Friday, January 13, 2017

An Interview with Montgomerys All Time Strikeout Leader

So here is a trivia question you can probably stump most fans with with... Who is the all-time single season leader in strikeouts by a Montgomery pitcher?

A Biscuit?
Jaime Schultz, Biscuits single season K leader
Twenty Biscuits have tallied over a hundred K's from the mound in a Montgomery uniform, only three have reached 150.

Alex Torres had exactly that many in 2010. The Biscuit franchise leader was Andy Sonnanstine with 153 in 2006 until Jamie Schultz punched out 168 in 2015.

Yet none of the three match the top "All Time" single season leader for Montgomery.

Only nine players have notched 150 K's in a single season for Montgomery, putting the three aforementioned Biscuits are in a very small fraternity, but even they are a few dozen K's behind the top spot.

The answer to the question is "Dick Egan" with 201 strikeouts in 1959.


Egan with Dodgers 1967
As a major league player, Egan was a lefthanded hurler for the Tigers, he would spend parts of four seasons in the bigs for Detroit and later the Angels and Dodgers.

Last year Dick was honored with the Legends in Scouting Award from the Professional Baseball Scouting Foundation. Among the many players he scouted and signed is five time All-Star pitcher Kenny Rogers.

Dick Egan has been in baseball for over 55 years as a player, scout and coach. Simply put, hes a lifer. Currently he is the special assistant to the Detroit Tigers General Managers office.

But before the big lefty made it to Tiger Stadium he pitched in the minors and a tour with Montgomery was his third assignment in just his second pro season.

Egan with Angels in 1966
That 1959 was a fine year for the Rebels and a great one for the 22 year old Egan, who emerged as a leader on the pitching staff. Dick won 14 games, tossed a pair of shutouts, had a stellar 2.70 ERA and struck out 201 batters to lead the Alabama-Florida League.

Egan's 15 complete games constitute one of the most dominating seasons in Montgomery baseball history and helped the team to bring home a league flag.

Dick Egan would earn 200 strikeouts again, pitching in Hawaii in 1962 he again struck out exactly 201 PCL hitters and won 17 games for the Islanders.

I contacted Mr.Egan about his season in Montgomery, specifically I wanted to know if he was aware of being the All Time Single Season Strikeout Leader for Montgomery, Alabama. He was kind enough to respond and share a little info on his time with the Rebels.

You can read the interview below....

Dick Egan with Tigers '63-64
Q: I wondered if you knew that you were the Montgomery All-Time Single season strikeout leader, and how you might view your accomplishments with the Rebels?

Egan: Nope - I knew I'd had a good year. My second full year - we were all clueless!

Q: The 1959 Rebels were one of the great teams in our history at 77w-44L. What can you tell me about the other players on the team that year, or about that winning season?

Egan: Cant remember many. We had catcher Pat Duke from Auburn and LeGrant Scott from the University of Alabama at second base. They argued constantly!

We had an old bus with room for 3-4 guys to sleep in back, just a flat area for a bed but the starting pitcher the next day got a spot!

Frank Carwsell
Q: How was it pitching for manager Frank Carswell?

Egan: Frank was an old "pro" but he could still hit - he took BP at times. In those days pitchers threw BP between starts occasionally!

Q: Do you have any specific memories of the city of Montgomery, the ballpark or games played that you would like to share?

Egan: The ballpark was ok - but left field sloped downwards. We were in the 1B dugout.

Paterson Field in 2015

Steve Dalkowski
Pitcher Steve Dalkowski of Pensacola threw a bullpen in LF corner, unreal velocity, the catcher missed a few. One fastball busted a board in the fence behind him! Hardest thrower of all time!

(Egan remembers details correctly, though he is not the only one to call Dalkowski the hardest thrower as seen in the following article)

Q: Im very curious how you felt about the Alabama-Florida League, the other teams their ballparks, if anything stood out or was unusual?

Egan: I think the league was a good Class D. Selma was who we beat to get to the playoffs, I think. Panama City had a small clubhouse that leaked badly.

Ft.Walton Beach had a family style All-You-Can-Eat restaurant. We would stop to eat and wipe em out of food!

Q: I have a hard time finding descriptions of the Rebels uniforms around that time, can you describe what the team wore? 

Egan: I can remember the heavy wool and in summer I soaked them badly in sweat, couldnt find a dry area to wipe my hands off.
1950s era Rebels team

Q: It looks like you really developed as a pitcher in 1959. What pitches were you using to strike out over two hundred hitters that year?

Egan: I threw lefthanded and had plus velocity and a sweepy curveball. Probably exceeded todays pitch counts often. Never hurt - we threw a lot- no weights no drugs just baseball!

Early in the season I was married and needed more money. The Tigers offered me some small raise if I would hang in and work hard, I got $50 a month bonus I think! haha

Baseball all I know - still love it - still with Detroit!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Predicting the Skitz 2017

Wow, this gets tougher every year. The annual team prediction is a challenge for many reasons, not only are we three months ahead of the roster being set, the Rays usually manage to swing a trade before heading to spring training. Then of course there are injuries, which can never be predicted.

Still, its always fun to peer into the crystal ball and work a bit of prognostication!

Nick Ciuffo
Mac James

1B Grant Kay

2B Riley Unroe

SS Alec Sole
Andrew Velazquez

3B Christian Toribio

Granden Goetzman
Cade Gotta
Brax Lee
Justin Williams
Jace Conrad

Chris Kirsch*
Brent Honeywell
Hunter Wood
Greg Harris
Jonny Chirinos
Grayson Garvin*?

Steve Ascher*
Kyle Bird*
Mark Sappington
Mike Franco
Brad Schrieber
Ian Gibaut
Brian Miller
Nick Sawyer

The Rays have a well stocked system, resulting in a crowded starting rotation in Durham to start next year.

 This could push a couple guys who are ready to advance back into Skitz raiment to start 2017 - players like Chris Kirsch or Brent Honeywell, however if the Rays finally trade a MLB starter it could open the door for one or both.

The catcher situation is always up in the air - much depends on how free agent acquisition Wilson Ramos comes along. Maile and Casali will handle the catching for the Rays, at least in the first half of the year. Mike McKenry was also signed and could split time at Durham and Tampa, leaving the bulk of triple-A catching to Mike Marjama and Arencibia.

At double-A Montgomery, Justin O'Conner had his back worked on, he will miss the start of the season, likely leaving the Biscuits catching first chair duties open to Nick Ciuffo. Mac James should share time wearing the tools of ignorance.  Thats a lot of dominoes to line up, but thats how I see it shaking out!

Third base is a bit of a mystery, Toribio's defense wasn't overwhelming at Charlotte, but there isn't much depth in the Rays system so he could easily get the nod. It was also suggested that the Biscuits third baseman could be Kean Wong, who played there 40 games last year. Perhaps this is a spot that could be filled by a trade.

The field staff was announced, Brady will return to skipper the club with RC Lichtenstein as pitching coach and Dan Dement in the hitting coaches roles. Its a nice return for the staff that has taken the Biscuits to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.

Added to the coaching staff this year is former big-leaguer Gary Redus.


Redus brings a hefty resume of major league accomplishments, playing for five MLB teams over his 13 year career. A native of Tanner, Alabama, Gary was chosen by the Red Sox in 1977 but turned them down, then again in the 15th round of the 1978 draft by the Cincinnati Reds. Redus made his debut in 1982 for the Reds and appeared in over 350 games for them before being dealt to the Phillies in '85.

Two season later the Phils sent Redus to the WhiteSox, who dealt him to the Pirates where he would spend four seasons.

In 1993 he signed with Texas and played for them for two years. The Strike of '94 spelled the end his playing career, Redus hung up his spikes to spend time with his family.

Known as a talented outfielder with speed and pop, Gary Redus tallied over 300 career stolen bases. Eight times he swiped 25 or more and with the WhiteSox in '85 he stole a whopping 52 bags, good for third in the circuit. Known for speed, Redus was also an excellent defender in left field, leading the league in outfield assists in 1986.

Gary was in the postseason three times with the Pirates, batting .279 with three steals and three RBI while playing mostly first base. While with the Pirates, Redus let his former team know what they had let go - he hit for the cycle on August 25th, 1989 against the Reds.

The last time Gary Redus was in the Southern League was 1979, where he appeared with Nashville in 36 games.

In 1978 Gary hit a stellar .462 while with the Billings Mustangs, a professional record that sent his bat to Cooperstown.

Former Biscuits 1B Cameron Seitzer signed a minor league deal with the Chicago White Sox.

Adam Kolarek and Armando Araiza signed with the Braves - have I mentioned that already? There are so many offseason move I have a hard time keeping up with them!

Parker Markel signed to play in Korea.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Holiday Biscuits Hot Stove

Yes, I know, its been almost a month since the last post. So dive right into a hefty helping of holiday Biscuits fresh from the hot stove....

Jared Mortensen
Skitz knuckleballer Jared Mortensen was taken in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft, packing up his flutterball and Kurt Cobain-era heater to pitch for the Astros.

Good news for Morty, who has fewer obstacles in the Houston organization between himself and the big leagues. Also, its closer to home - the Canadian Biscuit has been making his home in Texas for a while now.

Mortensen had been stuck in a holding pattern in Montgomery for three seasons, going 19w-13L and striking out 224 in 70 games at double-A.

Richie Shaffer
Former Biscuit Richie Shaffer was shipped to Seattle in trade, then DFA'd by the Mariners and claimed by the Phillies.

Again, a good thing for Shaffer as it means he has only to wait for the Phils front office to tire of Maikel Franco's slow development in order to get his big league gig.

Shaffer played for the Skitz in 2014 and 2015, appearing in 158 games with 26 homers, 91 RBI and .233 average.

Justin O'Conner
Biscuit catcher Justin O'Conner was also Designated For Assignment after the Rays piled millions of dollars onto catcher Wilson Ramos and needed a roster spot.

Its a good bet that some team will claim O'Conner, who possesses one of the best throwing arms behind the dish.

Its not out of the realm of possibility that O could be moved back to his original position - third base. He also pitched before turning pro and could be a candidate for becoming a pitcher again.

Some have labeled Justin as an injury risk, though I don't agree with that - until jacking his back up this spring he had been in over 100 contests for three straight seasons.

Ryan Brett
Another former Biscuit, Ryan Brett, was released by the Rays and then quickly resigned back with Tampa Bay. Brett is also accused of being injury prone, although with him the label is much more accurate. After being hurt in his third MLB game back in 2015, he has yet to play in a game since.

Brett played for the Biscuits in 2013 and 2014, batting .290 with 31 stolen bases in 132 games.

I like Ryan Brett but honestly I wonder how the team can value a second baseman who has chronic shoulder issues and average range so highly. With such a plethora of infielders in the organization, it seems odd that the Rays would retain the diminutive third round infielder and let a first round catcher like O'Conner get away.

The new Biscuits hat, the "Biscuit Lid" is taking pre-orders, but it requires a down payment in advance? $15 down now reserves you the chance to pay twenty bucks when the hats finally arrive, though its not yet known what the actual price will be. Somewhere in the $35 range.

Come on, Biscuits! Figure out the price and sell the merch. The team has already missed their best chance to sell the hats when there was a buzz about the new design and now are unable to deliver the goods for Christmas, it will be February before they are made available.

The new cap is the winning submission from the recent hat design contest and will be a pretty cool top for fans when they do come in.

I am humbled and honored to have been asked to give a scholarly presentation to a group of baseball researchers on Montgomery's original first baseman, Dr. A.T.Pearsall. Pearsall, the subject of a blog post a while back titled "Ex-Excelsior", brought baseball to Montgomery and indeed he can be said to be the Father of the game in Alabama, if not all of the South.

I have learned more than a little of the good Dr's background, it is a fascinating story of a player banned from the game for saving lives as a Confederate doctor. Also Pearsall founded Montgomery's baseball team and played first base for its first team in 1867.

The presentation will be part of the annual conference of baseball historians, researchers and authors held every spring at Rickwood Field in Birmingham.

After being asked to speak, I went back to fact check my work and learned there was much more to the story of Dr.Pearsall and am looking forward to presenting my newest findings to the Southern Association Conference and the Rickwood SABR chapter.

Thats not the only speaking engagement I have coming up in the new year. I have also been asked to speak for the Alabama Recreation and Parks Association state conference. I will host a one hour educational presentation on the history of baseball in Montgomery, covering topics from the 19th century through current events.

Attendees can accrue college credit for attending, which is a first for me - how cool is that?

New from Clarence Watkins
I was given an early sneak peek at a new book titled "Baseball in Montgomery: Images of Baseball" by its author, Clarence Watkins. I am proud to call Clarence a friend as well as colleague, we got together for lunch earlier this month and he had an advance copy of the book that is due out in February 2017.

Watkins has authored books on the game in other cities and this time he has taken on the Montgomery history with a very visual telling of the past teams. Full of images and info with a tasteful and honest look at the players and games, it provides a nostalgic overview and is chock full of rare photos from years gone by.

Did I mention the great pictures? Seriously, Clarence has unearthed photos that have only been seen in former players mothers scrapbooks. This publication features three of my fave folks on the cover, Goat Walker is featured in the forefront and behind him is a Biscuits team photo that shows coaching legend Ozzie Timmons and Victor "No-Hitter" Mateo.


Monday, November 21, 2016

Hot Stove, Ex Biscuits on the Move

Some former Biscuits were on the move last week as the hot stove heats up. Richie Shaffer and Taylor Motter were packed off to Seattle and clearing room on the 40 man roster for new additions.

In return the Rays acquired 1B Dalton Kelly and RHPs Dylan Thompson and Andrew Kittredge. 

Some of the guys added to the 40 man roster are former Skitz stars, Willie Adames, Chih-Wei Hu, Austin Pruitt, Ryne Stanek, Jamie Schultz, Daniel Robertson and Hunter Wood. Those players are now protected from the Rule 5 draft.

For Biscuits fans, its great news, as neither Motter or Shaffer are likely to be back in Montgomery and the prospects received might. For the Rays, it opens the door for promotions within the organization.

Also in last weeks transactions, former Biscuit Armando Araiza signed with the Braves and popular infielder Juniel Querecuto agreed to a deal with the San Francisco Giants.

The winner of the hat contest will be revealed today, everyone has been on the edge of their seat waiting to see which design will be chosen!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Winter Biscuits

There isn't much news right now, but lets see if we can come up with something to tide us over for a little while.

Several Biscuits filed for free agency last week, among them Jake DePew and Jaye Chapman. Also filing was reliever Andrew Bellatti, as well as catchers Wilmer Dominguez and Armando Araiza.

Juniel Querecuto
Many teams in the Southern League had players declaring themselves free agents, some may return to their current organizations and some may move on.

Triple-A teams can be even more apt to have players declare as such, though only four Durham Bulls took that route. Of those four only Juniel Querecuto has past Montgomery ties.

Willie Argo
Willie Argo was dealt from the St.Paul Saints and his new club, the Sioux Falls Canaries, have picked up his option for 2017.

The American Association league has been the stomping ground for the former Biscuit outfielder, Argo boats a .290 career average before being traded to a new club in the indie loop. He stole 28 bases and hit a dozen homers in 2015 for the Saints, then in 2016 he swatted another eight homers.

Argo had a big moment with St.Paul when he got to meet Bill Murray in the Saints dugout at a game, Murray being part owner of the franchise.

Willie was obviously a little bummed about the trade and having to leave the Saints. A nice farewell tweet thanks fans and the club for support over the last two years.

A 22nd round choice in 2012 by the Rays, Willie Argo appeared in 120 games with Montgomery in 2014, stealing 24 bases as a Biscuit. In a strange turn of events, the Rays released Willie just one day after his appearance with Chef Jeff on Flip My Food. Guess they didn't like the Hot Dog Biscuit!

The Biscuits hat contest voting has been extended, but I have to say I am a little skeptical. It looks like a couple of the designs fans can vote for were seen on the announcement for the contest. Another is listed with a designers copyright attached. I am not sure how many actual "fan" submissions there were, but at least if the choices are all professionally designed we get high style!