Sunday, December 4, 2016

Ernie Fazio's Meteoric Rise to a Major League Baseball Career

In baseball, young players are rushed to the majors all the time for a variety of reasons. This can be especially true for expansion teams, who are attempting to stock their rosters with any semblance of big league talent. Sometimes it ends up working out for the player and other times, like in the case of infielder Ernie Fazio, things just don’t up clicking and leading to a lengthy career.

Fazio was a slight (5’7” and 165 pounds) second baseman who starred for Santa Clara University. He was signed by the fledgling Houston Colt .45s in 1962 as a 20-year-old and made his big league debut by the end of the year, collecting a long single in 12 at-bats.

In 1963, Houston lost 96 games but gave Fazio extended playing time. Unfortunately, he was just not ready for primetime. Appearing in 102 games (228 at-bats), he hit just .184 with two home runs and five RBIs. However, a significant highlight was hitting a home run on August 18th against future Hall-of-Fame Warren Spahn.

Fazio spent the next two years in the minors, hitting a combined .263 with 35 home runs. Although that production put him back on track for a promotion, it would not come with Houston, as following the 1965 season he was the player to be named to complete a trade that had occurred earlier that brought slugger Jim Gentile over from the Kansas City Athletics.

Appearing in 27 games, primarily off the bench, for Kansas City in 1966, Fazio managed just seven hits in 34 at-bats and drove in two runs. He continued playing in the minors through 1969 for several organizations but never realized the potential that had brought him to the majors at such an early age. He wound up appearing in 141 big league games, hitting .182 with two home runs and eight RBIs.

A number of years ago, Fazio answered some questions about his career. Keep reading for more.

Ernie Fazio Interview:

How did you first become interested in baseball?: I started when I was really young. I kept playing, and my dad helped me along the way. Before you knew it, I played for a real good American Legion team in Oakland, California. A coach there; he coached guys like Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson, and Curt Flood; and so I stayed. I worked out every day, and so that’s how I got started.

Did you have a favorite team or player while you were growing up?: Not really. I just loved baseball and followed everyone.

What was your signing experience like with Houston?: I was playing very good baseball, and played against all the top teams. Then I went to Santa Clara University, and we had a great team; I mean the best they ever had at the university. We went to the College World Series and we lost the championship game in 15 innings, which is a world record.

Right after the game, I came home, and Houston was there, and I signed with them. That was it. They had a bunch of other ball players that signed at the same time.

What was it like being part of the inaugural Houston team (1962)?: I met a lot of good guys, but overall they were jealous. I was making big money at the time, and they weren’t making that much money, so they kind of took a little back seat to me.

What is your favorite moment from your baseball career?: It was hitting my first major league home run, off Warren Spahn. Willie Mays hit his first home run off Warren Spahn too. I really respected Willie Mays, so that felt kind of great.

If you could do anything differently about your career, what would you do?: Not really. If I had to do it again, I would probably sign with the San Francisco Giants, because Houston, they had their pick of three ball players from every major league team. When I signed, I was the first rookie, and being a small guy, they said, ‘How did you ever sign with someone?’ So, I think I would have probably signed with the San Francisco Giants, or one of those teams from around here.

I would probably work just as hard as I did to get there. Once I got there, I got swamped by everything else. I would have worked twice as hard, looking back, because I wish I was still in baseball in some capacity. 

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Thursday, December 1, 2016

National Harbor, Maryland Welcomes the 2016 Baseball Winter Meetings

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Approximately 3,000 baseball executives from nearly 200 professional teams, media from around the world, and hundreds of exhibitors and job seekers will converge on National Harbor, Maryland, for the 2016 Baseball Winter Meetings™ at Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center from Dec. 4-8. 

The Professional Baseball Employment Opportunities (PBEO®) Job Fair will begin the morning of Sunday, Dec. 4, with the Business of Baseball Workshop. The workshop will provide insight on how to find the right job in baseball, what it takes to succeed once they find a job and what to expect throughout the baseball season. The event will include speakers from Minor League Baseball® and Major League Baseball® organizations and an address from Minor League Baseball President & CEO Pat O’Conner. 

The 23rd annual PBEO Job Fair will conclude Dec. 7. Currently, more than 250 jobs have been posted for this year’s event. Just over 550 individuals have registered for the job fair, looking for the opportunity to choose from a variety of available positions, meet with representatives from professional teams and interview on-site. 

The Banquet, presented by New Era Cap Co., will take place Sunday night, Dec. 4. Emceed by Houston Astros radio broadcaster and PBEO Job Fair alumnus Robert Ford, the Banquet will feature the presentation of some of Minor League Baseball’s most prestigious awards, including the King of Baseball, John H. Johnson President’s Award, Charles K. Murphy Patriot Award, Larry MacPhail Award, Mike Coolbaugh Award, Sheldon “Chief” Bender Award and the John Henry Moss Community Service Award. 

The Awards Luncheon, sponsored by Musco Sports Lighting, will be held Monday, Dec. 5. Mike Capps, the play-by-play voice of the Round Rock Express, will host the annual event that honors award winners from the previous baseball season. 

A staple of the Baseball Winter Meetings for more than two decades, the Bob Freitas Business Seminar & Workshop Series will take place Monday, Dec. 5, and Tuesday, Dec. 6, delivering insightful speakers and attention-grabbing topics to attendees. The event allows for attendees to hear featured speakers, as well as break into smaller groups to discuss ideas and thoughts on the business of professional baseball. A complete list of speakers and topics can be accessed here. 

Opening Night at the Baseball Trade Show, sponsored by Team Scotti and Populous, will be held Monday, Dec. 5, from 5-8 p.m., in Prince George’s Exhibit Halls B-D of Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center. Featuring more than 250 exhibitors and encompassing over 100,000 square feet of exhibitor space, the Baseball Trade Show is held in conjunction with the Baseball Winter Meetings and spans three days. Exhibiting companies include manufacturers and distributors of apparel, caps, gift items, souvenirs, promotional products, stadium equipment, food and beverage products, player equipment and service companies, including insurance, architecture, concessions, printing, marketing, internet and entertainment, among others. 

Other ancillary events of the week include Moving Diversity Forward on Sunday afternoon, where respected individuals in the field of diversity and inclusion, as well as executives in the baseball industry, will discuss how they have found success establishing diverse practices within their respective organizations and communities. The Women in Baseball Leadership Event, entering its ninth year as a Baseball Winter Meetings event, will be held Tuesday, Dec. 6. This networking opportunity is open to women currently employed by a Minor League Baseball or Major League Baseball club or league, and features interactive discussions and presentations intended to promote professional development and networking among female executives. This year’s event is sponsored by InfoMart. 

The Gala, being held at Nationals Park on Dec. 7, is the final social event of the 2016 Baseball Winter Meetings. The event is sponsored by Rawlings, New Era Cap Co., K&K Insurance, Budweiser, the Washington Nationals, Essensa and Levy Restaurants. 

For the complete Baseball Winter Meetings schedule and additional event information, visit BaseballWinterMeetings.com

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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Connie Mack's All-Early Baseball History Team


Connie Mack is one of the most enduring figures in the history of baseball. The Hall of Famer spent 15 years playing professionally as a catcher and then went on to manage and own the Philadelphia Athletics for 50 seasons. To say that he knew the game would be quite the understatement. That’s why when he gave his opinions it was best to listen—including the time he talked about his all-time team of players who debuted prior to 1900.

In 1944, Mack was getting towards the end of his illustrious career (he stepped down as manager following the 1950 season) but had been on hand to have observed a major portion of baseball history to that point. Therefore, when he was asked by the AP’s Chip Royal to compile a list of the best players who started their career prior to 1900 to ever play the game, it was fascinating to see his answers. Keep reading for his full roster.

Catcher: Mack had two names that came to mind here, as he nominated Buck Ewing and Charlie Bennett.

Ewing hit a combined .303 over 18 major league seasons (1880-1897) and eventually made the Hall of Fame. Considered a true two-way player, his offensive and defensive capabilities made him one of the first superstars in baseball.

Although Bennett hit just .256 during his 15-year career (1878-1893), primarily with the Detroit Wolverines and Boston Beaneaters, he was considered a good-hitting catcher for the time. However, his defense was his real calling card and he is even credited with developing the first chest protector. He was also considered one of the toughest to ever play the position, especially at a time when backstops took a ferocious beating because of the lack of good equipment. He once “declared that only a sissy would use a padded glove with the fingers and thumb cut off.”

First Base: “My first baseman would have to be Fred Tenney of the Boston Nationals who started out as a left-handed catcher,” asserted Mack. “He was more up to date in his time than any man I ever saw.”

In 17 major league seasons (1894-1911), spent mostly with the Beaneaters, he hit just a total of 22 home runs. However this was during the Dead-ball Era and he was a fine batsman, hitting .294 along with revolutionizing how to play first with how he fielded and the way he positioned himself in the field.

Second Base:Nap Lajoie of Cleveland never had an equal at second base,” claimed Mack. There should be no arguments about this selection, as “Larry” hit a robust .338 with 3,243 hits and 1,599 RBIs in 21 major league seasons (1896-1916) with the Philadelphia Phillies and Athletics, and the Cleveland Naps. Yes, he was so good that the team was actually named after him while he was playing for it! The right-handed hitter won five batting titles, including in 1901 when he paced the fledgling American League with a ridiculous .426 mark. Naturally, he was one of the first members of the Hall of Fame.

Shortstop: Herman Long was the pick here. In 16 seasons (1889-1904), primarily spent with the Beaneaters, he hit .277 with 91 home runs, 1,055 RBIs and 537 stolen bases. Although he still holds the major league record for most errors (1,096) in a career, he was a tremendous defensive player and was notorious for his superior range. Despite strong support, the Hall of Fame has continued to elude him, more than a century after he last played a game.

Third Base: Perhaps the most obscure of all his picks, Mack named Billy Nash as his third baseman on this team. He hit .275 with 60 home runs and 979 RBIs over 15 seasons (1884-1898) spent mostly with the Beaneaters.

Utility Infielder: Scrappiness is a trait typically associated with good utility players. Hughie Jennings had that in spades. Known as “Ee-Yah” for his excited yelling on the field, he predominantly played shortstop and first base from 1891-1902 (he played in an additional 12 games while a coach/manager between 1903-1915 but only as a fill-in). He hit .312 with 12 home runs, 529 RBIs and 248 stolen bases. He also still holds the major league record for times hit by a pitch (287) and was the quintessential sparkplug—which led to 14 years as a manager. His combined contributions to baseball garnered him entry to the Hall of Fame.

Outfield: Mack picked a real murderers row for his outfield, going with Hugh Duffy, Ed Delahanty and Sam Thompson.

A tiny man (5’7” and 168 pounds) with a big bat, Duffy formed one half of the Beaneaters’ famed “Heavenly Twins” duo with Tommy McCarthy in the 1890s. A right-handed hitter who played 17 seasons (1888-1906), Duffy combined for a .326 batting average, 106 home runs, 1,302 RBIs and 574 stolen bases. He won two batting titles and two home run crowns, and is the only player in history to have at least one .300 season in four different major leagues (National, American, Players and American Association). He was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1945.

Delahanty terrorized pitchers with his right-handed bat for 16 seasons (1888-1903), primarily with the Philadelphia Phillies. For his career he hit .346 (5th all-time) with 522 doubles, 186 triples, 101 home runs, 1,466 RBIs and 455 stolen bases. Not much of a defender, he made up for it by hitting over .400 three different seasons. His numbers would likely be even more impressive except for his tragic death at age 35 in the midst of the 1903 season. While playing for the Washington Senators, he was ejected from a train near Niagara Falls for being intoxicated. He somehow fell off the bridge and into the falls, thus sadly ending the life of one of baseball’s greatest hitters. He was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1945.

Big Sam Thompson played 1885-1898 with the Detroit Wolverines and the Phillies (he also got into 8 games in 1906 with the Detroit Tigers). With his size (6’2” and over 200 pounds) and thick handlebar mustache, he cut quite the intimidating figure. During his career, he combined to hit .331 with 126 home runs, 161 triples and 1,305 RBIs. He was also known for a cannon arm and would have had even more impressive numbers had he not started his major league career when he was 25. Despite his impressive resume, he had to wait until 1974 to get into the Hall of Fame, via the Veteran’s Committee, more than 50 years after his death.

Pitchers: Mack told Royal that “for pitchers, you can’t beat Cy Young, Cleveland’s immortal ace; John Clarkson of the Chicago White Stockings and Tim Keefe of the (New York) Giants.” These were relatively easy choices, as each had at least 328 victories; each eventually made the Hall of Fame; and each helped define the position into what it is today.

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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Dave Elmore Named King of Baseball

For Immediate Release                                                                 November 17, 2016 

Dave Elmore Named King of Baseball 

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Minor League Baseball announced today that David G. Elmore, owner and founder of Elmore Sports Group, has been named the 2016 King of Baseball. The King of Baseball is a long-standing tradition in which Minor League Baseball recognizes a veteran of professional baseball for longtime dedication and service. Elmore will receive the King of Baseball Award at the Baseball Winter Meetings Banquet on Sunday, Dec. 4, at Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland. 

“This is a truly amazing honor to be named the King of Baseball,” said Elmore. “There is nothing I have enjoyed more than being a part of Minor League Baseball for these past 36 years and realizing the great good our teams do to bring our communities together and provide countless charitable benefits.” 

“Dave Elmore has had a long and illustrious career as a Minor League Baseball owner and operator, and he has served Minor League Baseball in a number of roles over the years,” said Minor League Baseball President & CEO Pat O’Conner. “He has truly earned this honor through all of his hard work and tireless efforts for the betterment of the game and it is my pleasure to present him with this award.” 

Elmore founded the Elmore Sports Group in 1969, which now consists of six Minor League Baseball teams, including the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, San Antonio Missions, Inland Empire 66ers, Lynchburg Hillcats, Idaho Fall Chukars and Eugene Emeralds. The company also owns hockey and soccer teams, along with facility management, travel, hospitality, special events and concession companies. 

Elmore has served on the Joint Professional Baseball Agreement Committee, which consists of four Minor League Baseball team owners and four Major League Baseball team owners. Together, they work to identify and address issues that arise between both leagues while discussing possible amendments to the Professional Baseball Agreement. 

Elmore was inducted to the Pacific Coast League Hall of Fame and the Texas League Hall of Fame for his contributions as an owner. He is also the Pioneer League representative for the Minor League Baseball Board of Trustees. 

Prior to joining the sports and entertainment industry, Elmore was a partner with a law firm in Chicago from 1958 to 1968. In addition, the White House appointed him to the Travel and Tourism Advisory Board in the Department of Commerce in 1983. Elmore was a member of the Young Presidents Organization from 1969 to 1984, and he served as president of the International Fraternity of Phi Gamma Delta, which consists of more than 85,000 members. 

PREVIOUS KING OF BASEBALL AWARD WINNERS 1951 Clarence Rowland 1952 J. Alvin Gardner 1953 Frank Shaughnessy 1954 Shelby Pease 1955 Herman White 1956 Tommy Richardson 1957 Charles Hurth 1958 Not awarded 1959 Bonneau Peters 1960 Joe Engel 1961 Rosy Ryan 1962 Phil Howser 1963 Donnie Bush 1964 Eddie Mulligan 1965 Ray Winder 1966 Eddie Leishmann 1967 Alejo Peralta 1968 Dewey Soriano 1969 Chauncey DeVault 1970 George MacDonald 1971 Phil Piton 1972 Vince McNamara 1973 Ray Johnston 1974 Fred Haney 1975 Joe Buzas 1976 Don Avery 1977 Bill Weiss 1978 Zinn Beck 1979 Harry Simmons 1980 Billy Hitchcock 1981 Jack Schwarz 1982 Sy Berger 1983 Oscar Roettger 1984 Donald Davidson 1985 Stan Wasiak 1986 Lefty Gomez 1987 Bill Schweppe 1988 Max Patkin 1989 George Sisler, Jr. 1990 John Moss 1991 George Pfister 1992 John Lipon 1993 George Kissell 1994 Jimmy Bragan 1995 Gene DaCosse 1996 S. “Chief” Bender 1997 Max Schumacher 1998 Leo Pinckney 1999 Tom Saffell 2000 Pat McKernan 2001 Roland Hemond 2002 George Zuraw 2003 Bob Wilson 2004 Dave Rosenfield 2005 Calvin Falwell 2006 Paul Snyder 2007 Dave Walker 2008 Pat Gillick 2009 Milo Hamilton 2010 Don Mincher 2011 Chito Rodriguez 2012 George McGonagle 2013 Charlie Eshbach 2014 Bill Valentine 2015 William Gladstone

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