Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Biscuits v Braves,The Unusual Kilkenny, A Big Week in History!



A minor tech issue has kept me from posting as often as I like lately, so hopefully we are past that now.


The Biscuits are now tied for first place in the North Division, a three way split with the Smokies and Barons also getting a share. There is a lot of baseball left to play and Montgomery has as good a chance as any, plus a history of strong second half finishes.



SLACKING AT THE GATE
Man its tough to bring folks to the ballpark in Montgomery. Under the new ownership, the team has done everything it can to stem the tide of people not showing up.

While the attendance numbers officially show that the Biscuits average 3500 a night, it is tough to sell a team that has a losing record at home and plays at a park nicknamed "The Oven".

The Skitz might not bring in 30K attendees this year, a notable benchmark for minor league teams at this level. Fans have noticed concession prices rising since opening day and other corners being cut, leaving us to wonder what direction the new ownership will take after their first full season of new ideas.




WELCOME BRAVES
The team that Montgomery could have had if we had waited a season or two, the Mississippi Braves, arrive for a visit. Looking at the roster there are a couple prospects but their top guy was recently promoted to triple-A in Touki Toussaint.

Now boasting four guys listed on MLB Pipeline, three pitchers and an outfielder, the Ms.Braves are a five hundred team capable of being a tough opponent or an easy mark - depending on how their pitching holds up.

Kyle Wright, Bryse Wilson are the right handed pitching prospects and Ricardo Sanchez is a lefty, the Braves strength is in its hurlers and the Biscuit hitters will be challenged at the dish by these top guys. Beyond that, there are some good arms but nobody with eye-popping numbers.

Pitcher Kyle Wright is from Huntsville. His 96 strikeouts in 94 innings so far this year are among the league leaders.

On the batting side, Travis Demeritte in the outfield is a utilityman who saw time in the Australian Baseball League in 2015 and is at double-A for the second season. Shortstop Luis Valenzuela is among the batting leaders with a .284 average.
 

#BULLPENLIFE


RIP KILKENNY

Former Rebels pitcher Mike Kilkenny passed away late last month at the age of 73. To say he was a lefthander with an unusual story is putting it mildly.

Mike Kilkenny spent five seasons in the bigs with Detroit, the Padres (briefly), Oakland (very briefly) and Cleveland, pitching in 139 games. He finished with a 23-18 win loss record in the majors.


Mike was with Montgomery for three seasons, starting in 1966 and thru 1968 he logged 178 strikeouts in 189 innings for the Rebels. He won ten and lost seven while putting up a stellar 2.95 ERA for Montgomery in those three years.

Kilkenny is also known for setting the Southern League record for wild pitches in an inning with five. In his defense he said that the ballpark in Macon was next to a foundry and the blast furnace ash was so thick the catcher couldn't see. He was also coming off an injury to his finger that kept him from pitching early that '66 season and affected his control.

Control was an issue for the reliever again in '67 though he mowed down Southern League hitters at one strikeout per inning pitched. In '68 he really figured it out and was given a midseason promotion to triple-A and earned World Series Champion cufflinks for being in spring camp with the Tigers that year.

He would spend the next five years in the majors, making his MLB debut on his birthday in April of 1969, against the New York Yankees.


In 1972 Kilkenny would be traded three times in a month and played for four different clubs after a clubhouse shouting match with manager Billy Martin got him dealt from the Tigers. On the back of Kilkenny's 1972 Topps card is a trivia question "How many pitchers have pitched for four teams in one season?"


While with Montgomery, Kilkenny once sent Governor Wallace a postcard telling the Gov that the pitcher had left him a couple free tickets for the game. Governor Wallace showed up and went down to the bullpen and waived to the young lefthander with a shout of thanks before leaving in the seventh inning.

The curious lefty also built an odd friendship with J. Edgar Hoover, meeting him once and later sending Hoover a suit that looked like the one J. Edgar was wearing when they met. Afterwards they would often meet for lunch when the schedule allowed a trip to Washington or Baltimore.

After baseball, Kilkenny spent time as a racehorse owner and ran a golf pro shop, among other things.




THIS WEEK IN MONTGOMERY BASEBALL HISTORY

JULY 16 1904 
At LittleRock, in a freak injury to end all freak injuries, Montgomery Pitcher Duke Carter falls from a third story window while sleepwalking at the Capital Hotel and is badly injured. Obviously, it would be some time before Carter recovers, but he survives and eventually returns to pitching.



JULY 16 1920 
Montgomery, AL
"Local Negro Team Splits Double Bill - The Grey Sox and the New Orleans team split a double header yesterday at Southside park. The first game was close, with both pitchers going good. The locals scored two runs in the first inning. Then the visitors scored three in the third, but the locals tied the score in the fifth and the visitors were unable to overtake the lead.

1920 Montgomery Grey Sox
The locals scored two more in the sixth and won the game 5 to 3. Williams and Mason were successful in getting two long safe hits and the entire hitting of the team showed some improvement over the last two or three games.

The second game was won by the visitors, 3 to 1, and was a much prettier and faster game than the first. This was a pretty pitchers' battle between Jim Moss and Marfoot, but the visitors gave their pitcher better support. The visitors scored in the first and again in the fourth and fifth. The locals scored their lone run in the third and staged a rally in the seventh with two out that looked sure for winner. With two out and two on bases in the seventh, Williams came to the bat and everybody was sure that he would break the game up, but he was thrown out on a little grounder to second.

The teams will play a double header this afternoon at 3:45."



JULY 18 1970 
The Montgomery Rebels take first place in league, beating Mobile in both end of a doubleheader by the same 1-0 score. Jim Foor pitched a three hitter in the first game, outdueling Mobiles four hitter. Marty Barski doubled and then scored on a wild pitch.

In game two, Steve Cushmore struck out seven and gave up just five hits. John Young scored the games only run in unearned fashion when he walked, stole second and raced home on throwing errors by the catcher and centerfielder.

Another doubleheader follows the next day vs Mobile.


JULY 19 1906 
Montgomery Pitcher Ted Breitenstein shuts out Shreveport on 2 hits.

JULY 19 1907 
Montgomery bashes out 16 hits against Memphis pitcher Suggs but only plates six.

JULY 20 1968 
Pitcher Jim Brown of Rebels No-Hits Hornets at Charlotte.

JULY 22 1920 
Montgomery, AL
Grey Sox Defeat Chicago Black Sox

Sam Streeter
GAME NOTES: Montgomery, AL
"Montgomery Sox Swamp Chicagoans - The Chicago Black Sox colored baseball club team was easily defeated Thursday afternoon by the Montgomery Gray Sox team by the score of 15 to 1.

The visiting team putting up a miserable exhibition of the national pastime. Streeter, for the Grey Sox, was a puzzle to the Chicago players, and after the first inning he had his opponents at his mercy.

Kemp, who started for Chicago, was easy pickings for the locals, and Smith, who succeeded him, could not check the assault. Williams, Scales, "Red" Cunningham and Herman Cunningham carried off the batting honors for the day, the quartet had little trouble in hitting the ball, when hits meant runs.

Streeter established a record on the local field when he pitched twenty consecutive balls for strikes, without having a ball called by the umpire. The Chicagoans came to the city highly rated, and are leading the league in the National league for colored clubs, but their performance Thursday was the poorest seen on the loacl field this season. Nashville opens a three-game series here this afternoon."



JULY 22, 1966 - 
The Animals, Hermans Hermits and others play at the State Coliseum in a huge moment for local music.

JULY 22 1967 
Tigers Prospect Southpaw Les Cain throws No Hitter for Montgomery Rebels, and its mentioned on his rookie card!


Thursday, June 21, 2018

Biscuits Host Barons to Begin 2nd Half



The second half of the season offers the Biscuits a reset in the standings and welcomes the rival Barons to Riverwalk.

For the Biscuits, who pulled a nearly miraculous recovery in the first half, its a chance to start the new standings with a long six game set against a Barons team that has struggled to win games so far this season. Credit Brady Williams for turning the team around after a terrible start, and the Rays for sending reinforcements in time to save the village.




WHAT TO LOOK FOR




The Barons don't hit for average but they can reach the fences with the longball. Look for the Bham Boys to deposit mistake pitches onto the railroad tracks.

Look for Montgomery to get on base.
The Barons pitching staff has accumulated some woeful stats, last in the league in ERA, WhIP, Hits Allowed, Runs Scored Against, meaning lots of baserunners and lots of runs scored.

Barons fans can look for the Silver Lining - Bham pitchers don't walk many hitters. Only two teams have given fewer free passes.



Cam Seitzer, now with Bham
Look for a familiar face.
Biscuit fans will recognize one Barons player, former Montgomery first baseman Cameron Seitzer is now pitching for the White Sox affiliate and should expect a healthy round of boos from the Riverwalk crowd for defecting to a rival team.



Biscuit hitters will be looking for extra bases. Montgomery has boosted its OPS to second in the league on the strength of doubles and triples to offset having average homerun totals.

Barons catchers will be looking to slow the Montgomery running game. The Biscuits are the only team in the league with more steals (87) than games played (70). Two of the Bham backstops are ranked prospects, so it will be interesting to see how they handle the stolen base threat.

Biscuit pitchers will be looking for strike three against the Barons hitters, who have so far been willing to oblige opponents at a whopping average of more than nine per game.

Biscuit fans should not look for the pitch out. Halfway thru the season and nobody I talked to could recall a single instance of a pitch out by the Biscuits this season.



NOTABLE:

Among the late listed transactions last week was the Marlins release of former Biscuits outfielder Cade Gotta. Somehow batting .260 with twenty stolen bases in a half season wasn't good enough to stick with the team.

Yeah, I don't understand that last sentence either.


Pitcher Benton Moss, sent back to rehab with the Stone Crabs, has been pitching well and could be in line for a return to the Biscuits. In nine innings over two games, Moss has 12 strikeouts, five hits and has allowed just one earned run.

Ruben Alaniz also was transferred to rehab, sent to the GCL Rays.


Monday, June 11, 2018

Postcards from Greenbow


For just one night we watched the Greenbow Biscuits take the field.


The Greenbow Biscuits brand new uniforms featured an orange top with script Greenbow across the chest and Biscuits below in the swoosh. Mr. Biscuit, the team mascot, was visible on the cap, sleeve and also roaming the outfield on the ribbon board.

Zach Lee is the first starting pitcher in Greenbow Biscuits history. He is the only starting pitcher in Greenbow Biscuits history. Which makes him the best starter in Greenbow Biscuits history.

The pitchers in the Greenbow Biscuits bullpen are always besieged with autograph seekers before their game. Reliever Roel Ramirez, third from left, is the winningest pitcher in Greenbow Biscuits history. He has one win for the Greenbow Biscuits.


Pitcher Yoel Espinal wearing the Greenbow Biscuits regalia, but he never played a game for the Greenbow Biscuits.


Greenbow Biscuits pitching coach R.C. Lichtenstein once gave up a home run to Babe Ruth. He says it was a popup to second base but film of the event shows otherwise.

Greenbow pitcher Curtis Taylor shows up prepared to play, sunglasses and water bottle at the ready.



Nearly a native of Greenbow, coach Gary Redus always knows how many runs  Greenbow Biscuits will get. Three runs is the most the Greenbow Biscuits have ever scored in a game. It is also the least.


Zach Lee prepares to throw the first pitch in Greenbow Biscuits history. The pitching was excellent in every game this year and the Greenbow Biscuits are undefeated.

Mr. Biscuit is always to be seen at Greenbow Biscuits games. There he is in the outfield behind Greenbow Biscuits second baseman Brandon Lowe. Mr. Biscuit likes Brandon Lowe.


Heres Mr. Biscuit helping Greenbow Biscuits second baseman Brandon Lowe catch a baserunner trying to steal. You're so helpful, Mr. Biscuit!


Great hitting is another thing the Greenbow Biscuits had at every game this year. Here's left fielder Nick Solak at the plate for the Greenbow Biscuits as his teammates look on from the Greenbow dugout.


Greenbow's Nick Solak comes to the Greenbow Biscuits from the Yankees, but he's here now.



The Greenbow Biscuits catcher David Rodriguez is the All-Time RBI leader for the Greenbow Biscuits. He has two RBI's for the Greenbow Biscuits.


TODAYS #BULLPENLIFE
High fives are a big part of #BullpenLife for the Greenbow Biscuits.



Friday, June 8, 2018

Tight Spot - Streaking Biscuits Face Lookouts, Dothan Player Killed By Fastball



The Biscuits rattled off a bunch of wins in the month of May and climbed out of the cellar. The winning streaks have pushed Bradys Boys into a better position, prompting Skitz fans to get excited after weeks of having little to cheer for at home.

We were getting stepped on, sometimes literally

Interesting, indeed, but what is the situation for the Biscuits exactly?

Yes, the team is on fire. The Rays have finally chosen to send reinforcements during the first half of the season and the Skitz have done the work to get out of last place.

As it stands, it would take a calculator, slide rule and three sets of toes to figure out the potential playoff picture heading into the final ten days. Simply put, its a tight spot.






Montgomery hosts the top team in the circuit for a five game set starting Friday. If they can secure a series win at home against the Lookouts, they can continue to face down division opponents in the final series of the first half against the Smokies on the road.

But what of the Jackson Generals? All the work the Biscuits do to knock out contenders is helpful to the Generals, who are also holding first half pennant hopes. Montgomery holds a fair portion of its destiny in its own hands, but also in relies on getting just a little help. Jackson losing games will be an important ingredient in a Biscuits first half title recipe.

Now we are getting our toe in there

The matchups for the remaining two series in the half:
Montgomery vs Chattanooga, @Tennessee
Chattanooga vs @Montgomery, Birmingham
Jackson vs Mobile, @Jacksonville
Tennessee vs Birmingham, @Montgomery


F'REALS

If the Biscuits can secure a playoff berth via a first half title, it would practically be the theft of the century in the Southern League. Coming out of fourth place to take a title by jumping three teams would be an amazing feat indeed.

Its a perfect time for Montgomery to be the hottest team in the league, but still a tough road to hoe against teams that have just as much to gain as the Biscuits.


Could it happen? Sure, the Biscuits play good ball for ten more games and it will work in their favor. But it has to happen against the Lookouts, the team that has vexed Montgomery in recent years. The team will have to play its best games against two of the toughest clubs in the league.

It sets up what could be the biggest series of the first half, perhaps the whole season.
Slide, Kelly, slide!

 LOOKOUTS
Man, we have seen these guys plenty in the recent past!

Always such polite visitors too
Todd Van Steensil, T.J. White, Kohl Stewart and several other Chattanooga players probably know Montgomery streets better than some current Biscuits.

They were on last years roster when the Biscuits gave up a walkoff two run homer to lose the Co-Championship. And the year before when they steamrolled us in the postseason. And a couple other times, that we won't dig into again.


This edition of the Lookouts is a fine ballclub but survives as a .500 team on the road and can be beaten in that situation.

However, the Lookouts have a knack for beating the Biscuits when they need to and this is an opportunity for them to slam the door on Montgomery hopes.

 
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
 

Montgomery needs these games, perhaps worse than the Lookouts. Look for Brady to press the Lookouts on the basepaths and shift defenses often.

The Lookouts and Biscuits both know the strike zone as well as any teams in the league, look for them to go deep into the count and put the ball in play. Swings and misses aren't usually part of their games.

Montgomery leads the league in Runs Batted In, due in part to some lopsided contests with these Lookouts just two weeks ago. Those games resulted in a total of sixty runs combined by both teams over five games. To that end, look for plenty of guys crossing the dish for both sides.

Look for new guys -  the Biscuits have added about a half dozen new faces over the last few weeks and they aren't here to sit on the bench as cheerleaders.





On the pitching side, you can throw out the stats.
Both teams are full of new faces, half the players on these rosters weren't with the team when the offenses and glories of the first months were tallied and shouldn't be held accountable for team stats accrued before they arrived.

Look to the eye test as the only true measure for hurlers this series, is a pitcher throwing strikes, getting swings and misses, inducing soft contact - those are better tools for assessment than numbers in some cases.

Look for both pitching staffs to be rode hard and put up wet in this heated series. Every available arm will be forced into action and by Monday's end fans will have a better idea of whether the Biscuits are truly contenders or just pretenders.


BISCUIT NOTES
Sam McWilliams
 Sam McWilliams pitched better in his road start than he did at his home debut. He can probably be counted on for good appearances but there will be some expectations placed by fans on his start against the Lookouts.

How long before Genesis Cabrera gets promoted? Dude has been an absolute beast and the Southern League hitters simply have no challenge for him.

Zach Lee -  See Genesis Cabrera, above.
Zach Lee


Brandon Lowe's last thirty days have him peppering the Rays organization leaderboards, six steals rank second in the Rays, his 22RBi have him tied for second, nine doubles to lead all Rays players and fifth in total hits with 33. Good enough to earn him a trip to beautiful Durham, South Carolina.

Nick Solak leads the Rays organization in Homers over the past month with seven, he also has 22 RBI and is tied for second along with Lowe.


Big Bam Summer Show, only two bucks!


 NEW GUYS
Brandon Lawson pitched five good innings and struck out six, allowing eight hits in his Biscuits debut on the road, picking up the W. That seems to be his M.O. in games, pitching in traffic and getting groundballs to work out of it. Lawson has a unique tattoo and was drafted just ahead of Nathaniel Lowe and Dalton Moats. The Biscuits certainly appreciate the use of the righthanded starting pitcher, one of several reinforcements to have arrived on the scene in the past few weeks.

Cody Hall is the new closer, pulling down two saves in his first two games with the Skitz. Hall has over fifty career saves and made the bigs twice already, his arrival ends the debate of who could/should/would get the ball for the Biscuits in the ninth with a one-run lead.

Peter Maris, listed as a second baseman he is an able body all over the infield and good for the occasional outfield appearances. Lefty hitting, righty throwing Californian was tearing up the FSL at a .320 clip.

Nathaniel Lowe is also lefty/righty, first baseman with a reputation for high averages and solid defense around the sack. Lowe went to highschool in Georgia, so he could have a nice contingent of fans for his home games.



WHAT OCCURRED TO ME

Personal Opinion:
It would be easy for Montgomery to become the double-A team of the S.F. Giants.

How tough would it be to flip the Giants and Rays double-A teams affiliations now that the same owner controls both clubs? The Giants would get to be a little closer to the west coast and the Rays would probably LOVE the short two and a half hour drive between Richmond and Durham.

I have no idea the level of reality this could be at - if the Giants would even want to leave Richmond or if the Rays would want to give up Montgomery. No clue at all, but it seems like a pretty natural fit for Durham/Richmond, don't it?

It's not something Biscuits fans even want to address. The people who come to games enjoy supporting the Tampa Rays, its just a fact. They don't want to be traded. Period.




THIS WEEK IN MONTGOMERY BASEBALL HISTORY


JUNE 2nd 1951
DOTHAN PLAYER KILLED BY FASTBALL
Ottis Johnson, killed by fastball
Due to the poor lighting during a Alabama-Florida League contest at Peanut Stadium in Headland, Alabama, Ottis Johnson of the Dothan Browns fails to get out of the way of a fastball thrown by Jack Clifton.

Pitcher Jack Clifton
The 24-year-old Class D minor league outfielder undergoes surgery and spends eight days in the hospital before dying on June 10 as a result of being hit by the Dixie Runners hurler's pitch.


Teams would later threaten to boycott games in which Clifton might pitch, claiming him to be dangerous. However, league officials put down such talk and Clifton never killed another batter.

JUNE 3rd 1906
Jimmy Page ca 1968
Montgomery Pitcher Lee shuts out Nashville at home on two hits.

JUNE 4 1968
Led Zepplin's future guitarist Jimmy Page appears in Montgomery, performing as a solo act!

JUNE 6 1907
Montgomery scores 11 runs on 16 hits vs pitcher Welms of Shreveport

JUNE 7 1906
Southern League Umpire Barrett puts three Shreveport players out of the game for kicking. Shreveport is compelled to forfeit to Montgomery due to lack of players.

JUNE 7 1908
Montgomery falls to new Orleans 1-0 in 12 innings.

JUNE 10 1906
Bert Maxwell
Montgomery pitcher Bert Maxwell shuts out New Orleans on 3 hits

JUNE 11 1905
Montgomery and New Orleans play to a 13 inning, 3 run tie at MGM.

JUNE 11 1906
Montgomery Pitcher Malarkey holds New Orleans to one run on three hits

JUNE 11, 1937
Pete Reiser appears for Union Springs in a game vs Pensacola, going O-4 with an error at third base. Reiser, aged fifteen at the time, later claimed never to have appeared in a game for Union Springs, but the box score indicates a forgettable game did happen.