The Midsummer Classic is just about upon us. Major League All-Stars will converge on Cleveland for the big game on Tuesday night.
We have a proud history of professional baseball right here in the Fox Valley, and though we’re on one of the lower rungs of the ladder, plenty of all stars had their starts here. Alumni of the Appleton Foxes include four members of the Pro Baseball Hall of Fame. The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers might have their first in a few years in David Ortiz.
The youngsters may not realize it, but a lot of soon-to-be famous people were here for all that boring stuff that takes place between the sumo suits and the Bratzooka.
For today’s Friday List, we’re going to play a doubleheader. The first list will look at players who played for the Foxes or Timber Rattlers en route to baseball history. The second list will explore top soon-to-be superstars who’ve played elsewhere in the Midwest League as opponents of our home team.
They’re lists that serve as reminders to pay attention to the names on those jerseys while getting a bang for your buck — and if nothing more, tuck away those game programs.
As for the home team:
Alex Rodriguez was as hot as a prospect could be when he arrived in Appleton to start his career on the Goodland Field diamond in 1994. He went on to play 22 Major League seasons. Although his career was tainted by a drug scandal, he’s a part of baseball history sitting in fourth place for career home runs behind Babe Ruth. He may make another, future Friday List: former Appleton residents who became engaged to Jennifer Lopez.
David Ortiz wasn’t known as Big Papi when Fox Cities Stadium was his home field. For that matter, he wasn’t known as David Ortiz. He went by David Arias when he arrived in Grand Chute in 1996. He went on to become a 10-time all star and a Boston hero, helping the Red Sox break the curse of the Bambino.
Rich “Goose” Gossage pitched for the Foxes in 1970, 1971 and again in 1975. He’s regarded as one of the greatest relievers in the history of the game and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008.
John “Boog” Powell was a four-time all star, a World Series champion and the 1970 American League MVP. In 1960, he hit .312, drove in 100 runs and led the Foxes to a Midwest League championship.
LaMarr Hoyt won the 1983 American League Cy Young Award. In 1978, he led the Foxes to a Midwest League title with a league-leading 18 wins.
Harold Baines was at long last inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame last year, The World Series champion and six-time all star started his career in Appleton in 1977. He made his Major League debut with the Chicago White Sox three years later.
Who says managers can’t be stars? Earl Weaver was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame without playing a big league game. Weaver managed the Baltimore Orioles for 17 seasons and had a successful broadcast career. He managed the Appleton Foxes in 1960 and 1961.
And on the visitor’s bench:
Greg Maddux is a world champion and the only pitcher in history to win at least 15 games for 17 straight seasons. He won four consecutive Cy Young Awards. In 1985, he compiled a 13-9 record for the Peoria Chiefs. He debuted with the Chicago Cubs the next season.
Rafael Palmeiro, 13th on the all-time Major League Baseball career home run list, joined Maddux on the 1985 Peoria squad.
Albert Pujols is a three-time National League MVP. In 2000, Pujols was a member of the Chiefs. He put up a .324 batting average that year.
Trevor Hoffman holds the National League record for career saves and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame last year. In 1991, Hoffman took the mound as a member of the Cedar Rapids Reds where he put up a 1.87 ERA in 27 games.
Two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana played for two Midwest League teams before making the bigs. In 1998, he pitched in two games for the Quad Cities River Bandits before appearing in 27 games the next year for the Michigan Battle Cats. The 1999 Battle Cats pitching staff also featured future all-star Roy Oswalt.
Hall of Famer Paul Molitor arrived in Milwaukee in 1978 and quickly became a Wisconsin sports legend, but not before a short stint as a Class A minor leaguer in Iowa. In 1977, Molly put up a .346 batting average in 64 games with the Burlington Bees.