabled list after breaking his foot during his home run trot.

You Throwin’ At Me? — Jason Ratliff,  my erstwhile MiLB.com colleague and a brilliant man, submitted the following item:

The Minor League leader in being hit by pitches (Stephen Bruno, eight times in 19 games) is an Italian kid from Jersey who has lines from The Godfather, Goodfellas, Casino and The Sopranos in his Twitter feed (twitter.com/UvaBruno11). Pitchers may want to find a new target.

So Close, Yet So Far — This nugget comes courtesy of reader Dennis Waters:

Another great Minor League moment at the Thunder game [April 24]: The Thunder were down 4-1 and the RubberDucks closer [Giovanni Soto] got two outs in the bottom of the 9th and had two strikes on the third batter when he got a cramp and had to be pulled. Full warm-up for the next reliever [Jordan Cooper], who came in, threw one pitch for the final strike and got the save!
Or did he? A note from my MiLB.com colleague Ashley Marshall:
Jordan Cooper didn’t get the save when he relieved Soto. Although it was a save situation when Soto entered (and Soto would have earned the save had he recorded the last out), Cooper was not in a save situation because it was a 3-run lead and the potential tying run wasn’t on deck.
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Back to Back Bros — Finally, we have this, courtesy of my MiLB.com colleague Paige Schector:

On April 21, White Sox prospects Josh Richmond and Rangel Ravelo of Birmingham hit back-to-back homers in the eighth. The next day, they went back-to-back again in the fifth.

Got something Crooked to share? Get at me, lest I get at you.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Passing the Torch to the Offseason

With a few exceptions, I’ve dedicated the month of October to writing about in-season endeavors that I did not get around to writing about during the season itself. So I guess it’s fitting that here on All Hallow’s Eve, also known as the last day of October, I have finally exhausted my supply of in-season content. The only thing left in my “potential blog items” Excel spreadsheet involved Jacksonville Suns infielder Derek Dietrich and that time that he performed a post-game juggling exhibition. Seriously.

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“Derek Dietrich Triples and Juggles Torches” — you know, just another day at the ol’ ballyard.

Dietrich, a 24-year-old infielder who logged 57 games with the Miami Marlins this season, pulled of the above feat during August 13’s game against Birmingham. But that wasn’t the only time he took the field in order to toss dangerous items about. Here he is throwing some knives around, potential trip to the disabled list be damned.

And that’s all folks! There is no more in-season content to be had from me (unless, you know, you want to send me some). Therefore, I suppose that now is as good a time as any to bring this to your attention:

The Trenton Thunder have won the 2013 “Promo of the Year” MiLBY Award, for their “Chase the Bat Dog Retirement Party.”

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Read the article HERE, which will be my last piece of content recapping the 2013 campaign.

But since I’m on the topic of MiLB.com content — the final “Crooked Numbers” column of 2013 ran earlier this month, and can be read HERE. After the column ran, I was alerted to this exceedingly entertaining and exquisitely “crooked” article by Aberdeen IronBirds broadcaster Jacob Rasch, on “The Oddities of a Suspended Game.” The article details the head-spinning specifics of a game that took some 33 days to complete, and is a must-read for anyone who enjoys the deep wellspring of absurdity that is baseball. Among the many nuggets contained therein, my favorite is this:

The starting pitcher, Austin Urban, struggled in the first half of the game. In four innings, he had given up 8 runs on 8 hits, including the Calderon grand slam. But in the resumption of the game, Urban was given a chance to atone.

“The suspended game fell on my day to pitch, so I got to go back out there,” Urban explained. “In the month that it took to get that game restarted, I made some big adjustments, and I approached it as a completely different start.”

Urban, given the opportunity to keep his team in the game, shut down the same Yankee lineup he had struggled against the month before. In the four innings he pitched after the game was resumed, Urban gave up only 1 hit and 3 walks, striking out 4.

Urban’s final line is strange to say the least: 8 innings pitched, 9 hits, 8 runs (all earned), 6 walks, and 6 strikeouts. All told, he threw a staggering 156 pitches, a number that would seem impossible if there weren’t a 32-day break in between pitch number 72 and 73.

Stump your friends! In 2013, no professional pitcher threw more pitches in one outing than Austin Urban’s 156.

And this concludes Ben’s Biz Blog post #998.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Crooked Nuggets: July Edition

I am writing this from a hotel in Bakersfield, cranking up the AC while contemplating the legacy of Buck Owens. My content from this California (and Oregon) trip, which begins tonight at Sam Lynn Ballpark and ends next weekend in Hillsboro, will almost certainly provide me with enough blog (and MiLB.com) material to last through the remainder of the regular season.

But before all that there is this important piece of business to take care of: Crooked Nuggets, the counterpart to my monthly MiLB.com Crooked Numbers column. Read the new edition of Crooked Numbers HERE (highlights include a Merkle-esque blunder, Double-A Rod antics, and the info behind this month’s strangest ejection) and then come back here to enjoy Crooked Nuggets: Minor League on-filed weirdness in 75 words or less.

This post, like every piece of Crooked content, is dedicated to Jayson Stark. May he one day acknowledge the existence of my efforts.

Let’s go!

Crooked Nuggets — Notable instances of July 2013 Minor League on-field weirdness and statistical quirks, in 75 words or less!

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A Delay That Makes Scents — Minor League Baseball’s latest and therefore greatest skunk delay occurred in Lynchburg on July 6, in a game between the Hillcats and the visiting Frederick Keys. Keys reliever Miguel Chalas emerged as the man of the hour, fearlessly ambling onto the warning track and using his glove to capture the skunk. (It turns out that he thought it was a cat). For far more on this riveting saga, please read this funny, informative and creatively-written post on the “Unlocking the Keys” team blog.

Good Things Come — Tim Dillard earned the 36th win of his Nashville Sounds career on June 30, establishing a new franchise record. Let’s just say that Dillard took the long route to the record, as he has just one win in 2013 and earned just one in 2012 (notched on August 14, when he tied the franchise mark). Dillard earned eight wins for the Sounds in 2007, six in 2008, 11 in 2009, give in 2010 and four in 2011. Win #37 is currently scheduled for sometime in early 2015.

Anomalous, I Tell You. Anomalous — MiLB.com records only date back to 2005, and in that time the Kannapolis Intimidators have managed to hit just three pinch-hit home runs — all of them against the Greensboro Grasshoppers. The most recent to do so Juan Ramirez on July 14, his only home run of the season.

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Flair for the Dramatic — Speaking of records dating back to 2005: in that time, there have been 16 “ultimate grand slams” in Minor League Baseball, in which a player hit a walk-off grand slam when his team was trailing by three. The most recent to do so was Dayton’s Seth Mejias-Brean on July 18, which marked the first time that any player in the Reds organization had done so since Adam Dunn on June 30, 2006.

Swinging Singles — The Charleston RiverDogs defeated the Hickory Crawdads by a score of 3-0 on July 21, in a game that featured 16 hits. All 16 of these hits were of the one-base variety.

A Pacific Coast League Canine Mascot Reports from Texas — I am proud and a little bit baffled to have among my sources an honest-to-God mascot, and that mascot is Spike of the Round Rock Express. Presented in its unexpurgated form, here is his latest Twitter-based contribution. Make of it what you will.

 

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All in Two Days Work — Brian Fletcher enjoyed a three-homer game for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals this month, and it sure took him a long time to do it. He blasted two homers against Arkansas on July 23 before the ballgame was halted by a thunderstorm, and then when play resumed the next day he hit a walk-off homer in the 11th.

Texas Sized Whiffin’ — During July 25’s game between the aforementioned Northwest Arkansas Naturals and Springfield Cardinals, six moundsmen combined to strike out a league record 32 batters (18 by Northwest Arkansas and 14 by Springfield, with NWA’s Kyle Zimmer leading the way with 12). The previous record was established way back on September 3, 1951 when Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizell struck out 14 for Houston and Bob Turley (who lost the game) struck out 17 for San Antonio.

Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better (and then, eventually, worse) — Montgomery’s Victor Mateo and Jacksonville’s Bryan Evans were locked in an masterful pitching duel on July 27, with neither allowing a hit through the first five frames. Evans lost his bid after allowing a solo home run with one out in the sixth, and Mateo then trumped that by allowing back-to-back-to-back home runs to start the seventh.

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Paging Anthony Young — In 2012 Matt Benedict earned a mid-season call-up to the Bradenton Marauders and proceeded to go 0-8 with an 8.08 ERA over 14 appearances. This season he managed to lower his ERA considerably, but still lost his first nine decisions. This epic 17-game losing streak came to end on July 31, when Benedict hurled two scoreless inning and earned the win as his Marauders defeated Dunedin.

Did You Know? – In his New York-Penn League notebook on MiLB.com, Craig Forde points out the following:

A deadline deal in which the Cardinals traded left-handed reliever Marc Rzepczynski to the Indians came with a quirky side note pointed out by the crack media relations staff in State College. Infielder Juan Herrera, whom St. Louis received in return, was assigned to the Spikes and became the first player to play against and for the club in the same season. 

Tweet Triumvirate! Sometimes all that you really need to know is contained within 140 characters and, often, a corresponding link. Some examples:

And finally, we close with this month’s contribution from Crooked Numbers’ all-time contribution king: Oklahoma City RedHawks broadcaster Alex Freedman.

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After a sustained run of Crooked brilliance, July turned out to be a pretty tame month for Alex and his OKC cronies. But, by Crooked mortal standards, these are still pretty good:

I don’t know how crooked you can say these numbers even are. Pretty tame month and probably not worth inclusion in the main column anyway.

 *Between July 10-12, the RedHawks played four straight games in which one team was shutout. (Includes a doubleheader on the 12th.)

           July 10: W, 7-0

            July 11: L, 11-0

            July 12 (#1): L, 9-0

            July 12 (#2): W, 5-0

 *Along the same lines, the RedHawks pitched three shutouts July 8-12.  They had pitched three shutouts all season up to that point.

 *The RedHawks won the final four games of the month, scoring four runs each night

Thanks to Alex, as always, for the contribution. If you would like to work your way up the Crooked Numbers contribution ranks, perhaps to a sentinel or even an arch-duke, then please get in touch. The journey of 429 miles begins with a single step.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

A Quick Break From the Road: Crooked Nuggets!

Please believe me when I tell you that I have plenty of Midwest League “On the Road” content to share in the coming weeks, but also please believe me when I tell you that I have been writing lots of other great stuff as well. That’s my mission in life, really: to write great stuff and then bask in the profound indifference that it inevitably generates.

And now for something completely indifferent — Crooked Nuggets! This is the succinct yin to the more verbose yang that is Crooked Numbers, my MiLB.com column that features all the weirdest and wildest things that occurred on a Minor League Baseball field in the past month. Read the new edition of Crooked Numbers HERE, and then read this:

Crooked Nuggets — Notable instances of June 2013 Minor League on-field weirdness and statistical quirks, in 75 words or less!

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Losing Control — Four Myrtle Beach Pelicans hurlers combined to pitch a one-hitter against the Salem Red Sox, but Myrtle Beach lost the game by a 3-2 score as, in addition to the one hit, this quartet of hurlers also issued nine walks.

International League Juggernauts — During the NBA playoffs, the Norfolk Tides made the astute Twitter observation that their bullpen trio of Jon Rauch (6’11”), Mark Hendrickson (6’9″) and Adam Russell (6’8″) are a combined one inch taller than the starting front court of the Miami Heat. For those keeping score at home, that’s 244 inches for this Tides triumvirate against the Heat’s 243.

Get a Whiff of This: Of the 54 outs recorded in June 5’s ballgame between Wisconsin and Beloit, a staggering 33 of them came via the strikeout (16 by Beloit pitchers, 17 courtesy Wisconsin). Of the 18 batters who came to the plate during the ballgame, 16 struck out at least once, 11 struck out at least twice, five struck out at least three times, and one (Wisconsin Timber Rattler Chris McFarland) struck out four times.

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Get Out of Here! Even more staggering is this: of the 24 hits tallied by the Lancaster JetHawks and Stockton Ports on June 5, 11 of them left the park! Max Muncy led the way with three home runs, as his Ports slugged their way to a 13-7 victory. The 11 home runs tied a California League record last accomplished in 1962, while the Ports’ seven home runs fell one short of the record for most home runs by one team in a game.

Triples in Triplicate:  Back-to-back-to-back home runs are rare, but even rarer is the the three-base triumvirate that is back-to-back-to-back triples. That’s what Salt Lake’s Trent Oeltjen, Andrew Romine and Roberto Lopez accomplished in the fifth inning of June 2’s game against Colorado Springs, en route to securing a 10-1 victory. It was the second triple of the season for all three players, and in the ensuing month-plus only Romine has managed to hit another triple.

GG Ailin’ Over at Baseball Prospectus, Ben Lindbergh dives into the atrocious inning suffered by Las Vegas 51s reliever Gonzalez Germen against Tacoma on June 13. Germen came on to pitch the eighth inning and surrendered four home runs, marking just the seventh time since 2005 that this has occurred in the Minors. Since 2005 there has only been one pitcher to give up five homers in an inning, and fittingly he, too, has the initials GG: Glenn Gibson, who accomplished the ignominious feat as a member of the Carolina Mudcats in 2008.

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So Long, It’s Been Good to Know Ya — Indianapolis Indians manager Dean Treanor must have set some sort of record for “earliest ejection” on June 16, as he was tossed from the game while exchanging the line-up card at home plate. Treanor was still steaming from a call the umpiring crew had made the night before, and for more on that plus a whole lot of good writing in general please click HERE.

Something in the Way — The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers and Cedar Rapids Kernels played a four-game series from June 20-23, and in the final three games of that series a runner was ruled out after being hit with a batted ball. On June 21 (I was there!), the Timber Rattlers had the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the ninth when Orlando Arcia was hit to end the ballgame. Cedar Rapids’ Jorge Polanco was hit while running to second in the second inning of June 22’s game (I was also there, trust me), and, finally, Byron Buxton was hit while running to second in the third inning Sunday.

(The above tidbit, like so many others, courtesy T-Rats announcer Chris Mehring who, as I write this, is live-tweeting his reactions to the 1996 John Travolta action film “Broken Arrow.”) 

Decisions, Decisions — Winston-Salem’s exemplary “Dashboard Blog” notes that this year’s MiLB “starts without a no-decision” leaders are Winston-Salem righty Chris Beck (8-8 in 16 starts) and, even better, Sacramento’s Andrew Werner (7-11 in 18 starts). I will make sure to monitor this situation as it develops.

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Talkin’ ‘Bout Both Generations — It’s been the question on everyone’s mind lately: have any professional pitchers out there faced both Delino Deshields Sr. and Jr? Lancaster JetHawks broadcaster Jason Schwartz believes he has found the answer: Ted Lilly.

Lilly, 37, pitched to Delino Deshields Sr. five times over the course of the 2000 and 2001 season, while Deshields was on the Orioles and Lilly a New York Yankee. Fast forward to June 30 2013, and Lilly, making a rehab start for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, faced Deshields Jr. and his Lancaster JetHawks. Junior walked in his first plate appearance against the wizened Lilly, and laid down a sac bunt in his second.

Laying It Down — The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (yes, them again) were defeated by the Kane County Cougars by a score of 4-3 on June 30. This despite the heroic efforts of T-Rats second baseman Alfredo Rodriguez, who tied a Midwest League record by laying down three sac bunts. Per Chris Mehring, the last time this had happened was two decades and a day before. Kane County’s Anthony Silvestri accomplished the feat on June 29, 1993.

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More Alex Freedman! 

Every month, Oklahoma City RedHawks broadcaster Alex Freedman gets in touch with a full-to-bursting round-up of the Crooked-est things he’s observed whilst logging time in his broadcast booth environs. Much of this month’s Freedman missive can be read in June’s “Crooked Numbers” column on MiLB.com. But, of course, there’s more. Take it away, Mr. Freedman:

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Alex Freedman: Crooked Numbers contribution king

On June 6 in game in Omaha, the RedHawks led 1-0 in the bottom of the ninth. A play with a fielder’s choice plus an error tied the game on what should have been a game-ending double play. Two batters later with runners at the corners, pitcher Jose Valdez did the now illegal fake to third, look to first move, resulting in a balk-off win for the Storm Chasers.

 – On June 10 in Oklahoma City, the Iowa Cubs defeated the RedHawks, 7-6. Iowa starting pitcher Yoanner Negrin earned the win, despite allowing five runs and 10 hits over five innings. The real kicker is Negrin struck out eight batters, so the RedHawks were 10-for-15 against him on balls put in play. Yet he still got the win. That still blows my mind.

This has been “Crooked Nuggets,”  a proud subdivision of the monthly MiLB.com column “Crooked Numbers.” Please, someone, get Jayson Stark (who inspired the column in the first place) to acknowledge its existence. My emails have gone unreturned.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Lowell Leading the League in Flosses

One of 2011’s most intriguing promotions is planned for TONIGHT — the so-called “Human Home Run” in Lowell, MA. Between games of the doubleheader, human cannonball David Smith, Sr. will be shot out of a cannon behind second base and land over the wall in right field.

This stunt is taking place just one week after a similarly unique (yet completely different) initiative. On June 29, 3014 fans engaged in simultaneous dental flossing, a quixotic endeavor on par with last year’s “Salute to Bubble Wrap.” 

While using one long piece of floss would have been hilarious, the Spinners went a far more hygienic route by distributing Glide floss picks. In the middle of the fourth inning, it was synchronized flossin’ time.

The players, upstanding role models that they are, got in the act as well.

Jason Thompson

Swen Huijer

Travis Shaw

Minors Moniker Madness legend Seth Schwindenhammer

Flossing would be an especially apropos activity after witnessing the Memphis Redbirds’ new between-inning competition: The Rendezvous Rib Race.

Participants include BBQ Sauce, Rib, Pulled Pork Sandwich, and Rendezvous Dry Rub Seasoning.

On a more personal level, may I suggest that you Rendezvous with MiLB.com? In addition to a jam-packed new “Promo Preview” column, today marked the appearance of  the latest “Crooked Numbers.” 

This column is a labor of love (my attempt to be the Jayson Stark of Minor League Baseball, basically), and I’d greatly appreciate if those who enjoy it pass it along to like-minded friends. I’ll close with my favorite nugget of info from this month’s column, an item brought to my attention by uber-alert Lancaster JetHawks broadcaster Jeff Lasky:

The more things change…: The Lancaster JetHawks suffered through their worst inning in franchise history June 29, allowing visiting High Desert to plate 13 runs in the second. This nightmarish frame broke the old franchise record of 12 runs allowed in an inning, which had been achieved by Lake Elsinore on May 20, 2007. Lake Elsinore’s Yordany Ramirez hit for the cycle in that ballgame, completing the feat with a triple in the record-setting 12-run eighth inning. Amazingly, Ramirez also appeared in the June 29 ballgame — as a member of the JetHawks’ pitching staff! Ramirez, in his first full season as a pitcher after nine as an outfielder, tossed two scoreless innings long after the damage had been done.

This kind of stuff is catnip for baseball nerds, right? I sure hope so.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

One Thing, Led, Another

My recent post on the Lake Elsinore Storm experience included many photos, including shots of the team kitchen as well as the easily-angered Grounds Crew Gorilla. But never did it occur to me that I’d soon be posting a photo of the Gorilla in the team kitchen.

And yet here we are:

For reasons unknown and perhaps best left unexplained, the Grounds Crew Gorilla has gotten into the international youth fad known as “planking.” The Storm have posted a photo set on Facebook entitled “Gorilla Planks the Diamond.” Here’s a few more:

The word plank brings to mind nautical discipline which brings to mind John Paul Jones, the “father of the American Navy” but also the name of the bass player in Led Zeppelin.

And here we are. Yesterday was the West Michigan Whitecaps’ second annual “Led Zeppelin Night”, Led Zeppelin II as it were.

And when it came to theme jerseys, the song remained the same. Once again, the team took the field in these:

Note: Not a player

The Whitecaps have also done “Pink Floyd Night”, and other bands that have been celebrated in such a fashion around the Minors include the Grateful Dead, Beatles, and Rolling Stones.

This leads me to make the following demand, which like all my demands will be aggressively ignored.

Nonetheless: Do a Creedence Clearwater Revival Night! CCR are easily one of the greatest rock bands of all time and deserve Minor League Ballpark immortalization.

Abbreviations such as “CCR” are prevalent on Twitter, a mode of communication that encourages extreme brevity. And as part of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs “Social Media Night”, the team will be wearing the first Twitter-themed jerseys in Minor League Baseball history.

As part of the promotion, the team is asking fans to change their Twitter and/or Facebook profile pics to the following image:

Those who do so will be eligible to win game tickets and an autographed Ryne Sandberg baseball.

Let me close with a final demand — Read Crooked Numbers!!!

It would mean a lot to me if you did so. I spend way too much time on that column, but it’s a labor of love.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

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