While we fans in frigid climes wait for spring training and to see where the last free agents fall, in this space I’ll follow the ongoing Caribbean World Series. Yesterday was day 3 out of 7 in the continuing tilt in the Dominican Republic.
The earlier game was the better of the two, as Mexico defeated Venezuela 6-4. Puerto Rico obliterated Cuba in game 2, 12-1. In the matinee, Braves’ third baseman Adonis Garcia singled home a run to give Venezuela an early 1-0 lead in the third. But Mexico countered with 3 in the fourth, two driven home on a double by one-time big leaguer Yuniesky Betancourt. While the visitors from Venezuela closed the gap in the sixth, Mexico sealed it with two in the sixth and one in the 7th. Venezuela, who is still qualified for the Saturday semis faces winless Cuba at 2 PM this afternoon. In tonight’s 7 PM Eastern time game, the home standing Dominican Republic, who had no game Wednesday faces surging Puerto Rico.
In last night’s game Puerto Rico scored a 12-1 demolition of Cuba. The team from Santurce opened with two in the second and five in the third making it 7-0 early. They finished things with 3 in the 7th and 2 in the top of the 9th.
Before covering today’s baseball birthdays, let me mention one who deserved to be mentioned yesterday, as it was his birthday. I left him out as I was feeling unwell. John William Greenbaum, who when healthy plays Scottie Pippen and lands the shots I miss, was also unwell and I wish him a rapid recovery. So, yesterday was former Tiger pitcher Joe Coleman’s birthday. He turned 69. He first reached the show in 1965 with the Senators. The Tigers got his best years, 1971-76. He was an All-Star with them in 1972 and a starting pitcher as they faced Oakland in that year’s ALCS. His dad Joe was a big league pitcher, and Joe II has a son Casey. Joe was taken third overall by Washington in the very first amateur draft in 1965 and got a taste of big league coffee in late September. he was part of the infamous Denny McClain trade in October 1970 that did a lot more for Detroit than McClain ever did for Washington. Coleman suffered a skull fracture from a line drive in a spring training game on March 27, 1971 but was back in May. (Players were just tougher then.) When he was named an All-Star, he and his dad became the first father/son duo to be All-Stars-as the senior Coleman had been so chosen in 1948. Coleman was a player-coach at AAA Spokane (Mariners) starting in 1981 and has been a coach, scout or instructor ever since. He has over 50 years wearing the uniform under his belt. His son pitched for the Cubs (2010-12) and the Royals (2014) As of now he’s a minor leaguer with the Mariners. His given name is also Joe. In college he was teammates with Chris Sale, now of the White Sox, who if he keeps pitching as he has won’t be known as “Fire Sale,” or “Discount Sale” any time soon. The Colemans are the fourth family with 3 generations in MLB but the only one to have 3 pitchers. Two other 3-generation families are the Boones (Ray, Bob and Aaron/Brett,) and the Bells (Gus, Buddy and David.) 10 points to anybody who can name the last 3-generation MLB family before I think of it.
Doug Fister is 32 today. Last week in this forum I mentioned his return to the American League with Houston, after being part of the dysfunctional Washington Nationals the last two years.
Chris Coste is 43 today. His rise to the bigs is even less likely than that of Mike Piazza, the 62nd-rounder soon to be inducted at Cooperstown. I first heard of him when I broadcast for St. Paul in the Northern League, an early independent league. Coste played for Fargo in that league from 1996-99. The 1998 Fargo team was about as good a short-season team as can be assembled, with a 64-21 record. With independent ball in its infancy, even getting a minor-league chance from that level was less likely than winning the recent billion-dollar+ powerball game. When Coste got his in 2000, he still had to persevere until 2006 before reaching the show at age 33 with the Phillies. He remained with them through their World series-winning 2008 season. He wrote a book as early as 1997 about his independent ball experiences up to then. His second book in 2008 “The 33-Year-Old Rookie” contains the information written in the first book which even then was long out of print. As of now he appears on Comcast SportsNet before and after some Phillies games and coaches baseball at division 3 Concordia College.
Tigers pitcher Joe Sparma was born this day in 1942 and passed away in 1986. Of him, Fritz Peterson says:
“I would like to remember the life of Joe Sparma, who pitched for the Detroit Tigers from 1964 to 1969, and the Montreal Expos in 1970. Joe had a tough career, mostly because he didn’t get along with his manager, Mayo Smith. I recall Joe went into the ninth inning with a no-hitter against the Seattle Pilots in 1969 but it got broken up with two outs to go. And he had a fight with one of his teammates that led to his being traded. The story I remember most is not my story – it belongs to Bill Freehan, who was Joe’s friend. Joe was pitching at Yankee Stadium on Mickey Mantle Day and when Mickey came up to bat, Joe walked off the mound to shake his hand – and then went back to the mound and struck him out. Joe died way too young of a heart attack at age 44; he would have been 74 today.”
Tomorrow, no matter how few or how many other birthdays, there will be a full edition because of the anniversary of the birth of a man without whom baseball might have died aborning. George Steinbrenner! No, just joking, not him. But another Yankee.