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May 24, 1975 - Image 6

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1975-05-24

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Poge Six,

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Saturday, May 24, 197f

Page Six THE MICHIGAN DAILY Saturday, May 24. 1 97~

0

By MARC FELDMAN
TOLEDO, Ohio-For baseball fans in the nation's
largest cities, the minor leagues are those mysterious,
half-real places that people are "sent down to" or
"called up from."
Some cities, like Denver, Indianapolis and Phoenix,
are familiar from their major league status in other
sports, but other minor league outposts like Thetford
Mines, Asheville, and Lafayette require the aid of a
cartographer to locate.
Minor league baseball, especially at its highest level
(Triple-A) didn't always struggle for fan support and
play second fiddle to the majors across the country.
As recently as 1952, St. Louis was the western and
southernmost point on the major league map. Cur-
rently, ten of the 24 big league teams play home games
south or west of St. Louis, leaving only the most iso-
lated places, beyond the reach of some team's radio
network.
Before Walter O'Malley led the trek westward by

more than a little upset with the decision, and the
sparce gathering at Lucas County Recreation Center
could hear many of the expletives. One Syracuse re-
serve, testifying that his view of Naharodny's hit was
better than the umpire's, cried out, "You're horeshit
and so is your mother!"
In the subdued Syracuse lockerroom, the post-game
meal consisted of a low-priced smorgasbord of luncheon
meats like Dutch loaf and honey loaf. The Chiefs
washed the slop down with machine-purchased Coke.
Manager Cox, who surfaced from minor league ob-
livision, playing a season at third base for the 1968
New York Yankees, has toiled years more than his
share in the imnors. The still-steaming Cox refused to
meet the three-man press contingent.
Mud Hen mentor Jim Bunning sat comfortably in his
office after the game and offered an interesting con-
trast to Cox in disposition and baseball notoriety. Bun-
ning, one of a select few who have pitched no-hitters

The Minors: Hopefuls,
hangers-on & honey/oat

transplanting his Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles in
1957, the Pacific Coast League (UCL) flourished.
In the late forties, talk of incorporating the PCL into
the maqor leagues flourished. While the other Triple-A
loops, like the International League and American Asso-
ciation were saddled with "working agreements," the
PCL enjoyed excellent attendance and semi-independ-
ence.
The major leagues did, however, retain the feudal
privilege of drafting any four-year PCL veteran for
$10,000. The DiMaggio brothers and Ted Williams were
household words on the West Coast before the majors
snatched them away.
Los Angeles and San Francisco had the biggest parks
in the PCL, seating 25,000 apiece, yet the league drew
three million fans in 1946. A Sunday afternoon non-
sellout was a rarity.
Expansion, team movements, and TV not only na-
tionalized the majors but took away the best cities
from the old minor leagues. Old timers may remember

in both the American and National Leagues, answered
questions politely. A toy mud hen and a single white
loose-leaf sheet with the Toledo averages in ink lay on
his desk.
One of the most interesting aspects of minor league
ball is the peppering of unfamiliar with familiar names
on the roster. The legends of old-timers hanging on in
the minors are numerous, but Bunning says those guys
are as important as the youngsters.
"It's important that you have some experienced
players to go with the younger ones. You can never
have good young players at every position. Bring a
young team into Triple-A and you are going to have
problems," Bunning says.
Indeed the Toledo roster is sprinkled with one time
major leaguers. Some are phenoms who achieved early
though short-lived stardom and lost the spark some-
where along the way. Others are the minor league
"lifters" who drank the proverbial "cup of coffee"-in
the majors.

"One of a select few who have tossed no-
hitters in both the American and the National
Leagues, Mud Hen mentor *Jim Bunning offers
a clue to the strange chemistry of a farm team
roster: 'It's important that you have some ex-
perienced players to go with the younger ones.
You can never have good young players at every
position. Bring a young team into Triple-A and
you are going to have problems.'"

"Veteran Andy Kosco, unlike nis aspiring young
teammates, isn't about to compare Toledo favorably
with any town: 'You couldn't name one good thing
about the minors over the majors.' "
A personable fellow with a quick smile, Naharodny
enjoys pro baseball. "I just like the game a lot," Na-
harodny says. "A lot of times we have to ride the bus
all night and play the next day, but I really don't mind.
In Double-A, you're lucky if you get a hot shower.
Down there, the whole clubhouse is about as big as
one Triple-A shower."
At 33 years of age and with 8'%2 years of major league
experience, Andy Kosco doesn't compare Toledo with
Reading, Pennsylvania. He was about the best player
on some terrible New York Yankee teams of the late
60's, and Yankee Stadium is a long way from Lucas
County Recreation Center.
Kosco would like to go to law school after his playing
days are over. He holds an education degee from
Youngstown State (Ohio), where he is currently Assist-
ant Director of Admissions. Kosco was out of action
last year after a disc operation and needs time to get
back into shape after the layoff.
"You couldn't name one good thing about the minors
over the majors. You could start nit-picking about the
meal money, the parks, the travelling conditions, but
I look at it as a rejuvenation," Kosco says.
"I feel I can still play. If I can't play anymore, I'll
quit. I'm not just trying to hang on," Kosco empha-
sizes.
"I've been on seven major league teams (and he
pauses) God knows how many minor league teams, but
that doesn't bother me. At least that way you get to
know everybody. Anybody who has a bad year can
be traded. Look at the Bonds-Murcer trade, and the
Yankees just throwing a guy like Mel Stottlemyre
away. How could they just let a class guy like that go.
To them, you're just a contract, a piece of paper,"
Kosco says.
What lies ahead for the minor leagues? The setup
in Toledo may presage developments elsewhere. Inside
the program's front cover there is a box which reads:
"The Toledo Mud Hens Baseball Club, Inc. is a non-
profit organization that rents the baseball facilities
at Lucas County Recreation Center for $10,000 per
annum. The officers of the Corporation receive no
remuneration for their services. All revenues in excess
of cost of operation of the Club become property of
Lucas County."
With a cozy rental agreement and the parent Phila-
delphia Phillies picking up most expenses, every bit
of revenue is important. The Mud Hen "Diamond
Club" raised $75,000 in the local business community
last year, and in light of the Mud Hens' 100,000 season
attendance, that $75,000 was the difference between a
slight profit and, perhaps, a move elsewhere.
"Cities like Toledo find it hard to make it without the
majors footing the bill," Kosco says. "Travelling is
much better now than when I first broke in, but with
the expenses involved, I see less far-flung leagues.
Perhaps a league in Ohio and one in Pennsylvania,
for example, will take their place.
"Now fewer and fewer kids are signing right out of
high school. The role of the colleges in producing play-
ers has increased and will continue to increase," Kosco
says.
The minor leagues still play a great role in develop-
ing talent for the major leagues. With four more
teams possibly joining the majors next year, the
supply of players and cities will be even slimmer. The
minors of 1975, like the San Francisco Seals of 1946,
may soon be a forgotten relic.
Marc Feldman is the former Daily S p or ts
Editor.

the San Francisco Seals, Montreal Royals, Minneapolis
Millers and Atlanta Crackers, but those days are gone.
The ancient AAA, AA, and A designations remain but
the old B, C, D leagues like the Central Kansas and
Sally have been replaced, at least hierarchically, by
the rookie leagues.
Having never seen one of these seemingly half-real
games, I took a ride down US-23 to Toledo to see a
Trip-A International League game between the Toledo
Mud Hens and Syracuse Chiefs last Wednesday eve-
ning.
546 others had the same idea, and the throng was
treated to an exciting 10-9 Toledo victory Down 6-0
after four mings, the Mud Hens rallied for a 9-9 tie,
and catcher Bill Naharodny broke up the struggle in
the bottom of the ninth when his apparently foul drive
over the left-field fence was ruled a home run.
The Syracuse players and Manager Bobby Cox were

One might remember Wayne Simpson (14-3 with the
pennant-winning Cincinnati Reds in 1970), or Dave
Schneck, who hit about .420 last April for the Mets and
collected about three hits the rest of the season. Ron
Clark hit .185 for the 1966 Minnesota Twins and has
been languishing in the minors for most of the past
nine years.
Another category is the prospect on the way up.
Naharodny, the hero of the 10-9 win, fits that bill. A
steadily improving catcher in just his third year of pro
ball, Naharodny grew up in Hamtramck where he
received second team All-State basketball honors.
Naharodny starred at St. Clair Community College for
a year and led his team to the National Junior College
baseball championship. A powerful, crew-cut 190 pound-
er, Naharodny hit for the distance and little else at
Reading of the Double-A New York-Penn League in
1973, with 19 homers and a less imposing .240 batting
average.

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