Bluff City launched careers of greatness

Posted on September 8, 2009


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Continuing STGS’ series about baseball in Memphis in honor of the Redbirds’ first postseason appearance since 2000 is the 25 greatest players in the city’s 132 seasons of baseball.

1. Albert Pujols (For a brief period in the championship season of 2000, Albert Pujols, who earned the Midwest League MVP that season, started his legend with his bat, using his hitting prowess to win the 2000 PCL championship. Who would have thought that home run would have led to bigger things down the road?)

2. Luis Aparcio ( A part of the 1955 Southern Association championship team, Luis Aparacio would gain fame as a slick-fielding shortstop for the White Sox, Orioles, and Red Sox. He would win 9 Gold Gloves, play in 2,583 games and was half of the great White Sox double play duo with Nellie Fox for the 1959 White Sox team.)

3. Tim Raines (The “Rock”, who starred for the Chicks in the late 70’s, had a Hall-of-Fame caliber career, played 23 seasons in the majors, winning two World Series with the Yankees and an additional one as a coach with the White Sox in 2005. Raines had 2,605 hits and 808 stolen bases in his career, including 70 in each of his first six seasons)

4. Ted Kluzewski (One of the most feared sluggers in the 1950’s, Klu made his mark originally in 1948 as the Southern Association batting champion, the last one to do it in a Memphis uniform. He would play for 10 seasons in Cincinnati, making All-Star appearances in 1953, 54, 55, 56 and winning the home run title in 1954, hitting 49 for the Reds.)

5. Rick Ankiel (Before Anthony Reyes struck 15 against the Nashville Sounds, Ankiel held the record for strikeouts in a game by a Redbirds pitcher. It’s weird that almost a decade later, he returns and becomes a slugging machine for the ‘Birds, slugging 32 homers for them in 2007. He has done quite well in the outfield for the Cardinals since being called up for good in late 2007)

6. Bo Jackson (Say what you want to say about what could have been for Jackson, he was a sight to behold in his brief career in the majors. Little know fact is that he crushed the longest homer in Memphis baseball history in 1986 that landed about 100 yards away from the Central entrance of CBU. Had he not injured his hip, Jackson would have been one of the best sluggers in our generation)

7. Tim McCarver (Strange that he’s down to 7th on this list, but the Memphis native, who played for the Chicks in 1960, but although he had a stadium named after him and played on the great Cardinal teams of the 1960’s and wasn’t that bad of a catcher, he is quite a douchebag at announcing)

8. Pete Gray (To play baseball at the highest level is a blessing, but to do it with one arm, that’s a bigger blessing. Gray played one season in Memphis for the 1944 Chicks and won the Southern Association MVP, stealing 68 bases. He would play one season with the 1945 St. Louis Browns)

9. Jeff Conine (“Mr. Marlin” as he is known by fans in South Florida, Conine was part of the 1990 Southern League championship team and parlayed that into a career that saw two World Series rings with the Marlins.)

10. Waite Hoyt (The first great Yankee pitcher, Hoyt pitched for the Yankees from 1921 to 1930, led the Yankees to 3 World Series titles and 6 American League pennants. He would later gain fame as an announcer for the Cincinnati Reds.)

11. Tim Wallach (A fixture for many years at third base for the Expos, Wallach earned 5 All-Star appearances and 3 Gold Gloves during his career.)

12. Gary Carter (Carter played for the 1974 Blues, parlaying that into a Hall-of-Fame career, winning the 1986 World Series and the hearts of Mets fans in his career)

13. Mike Shannon (Another broadcaster on the 1960 Chicks squad, Shannon is more famous for being Jack Buck’s partner on Cardinal broadcasts than his baseball career, but he had a respectable 9-year career in the big leagues. Who knows what could have been if he had not gotten sick with a kidney disorder)

14. Ken Singleton (Singleton played for the Memphis Blues in 1969 and 1970 and from there went on to have a 14-year career with the Mets, Expos, and Orioles. He also won a World Series in 1983 with the Orioles)

15. Kevin Appier (Appier had a 15-year career with the Royals, Angels, Mets, and A’s, winning a WS in 2002 with the Angels. He tried to make a comeback in 2006, but ultimately retired in the end after pitching in the Seattle organization)

16. Derrick Lee (Played on 1996 Chicks and earned the MVP that season, won a World Series with the Marlins in 2003 and then sold his soul to the Devil and starting at first base for the Cubs.)

17. Adam Wainwright (The pitcher for the final out of the 2006 World Series, he has done quite well this season, going 17-7 so far this season for the Cardinals)

18. Joe Randa (A steady fielder for much of his career in the majors, Randa played for the Royals from 1995-1996 and again from 1999-2004 as well as the Pirates and Tigers)

19. Skip Schumaker (Jared “Skip” Schumaker, who I assisted in coaching kids on hitting in the 2006 Redbirds’ Kids Camp, has been reliable at second base since Adam Kennedy was released by the Cardinals in 2009)

20. Scott Sanderson (Sanderson played 18 seasons in the majors, mostly with the Expos and the Cubs, including the 1984 Cubs team that came close to winning the NL pennant. He had a record of 163-143)

21. Colby Rasmus (Rasmus became the first Cardinal rookie to hit a walkoff home run since Andy Van Slyke did it in 1984 against the San Francisco Giants this year)

22. Adam Kennedy (Kennedy was projected to be the second baseman of the future for the Cardinals, however he would win a World Series with the Angels in 2002. He returned in 2007 to the Cardinals, got released before the start of the season in February and now plays for the Oakland Athletics)

23. George Canale (All Canale had was his last name, which is on the local Budweiser brewery in Downtown and the swimming pool on the campus of CBU. He did try to make a comeback in 1994 with the Chicks, but nothing has been heard from him since.)

24. Placido Polanco (Polanco will always be the answer to the trivia question of who was traded for Scott Rolen. Polanco captured the nation’s attention by jumping around when Maggilo Ordonez hit a series-clinching homer to win the 2006 AL pennant for the Tigers.)

25.  Lou Chiozza (My grandfather used to buy liquor from his store on Poplar and Cleveland years ago. Chiozza was a great utlity player during his playing days, but most of them was with the Phillies, who were just awful in the 30’s.)

So there you have it, 25 of the best players to ever play in the Bluff City. Check back in a decade for changes to this list. Certainly there won’t be any George Canale on this list.