Wednesday, September 4, 2019

And so we meet again, Playoff Preview, History & Photo Extras



Once more the Biscuits find themselves face to face with a familiar foe, the Jackson Generals. Having a long history between them, including past postseason contests, the two teams also enjoyed a lively rivalry during the course of the regular season this summer. At least once the benches cleared, words exchanged. Now the opportunity arrives to see how it shakes out when it really counts.



WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Predictions are never easy, especially when working with watered down numbers - sort of like charting your position by the stars while in a fogbank. Yet we know a few important facts about both clubs that should give clues to what we could see.

 The Generals lead the league in home runs, they hit the ball hard and often over the wall. The Generals are capable of putting up multiple runs in multiple innings. Biscuit pitchers will look to keep the ball in the yard and limit the longball to solo shots as much as possible.

The Biscuits finished the year with 210 stolen bases, an amazing total. Look for Montgomery to continue its running ways, especially with the addition of speedster Johnny Davis.

Look for the Biscuit hitters to have good at bats and put the ball into play, Montgomery had the fewest strikeouts in the league this year. While they can be overpowered by a dominant pitcher, the Biscuits usually bring a good approach to the plate.

Biscuit hitters look for the extra base, leading the league in OPS in spite of being fourth in the circuit in home runs. Doubles and triples are a product of the team speed and have been an important key to Montgomery's success this season.

The two teams pitching totals match up closely, the Generals a little more prone to give up a walk and the Biscuits a little more liable to offer a gopher ball. Look for a tight series with little room for error by either teams pitchers.

Fly Ball? No problem. We got a man for that.





JASON GARCIA

I finally worked up the courage to ask Biscuits pitcher Jason Garcia about his encounter with Jose Bautista. You may recall the story, working in his rookie season he threw a pitch that went behind Joey Bats. On the next offering Bautista hit a homer and provided a bat flip to boot. We have all wondered if Garcia threw at Jose, and if he was told to do so.

I asked if it was something that people inquire about often, the Bautista at bat. "All the time" Jason said, flashing a smile and getting a laugh out of my careful attempt to find out if it was a sore subject. "And do you talk about it?" I inquired tactfully.

He laughed again, paused and told the story. No, he didn't throw AT Bautista, but he was instructed to "back him way off the plate". As Garcia tells it "I threw pretty hard back then, the funny thing is that I had been told to throw behind guys at other times, but not this time. It was just to back him off, really move him back in the box, and it got away, slipped."

Garcia's honest candor about the event makes it apparent that if he had been throwing at Bautista, he would have no problem saying so. And its a very cool story, even if Bautista got the bat flip at the end.


The sun sets on the 2019 regular season...

BISCUITS SOMBER SECOND HALF CLINCH
The Biscuits handled the Pensacola Wahoos in spite of heavy hearts and a strange schedule. Rain outs, moved games, unexpected tragedy, none of those things could slow the Biscuits from their date with baseball destiny. Topping the Montgomery record with 88 regular season wins, these guys have behaved like professionals since the first day of the season.

Yet when the team took the second half title, the win was more emotional than simple jubilation. There was no dogpile on the field, no shouting and jumping, no champagne celebration.None of the usual things, the circumstances were different, much deeper.

 Someone tossed a Biscuits cap on the mound, marked with BIV #32.


The Biscuits then gathered, stood together arm in arm in a circle around the pitchers mound. Players and coaches bowed their heads together and reflected on what they have been through.

A full minute passed in silence at the ballpark as everyone in the place turned their thoughts to those were weren't there. Only the whirring of the dugout fans broke the heavy air under the bright lights.

Then another silent minute passed, motionless.

Finally, the circle broke, players hugged each other and cried. Fans cheered respectfully and cried a little themselves as the team exited the field quietly and took to the clubhouse as a unit.

The emotions were high, for all who were there. I found several of the images of the postgame too strong to use, as a photographer I am simply not willing to expose someones personal experience in such a situation. Suffice to say, it got everyone in the park right in the feels.



PHOTO EXTRAS
A few random images from the recent series.
Vidal Brujan on the move
Josh Lowe making hard contact - and nearly killing the photographer!
Jim Haley hits a drive vs Wahoos


#BULLPENLIFE





THIS WEEK IN MONTGOMERY BASEBALL HISTORY

SEPTEMBER 3 1945
Royce Lint throws a no hitter for the Maxwell Bombers at home in Cramton Bowl vs. Craig Field. It is Lint's second no hitter of the season. The Maxwell Flyers were one of the greatest teams in Montgomery's history, due in part to their fine pitching staff that included four major leaguers.


SEPTEMBER 4, 1948 
Southeastern League, Frank Childs of the Montgomery Rebels pitched a 7-0 playoff no-hitter against the Anniston Rams. 

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

SEPTEMBER 8 1908 
Montgomery gets ten hits and scores 11 to beat Little Rock

SEPTEMBER 9 1905 
1908 Montgomery Climbers
Montgomery Pitcher Lee throws a 2-hit shutout vs Little Rock

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

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


Thursday, August 29, 2019

Southern Leaguers on Final Lap, Best Biscuits Ever?


Matt Krook and Brett Sullivan
The Biscuits return to Riverwalk for a five game tune-up before beginning their playoff push.

The postseason bound Biscuits have 85 wins and need just one more W to equal the '52 and '77 Rebels for Most Victories in a Single Season. A couple more wins will seal the second half title and the claim of Best Season Ever.


The opponent for this tune up is the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, standing in third place in the South Division, inexplicably its their first trip of the year to Montgomery. After having games dropped from the sked due to weather and tragedy, skipper Ensberg will have to get the Biscuits club ramped up quickly.



IN THE OTHER DUGOUT
The Twins two top prospects, Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff, lead the third place Wahoos offense. Other top Twins prospects populate the Pensacola roster - outfielder Trevor Larnach, pitcher Jhoan Duran, catcher Ryan Jeffers, pitcher Stephen Gonsalves, pitcher Griffin Jax, second baseman Travis Blankenhorn.

Second baseman Blankenhorn provides a lot of pop, currently third in the circuit in round trippers.
Stephen Gonsalves has been here before, having been in the Southern League in parts of the three previous seasons with Chattanooga.



STATS DROUGHT
Rosenberg and McClanahan
Numbers-wise, its tough to suss out the Wahoos, due to the second half individual player stats not being available to the public. MLB and MiLB have done a bang-up job pulling stats providers off the internet.

As recently as last season it was easy to find full stats and metrics for double-A players like FIP, BaBIP and swinging-strike data. Not anymore, as evidenced by the excitement when I found a single piece of scrap paper with a Biscuit pitchers spin rate info.

So if you noticed less use of statistical breakdowns on the blog this summer, there is your reason! As such, I have suspended the What To Look For for this series. Who knows what can happen in the last series of the year?



BLAKE BIVENS
This is all I will say: What a horrible tragedy for such a beautiful young family, perhaps the saddest moment in all of Montgomery's long baseball history. It is too painful to discuss any further. Please consider donating to the Emily Bivens fund - https://www.gofundme.com/f/emily-bivens-family-fund


TSHIRTS WIN FANS
The Biscuits front office works hard to bring fans to the ballpark. One thing that has been received well is the T Shirt giveaways. Fans line up early to acquire one of the Thursday wearable keepsakes.

Now if only we can put those to good use -

After so many have been given away, it would be impressive to see people decked out when offered an incentive to wear them. Find a way to reward fans for repping the team. How about a good discount for wearing one of them on a certain night.... Free kids hotdog, maybe? Thirsty Thursday beer price on Tuesdays when you wear a Thirsty Thursday shirt?




ATTENDANCE WOES RETURN
This year the Biscuits have five games to bring in 30K people if they want to equal last years attendance total. Normally between 225-235K annually, this year the announced attendance is at 208K.

Dropping off quickly the past five seasons, Montgomery was usually good for 250 thousand visitors each summer through 2013 but has seen a sharp dropoff since new parks have been built in Birmingham, Pensacola and Biloxi. An uptick last year provided hope the new owners would turn the ship around, but that trend has not continued this season.

So while this has been the best year for Montgomery in terms of victories on the field, it has been one of the worst at the turnstile.



#BULLPENLIFE




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

AUGUST 29 1906  
Pitcher Malarkey of Montgomery shuts out Little Rock on three hits

AUGUST 30 1920 
Monday the 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 got Steel-Arm for four clean hits, which only merited them two runs."

SEPTEMBER 1 1867 
Pelham club in Montgomery plays match, married vs unmarried, batchelors winning 25-4 and a silver whistle given to the player of the game.

SEPTEMBER 1, 1906 
Southern Association At Shreveport, LA; Shreveport Pirates 4, Montgomery Senators 0.  Thomas C. Fisher of the Pirates pitched a perfect game. He strikes out 14 Mgm hitters.

SEPTEMBER 1 1909 
In a seven inning game, Montgomery is no-hit by Mobile pitcher Allen, who wins 1-0

SEPTEMBER 2 1904 
The unpaid players of Montgomery go on strike, refusing to play. The matter is settled by the sale of the team to E.E.Winters. Winters is manager of Pickett Spring Casino and manager of Montgomery's Traction Co. trolley car company.
Its the beginning of a grand era in Montgomery, as Winters and later E.B. Joseph both turn the Traction Company and baseball team into successful enterprises.

SEPTEMBER 1 1920 
Steel Arm Dickey
Knoxville, TN
"'Steel Arm' Dickey Wins Another Game - Knoxville, Tennessee, September 1 -
"Steel Arm" Dickey, the phenominal pitcher of the Knoxville Giants of the Negro Southern League, added another shut out victory to his long string of victories here this afternoon when the Giants won from the Montgomery Grey Sox 3 to 0. Mason, who opposed Dickey this afternoon pitched a steady game for the Grey Sox but his team mates were never able to connect with the dazzling offerings of Dickey. Preston did the receiving for the Grey Sox and Smith for the Giants."

SEPTEMBER 2 1895 
"The season of the Southern Baseball League closed on September 2. None of the clubs made any money, but they had lots of fun." report from The Sporting News

SEPTEMBER 2 1910 
Enthusiastic Fan Killed by Foul Tip is mentioned in The Montgomery Advertiser




Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Wednesday Morning Specials, Biscuits New Guy Joe, Scrap News, History



With the Biscuits in the midst of a five game set against the Biloxi Shuckers, the first place team in the south division, its a playoff preview. The Montgomery roster has seen some shuffles but the new faces are welcome additions to the Ensberg squad. Mo knows how to get guys playing time.




no team photo, but most of the guys at autograph day.

There is a rumor that Jackson may beg off of hosting a playoff game, preferring to let Montgomery host the first round in its entirety. If the season ended today, the Generals would only get to host one game in the division series. Maybe their luck is better on the road? They are 15-9 at home in the second half, so that probly aint it.

The Barons are two and a half games behind the Generals, maybe they sneak into the playoffs and save the Jackson staff the decision.
Fox and Josh Lowe before a game vs Biloxi

Earlier in the year I noticed Lucius Fox jumping before each pitch when playing shortstop. Upon his return from Durham, he no longer did the hop. When I asked him about it he said there wasn't a reason other than "... its August and I'm tired!"

However Lucius said he may bring the hop back any day, so be sure to keep an eye out for it!

NEW GUY JOE
New Guy Joe Ryan is fun to watch.
Ryan works fast, with fifteen seconds on the pitch clock, Joe is ready to throw the ball when there are still double digits. He works that fast. Chris Mason fast.

And his routine sparks memories of The Bird. If not THE Bird at least A bird. Before each frame the California kid receives the ball and goes thru an odd stretching routine.

Joe Ryan stands over the pitching rubber and bends at the waist, placing his glove with the ball on the mound between his feet. He tugs at his pants legs and then starts waving his arms straight out at his sides and then whipping them across his chest.

He's on the mound bent over at the waist flapping like a bird looking straight down at the ground.

And it works, his first home start brought in a pile of nine strikeouts and just two walks. He came up a little short of earning the victory, running out of pitches to count with two outs in the fourth inning.

And we love it! Keep flappin those arms, Joe!



 Next blog I will cover the other new guy, Sugar Shane McClanahan. These two are worth the price of admission when on the bump!
Shane and Joe checking out the pregame bullpen activities



Mo can't stand a bad baby shark
During a between inning break, I noticed Manager Morgan Ensberg doing the "Baby Shark" when it was played. "I have to help I.J. out with it sometimes" he told me when I asked him about it.

If you haven't been getting the $2 tacos on Tuesdays, you have been missing one of the best deals at the ballpark!




Kay and Leonard
Former Biscuit Patrick Leonard is with the Shuckers, though currently on the injured list. I noticed Grant Kay having a chat with Patrick during a lull in play. While they weren't Biscuit teammates, Kay and Leonard spent much time together in the Rays system.


Pitcher Blake Bivens, who has some of the best intro music on the staff, optioned to Princeton, has returned. I inquired about the roster spot that he gets and was told Jason Garcia would be temporarily inactive to clear a spot for the reliever Bivens. Basically a paper move, with the day off after this series Garcia will be good to go for his next start. No injury involved. No need to panic.
 



#BULLPENLIFE



THIS WEEK IN MONTGOMERY BASEBALL HISTORY


AUGUST 22 1905 
Lefty Houtz
In spite of scoring three runs in the bottom of the 16th inning, kicking delayed the game and the Umpire Shuster called it on account of darkness, reverting the score to the previous innings 2-2 tie. No mention from Sporting News of who Montgomery was playing....

AUGUST 22 1907 
Montgomery Outfielder Lefty Houtz goes 4-4 off pitcher Hart of Little Rock

AUGUST 23 1906 
Montgomery Starting pitcher Walsh shuts out New Orleans on three hits

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 Montgomery 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

1920 Grey Sox
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."