The book: “Hometown Heroes: The Single Franchise Baseball Stars of the 20th Century”
The author: Clay Sigg
The vital statistics: NewType Publishing, 380 pages, $59.95 (Will be released May 17)
Find it: At Amazon.com, at Powells.com, at Vromans.com
The pitch: Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Roy Campanella, Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese were the most obvious who did it with the Dodgers. But then, so did Mike Scioscia, Bill Russell, Junior Gilliam, Carl Furillo and Carl Erskine. Even Otto Miller and Nap Rucker.
In Angels’ franchise history, there was only two: Tim Salmon and Gary DiSarcina.
The Yankees had 27 of them — and all likely have a number retired, a plaque erected and a candy bar named after them.
Of the more than 18,000 who have put on a major-league uniform, just 177 by the author Sigg’s count have spent their entire career with just one team or franchise (a career that runs nine years or more).
Counts may differ depending on the variables – a Wikipedia.com list says there are 167 of them with 10 or more years through 2015. (Which would give the Angels’ one more: reliever Scot Shields, whose entire 10 year career was in the 21st Century).
The reliable Baseball-Reference.com is a tough one to create a filter that produces a list.
In 2010, the Elias Sports Bureau made note of 62 players who had 15 or more years with just one organization (with more than half in the Hall of Fame, and four others who eventually reached that criteria).
Then again, someone with the Society for American Baseball Research did a list of trying to find those who spent the longest time with one team. It didn’t include Bill Russell’s 18 years with the Dodgers, which stands as the franchise record, two more than Pee Wee Reese, who missed a couple years in war duty).
Siggs, a Granite Bay, Calif., member of SABR, took this project on as well the self-published book that came with it.
The concept is pretty fascinating. The ability to have an artist like Bill Purdom create a 52-man “team photo” for the cover is an extraordinary visual, seeing Koufax kneeling next to Mickey Mantle, Drysdale sitting next to Mel Odd.
However, the execution may be a little too exuberant with the production value.
Something the average reader/fan may not want to pay for or create space on their shelf for this oversized collectable will definitely be a consideration.
It may also be difficult to justify a complete two-page spread for each player. It’s not enough to do right for someone like George Brett, Ted Williams, Ernie Banks or Robin Yount. And it might be a little too much for players such as Sibby Sisti, John Wathan, Jim Davenport, Larry Christenson, Terry Harmon, Patsy Gharrity, Tim Flannery or Brad Radke.
But then, that seems to be Siggs’ intent: Glorify those who’ve managed to achieve this designation. In some part, because they were good enough to keep around, not great enough to try free agency, and durable enough to hang in there.
And why not have Dusty Baker do the forward – he played for four teams (including the Dodgers, with Russell and Scioscia as his teammate, and Gilliam as a coach).
Siggs, a Downey native from the 1950s and ‘60s who recalls in the preface the time his dad took him at a 7 year old to see the Dodgers at the Coliseum during their first year of 1958, understood right away the importance and value of a one-team “hometown hero,” since that squad already had six of them.
But, before Scioscia, before Campanella, who was Otto Miller?
A “burly 6’ 196-pound” catcher nicknamed “Mooney” because of his round face, put in 13 seasons with the Brooklyn Superbas, Robins and Dodgers, who played on the 1916 and 1020 NL championship teams.
His career stats are lined up on the bottom of page 32: A .245 career batting average, five homers, 231 RBIs in 927 games and 2,836 at bats. Miller retired at age 33, managed and coached in the Dodgers’ minor-league system, and was a Brooklyn coach from 1926-36 because of “tolerant nature.”
The only quote Siggs could find about Miller was from Bill Wambsganss, describing how during his unassisted triple play in the 1920 World Series, was tagged out standing between first and second to complete the feat.
Siggs also notes that Miller died in 1962 at aged 72 “when he fell from the fourth story window of the Brooklyn Eye & Ear Hospital where he just had cataract surgery.”
Seems that Siggs kind of buried the lead here of Miller’s bio.
More to know:
= The book’s official website: www.hometownbaseballheroes.com
= ESPN.com has an ongoing list of “current MLB lifers” with a 10-or-more year career – there are 14 of them, all since 2000, including the Dodgers’ Andre Ethier and the Angels’ Jared Weaver.