Friday, September 7, 2018

Playoff Biscuits in Divisional Round



The Skitz took a split in Jackson against the Generals and now face them in three home-field contests to determine the divison champ. To say these are big games would be a vast understatement.


Historically, the Generals appeared to have the Biscuits number in recent years. However skipper Brady Williams feels more confident with this group than any of his previous September Biscuits, these guys have simply played great baseball over the past few months and earned their place in the postseason.




WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Fans that have cardiac issues or think they may be pregnant might want to just look for the box score in the newspaper the next morning, drama is going to happen in this series. Both teams are hungry for a shot at the title, Biscuits after being denied three straight seasons and the Generals who have been preparing for the playoffs since they won the first half of the season.

The Biscuits and Generals are well matched at this point, look for the series to be won and lost on bench and bullpen depth.


The Montgomery bullpen has had some rough patches lately, particularly in finding someone to get the last three outs of the game consistently. Look for Brady Williams to trust his bullpen arms, they have gotten the team where it is.



Look for the Biscuits to play hungry, using their strengths of baserunning and situational hitting.


Look for the Generals to challenge Biscuits catchers on the basepaths, though they aren't known as a running team. Clubs have made it a habit to force Montgomery backstops to prove they can throw.


Fans should look for the unexpected hero. In big games, its often a guy without the attention that comes through.


PLAYOFF NOTES
Announced attendance for the two Jackson playoff games were listed as 1100 and 1400, respectively. And generously.

Relief pitcher Travis Ott was sent to Durham for the final days of the season, but has returned to the Biscuits bullpen for the postseason. Ott did pitch for the Bulls but it didn't go well, so maybe don't bring it up to him.

3B Kevin Padlo is with the Biscuits, though not on the roster. Probably getting a feel for where he will likely play next summer.

Pitcher Reece Karalus was sent to Port Charlotte, but I suspect he is traveling with the Biscuits. The Stone Crabs were eliminated from postseason contention on the final day of the season.

Blake Bivens
Pitchers Brandon Lawson and Blake Bivens were both activated for the Biscuits postseason.

Utilityman Michael Russell was sent to Durham and started the Bulls first postseason game at third base.

Shortstop Jermaine Palacios was sent to the Biscuits from the Stone Crabs. Palacios hit .370 with Port Charlotte, then struggled in his first taste of double-A and was sent back down where he proceeded to hit just .214 for the rest of the season.


MiLB lists Benton Moss as the starter for Friday, in fact its Sam McWilliams vs Justin Donatella.

The Generals Justin Donatella faced Montgomery five times in the regular season, including two relief appearances in April, garnering two wins and no losses. After being very good in the first half, Dontatella has been a little more mortal since the All Star break but still able to keep his team in a close ballgame. His Achilles heel is falling behind in the count, which sends opponent batters average from .168 when ahead to .284 when behind.


Biscuit pitchers will have to figure out Generals 3b Marty Herum. Batting .370 over the past month, the young third sacker has been opening eyes since he returned from the DL in June. Except the guy who writes the MiLB player bios.



 TALKIN BOUT LIB
In a twitter conversation I posted this image, one Biscuit fans should recall...


It got a response from the man himself...



Always happy to help out!


NEW TEAM
Rocket City Trash Pandas. We will get back to that later this offseason!

#BULLPENLIFE


HISTORY!

1870s ballplayers in Montgomery
Been doing a bit of interesting research lately, trying to narrow down persons involved in some 1800's local teams. Starting to suspect there was a LOT more baseball going on in the area than historians give credit for. 

Multiple examples of Alabamians playing baseball during the Civil War, with players local to Montgomery, Mobile, Talladega, Tuscaloosa, many other places. Amateur players and professional players, collegiate and civic games. Evidence leads me to believe that before 1864 there must be at least loosely-organized games and dozens of Alabamians with experience in them. It is not a game that was brought home from Yankee prison camps after the war.

Just now beginning to identify these individuals and excited about the prospect of changing how our area is viewed in terms of baseballs early days.


SEPTEMBER 6 1908 
Montgomery wins in 14 innings vs New Orleans 4-1

SEPTEMBER 8 1908 
Outfielder Elmer Bliss
Montgomery gets ten hits and scores 11 runs to beat Little Rock

SEPTEMBER 9 1905 
Montgomery Pitcher Lee throws a 2-hit shutout vs Little Rock

SEPTEMBER 9 1908 
Montgomery OF Elmer Bliss is 5-for-5 vs Mobile, as Montgomery racks up 15 hits.

SEPTEMBER 10 1906 
Montgomery pitcher Ted Breitenstein allows just one run on three hits vs Little Rock but loses as Little Rock's SP Keith shuts out Montgomery on just two hits.

SEPTEMBER 10 1920 
Montgomery, AL
"New Orleans Club Defeats Grey Sox - Mason is Driven From Mound and Streeter is Batted At Will -
By driving Mason from the mound in the second inning, and hitting Streeter at will, the New Orleans Add Club had little trouble in defeating the Montgomery Grey Sox Friday, 7 to 3.
Charlie "Two Sides" Wesley

Erratic fielding, by the Grey Sox outfielders, by the Grey Sox outfielders sided the visiting club, the local outfielders playing a slow game on safe drives. Ross for the visiting club carried off the batting honors with three triples and one single, while McGavock and Carpenter for the local each acquired a triple.

The absences of "Red" Cunningham at first base is felt by the Grey Sox, although Wesley is playing the initial corner in fair style. With Cunningham out of the game, the local players appear to lack the fighting spirit which has marked their playing all season.

The two teams will play again this afternoon, game starting at 4 o'clock."



Monday, August 27, 2018

Milone Returns, League Numbers, Gray Sox & Climbers History


Just a few items as the Biscuits finish up their final homestand of the regular season. With just about a handful of games left on the sked the Skitz need just three wins to take the division flag for the second half.

Get out and support the team, this may well be the year we finally bring home the league pennant!


SKITZ NOTES
Milone makes sure not to step on the line in his first game back
Tommy Milone returned to the diamond after a few days off, earned after a solid beanball to the earflap of his helmet.

Curtis Taylor also got back into action after wearing a comeback grounder off his shinbone. No problems for C.T., he shook it off easily.

If you didn't already know, Ryan Boldt is done for the year due to injury. He had been out some time and we got confirmation that he would not return this season.

Nick Solak already got back on the field after taking a pitch off the back of his hand. 

Lucius Fox with the hops


NUMBERS FROM AROUND THE LEAGUE
With just seven games left in the season, the leaderboards are getting close to being final. In many categories, there is little doubt.

Corey Ray leads the league in Homeruns and Stolen Bases. MVP? You betcha.

Five Biscuits are among the top twenty Batting Leaders
Montgomery's own Nick Solak is the league leader in Runs Scored, barely edging out Corey Ray.
The Biscuits own Tommy Milone leads the league in Triples.


Jax's Monte Harrison has 197 strikeouts. Probly gonna not getting caught.
Bham's Zack Collins leads the league in Bases on Balls and On Base Percentage.
Mobile's Jose Rojas leads the league in OPS.


Biloxi's Zack Brown has been gone a while, but he still leads the league in ERA with 2.48
Biloxi's Nate Griep has a death grip on the saves lead with 33.
Taylor Widener of Jax has a solid lead in Strikeouts at 171.




TIP THE CAP
Congrats to the Skitz front office, they blew past the 230K attendance mark that looked out of reach just a few short weeks ago. Good job, fellas.


ONE GOOD TURN...
I spoke with someone who reads the blog this weekend. They caught me after a game for a quick chat and it is always so cool to meet folks who are reading here. I love to see new faces, shake hands and get input, this person was from out of town and said they enjoyed the history and pictures. Absolutely made my day, and since one good turn deserves another...

Good news for you, sir, I have been digging hard the past few weeks to improve both of those. Starting this week there we will see newly found images scoured from the far corners of the internet, particuarly of Montgomery Gray Sox players. This week we have a new image of Steel Arm Dickey taken from a KC Giants team photo!


#BULLPENLIFE



THIS WEEK IN MONTGOMERY BASEBALL HISTORY


Mgm 1B D. Mullaney
AUGUST 27 1906 
Little Rock vs Montgomery, Little Rock pitcher Brady struck out 11 Montgomery hitters, all were "clean" strikeouts and only one was looking, he allowed no walks but REACH guide doesnt say who won the game!

AUGUST 28 1906 
Montgomery's first baseman and team captain Mullaney goes 4-4 against Little Rock starter Allen

AUGUST 29 1906  
Montgomery starting pitcher Malarkey shuts out Little Rock on three hits

AUGUST 30 1920 
Steel Arm Dickey
"Knoxville, Tennessee, September 10. - Knoxville has such a lead on all the clubs there is no possible chance for her to be overtaken when she is playing air-tight ball all the time. Monday, August 30, Knoxville Giants crossed bats with Montgomery Gray Sox. It was one of those games that makes you forget your troubles. Safe hitting of the Giants took the game from Montgomery."

AUGUST 31 1920 
Knoxville, TN "Tuesday, August 31. - Montgomery tried to overcome her bad luck on Monday. They (Knoxville) got Steel-Arm for four clean hits, which only merited them two runs."



Monday, August 20, 2018

Love for the New Guys, BoneCrusher, Hurling Numbers


I didn't post last week, frankly I didn't want to jinx anything. But its safe to say that the Biscuits magic number is nine to start the week. Any combination of nine Montgomery wins or Jackson losses sends the Biscuits to the second half title, also the Smokies are at nine to be eliminated and give Montgomery a fourth straight postseason berth.



DO IT AT HOME

SHOULD the Biscuits make the postseason, I am under the impression that they would host at least one and up to six games. The game will be held on Friday, then possibly Saturday and Sunday in the first round and again the same in the second round.

As I understand it, the first round would begin in Jackson for the first two games, then move to the second half winners home park for game three, then four and five as needed. The South Division will host the first two games of the Championship Round, with the North Division team getting game three, and games four and five if needed.

That means if the Biscuits make the playoffs as second half winners, they would have a chance to win the League title on their home field and in front of their home fans.


GROW EM UP TOUGH
Earlier this year the team hosted a baseball camp for kids, with players as instructors. I asked one of the players how it went and got an answer I wasn't expecting. "It was crazy, two of the kids got into a fight and at least one came away with a black eye!"

BISCUITS WIN, NICK SOLAK INJURED
Biscuits likely-MVP-to-be Nick Solak left Sundays game after being hit by pitch. He wore an inside fastball on the back of the hand and Biscuit fans had flashbacks to Johnny Field 2015. A broken hamate bone ended Fields' season early and left Montgomery shorthanded in the postseason, resulting in a quick elimination.
After the game Solak told me he felt good about it, that he didn't think it was broken. X-rays Monday will tell the tale. Losing the studly 2B/OF now would be a tough break for the Skitz.


KARALUS INJURY UNUSUAL FOR TRIVIAL REASON
When pitcher Reese Karalus hit the DL last week, the transaction info listed his injury as "oblique" as well as its retroactive date.
 As a regular lurker of the league transactions page, I was surprised to see such a wordy entry.

Usually we see name-date-DL only. This was a luxury tome compared to most roster moves listed, in fact its the only injury related transaction that actually tells us what the injury is - in the entire league in the month of August. But why? Perhaps we shall never know.



LOVE FOR THE NEW GUYS
Fox and Sanchez share a pre-game hug
New guys Lucius Fox and Jesus Sanchez have been a little slow to start hitting but look fine afield.

Fox shows great speed and covers plenty of ground, as well as bringing a cheerful smile to the shortstop position. Absolutely a threat to run when he gets to first base. Fun to watch.

Sanchez has that sound you hear when a power hitter makes contact but we haven't yet seem him really get into a fat pitch yet. In the field, "Soos" gets a good jump on contact and looks to have a strong arm though no runner has challenged it yet. Sanchez has good outfield communication with his centerfielder and just has to figure out Southern League pitchers. It'll happen.

The pair of them make for a nice combination to watch with Fox batting leadoff and Sanchez hitting sixth.





HURLING NUMBERS
 ESPY
Espy
Relief pitcher Yoel Espinal has been throwing a lot more strikes, up to 64.7% of his pitches, compared to just 53.9% last season.

Espy is also throwing fewer pitches to batters, averaging just under 4 per hitter, though pitching coach R.C. Lichtenstein would probably like to see him be still just a little more efficient.

Espinal can easily hit 100+mph but dials it down a notch in order to control his pitches and now sits in the mid-90s.


SAM MAC
Starting pitcher Sam McWilliams has made 14 starts for the Biscuits, half of them have been good and half of them bad.

Sam McWilliams playing in the rain
Its been a challenging season for McWilliams, who started strong but has had a hard time missing bats since spinning eight strong innings of three-hit ball back on July 2nd. Since then hes 1-3 in eight games and allowed 50 hits in 42.1 innings, including eight homers. On the good side, his BABIP is way over his career average, meaning he's given up some lucky hits and should be in line for a return to his regular self soon.



Bonecrusher Broadway
 BONECRUSHER
Mike Broadway - dude, really? Have you looked at this guys numbers? His line with Montgomery shows him with 18 games, 25 innings pitched, 31 strikeouts, just 15 base hits against only eight walks.

And brings the quiet cool of a veteran, one who has pitched big league ball for the Giants and in Japan with the BayStars.

Broadway has one MLB plate appearance with the Giants, and one sacrifice. Baseball Reference tells us his nickname is "Bonecrusher". Mike Broadway also has his own Wikipedia entry.



#BULLPENLIFE
the soft side of Bonecrusher


MONTGOMERY AT RICKWOOD?
I asked Brendan Porter, one of the Skitz head guys, if we were going to see Montgomery in the Rickwood Classic next year, he told me he would check it out and let me know. I have lobbied anyone I could for the Biscuits to take part in the throwback game at Birmingham's Rickwood Field.

Parking lot at Rickwood opening game, 1910
Porter wasn't really up on the schedule for next year and not prepared to say yes or no, but was curious when told that the date the Classic usually held is already scheduled for a Bham-Montgomery game. Our team or it MLB affiliate could refuse the offer, if indeed the Barons want to host it during the Montgomery series. But Porter reassured us "They are usually easy to get along with" and left us with a smile and the hope that next year is the long-awaited Rickwood Classic with the original teams.

This will be one of those things that I have full on emo reaction for - if they do it I will want to hug the front office guys. If they don't I will wail about the lost opportunity, as Montgomery likely heads back to the other division in 2020 and lose games against Bham as a result.


THE MANY TRAVELS OF RICHIE SHAFFER
Remember Richie, studly third base prospect? Whats he been up to?
Well.... Richie is currently with Colorado Springs, but he has taken a circuitous route to get there.

May 24, 2015 Promoted to Durham from Montgomery
August 3, 2015 Promoted to Tampa from Durham
August 17, 2015 Sent back to Durham
Sept 1, 2015 Promoted to Tampa from Durham
March 30, 2016 Sent to Durham
August 3, 2016 Promoted to Tampa
August 11, 2016 Sent to Durham
August 20, 2016 Promoted to Tampa
August 25, 2016 Sent to Durham
Sept 6, 2016 Promoted to Tampa
Nov 2016 Traded to Seattle Mariners
Dec 7, 2016 DFA by Mariners
Dec 14, 2016 Claimed by Philadelphia Phillies
Dec 20, 2016 DFA by Phillies
Dec 23, 2016 Claimed by Cincinnati Reds
Jan 26, 2017 Claimed by Cleveland Indians
Jan 30, 2017 DFA by Indians
Feb 2, 2017 Clear Waivers, sent to Indians triple-A Columbus Clippers
spent 2017 season with Columbus Clippers!!!
Jan 2018 invited to MLB Spring Training with Cleveland Indians
June 6, 2018 Released by Columbus Clippers
July 16, 2018 Signed with Milwaukee Brewers, sent to Biloxi Shuckers
August 14, 2018 Promoted to triple-A Colorado Springs Sky Sox

Probably leads the league in frequent flyer miles since the start of 2015!




KEEP TALKIN BACK
A comment got my attention, as they always do. But this one sparked a curious search result and in a future post we will revisit what people think happened when Montgomery was rained out at the Rickwood Classic in 2005.

Until then, please keep the comments coming!



PIZZA PARTY!
After the Biscuits fell to the Barons 18-2 on Sunday last, the team hosted a pizza party!

Yeah, nothing says pizza party like losing by 16 runs, right? Still, a few die hard ventured to Saza for the postgame feast. It was an interesting gathering of sweaty fans, polo-topped staffers and freshly showered ballplayers. The restaurant staff outnumbered the patrons before the pizza party folks arrived and the place picked up a little steam.

A server arrived and I told her I was here for the Biscuits pizza party. She said "Oh we have free pizza for you" and left. When she returned she let me know the free pizza was only for players and staff. I asked why no specials for fans that turned out for the pizza party promotion?

just a couple dickheads enjoying Saza pizza!
Soon I was chatting with the manager, Jimmy, a witty charmer and after exchanging cheerful insults offered to give me half off a pizza if I told everyone in my blog I was a dickhead about it. Or that he was a dickhead about it, I am not sure which it was supposed to be. Either way, half off a pizza is worth being called a dickhead!

To be nice, he gave us half off our whole ticket which came to thirty bucks. To be nice back, I tipped them twenty.

He was a great guy, excellent management skills and fun to banter with. Drop in and tell him the dickhead with the blog sent you and see if you can get half off too!

The party was an odd mix of people who see each other every day and never talk to each other, so they didn't talk to each other. Staffers mingled with staffers, players with players and fans with fans. So I don't have any great stories or funny jokes from it, only a good word for the staff and food at Saza who were nice to the fans after a 16 run beatdown.



THIS WEEK IN MONTGOMERY BASEBALL

AUGUST 20 1968 
Montgomery uses five pitchers to beat Birmingham and maintain the league lead. Lefty Jim Foor, just 19, gets his third win in four days as a reliver. The Rebels have won seven straight games and 13 straight against Bham. - also on this date Satchel Paige is announced as a pitcher for the Braves.

Sam Streeter with Chicago
AUGUST 21 1920 
Montgomery, AL
"Birmingham Wins Final From Locals - Grey Sox Infield "Blows" in Fifth Inning, Giving Game to Visitors
 - Taking advantage of error made by the Grey Sox infielders, Birmingham All Stars defeated the local aggregation Saturday afternoon by the score of three to one. The Grey Sox infield "blew up" in the fifth inning and the visitors scored three runs, a lead which the locals were unable to overcome. Solman and Streeter pitched good ball, but the "breaks" of the game were against the local twirler.

The Grey Sox batters hit the ball hard, but the visiting players made almost impossible stops and plays on several drives and this play killed all chances of the locals. In the fifth inning, McCormick made two errors, each being responsible for runs and Williams permitted another to score when he allowed a third strike to get away from him. After this inning the locals settled down and played good ball. The visiting twirler kept his hits well scattered and at no time during the game did he allow them to be bunched.

The two teams will play again this afternoon, the game starting at 3:30 o'clock. Manager Cunningham will probably send Myers to the mound, while Zeige will hurl for Birmingham."


AUGUST 22 1905 
In spite of scoring three runs in the bottom of the 16th inning, kicking/arguing delayed the game at Montgomery and the Umpire Shuster called it on account of darkness, reverting the score to the previous innings 2-2 tie.

AUGUST 22 1920 
Montgomery, AL
"Grey Sox Defeated Birmingham Stars - Negro Teams Play Jam-up Game of Ball Sunday; Locals Won, 6 to 1

Montgomery's Hub McGavock
- By heavy hitting and jam up fielding and taking advantage of the bad breaks made by the Birmingham All-Stars, the Grey Sox won the last game of the series yesterday afternoon at Southside park, 6 to 1, thereby getting the big end of the series, winning two out of the three games played.

The locals soon solved the heretofore puzzling curves of Ziegler and he was driven to the bench in the fourth inning after the locals had made five scores. Juanello who relieved Ziegler held the locals down to one score and pitched a steady game for the visitors.

The locals scored their first two runs in the first frame when McCormick walked, was advanced to second on H. Cunningham's sacrifice and scored on Scales' single. They scored one more in the third when Mason hit for two bases, stole third and scored on a foot of H. Cunningham's scratch to short. They scored two more in the fourth when Preston hit safe and scored on McGavock's hit. McGavock stole third and scored on an error. The locals last score came in the eighth when McCormick hit safe, stole second, stole third and scored on a balk by Juanello. The visitors only score came in the eighth inning on errors but they threatened to score in the sixth but with two men on bases and one out Wesley made a double play unassisted and retired the side.

The locals played a jam-up game, there being only one error marked up against them, Mason pitched a jam up game and deserved a shut out victory but Carpenter apparently wanted to let the visitors make one score and in the eighth he let a ball pass and then walked to recover it and the runner went to third on what should have been an easy out. The Grey Sox will leave this morning for Atlanta, where they will try to even up the defeat handed them by the Black Crackers here a few days ago. Then they will return here Saturday and Sunday for a three game series with Knoxville with a double header billed for next Saturday."

AUGUST 23 1908 

Montgomery manager pro-tem Ed Gremminger, establishes a record in the Southern League with 28 out of 29 possible putouts in a 13 inning game. Both teams pitchers throw one hitters as Mgm wins.

AUGUST 24 1908 
Montgomery Pitcher Frosty Thomas shuts out Memphis on two hits.

AUGUST 25 1906 
Montgomery and Memphis play 13 innings but end in a 1-1 tie

AUGUST 25 1920 
Columbus, GA and Anniston, AL
"Montgomery Grey Sox Play Two Exhibitions - After losing two out of three games this week to Atlanta, Manager Staples of the Grey Sox, split the team yesterday, and sent one team to Anniston and one to Columbus, Georgia. Both teams won shut out victories, the game in Anniston being won by the locals 7 to 0, and the Columbus game 2 to 0. Miles and Williams were the batteries in the Anniston game, and Mason and Preston in the Columbus game."


AUGUST 26 1908 
Jack Lively

Montgomery beats Memphis 1-0 in 15 innings, Jack Lively of Montgomery and Shields of Memphis yield only 5 hits each and both toss complete games.