Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Birmingham Baseball Alumni

What do Willie Mays, Satchel Paige, Reggie Jackson, and Michael Jordon all have in common? 

All played baseball in Birmingham.  

While the current team, the Birmingham Barons, is the AA Affiliate of the Chicago White Sox, professional baseball has been a part of Birmingham in one form or another since 1885.
The Black Barons of Birmingham
Willie Mays, an Alabama native and Baseball Hall of Famer got his start with the Birmingham Black Barons in 1948, playing with the team for two years before getting recruited to the New York Giants (1951-1957), San Francisco Giants (1958-1972), and ending his career with the New York Mets in 1973. 

Mays played in 24 All-Star games, and participated in four World Series. Career statistics include 3,283 hits and 660 home runs, National League Rookie of the Year honors in 1951, two MVP Awards, 12 Gold Gloves, played in a record-tying.  (Baseball Hall of Fame).

Read more about Mays:
Willie Mays: the Life, the Legend by James S. Hirsch  B Mays 2010 
Willie’s Boys by John Klima 796.357 KilmJ 2009

Leroy (Satchel) Paige, a native of Mobile, Alabama, was known for being the oldest Major League Baseball rookie, at 42 - an interesting feat as he had already been playing professional baseball for 22 years. Paige got his start in 1926 with the Chattanooga Lookouts before being traded to the Birmingham Barons where he played until 1930. He continued to play in Negro Leagues and overseas, including taking the Kansas City Monarchs to Negro American League Pennants and the Negro World Series, until 1948 when he joined the Cleveland Indians, making him one of the earliest African Americans Major League Baseball and helping the Indians clinch the pennant. He played in the 1952-3 All Star Game and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971.

Read more about Paige:
Leroy (Satchel) Paige: Maybe I’ll Pitch Forever as told to David Lipman 796.357x
Satch,Dizzy, & Rapid Robert by Timothy M. Gay 796.357 GayT

Reggie Jackson had a 20 year Major League Baseball career, beginning and ending with the Oakland As, including the New York Yankees and the California Angels.  Playing right field in six pennants and four World Series wins, Jackson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1993. After playing football and baseball in college, Jackson was drafted to the Athletics, who were then the Major League affiliate of the Birmingham Barons. After a year with the Barons he moved up the majors. 

Read more about Jackson:
Sixty Feet,Six Inches by Bob Gibson and Reggie Jackson  796.357 GibsB 2009 
Reggie Jackson : the Life and Thunderous Career of Baseball's Mr. October by Dayn Perry. B Jackson 2010 

While Michael Jordan will always be known as a basketball icon, many remember his short-lived career in the minor league.  After signing a minor league contract with the Chicago White Sox in 1993 (who had the same owners as the Bulls) he played one season with the Birmingham Barons, batting .202 with three home runs, 51 runs batted in, 30 stolen bases, and 11 errors, followed by a stint with the Scottsdale Scorpions, before returning to basketball. 

Read more about Jordan:
One Last Shot : the Story of Michael Jordan's Comeback by Mitchell Krugel B Jordan 2002 

There have been many other baseball players who have come from and passed through Birmingham. These include (but are not limited to) Artie Wilson, Bruce Benedict, Lyman Bostock, Mike Cameron, Bubba Church, Alex Grammas, Jerry Hairston, Sr., Bert Campaneris, Carlos May, Lee May, Gus Niarhos, Jimmy Piersall, Virgil Trucks, Bob Veale, and Robin Ventura. Active players include Mark Buehrle (Chicago White Sox), David Robertson (NY Yankees) and Jason Standridge (debuted with Tampa Bay, currently plays in Hanshin Tigers of Nippon Professional Baseball).

Submitted by Allie Graham
Central - Art, Literature, and Sports

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